In Defense of the Egomaniac (Or I’m Walt Mossburg … Shut Up)

Jose Vilson Jose Leave a Comment

Every few weeks or so, I run into a YouTube video so excruciatingly hilarious, I deem it worthy to be linked on my site. This is one of them:

I borrowed it from my brother-from-another-mother Carl and I deem it apropos for my reflection tonight, not because I care whether or not Mike Arrington of TechCrunch is right or because I’m going to get my own puppet and take my show to YouTube. Actually, it’s to highlight the artistry of effective expression, especially when done at the fringes of what we deem as popular opinion. Let me give you all the clearest example I can.

In my own explorations as a writer / blogger / teacher leader / web designer / etc., I’ve received some overt (and covert) compliments, all of which I’m humbly grateful for. I don’t consider myself a self-made man by any means nor do I subscribe to the self-moisturizing methods some of my fellow contemporaries exert in environments where no one’s asking for that. As recently as tonight, I dressed as inconspicuously as possible just for that anonymity. In a way, I need to be reminded what it is for people not to know me and for me to focus on the work (and in tonight’s case, the awesome poets on stage at the Acentos Poetry Showcase at the Bowery Poetry Cafe).

But like many of the people on stage and in the audience, I didn’t get where I am today by staying quiet. I connected with the right people. I let my stuff get on search engines and blogrolls. I designed and modded this whole site practically by myself, and learned far more about advertising and search engine optimization than I cared for before I got my own calling card (by calling card, I mean thejosevilson.com). Even after all the nominations, mentions, and TV and blog interviews, I still consider myself on the fringes of the blogosphere because, while people love the blog, you won’t hear CNN or Rolling Stone calling my phone, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I also know I don’t (nor do I care to) have a publicist, agent, or assistant of any sort.

For another example, I turn to the aforementioned Acentos, now a foundation sponsoring and promoting Latino poets, many of whose voices would never be heard in the cacophony of literary heads trying to create a silo so only those with, say, MFAs from prestigious colleges or their arms hanging off the pelvises of prominent predecessors in places that actually may NEED new voices that consider themselves in the fringes … like I do. Tonight proved that these un-settlers could come into a sanctuary of rarely-heard voices and make beautiful music together, or in this case, poetry. While that’s a huge credit to the egos of former and current board members of the Acentos Foundation, it also demonstrates the fact that, as humble and reflective as these ladies and gentlemen are, their efforts may have been buried in the graveyard along with other well-meaning organizations if they didn’t take the time to promote their efforts and make sure they stayed in the forefront of people’s minds and tongues.

Does this warrant everyone getting a Facebook fan page or writing press releases about their joints? Not really. I honestly believe that if you can’t count to 100 people who are feeling your work, then maybe it’s not in your interest to do anything too wild. It doesn’t mean that I too am creating a silo. If the work is good, then promote away. For those of us who aren’t blogging / writing or anything that needs a little promotion, they should remember that very few of their favorite popular people ever get noticed until they put themselves in the position for this thing called “luck.”

In other words, shut up.

Jose, who’ll write this in more personal and poetic form exclusively on his Facebook fan page …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

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