I was recently told that my writing has the ability to cause great harm. According to one visitor to my site, my mindset is damaging and shows a proclivity towards destabilising social order and pushing boundaries. While it is a compelling argument, and it is true that I do try to disrupt societal preconceptions; to say that I am a destructive force within the blogging community seems a little far fetched. Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered that my work could affect someone to such a degree that the felt the need to contact me in an effort to degrade it. I just believe that those in glass houses should not throw stones.
A hush falls over the crowd as a collective sense of anticipation builds. There was an undertone of malice laced through those words. You can almost taste the tension in the air. Hell hath no fury like a writer scorned…
…True. But a wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep. I’m not bothered about the judgement or belittling bestowed upon me by the ignorant or close minded. So rather than descended into a petty diatribe about why someone offering bullshit advice as a life coach should be careful about criticising others for giving people hope, I thought it would be better to take the high road and comment instead on the paradoxical logic that leads people to make such assumptions.
Telling a writer that their work is damaging to the mindset of the reader is merely a poorly conceived assumption that the writer’s purpose or intent is exactly as you perceive it. And that every single consumer views a piece just as you do.
We live in a world of unprecedented exposure to art. Gone are the days where great artists created works to hang in prestigious galleries, or musicians crafted masterpieces to be played to amphitheatres of patrons dressed in their Sunday best. Even literature has become a living, breathing entity that moves through trends and creates successes and swallows failures.
Nowadays the creative arts are just a click of a button away on our computers and phones, allowing us to constantly immerse ourselves in the new and exciting. Music and movies can be streamed, literature can be packaged as an eBook or weblog, and art can be created or captured through photo sharing applications.
The benefits of this are obvious. Creativity is all around us. One can connect with an author or artist half a world away and be educated and enlightened by the works they produce. As an artist we can accrue an audience of similar minded consumers who we would have never had met without this widespread coverage. The audience that I have amassed here at The Renegade Press would not have come to fruition without having the ability to expose my works to the world through social mediums. Yet while I am grateful for the exposure, I am also aware that we are blessed with a curse.
The abundance and availability of art has created a devaluing of the work in the eye of the patron. Society has developed an insatiable lust for the new, bold, and creatively brave, meaning that artwork doesn’t undergo the same maturation process it once did before becoming a masterpiece. A song, film, book, blog, or painting is viewed, appreciated, then forgotten with the swipe of a thumb or the refreshing of a browser. Rather than creating works to last a lifetime, we now create pieces to capture an audience for just a fleeting moment.
This lust to discover and consume, coupled with technological advancement and mankind’s desire to feel valued has allowed anyone to create and share through social media platforms. In our efforts to fit in or perform, we have unwittingly become venomous critics and hypocrites ready to disparage others to make ourselves appear greater.
Take me for example. I am a writer/author who has created a website through which I can create pieces of social commentary for a readership that chooses to coddle my creativity. Yet there are times when I will read through the blog posts of a like-minded writer and think that their work is sub-par in comparison to my own. Sometimes I will even pass judgement on them for making a stand for what they believe in. I’m not proud of that fact; it’s hypocritical of me to make such absurd assumptions. It’s ridiculous that I could believe that no one anywhere could find value in another writer’s words, or that anyone anywhere would derive the same meaning from it that I do. In those moments I’m standing inside my own glass house constructed through creativity hurling stones at my neighbour.
Thankfully, because I refuse to voice such negative opinions, my thoughts and feelings don’t hurt anyone but myself. They make me close-minded, arrogant and a bit of an arsehole without battering the fragile individuality of the artist in question. Yet this conceited judgement is a common practice in modern day society. We critique with bias, misconstruing both our perceptions of ourselves and of others. Teenagers call their peers a slut when they post a photo in their bikini, yet litter their own social media accounts with similar pictures. Musicians call another artists music dreary while haphazardly slapping together shoddy riffs and generic lyrics of their own. And sometimes fuckwit life coaches trying to swindle people with pyramid schemes or get rich quick plots dare to deem the works of another blogger as damaging to their readership. Yep, even the snake oil peddlers in their infinite wisdom dare to throw stones from inside their own glass houses.
So how to we counteract our penchant to throw stones? How do we dispel with this mentality of mass consumption, devaluation, and our proclivity for judgement and volatile critique? It’s actually rather simple. Stop being that ignorant consumer who believes in belittling another person for pursuing their own dreams. Stop throwing stones from within the confines of your glass house. All you are going to do is break a few windows and cheapen your own image.
If you want to be an artist, be an artist. If you want to be a writer, be a writer. And if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, then be that. Just don’t be a hypercritical arsehole who disparages others for wanting the same thing.