Stage Fright: The cost of a voice.

Where is this unholy terror coming from? Do you have an oral report? Do you have a song to sing? Do you have a spelling bee? Open mic night? Acceptance speech? Polls have shown that the public fears speaking in front of itself more than death in some cases. Why? I have a theory. I believe stage fright comes at least in part subconsciously from loss of power and acceptance of risk. We’re trained from an early age that what we say in conversation means very little, as a result it has very little risk associated with it. For example we watch our parents lie to each other usually without consequence. But the assumption is that private conversations are plastic, you can say “That’s not what I meant” and take a step back if the step forward wasn’t productive, thus learning by process of elimination what to say to achieve your goals. But we know that when it’s in front of a large enough group, if it’s in front of a camera, if it’s on a tape, if it’s written down, your mistakes are forever frozen for all to see and or hear. Why the fear then? Isn’t it a good thing to have you ideas last? Not always, because while they last they are also changed for the worse, because the context around them changes. Also because when you don the mantle of artist, of musician, of comic, of author, of director, you allow the world to pull any teeth from your words. They can now say calmly and smugly, or worse, in despair, “Well it’s just a song/book/joke/movie”. That is where the poisonous fear truly comes from. As an adult it may turn into jealousy, do you have an artist you hate? I do, I hate him, and I consider him whiney and false, because he speaks about pain. My pain, that I feel is impossible to have with as much money as he has. I envy his audience, and his eloquence, and that turned to hate. It’s petty but it’s true. I’ve omitted his name because if this work gets publicity I don’t want it being because of a lawsuit. He’s been given millions by society for saying things we all feel at one time or another. I might have done that, anyone could have, but what stopped us? Stage fright to a large extent. He was willing deep down to surrender his power to change the world, in exchange for the mantle of rock star. All successful artists are willing on some level to make this exchange. All public expressions are a submission to the collective judgments associated with our chosen means of expression.

Carlin, Mathers, Warner, Palahniuk, Asimov, Barker, Card, Moore, Orwell, Huxley, and every other man or woman without vested interest in deception, who profits from voicing that painful truth knows this. Each and every one, consciously or not, traded their ability to be heard for the right to be broadcasted. Of course sometimes the meaning gets through, and a person will be inspired and will act based on those words, but society has a solution, they’ve just become “a fan” and lost even more power. This lack of power spreads to whoever carries the word away from the artist, with his or her name attached. Easy fix they say, I’ll just leave the name off then the power of the words will be preserved right? In theory yes, after all as was said before, the secret of creativity is knowing how to conceal your sources. But, that’s where intellectual property law comes in; it prevents you from using another’s word without attaching the name. This way the words are branded, forever. Perhaps this is the idea behind controlling a demon so long as you have it’s true name. History is a torrent of these branded references. A string of names and dates welded to ideas, all rendered mostly powerless when they were put into a category. As a category restricts interpretation, and thus sends the power of words right where those already in power want it. The human tendency to categorize information is always going to have real world consequences, and most of them are in fact beneficial. However, the problems of discipline identity impede progress, as in emerging areas of nanoscience among others. People often want to call this problem or that problem a “chemistry” problem or a “physics” problem when at the nanoscale there is no real fundamental difference. Consider the categorical impact of the word “fiction”. What if we labeled The Bible thus? To picture this effect think of the men in black, statistically speaking you instantly thought of popular fictions, not the thousands of accounts of what they were based on, if you know them at all. That’s because now, the men in black, are just a movie, or a comic. Then let’s take a serious attempt, the movie “And The Band Played On.” If you want to discuss the behavior of the Red Cross in the 1980s the movie will most likely come up. “Oh I’ve seen that movie” and suddenly the words mean less. You can’t convey the point as wonderfully as the film medium, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so you reference it, but instantly someone will voice an opinion on the film, or a desire to see it, “oh yes I loved that movie” or “I’ll have to rent that.” Then where is your point, your words, and your unique interpretation? Forever routed to the movie, along with any power your point may have had. References are destroying communication, but that’s a whole other essay. Without the film your words may have inspired action, your words may have

caused change, perhaps more significantly, your words may have threatened their power. Ever notice that prominent civil rights activists that come close to power are either killed or made into movies or both? In our society the movie is the ultimate Band-Aid. When society screams for action, you can make a movie and they don't scream as loud. Afraid of asteroids thanks to recent hard science? No problem, we'll make a movie about humanity solving that problem with nukes and Aerosmith’s daughter. Worried about an ice age caused by our own negligence and greed? No problem, we'll just make a movie about moving to Mexico. From the moment a movie is released, people stop thinking about the real problem it’s based on. Americans in particular know how much money and time it takes to make a movie. So they figure "They must know more than I do about *movie's topic* so I'll accept their conclusions." As I said before, our society is built in such a way that, the only way to be broadcasted, is to trade in your right to be heard. The stinging paradox is, the best way to be heard is to be broadcasted. We all know that the only real power a single person has is when hoards of other people listen to him or her. Ironically when you climb on that stage, you trade away that power. This is why protesting is ineffective, and Woodstock didn’t cause a revolt. Art isn’t the answer.

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