Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What He Said About Hate

I heard songwriter John McCrea, of the band ‘Cake’, being interviewed recently. I’d heard of the band before, but was not really familiar with their music, and had never known the songwriter. Anyway, it’s not John’s name, or even the band, that’s relevant here, but what he had to say about hate in the interview.

Referring to his songs, and his writing, the host said to him, “There seems to be a lot of fun, a lot of playfulness in your songs.” To which John responded, “No, not really. It’s actually hate masquerading as playfulness.”

He went on to say something to the effect of, “With all the enmity and divisiveness in the world today, with all the acidity and toxicity, I don’t want to add to it by repeated overt expressions of anger.” “That”, he suggested, “wouldn’t do anybody any good.” He also said that he’s got to be able to express his rage, and chooses to express it playfully. In other words, he uses a lot of sarcasm, humor, and bizarre and unusual images in his songwriting, rather than directly attacking the object of his scorn.

Personally, I think Mr. McCrea was stretching his own truth a little bit by saying that his songs contain a lot of hate masquerading as playfulness. I think it’s more powerlessness, and frustration, than hate, that he’s expressing. He just did not strike me as a hateful guy. Quite the contrary, really, he impressed me as a thoughtful and intelligent man.

But on the subject of hate, he said that, “Hate begins with a wide arc, and over time the arc shrinks down on its way back to oneself.” He implied we might start out hating some figurehead, like the president, but then go on to hate the ideological politicians who support him, and even the constituents who put him in power. From there we might hate the celebrities that share the same ideology. Well, the arc keeps shrinking, getting more personal, and closer to home, until we hate our boss, the acquaintances with whom we might have a disagreement, our uncle, brother, and ultimately ourselves. He reiterated how hate begins a long way from home, but as it works its way back-around to us it, invariably, gives birth to self-hate, self-loathing if you will. Self-loathing will then choke the individual like a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of its hapless victim.

Well, from what I heard from him I liked Mr. McCrea, more as a person, though, than as a songwriter. But, I’ve got to say I disagree with his assessment of the origins of hate. It all sounded good when he was saying it, and, I must admit, it made me sit up and think, but I believe he really has got the whole damn thing backwards. I don’t fault him for that, however, because it seems to me to be emblematic of having grown up in a very conflicted culture.

I believe that hate, on a broader scale, actually begins with self-hate, self-loathing, rather than just culminating in it. Oh it ends up there as well, but I think our actions and behaviors, even from a relatively early age, if left unaccounted for, unresolved, un-atoned for, unchanged, build up within us to produce self-hatred. As vulnerable human beings, I think it begins choking the breath from us from the very beginning of our conscious accountability. The age, however, of that consciousness, and accountability, comes at a different time in every individual life. The important thing is that it has, most certainly, been choking us for a long time, and if left unacknowledged, it will end up reducing us to pathetic irrelevance.

Hate makes the jump from self to the far reaches of our field of vision, and experience, to those we know of, but whom we don’t actually really know. We kind of practice our hate out there where it’s safe. Those people are really just irrelevant substitutes for the people who really bother us, the ones we know, and who know us, the best.
Eventually, like John McCrea said, it all works its way back to the origin of the hate, which, again, is one’s self. It’s just that, unlike John, like I’ve already said, I believe it begins there as well.

On a related note: “You’re a hater” gets thrown around today like rocks at the windows of a vacant house on a deserted street. And to make matters worse, those rocks get thrown by adults with the same emotional acumen as the kids bent on emulating them. Pointing the hate finger is just the modern-day, but classic, denial of one’s own self-hatred. Any fool can see that about these accusers who are bereft of both common sense, and the ability for self-analysis.
I’m not fooled by the accusations these people make.
I hope you won’t be either.

I write sometimes about politicians, celebrities, psychic thugs, pseudo spiritual gurus, and narcissistic cultural leaders who believe, somehow, that they’re all that. And I write about them in often unflattering terms. But, as those of you who know me understand, I do not hate them. I could not hate them, they’re much too transparent to hate. I hate the impact, and the influence, that they, without conscience, or personal consequence, far too often visit upon our culture, on the people who I care very much about; particularly the young, the naive and the impressionable.

But I do hate narcissism in all of its guises, and disguises. I hate dishonesty, and I hate greed. I do not hate the people who embody those qualities, I pity them, and I wish personal redemption for each of them.

