Woke Gets In Your Eyes. Or The Times, They Are(n’t) A-Changing. Separating Art From Artists.

Nobody knows what I’m talking about.
I’ve got my own life to live.
I’m the one that’s gotta die,
When it’s time for me to die.
So let me live my life the way I want to.

If 6 Was 9 – Jimi Hendrix.

I’m into that.  Maybe not the word ‘let‘ because you shouldn’t have to get permission to live your life.

Apropos of that, the other day, my daughter, who’s a teenager and in the throes of nihilistic despair, was sitting with me.  We were talking about To Kill A Mockingbird, which she’s reading for English at school.   That and Of Mice And Men, which her teacher had suggested she read for a bit of background relating to the racial segregation of that time in America.  As she is sometimes inclined, she bemoaned, “What’s the point in anything?”

With teenaged kids, I’ve found that trying to get them to go in a particular direction is a bit like doing the same with a donkey:  the more you try to pull them one way, the more they pull in the opposite direction.  So, I bore that in mind as I replied.

“What?  Are you waiting for somebody else to tell you what the point is?  The point is whatever you think the point should be.  Don’t let other people tell you what the point is because they don’t know any better than you do.”

I was pleased to see that the lights seemed to go on at that.

I don’t want people to think anything in particular, but I do want them to think.  Maybe it’s a bit of a cop out.  Maybe I should have definite ideas about how I want my daughter to conduct herself – I certainly did when she was little, you have to show your children how to treat others with consideration and respect.  But now she’s older and questioning things?  It’s up to her now.  It’s her life and she should live it according to what she believes is right, not what I – or anybody else – thinks.

Which is what I want, to be honest.  I want people to think for themselves.  I don’t want people blindly accepting some point of view without having given the matter any thought for themselves.

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Anti-evolutionists succeeding.

Years ago, when I used to teach Biology one of the main topics was evolution.  At the start of the term, I’d ask the class to raise their hands if they believed in evolution – you know, things developed over time from an organic base, then to raise their hands if they believed in creationism – you know, God did it.  This was prior to explaining what either of them were in any more detail than that.  In all the years I taught evolution, at the start of term, a total of about five kids put their hand up to say that they believed in creationism.

The next thing I did was to ask the kids who’d raised their hands in agreement about evolution if they could tell me what evolution was.  Without exception, none of them had any idea.

Some people might think that this is a great step forward in human thought, but I didn’t and I told my classes that too.  I told them that a couple of hundred years earlier, had I asked the exact same question, everybody would have put their hands up to agree with creationism and those people were no more or less sophisticated than they were – they wanted to be right and they firmly believed in things that they had absolutely no understanding of.  Somebody told them what was right and they agreed with it, having given the matter no thought at all.

This post is about thinking.  Ostensibly, under the cover of ‘Should we separate art from the lives of the artists that create that art?’   But really, the overarching theme comes down to the question – what does it mean to be right about something?  How does anyone know what’s right and what’s wrong?  Especially in complicated circumstances.  Does the end justify the means?  Or what?

Still, that comes later.  Let’s start off by thinking about art and artists.

Part 1: The Glitter Alert.

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The once ubiquitous Gary Glitter in an advert for British Rail in 1988.

 

There’s a standing joke between one of my brothers-in-law and me that I particularly enjoy because it reached the point at which we only had to look at each other and not actually say anything at all to lead one or the both of us to to try not to crack up and have some uncomfortable explaining to do.  Finally that point was reached and what I might have anticipated as duress turned out to look more like relief coursing through his veins at finally no longer having to shoulder the burden of a constant alertness for what we referred to as The Glitter Alert.

