I saw a quote this weekend:
Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry. – overheard in a DC bar by the author of “The big short”.
I’m too lazy to attribute it properly just now but it really resonated with me. People like the ideas of “truth” and “poetry”. Honesty is one of those things that is drilled into you at school and by parents and media outlets and public official go on about how honest they are. Poetry is also part of what you learn at school and poets are lauded for stringing together sentences that may rhyme or at least be poignant.
People don’t like actual truth or poetry, though. Thanks to the media free-for-all (so to speak and in some cases literally) we’ve come to learn about the true value of honesty. Media outlets lie, public servants do nothing but lie, even our parents lied about father christmas, the easter bunny, tooth fairy and god(s). Academically even academia is recognised as a system of propaganda which fulfils the purpose of moulding young minds to serve the interests of the state. Schools are only interested in telling enough truth to make you functional and enough lies to keep you compliant. Everybody that tells us to be honest is a liar and everybody that loudly professes to be honest is a liar.
Why the double standard? Easy. I’m sure you know but I’ll write it anyway. The more they know about you the more they can exclude, manipulate or threaten you. If they know you’re black, been to jail, a woman or pregnant, they might not hire you. If they know you’re sick they won’t insure you. If they know your habits then they way-lay you and hijack you (physically or with advertising). If they know you’re gay or a non binary gender they might make you feel unwelcome. If they know you’re divorced they might offload their sense of failure onto you. If they know what you think and feel they can use less accepted aspects out of context to smear you. Knowledge of you is power over you and it goes both ways. If you know them you aren’t perturbed by them. The third way (of course) is that once you know yourself, nothing can stop you.
I’ve started to wax nearly poetically about the psychopaths and pseudo-psychopathic characters that I’ve met in society. And by now a lot of your fellow readers have stopped reading because I am being poetic and truthful. I don’t have the skill to shock the senses with audio-visual form as in a picture or music and I don’t have the money to scientifically prove my point via research and having none of those, I simply lack the motivation to lie to you or titivate you into continuing to read my writing. Poetry is my only means of expressing the truths that I am filled with. Facebook linkedin and twitter are not filled with poetry or poetic expression. They are filled with simple feelings, “facts” and lies. If anyone loved poetry, I suspect we would see more of it. People love themselves so we see pictures. People love babies, cats, having social identities and funny things. People love politicians religions and disasters. They love grief and outrage and expression of raw emotion. That’s what the algorithms say we love and these algorithms are based on real human action not what they say that they like when questioned on a survey or profess to their friends or people they want to impress. In a way, Facebook is a true expression of the brutish, misguided, pretentious uncultured liars that we all are. It’s almost poetic.
What else do truth and poetry have in common? Why tie them together in this cynical utterance? I suspect that truth is a naked reflection of the larger universe and poetry, good poetry at least is a naked reflection of the inner universe. People hate nudity: it’s vulnerability, it’s exposure, it’s without censorship. Porn isn’t nudity. It’s bare flesh and it is filled with dishonesty, profit seeking, manipulation, and yes,body paint and silicone. People shame nudity for the sake of feeding a child while accept a bra filled display inappropriate sexuality.
Truth and poetry are also both unexplained, mysterious and sometimes scary. Back to how academics and media owners have spent a long time explaining away the amazing works of Shakespeare by interpreting, remixing and categorising his work. They’ve spent longer trying to bottle his genius than he took to write his body of work. And as genius as he was, he was a genius that mostly fit within the narrative that people feel comfortable with. Other poets have disappeared into time because they did not present a palatable or simple expression of humanity at that time. (See merchant of venice for when it was OK to despise jews or taming of the shrew when it was OK to mistreat “uppity” women) Think also of how many times we see the same few palatable stories trotted out while the others languish unread soon to be extinct libraries. People don’t like his poetry, they like only the bits that fit the lies that serve the existing power structures.
Both the left and right hate truth and poetry because truth doesn’t advance a partisan cause. Truth and poetry advances the human cause, no doubt. Truth and poetry can “serve” either side as long as the side allies itself unconditionally with the truth. Truth is uncompromising, makes no backroom deals and doesn’t hide part of itself.
We live in a polarised society. Very few people accept a view that people are free to treat our bodies as we please, free to associate and love who we want. People should not be extorted for taxation, forced to help people we don’t want to help, cowed by armed and uniformed thugs or indenturued into murdering people who think or look differently. The left and right pick at truth just like carrion crows pick at a cows carcass or media owners pick at Shakespeare but what they value is only half truth. Above all things and even more than each other, the left and right hate the truth, they hate the whole because it contains their arguments blended poetically with the opposing sides arguments to form the only honest argument. The left and right also hate the truth of humaity in that we all are individuals whose inner universes can never be experienced in quite the same way by another. We are each of us, living breathing poems that only we can appreciate fully.
And that’s why most people hate poetry, because poetry is honest, naked, difficult to classify, easy to butcher, and an expression of an individual.