Offbeat 24 April 2015
John Lydon is one of the most abrasive humans that I have come across, a thing of sarcasm and barely repressed anger, and that’s just when he’s singing.
I watch his interviews on Youtube from time to time. His commentary on pop culture and social issues is always thought provoking, and often worth a loud belly laugh, as the sickening irony of the things he rails against, sneaks through.
The fact that he reinvented music twice, once by giving form to punk with the Sex Pistols, and once by triggering almost all of the post-punk music genres with Public Image Ltd, adds some kind of demented gravitas to the pursuit.
The thing that strikes me is that beyond the edgy appearance, the snarling London accent and the cogent points, the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten is, actually, an entertainment phenomenon. Even those dim bulbs who believe that Barry Manilow is rock and roll, or that the karaoke reality shows produce great musical art, can watch an interview and find some emotional connection to the moment. Hopefully.
John Lydon has ways of making anger and sarcasm acceptable in a public forum. Sometimes the catharsis of anger, sarcasm and irony are the easiest way to defuse the pressure. Sometimes the scabs have to be picked at to release the pus that is just below the surface. Even the interviewers laugh.
Unfortunately that’s not me. Not anymore. Something changed. EQ is getting in my way.
My tongue used to be a razor, a quick way to cut out the infestations that soured my world. There were never many problems with the guttersnipes looking for a freebie, or the droopy lipped fools trying to prove their worthiness with fights: a few well-chosen words, matched to the circumstance and the individual, and the knowledge of where things would go next, defused the potential conflicts.
John Lydon still has his sneer. I no longer have mine.
I really noticed it yesterday, scrolling through my Facebook news feed. All the opportunities for comment were there, yet I had to ask myself hard questions. What would be the point of adding a sarcastic comment to a debate about gender or environmental politics in Canada? Why bother being dismissive of a social initiative that has nothing to do with conditions in my country? Why point out that the death of one pretty teacher is not even remotely reflective of the murder and rape perpetrated against hundreds of thousands of women every day? And is the offensive request I received a couple of days ago really worth wasting my breath on?
I have a bad case of double vision, actually triple vision. On the one hand, I can easily lash out and get things out of my frame of reference, or at least out of my soul.
On the other hand I can keep my mouth shut and know that I won’t be hurting anyone with a tongue lashing. Somewhere in between that I find a conflict within myself that causes me a major headache. I’m damned if I show my anger, and damned if I don’t.
For now, all I can say is that I somehow have to absorb the no comment mentality of EQ, emotional intelligence. Nobody gets hurt and nobody has to flee from me, except I have to deal with the pressure building in me.
There is an upside to this. I find myself less and less absorbed with many of the people around me. Some people are little more than squeaky babble among the noise. There are other people who really are important to me, even if they are mostly packages of good memories. The happier economy of my internal dissatisfaction is that I can ignore people who are less important and be kind to those who are more important.
The easiest way to solve the problem of anger is blindingly obvious: less people around me means less people to bring out my disaffection. And the less I fuss with external things, the more I can focus on the sources of my internal happiness, the old joys and the new.
Please pass the headache tablets though, and remember that this is unresolved. For now I have to go with John Lydon on Youtube as some kind of proxy for my anger.