Glitter as in Gary Glitter, noted paedophile and all round dreadful and ubiquitous cunt throughout my childhood.  I was born around his peak period in terms of bringing out records that were seen as bubblegum at the time, but also pretty good bubblegum.  The sound of The Glitter Band as punchily pieced together by Mike Leander during those first years of the early 1970s when he had the Midas touch was Glam Rock.  The look was Glam Rock and, pretty much, constructed in order to appeal to a teenybopper audience which, with hindsight, was particularly egregious.   He was on Saturday morning kids telly, Crackerjack, chat shows, adverts – including for the government, films, guest slots on the Saturday night Variety Show crap.  He’d long been a household name by the time I noticed him.  My first concert was Gary Glitter, even though I didn’t particularly like him and expressed no wish to go.  It was Auntie Val’s idea, I suppose she probably liked him, she wasn’t what you’d call a sophisticated woman.  Not rough so much as perpetually on the brink of being stunned by what was going on, whatever it was, which wasn’t usually much.  She was, in short, physically well past Gary Glitter’s target audience but mentally more than acceptable.  She was alright, even I’m being a bit rude about her, she was nice to me and we genuinely got on.   She wasn’t bright but there’re more important things than that.

He was no David Bowie, was he?  Still they were both Glam Rock and recognisably similar in sound and look, even if one of them is a lot more musically and lyrically sophisticated than the other.  Like Glitter, Bowie remained in the public eye long after most of the Glam Rock also-rans faded from view.  Even those that faded from view tended to still be viewed at least with affection if not outright love nearly fifty years after their ubiquity ended, at least in Britain.  (You don’t get that sort of fondness for, say, the Punk era, influential as it was, certainly more than Glam Rock.  Punk had a bit of Glam in it anyway, a perverted version of it maybe, but still a degree of glamour after the flared denim early seventies that probably got a bit too real for a bit.  Certainly over earnest with regards to some of the solo, country-esque singer songwriters of that time).    Bowie kept demand high by creating a bit of mystery about himself and, like The Beatles, even if he didn’t invent a lot of the genres he’s known for, he refined and combined the best of the avant-garde and left-field palatably enough for enough people to equate electronica to Bowie as they equated psychedelia with The Beatles.  Glitter apparently held no truck with mystique and evidently said ‘yes’ to everything he was offered, considering dignity a poor second to money and exposure, an unfortunate choice of word perhaps.

What does that mean?  It means Glitter was showbiz and Bowie was art.  It meant Glitter was Saturday morning kids programmes and Bowie was BBC2 Arena documentaries.  It meant Glitter was a fool while Bowie was Mister Cool.

Anyway, the brother-in-law with whom I had a secret joke about Glitter ended up spilling the beans and it was alright and now Gary Glitter’s name, or allusions to him (Leader!  Leader!)  regularly crop up.  Glitter Alert is now a common phrase to identify unintended double entendres.  It’s alright, but I sort of miss the days when I gave him a dvd of the Gary Glitter film, Remember Me This Way.   I got it from The Glitter Band website.  Imagine being in The Glitter Band.  That’s harsh, isn’t it?  How do you get away from that association?  Still, that’s their problem.  Selling Gary Glitter DVDs makes me think they’re probably trying to have their cake and eat it.  Anyway, that’s where Glitter Alert came from .  He opened it in front of the family one Christmas and sort of loved it and hated it at the same time.  The joke was that I’d set the Glitter Alert off by giving my address to a company issuing a product associated with him and any time he put it in a dvd drive, some sort of electronic Glitter Alert would be silently sent through the atmosphere to whoever it was who monitored such things.

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Left to Right: Ronnie Wood and Gary Glitter.  Imagine the conversation.  Even better, don’t.

Glitter has been successfully prosecuted for the sexual assault of girls under the age of 13 and that’s primarily what he’s known for now, at least in Britain.

Apparently his records are still played at least at sporting events in America so I don’t know if bad news travels slowly across the Atlantic in terms of paedophiles in particular, but that’s the theme of what I’m writing about today.

David Bowie on the other hand is, at the time of writing, viewed as a posthumous national treasure.  From Glam Rock stardom, through his icy Germanic electronica of the mid 1970s his standing, at least artistically, grew and grew.  By the early 80s, he walked the commercially viable road and his credibility plummeted as his bank account swelled.    His last couple of albums were released as he was dying and critical appreciation returned once more.

