Saturday, March 26, 2005

the art of The Diss

If it was just you and me, and I decided to vent, I'd say something like this (after a bout of sulking followed by you cajoling me to share my troubles): I have experienced more rejection in the past year than ever before.  By any measure, it's been a record season of put-downs for me.  Pick a category: business, love, friendship, smiling at a stranger on the street. Just the other day, even a homeless lady refused to take my money.
I'm not accustomed to rejection.   Perhaps I'm just now starting to get the average lifetime supply, all at once.  There are other plausible explanations, all or part of which might explain this drought of strokes.  But one factor is undeniable: I never really new rejection before I came to New York.
Think about it.  New York is home of The Diss.  Here it is a time honored tradition, a high art, a pastime, a ritual, a social more, and a sought after business skill.  It may even be a survival skill or a time-saving device (imagine stopping to say something nice to everyone you pass on the street!).  It was demonstrated most eloquently for a watching world by none other than New York's own Donald Trump.  Just by speaking the words "You're fired!" he immortalized, lionized, and enshrined them, introducing his audience to what I call The Art of the Diss.
Mick Jagger said, "livin' in this town, you must be tough tough tough tough tough tough TOUGH!"   Seems to have hit the bullseye on that score.  Note, then, that The Diss is no respecter of persons.  In fact, thrill of The Diss seems to be proportional to the stature -- social or monetary -- of the person dissed.  There is no coup in dissing the fellow who cleans the lavatories in your building, unless he carries on like he's John J. Crapper himself.
This brings me to another subtle characteristic of The Diss.  I have observed that those whose conduct belies a very special view of themselves vis-a-vis mankind in general are not only capable practitioners of The Diss, but often its most sought-after targets. It's as if there really is a law ensuring that you get what you give; sort of "live by The Diss/die by The Diss."  This is evidence that there is indeed Justice. Evidence that apparently convicts me, since I've been the recipient of so much Dissing.  But I digress.
The Diss is really just another form of The Bluff. It's social Darwinism in all it's fatalistic, destructive glory: "If survival belongs to the fittest, then I'd better act like I am."  The put-down is designed to bolster the self image of the putter-downer.
Given this, then, The Diss might be easier to take next time.   Because if people could be seen according to their actual stature, the big Disser would be the "98 pound weakling" of the crowd; the man behind the curtain, the emperor in his New Clothes, etc.
Don't be put off by this. New Yorkers want to accept you.  But first they have to put you down. In a big way.


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