“...someone’s always telling me how to behave...”
-God is My Co-Pilot.
We hear stories, internalize them, and then re-enact them; this creates a subsequent
narrative that someone else can witness, internalize, and re-enact; an oral history as it’s played
out on bodies in the day to day. The skin, the surface, the superficial signs of a person is an
important location where identity is communicated, and therefore behavior determines some
limits of identity. Expectations of behavior are often imposed by how others perceive us,
perceive who we are and where we stand. Nina Simone expounds on the impact of ‘good’
behavior in Mississippi Goddamn,
They keep on saying "Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble "go slow"
Washing the windows "go slow"
Picking the cotton "go slow"
You're just plain rotten "go slow"
You're too damn lazy "go slow"
The thinking's crazy "go slow"
You keep on saying "Go slow!" "too slow!"
But that's just the trouble "too slow"
Desegregation "too slow"
Mass participation "too slow"
Reunification "too slow"
Do things gradually "too slow"
But bring more tragedy "too slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know
To be clear: I have a body that slips between the mainstream and the margin
depending on circumstance; I question the value and effect of behavior. The mainstream goes
about telling the margin how to affect the evolution of cultural narratives/attitudes: stay in
line, go slow, wait your turn. Here, misbehavior is an opportunity to pry open the limitations
of a marginalized body; in Simone’s lyrics misbehavior becomes a cultural leap forward.
Progress is what happens when the skin, the surface, and the superficial signs of an identity
start to misbehave; and then a subsequent narrative ready for witnesses is formed. This is not a
perfect model, not all misbehavior is progressive; although, we never know what forms,
identities are possible until structures/materials/bodies/individuals behave outside their
expectation, defy their stations, step out of line, get uppity.
“....you should hear the things they say about me now...”
-God is My Co-Pilot