Bear with me on this. I want to take you back to the early 80s with me, in New York City. I’ve been listening to a podcast series on Spotify, The Story of the Clash, and during an episode a couple of weeks back, they were recalling the series of concerts the band played in NYC after the release of Sandinista, which was an interesting album in that the band brought in about every type of musical influence that you could find around NYC back then.
Anyway, as they played “in residency” at Bond’s, the band was supported by any number of eclectic musical guests, including a number of early hip-hop pioneers. This did not necessarily go over well with the mostly white fans that had traveled to the city to see a punk rock show. As was the fashion, there was booing, shouting, even some objects thrown at the opening bands, which was also then followed by Clash lead singer Joe Strummer offering his opinion of the crowd’s actions, most of which I’m sure are not family friendly. One thing that struck me though, was the description of Joe taking the stage to tell people to “shut up and listen, this stuff is cool, I love it, and you should give it a chance.”
How often do we hear the same message about well, everything? Here we are, some 30+ years later, still not listening to new, and different, voices, and needing to be told to shut up and listen.
Yes, in my story there were definite racial overtones, and today we still struggle to hear voices of minority groups. We still struggle to hear the voices of women in the workplace, of immigrants, etc.
But, I challenge you to go even further. Get out of the group mentality and think about the individual voices we don’t hear. The stories that need to be told. The stories of people struggling who need to be heard. The story of the middle aged man who cannot hold down a job due to ongoing mental health issues. The addict who is using to cover her pain from childhood abuse. The parent who needs time away from work to assist with their autistic child. The coworker caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, or trying to escape domestic violence. The homeless, the orphaned child, the incarcerated.
How many of these stories do we truly know? How many are we even willing to listen to?
If they tried to get up on that stage at Bond’s, would we boo them off of it for bringing us down? Or blame them for their situation in life without giving it a second thought?
Sadly, I think many of us would do exactly that. We wouldn’t stand up and say, “these are important stories and you need to hear them”. We would like for them to “go away” and not disturb us any more. But that doesn’t make the story stop. It only makes us ignorant, and uncaring.
Don’t be ignorant. Be Joe Strummer, at least in this situation.
Find stories that are not being heard, and expose them to your circle. Share them, support them, and find a way to get the audience to shut up and listen.