Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Better World?

If there is one thing I first learned about being an activist is that there is no glorious finish line to cross, there is no final war or enemy to vanquish... there is no happy ending.

There will always be cruelty, ignorance, prejudice, hatred, and violence in this world, and the purpose of the activist is to constantly be updated about such events. They must know such things so that they can speak out about it, to fight against it, and to let it be known so that action can be taken.

It is equally burdening for activists when people from their own community will attack them for their efforts and declare that they are only a problem, not the solution. While it can be noble and courageous to be outspoken, it only makes the activist a more vulnerable target for others to spit on and mock.

The life of an activist is a lonely one and it's so tempting to just forget about it all, to just fuck the people you're trying to help since they don't give a shit anyways, and enjoy a life of ignorance and bliss and eat Cinnabons all day.

I guess I'm being bit of a Debbie Downer, huh? I might as well the full story but as you read this, please keep in mind that I mean no disrespect to the individual who I am talking about and that despite whatever happened, I will always respect him, his work, and his passion to help out the APA community.

Two days ago, I see a Facebook post put out by spoken poet Alvin Lau where he links a Yellow Rage video and comments on how their works hurts the APA movement with their "mono-faceted militancy". This was the video that he was talking about:

(For those who don't know, Yellow Rage is a spoken poet group composed of two Asian pacific American women, Michelle Myers and Catzie Villayphonh, and Alvin Lau is another APA spoken poet who I've come to respect and admire over the years. They and many others, including Beau Sia and Bao Phi, are the reasons why I became interested in spoken poetry in the first place.)

I commented on his Facebook wall that there are forms of activism and expression that are based on anger and rage, and while I could see his point that they may a bit too strong in how they deliver their messages, Yellow Rage has empowered many Asian (and non-Asian) women to speak up and not give a damn. Other people chimes in, mostly non-Asians, and they agree with Alvin on how Yellow Rage makes them want to turn off the computer and that what they say is not effective in any manner. I respond in a manner that I could see their argument but once again, going back to my foundation that what Yellow Rage says may not appeal to everybody, but it has empowered a lot of people that they cannot be disregarded for how they express themselves.

Alvin then suggests I ask my non-Asian friends in what is considered effective activism and told to look at the many non-Asian friends who are in agreement with him. I asked him if that meant that we need to listen solely to what non-Asians should tell us to do and he then told me that I missed the point entirely. I wasn't sure even if he even got my point and from there, he re-iterated his firm belief that activists need to consider how effective their message is and who it reaches out to.

I can agree with him on that part to a good degree. Yet we saw different on how this particular poem meant and at some point, I joked that he was a very harsh judge.

He immediately took offense to that and told me he did not appreciate my condescending tone and I replied that I didn't mean to be condescending but rather stating we have different opinions on this matter. I did hold my ground with my statement that he was very harsh on what he determined to be proper forms of activism and poetry but that from one artist to another, I respected his critical point of view because we need people like that to keep us straight. I stated that I loved his "Asia America, Where are you?" poem and his viewpoints are valid but it's something that we just agree to disagree.

The following day, Alvin Lau blocks me. Which left me pretty confused and a bit stunned. It's disheartening to get into such an argument with a person you admire, only to get to a point where you piss the person off and wondering if you were wrong in what you said and believe.

I can't help but ask myself: Is Alvin right in that some forms of expression are more EFFECTIVE than others and therefore the less effective voices should hold no ground?

A friend told me that all forms of APA voices are valid and that we need to support each other and not squabble amongst ourselves.

I still hold my ground in supporting Yellow Rage not because I personally know them or that they're Asian, but because they are legit forms of expression that I relate to. Yet I guess being a sensitive guy, I'm saddened by how our interaction went and as a result, it brings us to my main point:

The life of an activist isn't an easy one. But above all else, I must learn to trust my own instincts and know that my fight to create a better world will be riddled with obstacles, and that the path will be long and winded.


Lauren said...

I really enjoyed the Yellow Rage vid. If someone finds that offputting, chances are it's because they represent or have represented the very behavior and attitude these women are speaking out against.

bigWOWO said...

I don't know if I'd go as far to say that that Yellow Rage video hurts any movement, but artistically, I think Alvin Lau and his friends are 100% correct. That Yellow Rage vid is horrible. Aesthetically it's a complete fail. Those two women produce a really ugly sound, and yes, it made me want to turn off my computer.

By the way, thanks for the intro to Alvin Lau. I'm not a big fan of spoken word in general, but I checked him out on Youtube, and some of his stuff isn't bad. He speaks from the heart.

Anonymous said...