September 19, 2006

Pop Goes the Perkygoth

I wasn't sure I was going to link to this, but I think it really gives the following the necessary context; plus, hey! It's my first Internet your-music-sucks flaming! It's giving me that warm feeling of having arrived, somehow, like your first mugging in a new city.

The whole unfortunate exchange has cemented something for me about just what it is that gets up my squid about snobbery, and why I find stuff like What Not To Wear so unbearable, and why my own lingering elitism feels like the character flaw I'm most self-conscious of:

Snobbery is, in its essence, a form of bullying.

It's not about improving the world; it's about using that trusty old poleaxe in the Emotional Abuse arsenal, shaming, to bring someone else down and make them small and hurt. It says: if you enjoy this... make this... wear this... you are not only inadequate, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. And it's toxic and awful and, when you think about it, a horrifying way to relate to other human beings. And it gets a pass, I suppose, because the people who are capable of doing it are often clever or funny or talented, and because watching one person destroy another has been entertainment since the Coliseum and before; and now, we can say that, hey, no one died, and look! It's all worth it; you're a better person now! Your tastes have been corrected!

But it's not okay. It's not okay when spouses or lovers do it to each other, and it's not okay to do it to strangers, and it's not okay to make a spectacle of it for the sake of amusement at some poor clueless bastard's expense. (And it's really not okay to make excuses for it just because it's funny.) It's hurtful and nasty and it leaches joy from a world that does not have that resource in abundance.

If I'm coming across a little vehement here - well, I did just get called a no-talent paint-by-numbers songwriter today, so it's just possible that maybe there's a touch of stung pride talking. But also, as I said, part of the reason I recoil so strongly from this stuff is that it's a sin I very much feel the temptation of, which is no doubt one of the factors at play in having written my initial comment on Der's site with - to be completely fair - more vigour and heat than was really called for. I feel how easy it would be to condemn and snipe and set myself up as Better Than All You Lot; there's something very satisfying about the assurance that your tastes are right and proper, and everyone else is a moron. Part of this is, yeah, the frustration of just living (not to mention trying to create something worthwhile) in a world where relentless banality and Sturgeon's Law are ever-present. The trouble is that, when you really look at things, it's clear that "banality" is a slippery and subjective thing, and that there's very little agreement on what the theretical 10% of everything that isn't crap comprises. This suggests to me that we'd damn well better start learning two things: 1), how to get along with people who just plain like different stuff; and 2), that a preference is not a fucking virtue.

And that's all that probably needs to be said about that. You'll have to excuse me; I have some musically and lyrically uninteresting work to prepare to subject the clueless public to this weekend. I'll let you know how that works out.

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