Your effort, if you think about it, comes at just the right time. Racism gets hidden under all kinds of rhetoric that blames not only the subjects of oppression but those who would seek to ease the human condition even just a little bit.
The alleged populist movements directed and supported by our latest round of demagogues have, at their base, deathly fear of written in large racial tropes. In a reflexive process, racism fuels reactionary rhetoric, which the demagogues pick up and use to manipulate those who are already running scared due to the changes happening in their lives they feel powerless to affect.
Then, using a trusted American technique for deflecting racist accusations, the spokespeople for these movements say they are just fighting for equal rights or that they are standing up for the oppressed—thus enlisting increased participation of the oppressed in their own oppression.
Keep going, Harold. With Seldom Seen, I’ve found that, regardless of the quality of my book and its story, that if I present me, just me, to people they will get it. Much of what will happen with your new project moves on the force of your personality. People see your sincerity and devotion. Everyone wants those things for themselves. And since there is no effort on your part to be sincere in telling the story, showing what you’ve discovered about yourself (even if it’s dressed in a documentary), you can never go wrong. Never. Let’s say you run into a group or a person who hates your message and they make things miserable for you. You only err when you take what they say personally. In a calm, rational manner, you may choose to skirt the issue and move on or give up the talk altogether. But this is not failure. It is merely understanding that the success of failure of your effort does not hinge upon your personal aggrandizement. You have not erred. Suffering, my brother, is the price of creativity, inquiry, and expression.
The reason I say this is that I tend to spiral into deep depressions after public presentations. In part, it’s because I have experienced a sort of out-of-body expansion. I consciously ask to be allowed to stand out of the way of what I already know intuitively. It’s a way of keeping the conscious mind out of the business of expression, because it is in my conscious mind where self-consciousness and doubt exist. I no longer feel “myself” but see the event or time from another place, almost like watching me say the right things as a member of the audience. I may say the wrong things but I’m usually able to make it right with clearer explanation. In any case, the things coming almost from nowhere are right because their intent and their origin is pure.
After the event, however, the conscious mind returns and I begin a withering round of self-examination. I find the faults, what I could have said better, what I forgot or needed to say, etc. I become my audience in a critical sense, losing focus on the broader aspects of the work for the small places where, if it had been a piece of writing, I would have rewritten. I then excoriate myself for the lack of vision, for the hopeless grandiosity of believing a guy like me could do anything useful to anyone. The self-hatred burns hot and continues to build until I’ve convinced myself that success will always be for someone who dresses better, talks better, and has a better social position than me.
It’s selfishness, plain and simple. I haven’t found a good way to deal with it except to keep getting out there, practicing, and making my projects about more than just me.
So, I’ve learned a lot watching you grow through this long process of self-discovery and devotion to both finding your creative essence and gaining the technical acuity to express yourself more effectively. Plus, I really believe that by showing Joe and Jane Blow these things, and being one of their own—not a prof or expert—you are doing all of us a great favor.
P.S. If the kids don’t go back to school and work soon, I’m going to go on a rampage and burn the fucking house down. So, onward, upward, Excelsior!