The Defense of The Personal

You have cancer and be a shit painter.

The Defense of The Personal

I’m sitting in a cafe desperately trying to not listen to the terrible poetry being read behind me. That “poetic voice” with the stilted broken weird inflection and rapid stream of consciousness streaming from an unaware hippy who thinks his monthly poetry jam slam thing makes him such a deep and introspective person. The poetry is deeply personal but only as deep as the person who writes it, which is to say if I have to listen to this dumbass singing another song about being a handy man for the last 30 years I’m going to lose my shit.

Reading poetry is like explaining jokes, except the person reading poetry is deeply attached to what he’s doing. This is him baring his soul to an audience and since the poem is about his failing business, lost wife, dead father, forlorn lovers, and other personal tragedies nobody can say anything. He can totally suck and everyone just grins and says, “Oh man Joe, that song was great!” Even though that song was exactly the same as the last one he “sang” without any accompaniment or any form of musical skill. By attaching a personal emotional connection to what he’s created he has shielded himself from criticism.

I see this in art classes too. We’re looking at a stupid video installation, and lord man do I hate video installation. But this one looked like it was making fun of video installation, not really attempting to make anything meaningful but just being random to be random. We secretly know that most abstract contemporary artists just do random shit until someone buys it, but apparently verbalizing this truth into the world was a cardinal sin of art education. My teacher (who I admire very much) admonished me since this video screen with a dinosaur bone in front and coated with birthday wrapping paper could be an expression of the time the artist was raped by a gang of roving oompa loompas one fateful night by the Salton Sea.

I doubt this artist actually thought that way, but there’s no way to know. Because abstract creative works are open to interpretation, an artist can crank out total randomness and then back into the deep personal meaning to shield it from criticism and sell it. If you craft a sculpture out of hunks of random metal from a ’57 Chevy because you’re a white dude who likes cars then you can be ripped to shreds by an art critic for being a typical dude. If you cut apart a ’57 Chevy as a statement on rape, race, religion, sexuality or anything deeply personal then you have the perfect shield. What critic wants to be the guy who ripped into a poor artist who was raped by his father’s religion’s sexualty?

We all know that most of this contemporary art is created simply because it sells and most of the artists have zero actual real emotional attachment to what they make. They have emotional attachment to the fucking money. What these artists want is to be able to put their works out there and sell them while at the same time avoiding any criticism which might suggest they aren’t as genuine as they claim, or that their art isn’t very good. This is unfair to the audience because it removes our power to react to the art in a genuine way, even if that reaction is, “Fuck that sucks."

I see this same defense of the personal among open source authors. I love it when people make things and publish what they make, but I’m a firm believer in living and dying by the sword, and if you’re publishing your work, well people are going to comment on it. If you don’t want that then don’t put your shit out there. Go find a little group that will keep it quiet until you can handle it. Then when you’re ready put it out there and be ready to eat some shit, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from putting myself out there over and over it's that people who publish frequently are easy targets for total fucking assholes. My rule is, learn to fight the assholes on the merits of your work or their personal agendas, and then listen and adapt to everyone else’s thoughts as part of the public expression experience.

With open source they have this perverse defense where they put their software out there, which is just a tool, nothing personal about it. Art or poetry I can see being inspired by tragedy and hardship. Software? Shit, the only hardship that inspires my software is another project sucking so bad I craft something better in a fit of rage. You think I hate poetry? You should see my rage at shitty software. What these authors do is claim their open source project is a labor of love and that they poured their lives into this project! It’s their baby! How dare you say it has bugs or that it sucks! Who cares if it’s full of turd cookies they did it for free! You have no right to criticize it! My daughter is dying! I have cancer!

The same thing you were probably saying about these self-absorb pretentious artists and poets defending their art from criticism with the mantel of personal tragedy applies to open source. You can’t go around saying that simply having invested your time in it means that nobody can get pissed at you for writing buggy shitty code. You can definitely get angry at someone exploiting you, that’s for sure. Some company abusing your good will to further their goals is wrong.

But if someone finds a bug in your shit, and it ruins their fucking day, then it’s your fault and you should apologize and fucking fix it. That’s what I do. I handled 330 tickets for all of my books last month, pro-bono, and apologized to everyone that found something stupid I did. One person was an asshole to me, being abusive and insulting to programmers (while at the same time trying to become one) so I refunded his money and told him to go fuck himself. Life’s too short to put up with one of those assholes. Everyone else I helped out as best I could and actually apologized when I fucked up bad. I didn’t take it personally when people were having a hard time because it was my fault they were having a hard time. I felt sorry for them and did my best to make it better.

This defense of the personal in open source is so bad that twice I’ve had project leaders tell me strangely personal tragic shit about them to keep me from commenting publicly about their projects. One told me he was dying of cancer, and another told me that his daughter was dying. Yes, they told me this so that I wouldn’t say their project sucked. That’s how fucking nuts defense of the personal is. I would never tell a total stranger something like that just to protect my business, but these two idiots did. Interestingly enough, neither of them died, and I believe both of them were lying, but I still stopped saying something because I didn’t want to be a dick. But seriously, what kind of an asshole uses a kid with cancer to avoid fixing a fucking bug?

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