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Left: David Bowie.  Right: Lori Mattix.

However, the story of Lori Mattix, an American with whom Bowie slept when she was 15 (the age of consent in the state was 18) might ring some sort of Bowie Alert, although Mattix herself has no complaints, even if she does have beef with Jimmy Page who kidnapped her and locked her in a hotel room in between having his way with her.)

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Jimmy Page and Lori Mattix:  Rictus Grin present.
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Left to right: Sable Starr (No idea), Dave Hill (Slade), Lori Mattix.  This photograph implies that Lori Mattix perhaps could have been a bit more selective with which pop stars from the early 1970s she consorted with.  On the other hand, she appears to be having  better time here than with Jimmy Page, so perhaps there’s something to be said for Cup-A-Soup swilling, midlands based, Jehovah’s Witness pop stars.

This week in the British newspapers, there’s been discussion relating to Michael Jackson, who was not a convicted paedophile, but is widely thought to have been one due to a television interview featuring testimonies from several men who were invited to Jackson’s personal theme park and home Neverland when they were young boys.

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Jack with James Safechuck, the latest in a long line of adults who are now suggesting that their sleepovers – had when they were boys – at Neverland weren’t necessarily as wholesome as everybody thought.  What’s going on there?  What were these kids’ parents thinking?  Oh, yeah, go and spend the night at this grown man’s house.  Nice one, have a good time?  No, you’re not safe there, chuck.  See what I did there?  Clever, eh?  No, not particularly.

A television documentary is to be shown this week that will cast further doubt on Jackson’s innocence and BBC Radio 2 have taken his records off the playlist as the scandal gathers momentum.

And this is the state that we’re in now, sat around with piles of (virtual) art of varying degrees of credibility produced by artists who may or may not be reprehensible people.

The question being, should we separate the art from the artist?

The answer, as ever, is far from straightforward, even if the answer has to be.  Either we enjoy art regardless of its creator or we don’t.  Except it’s more complicated than that because the answer appears to be that sometimes we’ll enjoy art despite its creator being a bad person and sometimes we won’t.  Maybe.

Let’s consider each of those possible results.

  1. Art is separate from the artist.

 

Bearing in mind that the best art is instantly attributable to particular individuals who, presumably, have an unusual perspective on the world and it’s this sort-of-original worldview that is expressed through their art, which is the acceptable form such unusual perspectives.

Unusual perspectives that, we ought to remember, are subject to the morality of the society.  Morals that are subject to continual re-evaluation and change.

Diversion – The Built In Obsolescence of ‘Woke’.

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Jacques- Louis David’s The Death Of Socrates.  Who, in his lifetime, would have been considered more ‘woke‘ than him?  Yet Plato said that Socrates ‘lost his senses‘ in the company of young boys.  How times change, eh?    He’s depicted here about to kill himself with hemlock following what might now be described as a trial by media.

 

Like Matt Goss, I love words (cheers), and I’m regularly reduced to fuddy-duddyness when their meanings change – as I appreciate they inevitably do.  For instance, the word ‘literally’ no longer means what it once did, which is to say, if something was ‘literally’ this, that or the other, it actually was that.  I struggled writing that last sentence because the word ‘literally’ was the only one available to us to describe something that, er, literally, is something else.  You know, not figuratively, not metaphorically, not symbolically.  Literally.  And yet, that wasn’t good enough for people who, like Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through The Looking Glass, wanted to have their cake and eat it too.  “A word means whatever I want it to mean, nothing more and nothing less.”  For some people,    having figuratively, metaphorically and symbolically available to them wasn’t good enough so they wanted the only word that actually meant the opposite of those to mean figuratively, metaphorically and symbolically as well.  So well done to those people who’ve made accurate communication that little bit more difficult than it was before they decided that they wanted to sound clever without actually putting any spadework.

