I’d like to thank Lee Carrick for his recent review here on McVoices. He is fulsome in praise (which is always nice for a writer to hear) Because I’m a person who cannot be constrained by comment boxes I thought I’d write a full blog response. Concision does not reside here!
As we all know, writing can be a dispiriting endeavour at times. This is only multiplied when what you are writing about is nothing to do with your own ego but is an attempt to ‘voice’ others and to show societal shortcomings. It’s not a great way to make friends and influence people and it’s the kind of writing people seem determined to pass by in much the same way that we were (at least those of my generation were) brought up ‘not to stare’ at ‘unfortunate’ or ‘disabled’ or ‘different’ people. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. If you’re one of those people, don’t read further. This is x rated conscience stuff. You have been warned. Yes I’m cynical but my cynicism suggests that people don’t like issues of conscience to be out in public. Not unless there’s a celebrity endorsement or fashion statement to be got out of it. Go on, prove me wrong. Make my day.
I know it’s rude to stare. But sometimes it’s necessary to look something full in the eye. That’s what I tried to do when I set up Guerrilla Midgie Press who published ‘A Week With No Labels’ which is the book Lee recently reviewed.
In the depths of despair recently, while trying to pull together an Advocacy Residency for the forthcoming ebook festival, I wrote the following (which I term a ‘rant’) I find it useful sometimes just to write out my anger. Publishing it takes it to another level of course. And maybe isn’t ‘necessary’ but you know what, today I feel brave and I thought it’d be worth letting people see what happens in a mind when a writer is getting a kicking. (Thanks to Lee, I shall give you a happy ending, don’t worry, if you are brave enough to read to the end). Here goes: rant alert…
There are many ways to crack a nut. Skin a cat. Use a cliché. I’ve probably tried them all in my attempt to give voice to some of the things I consider iniquitous in society. Very few to no people listen. Nobody likes a smart arse. No one likes to be reminded that the world isn’t the squeaky clean, happy go lucky place we’d like it to be in our aspirational dreams.
Advocacy is an emotive issue. It turns out that ‘standard issue’ people don’t like being ‘told’ things they don’t want to hear. They don’t like their comfy world view being challenged. Not unless there’s ‘something in it for them.’
Why is no one listening?
I don’t like ice cream. For some strange reason this seems to upset people. They can’t just allow that I don’t like ice cream and get on with it. They want to ‘make’ me like ice cream because it makes them feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ or something if I refuse an ice cream – especially if I say ‘no thanks, I don’t like ice cream.’ Experience has taught me that such a ‘choice’ makes people view me as a ‘party pooper.’ Okay. Let’s grow up. We’re only talking about ice cream here. No one died. The problem is, this same pattern has been replicated in considerably more important areas of life. Advocacy for example. ‘Don’t tell me something I don’t want to hear’ seems to be the cry. ‘If you do, you’re just being a) a smart arse or b) nasty or c) pissing on my parade and I don’t like people doing that.’
I’m sorry but that makes me angry. Because, it’s all about you, isn’t it? Is it? Your choice. Your happiness. Your way of seeing the world. These are all that matter. Is that the case? I’m really sorry to say it, but that is my general experience of people I call ‘standard issue.’ (I use a deliberately vague term here so that everyone reading can say ‘yes, you’re right, those standard issue people are just awful.’ But very few people will recognise themselves as ‘standard issue’.) It’s always someone else, isn’t it? No. Not always. Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes it’s me. When it’s me, I try to do something about it. I try to step out of my skin and go to where ‘other’ is. That’s the core of advocacy. It’s not about ME.
So what do you do?
Oh of course I’m preaching to the converted. I always am. But it occurs to me if everyone is so flipping converted and enlightened, why is the world still the complete shambles that it is? It’s ‘them’ isn’t it? It’s always ‘them.’
‘They’ are an interesting concept. They are ‘the other’ and for most of us it seems that there are two kinds of ‘them.’ There are ‘them’ who are in power (above us in the pecking order of whom generally we are jealous and maybe a bit scared) and ‘them’ who are below us in the pecking order (of whom we are definitely scared, a bit embarrassed and whom we would definitely cross the street in order to avoid.) ‘They’ are everyone we refuse to acknowledge as ‘us’. Take a moment to think though.
They are at either end of the spectrum. The ones outside the Bell Curve. The non-standard issue folk. The ones we are frightened and jealous of. Sometimes, just sometimes, do you ever think you might be ‘one of them’ instead of ‘one of us’? I expect if that thought ever crosses your mind it makes you a bit uncomfortable. As it should. But some people have no choice. The ‘them’ set are the fall guys for everyone else. That, as I have been repeatedly told all my life – is just the way it is.
