Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

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Edited May 22, 2009, 11:39
Re: I'm sorry
May 22, 2009, 09:42
Merrick wrote:
Please forgive the delay in replying, but that is a really enormous question. I defy anyone of any ideological stripe to have a concise or complete answer to it..

Agree totally and it was not a trick question or one intended to provoke a flippant answer. So I fully appreciate the time you have taken to answer it.

Let me start with one major reason why I asked the question in the first place.

I want art to be political. Or rather I do not want the artist to avoid the political when that is what is weighing most heavily on their consciousness.

That said I don't expect joined up thinking from rock music. I don't expect pop musicians to live their lives by their art and I don't imagine that they read all the books that they make reference to. I hope that some of them at least get beyond the back jacket of those books more often than not.

Anyway. I have got a lot out of Cope's recent records though there are moments that suggest that for the song's narrator (be that Cope or a character on whose behalf he is singing) there is a way of dealing with the world that includes (even embraces) violent revolutionary action as a catalyst for change rather than the last resort as a means of self-protection. Though it's more Lennon than Lenin.

So when people like yourself spend a lot of time writing eloquently about their political vision on this forum then I am interested in where that person stands on the use of violence to achieve political aims. That is what got me thinking about the what and the how. So I am glad you specifically use the word peaceful. We start this discussion on more or less the same ground.

We also agree on sustainability but the issue of throw-away consumerism is problematic because any definitions of "tat" and "happy" as generalities are going to be purely subjective. I know full well that if there was a majority derived definition of what ideas and creations held cultural usefulness and the capacity to stimulate pleasure then the things that I hold most dear and crank my handle would probably not feature in the populist top 100 and vice versa. I reserve the right to not have to endure the tastes, inclinations, opinions and proclivities of my fellow humans any more than is already the case. I hope I grant them the same degree of respect in return!

Fortunately I am not one of those who lives in fear of a visit from the discography police in case they find an errant Supertramp or Blue Rondo a la Turk record somewhere deep in the pile (they say a lot less about me than the cheese I buy) but I refuse to see individual tastes and preferences as simply disposable and bourgeois. How many revolutionary theories start from the basic premise that the individual is himself or herself disposable? Individuals make change not political theorists.

I also believe that the state of both the planet and this species is always going to be a bottom-up rather than a top-down issue. Problem and solution both. Individual micro actions adding up to constant change for better or for worse.

In this country we do not have this state of affairs imposed on us by capitalism or by some conspiracy of bankers, the media and weapons manufacturers or by an incipient dictatorship. In an age when people know more about the world of humans and the condition of the planet than ever before it is the snoozy, willful lack of awareness of Joe and Joanna Public that allows this to go on unchecked.

And this is where the issue of self-interest comes in. Convince those people that their food supply, their health care and their children's education is directly affected then they will produce change for themselves. The greater wider good is merely a by-product. Unfortunately no one has been able to join the dots for them except in the hectoring manner of the technocrats.

The essential reforms you want to see enacted tend to be put into the wants section because it is perceived that the basic needs are being met for the tribe and will continue to be met. Thus the sense of a need for real change at grass roots, here or anywhere else in the world is reduced. That's the comfort zone that you need to shake people from to make them act. In the same way that people have to imagine queuing with buckets at standpipes in their street to stop wasting water. They did and they did.

It has to be made very clear. Big crayon clear. "Casual sex + no condom = a hideous and painful demise", whether 100% true or not, is very much a big crayon kind of idea. "Close the curtains or a Nazi bomb will fall on your head" is a big crayon idea. Change of behavior on a micro level has to come with a fat carrot or a disguised stick with your name on it.

The profit motive point is where we diverge slightly. At the ripe old age of 47 I have yet to be convinced that there is a better motivator in peace time as a catalyst for human endeavor than profit. Or at least the carrot of material improvement produced by the allocation of a surplus in disposable income.

By "material" I would also include state supplied services, care for the environmental, a sense of tribal security, a sense of holding a justifiable position in society and a sense that one's children will inherit a safer, more just and more enlightened world than the one we were born into. Again one man's essential is an other man's disposable. And that is as true of ideas as it is of material possessions but I think we can take it that a shared sense of basic personal, familial and tribal safety is a fairly common baseline.

In a post-hunter/gatherer world it is trade that drives migration, drives cultural exchange, drives scientific advancement and drives the spread of ideas - for better and for worse. Trade and migration is driven initially by the need for essential goods and services and then by a desire for profit and finally by a the sum of desires for a multitude of wants. The closer you get to the end of that sentence the more trade is the dominant vehicle rather than migration. In other words the more needs that are met (and hope is a need) in Place A the lower the rate of migration from Place A to Place B. People wont move from their home town (let alone continent) just for an X Box or Guitar Hero but they will move for cleaner water, a refuge from violence and schooling for their kids.

Now this is where it gets tricky. My family is a classic "English" mix up of religions (at least four), languages (at least five) and nationalities (six or seven depending on how you count them). Including one branch who came here to escape one kind of bigotry and ended up in detention camps as a result of another. So for me this is a worrying thought and that's the problem with using self-interest as a catalyst. Those interests can sometimes scrub up ugly though perhaps with not quite the same deadly side effects as those of armed struggle. That said I tend to lean towards a position where people will be much more likely to agitate for global justice if they think their needs and not just their wants are at risk as a result of people starving somewhere over the horizon.

On a local level I actually think having people doing the dirty jobs voluntarily en masse is a pretty essential goal to be achieved but they wont do it for no reward at least not initially. I am not talking about enforced work-for-welfare programmes either but I am talking about giving people the opportunity to positively effect their community and, much as I would like to think that good works are always their own reward, could incentivise this in some way - be it through local taxation credits, free public transport or such like.

The human condition is I think more or less exactly as you describe. A duality. That said I am not sure about your idea that wealth leads to increased mental health problems. That duality and how we internalize that information and the knowledge of our inevitable demise is what really makes people ill and irrational. Like faith, reality tv, football and other stories with neat endings, the trinkets are a diversion from those inevitabilities not a cause. Also it is possible that the wealthy are simply more likely to have their illness registered.

We know (at least on a sub conscious level) more about the world than ever and communicate with more people than ever yet all that knowledge and that tide of contact and exchange can makes us as miserable as it makes us enlightened. Think about injustice, abuse and starvation as daily realities for people you love rather than as words in a song or statistical abstracts and those with the most permeable psychic membrane tend to suffer soonest and the most acutely but we all hear. Perhaps that is why we hear the cries but do not act. It's all too much, too big. Which brings me back to the importance of local action driven by a veneer of self-interest. Bite size change on a micro level but that does not mean shutting down the internet or closing borders to outgoing foreign correspondents. Some trinkets are essential.

I would also suggest that our (i.e. western) influence on the changes in South Africa's political system was driven by individual sportsmen and women, artists, share holders and entrepreneurs who informed themselves as to the reality and said "I am not putting up with this shit any more" and acted accordingly. Left to governments or mass movements of any political hue and the "it's too soon", "it's not the right time" and the "this is opening the door to the Reds and will be just the first domino to fall" kind of politically partisan thinking would have gone on unchecked. Possibly to this day.

The one thing we can't agree on is Cliff and Franco. My enemy's enemy is never automatically my friend and I also think there are other species that commit suicide but I need to phone-a-friend on that one. Anyway that's my time up for now.
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