Being a writer sometimes means saying shit you just don’t think the masses will agree with and letting them disagree. Going with the flow, with the grain of the wood, is always the safer avenue to take, but isn’t necessarily the one your moral sled dogs will leap at.
Here’s a bit of me on some topics that are bouncing around our current social consciousness. The caveat emptor here is that I don’t know about any of it. I’m not by any means au courant on the scholarly articles addressing these issues, but I also know that no one has to be. I’ll just be the writer, do the work and know that what I end up saying is something that people will judge one way or another for whatever reason. That’s just what people do, right? All you can do is be true to yourself.
Inclusion, equality, and inclusivity – huge topics on the sociopolitical board in recent times, and the reality is the sense of it all is likely heightened because of the recent election of the current American President. I’m not here to talk about him or gripe or anything politically active like that; I’m just not that person. I’m just noting an observation. I’ll start by saying I don’t believe everyone has to be included in works of art. They just don’t. There is no rule out there that mandates we have to be “fair.” That word, ‘fair’, is a human fabrication. There’s no rule book to life that says we have to do anything – one way or another.
At the same time, I’m not saying that it doesn’t feel good to be included; but that’s not the issue. The issue around the nation is that I feel there’s this movement that people HAVE TO include certain other people. It says that everyone should be included. We should all include everybody else because they’re not you. Include them because they’re: black, yellow, green, purple, male, female, short, tall, fat, skinny, uneducated, poor, uneducated, unhealthy, have different viewpoints, come from different cultures, dog/cat owners, multilingual, Lady Gaga lovers, horse-haters, puppy-kickers, and so on ad nauseam. Include them all. All doors are open; everyone’s welcome.
Guess what, I don’t leave my door open at all times of the day for anyone to walk in whenever they want. <shakes head vigorously> It’s my house, not public park. Doesn’t work that way.
Okay, so there seems to me to exist an implicit understanding that we (artists) haven’t been including “the other” on purpose for ages. I would challenge this. I don’t have the proof on me, but I’d be willing to wager that “the other” has guest-starred in art since art’s debut way back to who-knows-when. This isn’t something we have to look up now, but I guess is that the data’s there when you’re ready. I get the feeling that the lack of inclusion isn’t the issue here, but wanting the masses to “like you.” And that makes sense. Humans enjoy the feeling of being included, of people liking us. Yes. I completely agree with and understand that. But hey, check out that elephant there in the middle of the room – people aren’t always going to like you. It will never happen 100% of the time. Never. I’ll take that bet.
The aforementioned goes especially for artists. You’re an artist, guess what? You’re playing the lute to an audience of skeptics and “beauty analysts.” Yes, general analysts of a subjective concept. You’re just not going to with with everyone.
BUT! … You will always with with SOMEONE! Even if that someone is only you, there is always someone out there who loves your stuff! That fan could fall anywhere in the color schema of humanity and they love it.
Look. There’s no rule out there that says in life we have to play fair. In fact, once we (society, political institutions, Big Brother) start making it a rule that we have to play fair, then we lose our ability to love what we choose. Once we start telling citizens how they have to play fair, (depending on the topic – or always?) we’re placing more restrictions on the citizens within that country.
At the same time, I’m not saying it’s okay to be a dick, either. If you don’t want someone to join your Easter Egg hunt, that’s fine. It’s your party, but there are understandable reasons and not-all-that-understandable reasons for this. In the end though, it’s still your party. You don’t want to include people, you don’t have to. Period. We were taught the rule on sharing (ideally – if we had parents who made an active effort to bring that to our attention and tattoo it on our hearts. As adults, I think it’s ridiculous that we have to be told this.
None of this is the issue. The issue, as I see it, isn’t inclusion; it’s kindness/compassion. If I wanted to, I could totally play the politically correct game and smile and open my door to everyone. “Look,” I’d say, “I’m being the friendly inclusive patriot of the good ol’ U.S. of A! Come on in, y’all! Yee haw!.” Shit, you could mandate me to “include” someone all you want, but let’s remember two things:
Thing 1: The kid who gets his mom to make the other kids include him loses respect when mommy walks away.
Thing 2: My inclusion of you does not mean we are suddenly best friends.
I could be a total asshole and still include you (to make mom happy, to make people see me in a better light; to boost my sales, etc). But none of my including you says I have any more of an intrinsic desire to form a closer bond with you.
As a writer, I don’t feel obligated to put a check mark in the inclusivity box while creating something. Here’s the deal, I (artists) are going to be criticized. Why? Because whether I identify a certain way or not, it’s not necessarily how I see myself here, but how other people see me (using their own backgrounds, potential prejudices, and stereotypes) which lends itself to how those around me label me.
In my life, I have worked with a Skittles packet of humanity; skin color, gender, religion, etc., were not determining factors. The apparel did not proclaim the man, as it were. What did make a difference was their respective characters. Were they good people? Did they give of themselves instead of asking to receive? The more the kid in the corner whines about not being able to join the fun, the less the kids at the game table want to let him in. Patience and quiet perseverance, on the other hand, kindness, honesty/trueness to oneself are the sweeter sounds to which our kind has a greater proclivity to listen. Whining is regression. Art is, as a potential definition, the expression of spiritual progression.
The plumage of our art loses its luminescence when it yields to the mandates of a manmade system. It becomes listless, dull, sick. It’s some dead fowl whose once pretty wings now quickly fade as they flip and flop on the side of some construction-laden highway of mediocrity. A dead phoenix attracts the same attention as a dead vagrant. Dead is dead. Yesterday’s beauty can’t bribe enough to step on today’s stage.
Make your art the way your art cries to be made. You don’t have to be white to write white, just as you don’t have to be transgendered and Laotian to write transgendered and Laotian. Art is art and it comes through you as it is. It will be ridiculed, laughed at, derided, scoffed at, discarded, and potentially ire-fueling. In the same moment it can be uplifting, life-changing, motivating, and inducing laughter, beauty, and song.
Critics are like roaches, and in saying that I don’t imply they can live for three days without their heads; though that may be questionable. The point is if you sit around and listen all the time to what the social club-toting Neanderthal threatens you to do.
No, you don’t have to include; you don’t have to do anything.
Be kind; be true to yourself; keep your pearlescent wings flapping over those highways. You be you; let them be them. It’s that easy. There are no rules up here.