Oh, and what about myself?
Well, in case you’re wondering, “No, I do not hate myself.”
I take account of, atone for, and change behaviors of mine that conflict with love.

Generally speaking, I love, and I am loved.
There is no room in love for self-hatred.
Love will not allow it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chaz, Dancing With The Starz

I want to say that I don’t know Chaz Bono, and I’ve never really watched Dancing With The Starz.

Now, like many people, I’ve seen a few minutes of the show here and there while channel surfing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two or three minutes of it at one sitting. I’m just really not interested in celebrities, other than for the influence, or impact, they might have on our culture. If I’m going to watch dancing I’d honestly rather watch people that I know nothing about. I find them to be far more interesting than the cultivated images of celebrities who are constantly being force-fed to us like fruitcake during the holiday season.

Chaz Bono, however, is different. She’s not really a celebrity, she’s an enigma.

I know she’ll be a contestant on Dancing With The Starz because I’ve inadvertently kept up on the guest list for the show. I’ve never intended to, but it’s almost impossible not to, short of never watching television, or turning on a computer.

Having said that, I want to offer my impression of Chaz being recruited as a dancer. As you probably know, Chaz is the daughter of the famous hippy pop duo, Sonny and Cher, and she’s recently undergone gender reassignment surgery (sex change) in order to begin identifying as a man, rather than as a woman.

In any event, there is always an agenda connected to the producer’s choices of who will be invited to dance on the show. And, although that agenda might look political, and many people believe that it is, I’m here to say that it is not. It is always financial. Every guest decision is based solely on the probability of getting ratings, on how many viewers a ‘celebrity’ is likely to bring to the show, on how much money can be made from their appearance. In the case of Chaz Bono, sHe has been heavy in the media recently for her transformation, so there’s a lot of curiosity about her. Why not invite her, why not exploit her new condition; why not make some money off of, what has been, her personal tragedy.

I’ve been reading some opinion pieces, along with some reader responses to the whole controversy. Needless to say, there is some pretty heated expression about her addition to the cast, and that, ultimately, is what has drawn my interest. The different perspectives, the different points of view, the different ideologies connected to the approval, or disapproval of her inclusion.

As you can imagine, people’s opinions run the gamut from considering Chaz to be disgraceful, a failed human being, to her being a champion of individuality, and her inclusion being a brave and compassionate gesture by the producers of DWTS on behalf of the transgender ‘community’. I might add that I have yet to read a comment about the exploitive nature of the producer’s decision.

Anyway, the problem I have with the whole situation is that it is bound to be clothed in a celebration of Chaz’s courageous re-emergence, her self-discovery, if you will, even though she was chosen for ratings, and only for ratings. I don’t know if she can dance or not, and I don’t think it really matters. People will watch in record numbers just to see how a woman dances as a man.

Maybe for Chaz it is a courageous re-emergence. Maybe the whole gender reassignment surgery is a bold statement of re-emergence, a separation from her lifelong problems (her parents), the problems that have clung to her like leaches since early childhood. But it is not a celebration of self-discovery by any means. Chaz has not discovered self, she has just created a new persona, an identity she can hide behind to protect her from her lingering pain.

Life cannot have been easy for Chaz. With just the little I know of her life, it is a life that few of us would have survived intact. It is a life we would neither have asked for, or willingly embraced. But it was imposed upon her, and she had to live with it. If you think differently, go to Wikipedia and read about the phenomena that was Sonny and Cher. Then read about the troubled life of Chaz Bono. The bio’s don’t necessarily make her life out to be troubled, but it certainly doesn’t take a genius to be able to read between the lines.

For God’s sake, her parents named their baby girl ‘Chastity’. What did they think was going to happen to that precious little girl?
In the big picture, Chaz is not so much an icon of individuality, as she is an example of a child exploited, of a life gone tragically wrong, and of a confused and wounded woman ultimately doing the best she can to feel better about herself.

What saddens me is that Chastity never got the chance to have a grounded and well-balanced life. Her parents never gave her that. She had to become Chaz in hopes of finding happiness.
And now it will all play itself out before our curious eyes on Dancing With The Starz. The network, to be sure, will make a boatload of money from her pain.

So I’m just saying, everybody, especially those of you who wish to condemn her for her choices, “Give Chaz Bono some empathy, the kind you might like for yourself if you were in her shoes. And give her long-troubled soul a break.

She’s still Chastity beneath it all.
And I hope that someday she will end up
truly dancing with the stars.