Thursday, February 10, 2011

Black Sheep

Cynicism may seem all negative, but it does have it's good points if it can be controlled.

Long ago I wrote a song for some company having a sales conference akin to a Mary Kay extravaganza, a day of motivation and self help.

For at least a year prior, my audience had been inundated with "team" concepts and "quality" materials. They all had titles ranging from "team specialist" to "sales associate" and proudly displayed them on gold badges pinned to their chests.

The song was likely the sappiest piece of drivel I've ever written both musically and lyrically, but I was driven and edited by the client so I can only take responsibility for laying out the scrabble pieces for others to play the game.

Sweeping string glissandos and huge brass flourishes accompanied driving hard rock guitar and drum kit. Sound effects of jets and rockets, the trappings of might makes right sporadically woke the nappers if any were so bold as to not pay attention.

The words were a collection of jingoism strung together with a few adverbs, phrases like "we are the people" and "we're gonna reach for the sky" and "take the lead"... all actives, all designed to make the listener grab the next opportunity, flip it upside down and shake it 'till all its cash hit the floor, rather than patiently wait for sales to come their way.

It was a closing anthem, a call to arms, marching orders that the company execs hoped would increase their market share and bring home the proverbial bacon, showering shareholders with 15 dollar dividend checks and keeping their own asses and jobs secure.

We provided a live band, the rock of the orchestra. Six handsome boys and girls with handheld keyboards, guitars and microphones strutted around the stage and the drummer as the song repeated again and again.

Candid photos of audience members flashed across the screen, hand chosen to show determined looks, thoughtful studiousness, happy "team" gatherings. Eventually the visuals changed to the lyric of the song, and I shit you not (I didn't design this and tried to stop them lol) a bouncing ball.

The lights in the room shifted to red white and blue streams, spotlights roaming the crowd, video cameras following to highlight one participant after another and transferring those images to 24 foot long screens, a montage of human happiness and fortitude, the "team" spirit in action. The crowd leaped to their feet, goaded by the singers on stage with shouts of "C'mon people! Clap your hands" or some such.

In a lovely display of Simon says, the musicians linked arms while singing the little ditty, and so too did the audience, 500 strong now, holding each other and swaying, singing a joyful noise, some so overwhelmed they actually wept in awe at being a part of such an army of hope.

We were good, I was damn good at what I did. As I watched this manipulation take place I suddenly visualized a hundred thousand bodies, standing before the Reichstag chanting slogans and cheering their solidarity. I nearly vomited.

Ok, there's really no comparison...or is there?

When I see a group of women in burkas firing guns into the air and chanting "down with America", I get it. Watching old footage of a half million people milling about Red Square trying to get a closer glimpse of the passing nukes and tanks, cheering their comrades on with clich├ęs, I understand.

If a crowd of teens and young adults, peacefully marching through some city to protest all the evil corporate greed they've learned to despise suddenly turns to violence and chaos, I'm right with them in knowing their plight at least. The propagandizers that prodded them to the rally in the first place never mentioned pepper fog, nor how to deal with a pack of wild animals when in their midst.

We are all constantly inundated with propaganda whether we choose to see it or not, and if the delivery is masterful enough we may not recognize it in spite of our best efforts. The next time you buy a product that differs from another only in higher price, their chemical compositions being EXACTLY the same, ask yourself how convinced you are that it REALLY IS the better of the two choices.

Crowds scare me sometimes. We all seem to be so willing to hand off responsibility for our own lives, there are days we'll suck into whatever nonsense some charismatic speaker will spew. Buy this, eat that, wear those, that's bad, do what I say, eat me drink me.

We've been conditioned to think there is some penalty for individual thought, that there's a price to pay for non conformity and playing devil's advocate. And there is really, those few of us that do it regularly are shunned for the most part, pigeonholed as "loose cannons", "loners", and non "team players". And no one wants to be an outcast, a pariah, alone in their own self made shoes.

But another thing that occurred to me concerns the propaganda we foist on ourselves that is as often as not, spurred by that loneliness. One can only stand proud so long if the masses constantly bleat messages of loathing our way, that our lifestyles or hair color or causes are too far out of the mainstream, too eccentric, too radical.

