Sunday, 22 June 2008

So if I felt more sorry for myself I'd get published...

Juno. See, good. Not miserable.
J and I were discussing last week the merit of suffering in art.

We were watching the football (always fertile ground for discussions, especially since J, wishing to pay attention to the screen, tries to be as brief as possible in his debate, rather than going by his usual mantra "why use one word when ten will do"). Russia were winning which of course forced me to go on at length about what it is about the Russian people that makes them put up with God knows what amount of human rights abuses, corruption and an extremely badly dressed former KGB president.

Not to mention why they are intent on having their own facebook, their own blog platforms etc. etc.

Having exhausted these usual areas of exasperation, I went on to say that they seem to have some kind of suffering fetish as well. According to J's mum, Russians are so used to pain that it has become a way of life for them. OK, so the Soviet Union was quite harsh with Gulags, the aforementioned KGB etc. etc., but now they supposedly have a democracy and they are all just squandering it away by allowing the Duma's powers to be ever reduced and allowing the country's considerable natural resources line the pockets of the ridiculously rich whilst many still struggle to feed themselves and put a roof over their heads. The solution? Pander to racist nationalism and take it out on the "foreigners" whom were up until recently not foreign at all, but fellow Soviets, voluntarily or otherwise. Why do people put up with it? Are they scared, or do they simply not care?

Anyway, the discussion, punctured by Sweden's abysmal performance on the pitch, wound onto J arguing that at least Russia has punched above its weight in terms of science (yes, they did go to space..) and the arts (the Bolshoi are very good, I have to admit, they brought a tear to my eye several times and I don't even know anything about ballet whatsoever), maybe partly because of the pain.

"But would you argue that you can describe the complete spectrum of the human condition if you haven't ever been completely miserable," J asked.

I'm sorry. Oh purrlease. Suffering makes good art, you say? That's completely ridiculous.

Firstly, the "greatest", by which I mean most publicly reveered high art and literature, rarely comes from those whom I assume suffer the most, ie. those living under extremely deprived conditions, the underprivileged and undereducated.

No, it comes mostly from well educated self-indulgent people who sit around on their arse and have time to feel extremely sorry for themselves. It is so easy to create "art" from suffering.

Pain is an easy feeling to describe and to evoke in the recipient of the art piece. Just look around the internet, every second blog is written by someone who is a self-professed and most likely self-diagnosed depressive, or someone very angry, or just downright world hating. You hardly ever see any happy blogs.

Writing on the subject of happiness is seen as the domain of the self-help manual and dodgy self-improvement literature. But it's not. These books don't describe happines, they make a stab (usually in the dark) at describing how to attain it. And why? Because happiness is "boring". But how can we argue that happiness is boring? If it is, why do we all crave it?

I love nothing more than watching a good film which leaves me feeling uplifted and have faith in life. So why don't people create happy art more often? Because it's fucking hard, that's why. It is easy to depress your readers, it is nigh on impossible to lift their spirits (partly because they're miserable old buggers but that's a different matter).

So suffering makes great art? What-evvah. People write based on suffering because it's so hard to make happines materialise on the page or on canvas. And because it is so easy to make one self miserable, but so difficult to attain happiness. If it was easy, wouldn't we all just put art theory into practise and make ourselves happy?

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