That’s not good enough for me.
But what can you do? What have I done? Rather than say what ‘we’ should do about this, I try to spend my time doing what I can. You have your own choices. Which are not for me to interfere with. I just do what I can. And setting up Guerrilla Midgie press is just what I did. What I have done. What I do is speak out about things that I find intolerable. Things I think are bigger than my ‘opinion’ or ‘ego’. Things that are important. It doesn’t make me popular, I know that. But I’m lucky. I can speak. Write. Tell. What I can’t do is make people listen. That’s their choice. And with the amount of work I’ve done on ‘choice making’ I can tell you, it’s important to me that people can and do make their own informed choices about what they do and what they read. I’m just putting it out there. That’s all I can do.
And that’s where we come to a (temporary) happy ending. Because for all the time I sit here wondering why the hell no one gives a damn about wonderful, funny, unique people simply because they have a ‘label’, and wonder why I keep trying to get ‘standard issue’ people to engage with them, sometimes people DO read and DO listen and DO learn (and are not afraid to say so!)
Welcome back Lee Carrick with his review. He admits this isn’t his ‘usual’ reading matter. So, he steps out of his comfort zone. Good lad. And in doing so he finds something worthwhile. And then he tells the world about it. All the while worrying that he’s not doing it in the ‘best’ or ‘most appropriate’ way. That’s what it feels like to be an advocate, Lee. It’s brave and it’s laudable to stick your neck on the line for ‘them’ and ‘they’ appreciate it. ‘They’ would be happy to call you a friend.
Lee writes : - Cally Phillips has much more eloquently opened our eyes to the power that language, generalisations or stereotypical labels can have on the person or persons to which they are directed.
Her work is so far removed from the books that I usually read that it has reinforced my desire to carry on reading the work of the McVoices rather than reading Irvine Welsh's latest book or rereading Factotum for the 10th time.
For the full review http://mcvoices.weebly.com/15/post/2013/07/a-week-with-no-labels-by-cally-phillips.html
And another McVoice, Bill Kirton who responded to my plea for someone to read ‘Jock Tamson’s Bairns’ and tell me honestly what they thought about it. Bill said (among other nice things!)
It challenges the way we create compartments, chop reality into manageable chunks, box them up and label them, even though some chunks shouldn’t be in the same box and most labels are at best inadequate and at worst wrong.
And in case you’re worried if I’m all too worthy for this world, he adds:
Her style is friendly, conversational and honest and, when we move to what she describes as ‘fictional stories based on factual experience’, she continues to draw us into her revelations by creating characters and situations which, yes, underline the message but are also moving, funny and entertaining. In her own words, she’s ‘respect[ing] the real-life experience of the people whose lives [she’s] fictionalised’ in order to ‘teach insight for those of us who so badly need it’.
For the full review read herehttp://mcvoices.weebly.com/7/post/2013/07/jock-tamsons-bairns-by-cally-philips.html
Neither of these reviews make me ‘proud’ of myself. But they do make me a little bit happier for my friends. They make me feel like I’m not wasting my time or efforts. For me time is precious and I want to put my efforts where they will be of most use. So it kills me to think that I’m not achieving something for my friends. And when two men I’ve never met, Bill and Lee, step up to the mark and say what they think and help spread the word it just gives me that little motivational lift out of the despair and reminds me that I haven’t got time for despair, that’s wasting time I need to spend in my goal of ‘voicing the unvoiced.’ It makes me cheer for the power of ‘wee voices’ everywhere.
So, at the moment, no apologies but I’m all over McVoices like a rash. That’s nice. It’s a wee place but a place committed to ‘wee voices’ banding together to make a big shout. As the late Donald Dewar once said ‘I like that.’ ‘Going viral’ or ‘trending’ is only something people can do when they put in a bit of time and effort for something (hopefully) they believe in. I believe it’s nice to be nice. I believe it’s important to try and give positive help and endorsement to important issues and to people working their butts off to try and get voices heard. It’s something beyond ego. It’s called advocacy. And it’s a great ‘lifestyle’ choice to make once in a while.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about – you can get hold of an ebook copy of Jock Tamson’s Bairns FREE for ebook just by clicking HERE (it includes a free episode of No Labels) and hopefully once you’ve read that you’ll be ready to stick your hand in your pocket and buy A Week With No Labels either as an ebook or a paperback. The full range of Guerrilla Midgie publications can be found here (with buying links as appropriate)