Currently, I’m a bit irritated by the word ‘woke‘, in terms of it meaning.  It’s attributed to Erykah Badu, whose album Mama’s Gun I’m a big fan of, but considering the theme of this particular post, perhaps I deserve that…

Woke, in the context I’m considering, refers to “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.”  The implication being, of course, that not being ‘woke‘ means you’re asleep.  Unaware of what’s going on around you and I’m not convinced that it’s a very good word to have adopted, although I can see why it was chosen.

The problem with woke is that it suggests that those who are not woke are blind to racial or social discrimination and injustice and that doesn’t take into account anybody who consciously disagrees with any particular element of racial or social discrimination that is currently held as being “How Things Should Be”.  The problem being that, of course, things change.

A person alive in, say, the 1970s, could only be retrospectively considered woke if they adhered to whatever is racially and socially acceptable in 2019 which would be some going.  And, let’s not kid ourselves, there are going to be things that are currently widely acceptable in 2019 that will be frowned upon in 2049.  The problem being that we can’t possibly know what they’re going to be.  The only certainty is that it’s going to happen.

What effect will that have on woke-ness?  The effect will, inevitably, be that people who consider themselves woke in 2019 are going to be retrospectively viewed as not-woke in the future.  And what does that say for being woke?

It says that woke can only be – at best – a temporary state of affairs that will, in future, be considered as the opposite of what it is now.

The result of this is that, in claiming to be ‘woke‘ in 2019, some are suggesting that they’ve achieved a state of total alertness to racial and social discrimination and injustice when, actually, its validity as a descriptive term is mayfly-esque at best.

There’s a scene in Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones’ film about their American tour of 1969, in which a young caucasian woman is collecting donations to the Black Panther fund.  As she accepts donations from a group of similarly caucasian men, she explains that, “After all, they’re only negroes.

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‘Saint’ Bob Geldof  in 1984.  Woke.
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‘Sinner’ Stacey Dooley, 2019.  Just another white saviour.  Not woke.

Had woke existed in the way in which it exists today, that girl would have been it.  In 2019 though, she’d count as being just one more white person who sees themselves as the saviour of what she describes as ‘negroes‘ and, I suspect, be castigated for it.

Times change.  Attitudes change.  It’s complicated and my perspective is that maybe we ought to be a little bit more aware of those things before we start changing the language so that it suggests that a final decision has been made when nothing could be further from the truth.

Also, maybe judging people from the past with our changed attitudes isn’t necessarily the best idea.  Like in The Go Between, “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”  Truer words have never been spoken, eh?  There’s a strange degree of self-satisfied sanctimony that lurks around the total lack of perspective behind some pointing fingers in 2019 is my perspective.

End of Diversion.

This perspective allows us to accept that people are all flawed to one degree or another and if you’re only going to consider art from those who are morally beyond question, you’re not going to be looking at many paintings, films or television programmes, listening to many recordings or reading many books.

It also allows people who follow this dictum to not bother worrying about whether or not the authors of their preferred art are decent people or not.

Film and television companies tend not to view this as an option as other media outlets might vilify them.  The issue with it is, I suppose, that accepting art from bad people might be seen as a tacit sort of tolerance of abuse, so long as the art is commercially valid.  The upshot of which could be that, in the long run, it encourages – or rather fails to discourage – artists of the future to behave like inconsiderate, unreasonable human beings.

2.  Art is not separate from the artist. 

The second possible perspective is the one that broadcasters are currently struggling with: if it turns out that an artist is a bad person, maybe we ought not accept what they do as acceptable art.

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Dave Lee Travis: The Hairy Cornflake.  Look at his stupid face.  The advantage of this being a photograph is that you don’t have to listen to his stupid voice.  The disadvantage is obvious.

