Wassup Rockers

This Is A Fuck You To That One Dude At The Open Mic.

Apologies if this post is too incoherent.  I tried to make myself clear but I’m so fucking mad!

Tonight was my second time at the AAWW to attend an open mic called Witchdoctors & Assassins, and I enjoyed it so fucking much the first time around I thought I would buy some candy for everyone.  It’s not like I frequent open mics but my friend asked me and I’d always meant to go to the AAWW, so it was pretty fucking sweet to attend last time, and tonight was mostly fun as well.

As you’d imagine with any open mic, W&A has its mix of awkward and awesome, of silly and serious, of sadness and happiness, etc etc.  The great thing about it is that it’s really an open space with a supportive audience, so the readers/performers can push past their comfort zones and get adventurous.  Part of the unwritten deal is that we as an audience respect the readers’ time and the readers’ right to speak up.

Well, this one guy, at least I feel, really exploited our circle of support.  He gets up there, and it’s like he didn’t prepare anything, he’s just responding to some of the earlier open mic participants.  So his statements didn’t have a clear thesis, but what I got from it was that he thought there was a lot of “blaming” going around, that these readers are quick to blame an other because they don’t want to take responsibility for their own culpability, their own roles as victims.  He advised that we should all take care of our individual selves and learn to make ourselves happy with the small things.  I mean, la-dee-da and all, but this argument failed on so many levels that it’s not even funny.

His statements failed because, above all, they lacked empathy.  It’s exactly the sort of thing someone from a privileged background would say.  I don’t know, maybe he got defensive because he felt threatened.  But when I thought about what he said, I don’t think he really listened to the other readers.  The thing that really didn’t help was that he was, in appearance, indeed white and tall and probably in his 40s.  All sorts of privileged.  I’m not saying that I know his life and that he had it easy…  But he was just so dismissive of what the others were saying.  What an entitled motherfucker!

I was horrified when he called out one specific reader’s poem.  The poem by this young man basically said that the author was no longer willing to be submissive in his relationship.  (The poem was more complicated, but I don’t want to get too detailed because I don’t want the author to feel even more on the spot about it.)  It was such a great poem too, visceral thematically but also quite humorous in certain parts.  The older insensitive guy was kinda saying that the young poet should stop the anger and the blame because the young man had obviously put himself in a submissive role.  My heart kinda died.  I mean, what was he going to say next?  That women who wear dresses are just asking to be raped?

This man’s statements just ignored the bigger problems that encompass our lives, that it’s not just about individual choices when in society it’s just agreed that certain types of people are born with disadvantages.  I mean, as much as I may think of myself as American, I know that some people will see me and never think of me as part of this country and will forever see me as an outsider–never mind how well-educated I may be, how well I may speak English, etc.  We’re born into this country thinking that we live in a meritocracy, but let’s face it, that’s a delusion that we’re all taught from our infancies.

Not only that, did this man not see that for the participants of the open mic, by having written these pieces and by having them read aloud, by having shared these pieces with others, was a way for the participants to empower ourselves?  That in fact, these readers were not being as passive as the man was suggesting?  And didn’t he see how much time and thought and effort and courage and honesty it took for the readers to reach the point where they could participate in the open mic.  That young man who got called out, just before the open mic started, he told me how he was nervous.  Unlike the older man, who seemed to be getting his thoughts together on the spot, many of these young participants really reflected about their personal experiences and were so careful in choosing the words they wanted to share and ultimately willed these words into existence.

Another reason this man’s statements failed is because his proposed solution is an unreachable fantasy, and in fact it’s not a solution is worth reaching.  One of the things he emphasized is how each person should find what makes him or her happy.  Well what I understood from the open mic as a whole is that, yes, we value the individual voice, but the open mic is just as much about fostering community, that collective happiness is actually a vital part of creating happy indiviuals.

Moreover, he totally ignored the fact that the things that make each person happy may conflict with other people’s.  If an individual finds happiness in killing other people, should this person be allowed to murder?  FUCK NO!

The worst part?  He didn’t even stay for the entire open mic.  Not that he was listening in the first place.  So I guess it was good riddance.

What is strangest about the whole situation is that, after that man’s little spiel, I still applauded.  I still acknowledged what he said.  I wasn’t the only one clapping, but in hindsight I’m so mad at myself for violating one of the few rules I try to live by: Don’t applaud if you don’t think it deserves the applause; don’t give an ovation if you don’t think it deserves an ovation.  I could lie to myself and say, “Hey, I was applauding the fact that he was finally done and that he was finally shutting the fuck up.”  And yes, it was automatic, because I’d just been trying to be supportive that entire night.  But no, it was wrong of me and I really have to promise to myself I won’t do it again, I have to promise to myself to be a bit more conscious of what I’m applauding and for what reason.

Oh well.  That’s another thing about open mics: sometimes they can be uncomfortable.  But at least you learn.


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