Friday, 2 October 2009

I know what I'm HERE for

Currently watching Clive Andersen, Sandi Toksvig and the always-good-value curmudgeon Brian Sewell discussing - or in the case of Sewell, roundly slating - the work of people who've been on the giant white lego brick. And I'm dreading it because, for Satan's sake, I don't want to see myself on television.

What this experience did for me was to crystallise why I write and why I perform, and it isn't because I want the validation of fame. The crystallising experience was having to deal with an irritating, bigoted heckler early on in the set, and the fact that I got such a charge out of it. Afterward, what I remembered wasn't the many poems which went off without a hitch - or, indeed, the fact that the writing experiment failed completely. No, what stuck with me was that my words - the choice of subject matter about which I write - had pissed this guy off to the extent that he felt compelled to come over and verbally abuse me, to the point where he had to be ushered away by one of his more sensible friends (who, fair play to him, also contributed a line to the EPIC WRITING FAIL, so thanks for that). Words. That's all.

My three-line profile on the One and Other site was: ARE WORDS ENOUGH? And at that moment, I proved that they are. In a performance designed to show how freedom of expression is fragile even in a society such as ours, I was lucky enough to have an objective correlative of that notion thrown to me, and went with it.

Words ARE enough to piss off the bigots of this world, wherever and whoever they may be, and whether or not they think of themselves as bigoted. And that is why I write. Because I just love winding up the ignorant.

It's not about fame. It's not about being a bad rockstar or stand-up and getting laughs or applause. It's about creating space. It's about showing that we can shout down the bigots, that we can show them up for the idiots they are, in being frightened of something as small and fragile as a sentence.

In the welcome centre afterwards, talking it over with a plinther-to-be, I agreed that anger in an audience is better than polite applause or mere indifference, but that isn't quite true. It is, on a tactical level. As long as wankers like that guy or Nick Griffin or Richard Littlejohn exist, then reducing them to spluttering incoherent messes serves a purpose in showing how pathetic they are. But on a strategic level it's not what I'm writing, and fighting, for. I write and perform for the day when I can go out anywhere in the world and be greeted with complete indifference to the things I write - because then I'll know we won, and the human race finally grew up and got over this shit. But until then, while we still live in a time when the mere mention of something as inconsequential as boys wearing nail varnish can reduce some ignorant idiots to homophobic apoplexy, then I will continue to write and to perform and to campaign to wind up and expose those very idiots. And I will continue to try and build more and more space in which those idiots aren't welcome, and we're free to express what we feel without them trying to make us feel like we don't belong, and that we're somehow less than human for daring to want to share our humanity with others.

And, when the ignorant armies have finished their clashing by night, I'll go back home without a word and cultivate my garden. But until then, I'm in it 'til it's over.

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