I was going to write an article on The Beatles’ collected output in 1967 and the curious darkness that I think runs, like a sluggish underground river throughout it, using the title above. Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Maybe even a bit sexy? Certainly sibilant at any rate. I will do so very soon, but sadly, I feel obliged to myself and to you, dear reader, to pass some comment on recent events first. Who am I to waste your valuable time and countless kilobytes of webspace if I only spoke about music, films, drinking and whimsical personal pomposity, while blithely ignoring the world existing and unfolding around me? Unimaginative at best; callous at worst, maybe.
I find the title of this article still woefully apposite. Wherever you may be reading this in the world, I’m sure you greeted the news about the wildfire rioting and resulting devastation across England in the past few days with despair and a degree of depression. I was very tempted, believe me, to sit down and type out a rabid piece of vitriolic invective aimed at…
Ah, but there’s my problem: who to aim at? The rioters themselves? The parents? The Government? The Big Society?
That anyone could ever think that their own hardship, lack of encouragement and sense of disenfranchisement would be best addressed by smashing up other people’s properties, homes and livelihoods is so self-defeating as to obviate further debate. Furthermore, any belief that going on such rampages might cause other people to sit up, pay attention and consider their plight with a sympathetic disposition, quite frankly, beggars mine.
As for the parents: well, when were they ever not to blame? Many parents have indeed been instrumental in fucking up their kids, having been fucked up in their time, but Philip Larkin’s famous, succinctly profane pertinence on the matter of one’s upbringing overshadow the poem’s final lines, which are curiously more accurate in their generality: Man hands on misery to man; it deepens like a coastal shelf. I’m sure a good child psychologist could explain to me in words of one syllable exactly how formative the first five years in a child’s existence can be, but surely it’s more accurate to determine one’s reality from what was done about it in the last five years, five hours or even five minutes? I could go further and quote Aristotle or even Qui-Gon Jinn on the subject, but really, there’s no need.
That the Government are venal, transparently inept, socially disconnected and internally divided to such unproductive measure that they may drive people to destruction as well as distraction is blatantly obvious and grossly understated. That they got in because the previous lot were identically and openly as ineffectual and corrupt also needs no more explanation — MPs handing on misery to MPs.
As for Society, ‘Big’ or otherwise, well it’s a constant, eternal mystery to me and unlikely to be solved in my lifetime. Society ebbs and flows and creates fearful, momentary eddies in its passage. Frank Zappa spoke of ‘The Great Society’ in disdainful terms on his first album back in 1966, referring to the unwanted war waged on foreign shores and the lack of education for ‘the minds that won’t be reached’, ‘those left behind’. My my, how things have changed, eh? It’s evident David Cameron isn’t a fan of Frank. He probably thinks Zappa is some kind of taser.
It is both an unfortunate byproduct and the beauty of humanity that people have a genetic predisposition to make things complicated in all manner of ways. The ‘interesting times’ of that alleged Chinese curse is the compromise we tread on and trade off every day. People are complicated the world over — never let anyone tell you otherwise. They always have agendas, for good or ill and none of us can read minds. We often crave simplicity in life, but that isn’t the same thing as being simple oneself. Me, I would simply like everything to be nice in the world and I wish for no-one to be marginalised, subjugated or discriminated in the process of making it so. I hope no one has to feel that way on my watch. All I ask is that everyone is the best they can be — as I’m sure you do too.
Anyway, that’s me herding the principal scapegoats onto the field — now I’m going to weigh in with my controversial opinion. It’s one that I haven’t heard many people on the news or in the papers come out and forth with. I’ve weighed the sides as best I can and come to a dynamic, reasoned conclusion that I Really Don’t Know — or if you prefer a more intellectual response, I shall be that wise man who keeps his own counsel until I have fathomed the myriad conventions and contradictions of the species. How can I offer a specific opinion on the matter if I find I cannot apportion blame equally as precisely? Nor should I. I’d be foolish to try.
What I do know is that none of us appear to be sufficiently close students of History. I’ve have read enough bullshit in the last few days, conjured up by people with all the authority of someone imparting fatuous facts they learned on Wikipedia in the last thirty seconds. I have neither the time, patience nor articulacy to outline specific historical precedents for our current behaviour on the planet but one thing, the most ire-inducing of all things I heard, was the suggestion that social networking media, Blackberrys and the like act as some kind of super-misconduct-conductor, marshalling the berserker hordes from one location to another with crack precision and law-defying speed. Well, hogwash to that. The largest scaled, most well-orchestrated riots in history date largely from a time before Tim Berners-Lee — or even Alexander Graham Bell. It is the supereminent feature of the human condition to communicate and associate, whether it be organising a Parish Jumble Sale or municipal mass mayhem. We’ll be blaming horses for Wat Tyler’s Peasants’ Revolt next. Well, they help you get around, horses, don’t they?
In my experience, stupidity can be a choice. At my Secondary School, you spoke with a London accent or you were ridiculed for being ‘clever’, for maintaining the Home Counties diction I had learned up till then. I watched and listened in despair as my colleagues rapidly mounted a painfully obvious, conscious campaign to drop their tees and aitches, the better to ‘fit in’. It is a sad thing how anyone could find one’s intelligence a quality to be feared or suppressed. It was and remains puzzling that no-one ever reversed the trend and aspire to hang out with the so-called brainy people. Even if you view yourself as stupid, don’t the clever-clogses have something you can use by association? As for the smart ones, well, you try being deliberately stupid for any time and see where it gets you — on Big Brother, maybe, but the odds make it rather unlikely. As I’ve mentioned before on several occasions, I left my Secondary School with no A-Levels — it took me a year in a miserable job to realise that my life would improve considerably with further education — and I retook them a year later. Like I said, stupidity can be a choice.
Right this minute, literally as these words sally forth rapidly from behind the cursor, I find I have become annoyed. Annoyed at how angry things like this make me feel. Angry that I am compelled to make comment on it at all. Hatred, selfishness, prejudice, conflict, destruction, fear, murder: this is not my world. I have not come here to sermonise — certainly not on any subjects of pressing importance at any rate. My grasp of world events, politics and the internecine machinations of government — any government — is tenuous at the best of times. My political views tend to be rather half-formed, but I hope I am wise enough not to burden you with them. Be assured they are neither controversial, nor particularly offensive. This blog exists primarily to entertain and on this score I apologise, for this week, I am clearly letting you all down. I’ll be back soon with something fun for you to read, but for now, I’ll stop here. It’s all become so very boring.
Wherever you are, I hope you are safe, well and are being good to people around you. I shall do my best too.
But first, a drink.
Blake's 7 series 2 and 3 (BBC, 1979-80)
The Hour (BBC, 2011)
Mostly my own album, work in progress.
Lots of things that are annoying me!
Lots of things that are annoying me!