We all learn about the world through the prism of our own stories. The reason I rage against formats so much is because I don’t fit in any.
Modern America is the king of labeling. It is impossible to get through to the public interface without learning how to squeeze yourself into one of the predefined shapes, leaving the least possible amount of torn raw flesh and blood at the knives of public perception.
What kind of music do you play? What race are you? Who did you vote for? Are you with us, or are you against us?
The interface pulses and dances to the beat of the dollar – primarily – as well as the peer pressure, and it evolves with time. But the principle of the Holy Algorithm remains.
It didn’t start here and now. It started a long time ago, when people in many communities were beaten out of their connection with nature and something mysterious, and when many of our everyday social interactions became shallow and fear-driven, due to new religious and social institutions that proclaimed nature and our own heart’s feelings to be our enemy.
Complex people have the ability to figure things out in the moment, and don’t need any pre-labeling. People whose senses have been curbed by culture, need aids.
Forced ‘moral behavior’ (as opposed to choice-making based on a sensory balance of emotions and intellect – the balance rooted in personal life experience and personal connection to that something mysterious) was the first steel bandaid applied to a damaged soul, the soul that used to know where it came from, but then was beaten into oblivion and self-betrayal. It was an act of spiritual rape, a strange experiment, and we’ve never been quite okay since.
Today’s algorithms for those of us who are lucky to live in the developed countries, are murderous in much subtler ways.
In American politics, for instance, you can be a Republican, a Democrat, or a crazy conspiracy theorist, ‘one of those people.’ You need to have a barcode on your neck, you need to choose your flavor. If you step out of line, it won’t matter what you did five days ago, you will be relabeled.
And in the world of art….. oh.
It is ALL about the brand. It is ALL about the brand. Let me repeat. It is ALL about the brand. Art, the thing that exists in the natural world to help people understand themselves and to heal the spirit, has been definitely put on its knees and made into a branded sex slave. The rare souls that go above it, still have to squeeze themselves into some kind of a larger ‘representation’ angle. And while it makes perfect sense that art exists for the people, ultimately, and should ‘represent’ the people and serve them, there is a big difference between representing and #representing. A big fucking difference that I feel with my skin and that hurts my lungs with every breath.
I never thought about my demographic in a larger American context up until a few years ago. I have been living my life, in my own way that might or might not be a pain in the arse. I have a million stories, my experiences are unique to me, and my ancestry is also unique to me, and I honor it with love. I don’t have a barcode on my neck. I don’t even have room for a barcode anywhere on me because it’s insulting to the spirit.
The other day, I was at the Grand Central train station, and there were three drummers playing. The beat was perfect for me but I chose not to dance to the sweetest drums that spoke to my body strongly, because I didn’t want anybody to film it and then possibly gossip that I dance outside of my demographic (to quote R Kelly who actually said it, ‘she is the only white girl who can dance…’ I am flattered but it’s silly, I am definitely not the only one… ‘white people’ have legs, thighs and hearts just like everybody else… sweet prejudice). I am never afraid to dance, alone or in public. Never, never, not even a little bit. It is my soul. But algorithms made me feel private. I didn’t want to deal with the prejudice.
People dance their state of mind, not their demographic. In fact, back back in the day, when musicians were trained to use music for healing vs. distraction, they would watch dancing people and ‘diagnose’ them, and help them be better by guiding them with sound. Dancing and singing are very powerful medicine, they bleed from servitude.
All my life, I had an unexplainably strange feeling about both classical music (I played classical piano all my childhood, and even had a few glorious moments), and the foundational genres of American music (contemporary blues, jazz, etc.). I sort of liked both of them – they were better than communist pop – but something was amiss. The sound talked to my intellect more so than it did my body. It was not going deep enough, it was less than what my soul wanted.
And then I heard a piece by Bach played in its original tuning. I almost cried. It suddenly sounded full and completely alive. It was whole. The modern tuning stole the soul out of music–and all these years, I had no idea.
Similarly, I stumbled upon the bit that was missing from the classic American music genres when I came across some of the traditional African music. I suddenly saw the trajectory of our civilization in one music genre, I saw the force that smeared a fat, tragic layer of ’entertainment’ all over something that was originally fully alive, complex, and absolutely free. A powerful, uninhibited expression of soul adapted to commerce and escapism. The music still brings you joy, it certainly does–but it is somehow missing the piece of complexity and freedom that my soul knew about even if though my intellect didn’t know where to go look for it.
Enter-fucking-teinment. Welcome to the clownsmanship. Yes, a true artist helps the people where the people are, and I am coming to understand it. But maaaaaaan….. the translation between the interfaces is murder. Murder!
And now, ladies and genlemen, the main reason for this speech, the idea of a woman in today’s American culture.
Story #3, and diving deeper into numbered lists
What public interfaces are available specifically to women in America for explaining ourselves to the world – so that the world doesn’t automatically dismiss us as emotionally overwhelming, irrational, inferior…. men… who talk too much?
[dear men, you, too, deal with plenty of algorithmic classifications, and I trust you that it hurts, too, and I recognize that the grinder wants all of us – and at the moment I am telling my story; we are in it together]
#1. A ‘hot chick’ who is pleasant and great to look at. She is fun. She does not disturb the status quo. It means she is ‘successful’: Successful people don’t need to change the status quo!
I don’t want to speak on behalf of other women because each of my sisters is unique – but on my end, I struggle with stereotyping, and often make fun of it in subtle, tongue-in-cheek ways – look, look, is it all you see?
Photo credit: Derrick Little
#2. A rebel who challenges the soul-murdering context and takes the risks of being viewed as ‘unsatisfied.’
Unsatisfied means you are missing something. Unable to create happiness by kissing the Holy Conveyor. Not successful. Shame.
…but if you got bling, fine!
#3. An entrepreneur and a visionary of commerce who fits into the public idea of how visionaries of commerce are supposed to talk (like men – using linear logic and confident superlatives – but gentler; hello, TED and Elizabeth Holmes).
#4 An ugly loser.
The best winning strategy for the likes is #1. The best winning strategy for the soul is #2. The best winning strategy for the wallet is #3. Forget about #4.
I see a lot of people who have chosen the winning strategy for the likes, and their online presence is glorious… but happiness? Dunno. My inner peasant is very suspicious of this kind of bait.
And here I am, scratching my head.
I believe art to be sacred.
My perfect hashtag would be, #fuckhashtags.
Photo credit: Derrick Little