Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Everybody ends up dead.
An Open Letter to Writers of Open Letters
by Godfrey Bumblesquat
To those who feel compelled to address the world from Facebook, Twitter, and email chains, here is a message: No one is listening, least of all Luther Vandross.
We need to have a talk, under the illusion of its taking place in private but actually for anyone to read. Also, the talk will be unilateral and you will never respond to it. Ready? It doesn’t matter, because I’m not listening to you!
The practice of writing open letters must stop. I agree, it was a creative form back in the days of the Bible, and was used effectively throughout history by such figures as Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, and Luther Vandross.
But now every John, Dick, and Luther with internet access can write an open letter for potentially everyone to read, and most of our discourse is already public (I actually originated that last phrase in 1996, which is no. 8 on my list of 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me, just after no. 7—“I murdered a man in Laos on 6/19/2002 and have never been apprehended.”) Writers of open letters, it’s time, for the following reasons, to retire the form, one as hackneyed as the enumeration of arguments through bullet points:
• First, there’s the arrogance of presuming that your letter will really be read by the public, not to mention the greater hubris of signing the letter with your location and date, as if the act of writing it is a historic event whose place and time we must note for the ages. Chances are, no fucker cares enough about the issue to read it, so people end up shamelessly larding their letters with search-engine-friendly phrases like, oh, I don’t know, 'Justin Bieber haircut', 'Angelina Jolie nude' and 'Did Luther Vandross ever really write an open letter? He didn’t, right? It was just a joke, like I thought at first wasn't it?'
• Intervention by letter is an emotionally unhealthy way to address something. If you’re upset about something, therapists often do recommend writing a letter to the person who has upset you — but not sending it. You reap all the benefits of self-expression without the interpersonal conflict. Is it really worth expressing your frustration over Virhin Money's takeover of Northern Rock to have an awkward encounter the next time you run into Richard Branson in Asda?
• Speaking of Branson, a few people or entities to whom there should be an immediate moratorium on writing open letters: Primeministers; the High Court; billionaires. They are too busy and important to ever read it, except for Nick Clegg, because he’s so insecure he has a Google alert set up for his name.
If you absolutely must write an open letter, at least conform to a few tropes of real letter-writing, such as mixing in breezy updates about your own life. For example, in an open letter to Nick Griffin, you might write, “In conclusion, sir, I, for one, am extremely grateful you and your party are doing a great job in showing what a bunch of absolute retards you are as I find morally reprehensible each and every one of your doctrines. P.S. By the way, last night, Sheila and I watched 'Shrek' . We both thought of you! P.P.S. I sincerely hope your own daughter is never raped and impregnated by one of your backwoods cousins."
I would also call for a ban on the short semi-open letter that’s taken root on Facebook and Twitter, such as 'Tuesday afternoons, why are you so interminable?' or 'Oh, Antiques Roadshow, how I love you,” or 'Dear Luther Vandross, did you ever write an open letter? Also I wonder what music you’d be making now if you hadn’t died in 2005.'
Writers of open letters, since you’ve read to the end of this letter and haven’t rebutted me, I assume you’re in agreement and, therefore, the matter can be considered officially closed.
Yours in meta-openness,