meditations on taylor swift’s 2009 hit ‘mean’ to be sung to the tune of every hank williams song at once

1 August 2018

forgive me — i have a meanness — a classic whisky-swilling gnarl
like a cardboard cutout of bette davis at a bar
once i sat at such a bar — in boston — and picked a fight
with my cardboard cutout
but perfectly respectable boyfriend at the time
who i would not call my boyfriend — because
they do not grant permission
to the mean among us for love and the affiliate benefits
the good faith — the valour — and the immunity from
that great speed
with which the mean
are disposed of —

o god — the dreadful spectre of postmodern metastyles — pastiche and self-loathing —
is thick in the room of my meanness — nothing is safe —
to be mean is to pick on the weaker man —
his human body — like carrion
on the open planes — like a dot
on a disc of snow

the inverse of meanness
is pettiness — pettiness like
the late middle english bastardisation of the french
meaning something made small —
like a bastard, or a petticoat —
the mercenary rustling
beneath a skirt —

to be petty is to be mean without power —
to pinch a scullery maid for a bruise —
to ignore the missives of a well-meaning man
in favour of the pleasures of a bar —
of the deep berry red of a drink

meanness, at its full extension is cruelty —
meanness is to cruelty a stick-up to a shooting —
cruelty is meanness to the power of whisky — to the power of femme — the shrew
being the only sympathetic character in western canon —

it is absolutely no fun to go mean without power
the mean without power are mad —
they have arguments with themselves
alone with their lunches —
they give awkward and uncomfortable
keynote addresses —

the power of the mean is this —
to consign noble motives to others —
who — in your wake — have no choice
but to turn up their collars to the wind —
to walk out the door
better men — the power
to compel so many
to go outside for some time —

taylor, everybody made me cold but nobody ever gave me money for it
obviously taylor — having read simone weil —
you know that we direct spite primarily at our fellows —
so cruelty is a function of oppression but pettiness
is the secret service
of our collective undoing —
ensuring social cohesion
in a post-fordist and kindergarten sense —
like putting babies
in a tar pit — the rustle of a thousand skirts —
a sly smile — a dry laugh —
a dopamine shot on the other side of a monitor — like a moth
squashed on a windshield of a kia —

but meanness, taylor
is an act of great — and thankless — generosity —
i won’t call it revolutionary but —
without it — you could not live in a big city —
performing high production value acts of menace —

to receive meanness is a promise by projection —
by the perverse logic of the universe of blondes —
that one day you will be so big
nobody can hit you

the mean among us remain in medium sized cities
in undemanding bars — performing our low budget
pop country duties
to a small, but committed audience
of one or two

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