When everything is constrictive, when everything is controlled, there seems to be those of us who naturally feel the need to rebel against it. I am one of those. I grew up in a very controlling Christian home. Born Again Christians they’re called, others call them nondenominational Christians, and they do not tolerate dissent. You are to agree. There is one Lord above, and within, and around all of us. He comes in three forms, also known as the Trinity. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. We are all sinners, and only through the glory and the grace of the Son, Jesus Christ, can we be washed clean from this sin and be welcomed into Heaven.
It was in that world that I fully came to appreciate the desire to rebel.
I have found no greater moment in life than the reaction of one you’ve so thoroughly shocked that their whole body gets into it. I became so enraptured by the life and work and times of one artist.
Charles Baudelaire, the greatest poet to ever write. With nothing but a pen and a printing press he was able to shatter turn of the century French culture. His work delved into vampirism, perversions, lesbianism, and Satan. His books were burned. Not by angry mobs, but the State.
He had revolted against society itself. He spit in the face of decadent France and became a legend.
I grew up idolizing this poet. He had, in his life, done what a great artist can only hope to do.. make society react. Make society question all of the assumptions accepted as fact.
As I grew I saw how far people had to go to offend others. The world changed fast. Before I was old enough to know it, you could draw Jesus Christ with your own shit and not a reaction would be had. It may be put up in frames, and the rich and the elegant may stop to examine it for a bit.. but to shock them? To shock society? To be the outcast artist breaking all of the rules of “decent folk”.. I thought the time had passed.
Last night it came to me.. it hadn’t.
I watched as Milo Yiannopoulos was chased from Berkley campus, known for so long as a haven of free speech, for his work. He had crossed the line. Riots ensued. Fires burned. The globe had shifted, or better yet the poles of the US, and to speak of the past as a better time.. to be regressive.. was now transgressive. This gay Jewish man had shocked the world. With just his art he challenged all that was acceptable in our modern era. He challenged all that was acceptable in decadent turn of the century America. In one moment he had finally done something that I had only read about. Baudelaire. Wilmot. A few select people. He had done something so large that the head of a state was forced to respond.
I didn’t think I’d see that in my life time.