Letters from Rosie 5
So I wrote back to Rosie, following her previous email, stating that I wasn’t sure that many of us have the constancy she claims on our behalf – that we all contradict ourselves and doubt ourselves and (speaking personally) sometimes wish we could be co-opted by the mainstream, but that it’s long since occurred to me that the mainstream simply doesn’t want to co-opt me. And so I’m forced to create alternatives, whether I want to or not.
This is what she wrote back.
Yeah… the mainstream. You’ve said it yourself on occasion: the mainstream destroys those who don’t belong to it. There is, I imagine, a classification of types.
There are those who belong in the mainstream and want go to it and do go to it (white men with guitars, born affluent).
There are those who do not belong in the mainstream and who do not wish it and do not go to it (Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galas).
There are those who could have gone, but refused and went the other way with aplomb (Ian MacKaye).
There are those who do not belong in the mainstream but want to go to it and do go to it and make whatever compromises to their ethics that are necessary, but who are destroyed by it nonetheless, because they cannot change their essential imcompatibility with the mainstream. They are too subversive with their wanton habits, their opinions, their lack of self-control, their nerve to take the damn job on in the first place, their ego to think they can win without playing the game by the mainstream’s rules… and their timing is bad. The mainstream just dispatches them to the ‘crazy’ category. The mainstream is not interested in the nuances, the reasons for their behaviour. Why should it be? It’s the mainstream! (Courtney Love, Lenny Bruce)
There are those who do not belong, but due to exceptional circumstances, find themselves there and are, of course, pilloried, misunderstood, but due to their own resources and personal strength, manage somehow to survive it (Yoko Ono).
And there are those who are conflicted. They aren’t sure if they belong in it… they are white, good-looking boys and girls, but they have values, ethics, ideals, subversive friends… and they find that they cannot reconcile with their politics with darker desires and mainstream ambitions that at first glance appear utterly within their capabilities and maybe even rights. (Kurt Cobain, and maybe you, and maybe me?) They are destroyed by it too.
I think yr better off out of it, ET. Does it follow that penetrating the mainstream increases one’s ability to affect real change? I really don’t know if that’s true any more – look at how Obama’s faring! When Riot Grrrl got all that national press exposure, it damaged the original grrrls – it upset them on a personal level. Eighteen years down the line, we’ve got Beth Ditto in the mainstream and she hasn’t been destroyed and she’s very connected to the history that helped get her there. That’s what I deem to be progress. But these things take time. You can do good work and make a contribution that helps affect FUTURE change within the mainstream. Someone like Barbara Ehrenreich is doing this, I think. Ideas stay alive, they trickle down, they accumulate, they swell. It all counts in the end, I reckon.
I’ve been reading The Female Eunuch today, it’s a bloody MARVELLOUS read! I can’t believe I never bothered reading it before…. I’m utterly ashamed of myself. Also – very exciting this – ‘Town Bloody Hall’ is on YouTube – the whole thing. I’d never seen it before, just read about the infamous exchange between Germaine and Norman Sugartits Mailer.