So some sit in fear of rejection that becomes so strong it's hard to breath much less go through day to day events. Some let go their ideals, joining the sheep in order to be accepted, cared for, to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Or better yet we join some radical cause whether it suits our person or not, just to have compatriots, friends who might help us with our lives, that we can join with in reveling our "communal uniqueness", as if that's not just another malaprop.

Usually we fail to recognize the same bullshit is at work here, we've self dragged into something that's really not our bag but seems our only avenue of hope, our only chance to be loved. There's something comical in the concept that to be an individual you need to join a group of like individuals. Hmmmm.

Some blow their brains out, or at least ponder it to the exclusion of all other thought. Others maim themselves, telling themselves over and over that only pain will make them feel alive, feeding themselves with the propaganda of the damned, the useless, the unwanted.

I'm here to say that when I recognize my own self loathing for the propaganda it is, and understand that it's my feeding myself lies in order to FEEL SOMETHING rather than the numbness I live with, brought on by others turning their heads from my impassioned pleas to be accepted warts and all, I know that it's all crap.

It's bullshit kids, and all the cutting and mutilation and depression and hate and curling up in a corner wishing the goblins from your room isn't going to change that fact. Isolation does nothing to solve it, nor does acting out the anger that springs from years of rejection.

There are so many of us that are so unwilling to step out and be heard, or step up and hear others that we'd populate a country; and yet most sit silent, stewing in our own fears and anguish, wondering if anyone will ever come to lift us out of the dumpster of sadness.

We are afraid that the mere mention of our angst will only make our distance more complete, that we are inarticulate, void of the capability to be understood, too young, too old, too male, too female to have anyone pay attention to us, to hold our hands and actually LISTEN. And besides, no one wants to be seen as a loser to a pack of losers.

Know this, that yet one more rejection is BY FAR preferable to shedding yet one more drop of blood in effigy, a testament to some goddess of pain who will only ignore you like all the others. That depression while sometimes comforting in it's insulation, is a pointless exercise; a minute, an hour, a week, that you will eventually curse yourself for having pissed away.

So if I know all this why do I get depressed? Because I'm human as well and knowledge does NOT bring control. Propaganda is sneaky and sometimes damn near invisible; even when it's our own, created out of whole cloth that we knit with our own demons cheering us on, chanting "you're not worth it".

But here's the deal....There are others in the same boat. Others that would gladly share a few minutes of their miserable lives to understand your miserable life on the premise that you will do the same in their honor.

It's a bitch to hang your ass out the window, it's scary to put your neck into the guillotine cradle praying that your listener won't pull the cord and let the blade rip. But can it possibly be harder than pulling that razor blade across your arm or dousing yourself in another bottle of mad dog or sucking on the muzzle of a pistol?

Trust me, it makes me cringe sometimes but it's not that bad. If I already feel as if no one loves me, how can I worry about adding to that dog pile? How silly is that?

Not all sadness is mental illness, even some serious angst. It's not all controllable by drugs, much as the shills for their manufacturers would like us to believe; yet more propaganda for us to swallow in triplicate with a nice, full glass of tap water.

Sometimes all it takes to rid yourself of it's pressure is a few words of kindness, a random act, a compliment and a shared smile. Life doesn't need to be any more difficult than we want it to be since it's really our brains that envision what is and what is not.

I was a master professional propagandist, and for the most part I've set aside that vocation in deference to more personal and solitary pursuits.

But if you ever have a doubt that you're being treated to bullshit, that some "force" is trying to turn you one way or another with slickness and goading, let me know. I understand and will do everything in my power to help you chase away the fuckers that are foisting their garbage on you. Because again, if I don't, who will?

Don't feel alone, because there are hundreds of thousands of us out here, all you need do is find us. A few of us have these big ass sheets of paper emblazoned with our willingness to help, to share, to cope. Others aren't so obvious. But they're out there just the same.

Am I talking to you? Only if you decide I am, otherwise I'm just talking to myself and I need to hear this as much as anyone. There ARE trees in the forest after all. I am but one of many.

1 comment:

  1. I know I'm loved. My demons tell me so.

    Seriously, though. A good post, dear friend.