The O’Toole Chronicles: Poly Styrene
Sometimes you hear or see something that stops you in your tracks. I was surfing the channels the other day and came across an interesting documentary called “Poly Styrene: I am a Cliché”.
The documentary focused on an English singer, “Poly Styrene”, whose real name was Marianne Joan Elliott-Said. She was the lead singer of a punk band, X-Ray Spex. The documentary was narrated by the singer’s daughter, Celeste Bell, and what surprised me was a statement the daughter made about her mother.
Celeste remarked that her mother often broke down after a performance and Celeste said… “It’s not natural for someone to be on a stage and receive adoration and cheers for something that was said… that’s not normal.” WOW.
In our political world, we think it’s only natural to stand on a stage, a podium or a crate of milk and make a speech and hear applause. Some of us even count the number of applause breaks (usually the first thing reported by the talking head of the same party as the president). In our world, we think it’s normal, but maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Celeste Bell is right.
I think there’s a lot to dig into about his ability or desire to get on stage. Most people don’t want to be put on the spot or be the center of attention. I completely understand that.
The other side of the coin is that once on stage, you certainly don’t want to be booed or criticized.
A survey I read said that 75% of all people are afraid of public speaking. It is an astonishing number. And when you break it down, people with a college education are less fearful, only 24% of them have glossophobia – fear of public speaking, while 52% of high school graduates (or less in the dept. of l education) have this legitimate fear. People are less afraid of dying, of spiders or snakes than of speaking in public.
I know we are talking about two different concepts here, but the two seem to merge… somewhere.
Back to Poly Styrene – she was a groundbreaking performer who sang in an unconventional voice about serious topics like race, identity, consumerism and other important 1970s topics. Sadly, Poly Styrene passed away at age 53 from breast cancer, but her influence lives on.
The next time you see someone speaking in a public forum, and before you start your critique of their performance, try putting yourself in their shoes and see if you’d like to trade places – I bet I know the answer.