It’s understandable but more complicated, which is no excuse for not adhering to it if that’s what you believe.  The no longer in existence BBC television programme Top Of The Pops takes this perspective.  Currently, BBC4 is repeating every episode of TOTP from the beginning.  Episodes that were presented by Jimmy Savile or Dave Lee Travis are not shown.  In the case of Savile, who was not prosecuted for any offences during his life, enough evidence has arisen posthumously to leave most of us with no doubt that he was a very bad man indeed in many different and disgusting ways.  Dave Lee Travis was successfully prosecuted for the indecent assault of a researcher on the Mrs Merton Show. Dave Lee Travis considers himself badly done by as he’s an unreconstructed 1970s male who lived through a time when making women sit on your knee and grabbing their arses was alright.  Dave Lee Travis wouldn’t have been taken to court in those days and sees it as unfair that he was tried for things that weren’t illegal then, after the law changed.  Sort of.

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1970s book containing advice for babysitters from Jimmy Savile. I don’t know what it said about sleepovers at Michael Jackson’s house.  I dread to think.

I – sort of – see his point, although I’m not very sympathetic because I think Dave Lee Travis is a dick which isn’t really very fair.  Or at least impartial.  I suppose I think of him as a dick because my period of being woke, had the term existed then, coincided with his oleaginousness that wasn’t compatible with it.

As I’ve said, Gary Glitter’s records haven’t been played on the radio or television in Britain for years now.  Currently Michael Jackson’s output is being treated the same way.

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Left: Buchet Domaine Allen, Woody Allen, Soon-Yi Previn, with whom Woody claimed he had no relationship when she was a child.  Right: pictorial evidence to the contrary.  “How did you meet your wife, Woody?

Woody Allen, since the news broke that he’d been sleeping with his partner (Mia Farrow)’s adopted child Soon-Yi Previn – and further allegations about his daughter Dylan – has had his work called into question.  Woody Allen films still appear on television.

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Left: Roman Polanski.  Right: Samantha Geimer.

Acclaimed director Roman Polanski has not attended the Oscars ceremony since his 1978 prosecution in absentia of drugging and statutory rape of a minor.  If he sets foot in America, he’ll go to prison.  He also won Oscars in 2002 for The Pianist which, naturally, he didn’t attend.  He has since been expelled from the film makers’ academy, much to his chagrin.

The list can, and does, go on.  Artists whose work is now considered unacceptable due to the manner in which they’ve conducted themselves outside of their art.

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The hypocrisy of Marge, part 1: protesting against cartoon violence.

Of course, some art in and of itself is problematic.  Marge Simpson found herself expected to be outraged at Michelangelo’s David due to its nudity, when she wasn’t,  having previously complained about violent television cartoons.  But those were the days when The Simpsons asked itself difficult questions.  The answer being, of course, that it depends very much on your personal viewpoint, what constitutes pornography.  I don’t intend to pursue that one very far today, even if I’m likely to draw a very similar conclusion in the end.

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The hypocrisy of Marge, part 2: enjoying a sculpture of a naked man’s winky in public..

3.  Art is separate from the artist, provided the art is especially good.  Or I particularly like that artist’s work and don’t want to give it up.  Or it’s art that’s enjoyed by the middle classes who are capable of making the distinction, not like those plebs and their dreadful pop culture.  Or it happened a long time ago.

To put this one in as straightforward way as I can, it’s a far greater sacrifice to throw away all of David Bowie’s records than it is to chuck Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, Part 2 out.  Never watching The Man Who Fell To Earth again is a greater loss than living with a Remember Me This Way sized gap in your life.

Similarly, suggesting that the BBC’s airwaves may never again be graced with the joyous exuberance of I Want You Back by The Jackson 5 leaves me colder than thinking that I might miss out on a studio appearance of The Smurf Song because the Hairy Cornflake was shoving his stubby, fat fingers up some poor girl’s skirt as he gormlessly dribbled an approximation of speech via the autocue.

I’m a big fan of the art of Caravaggio.  To go further, I’ve enjoyed the story of Caravaggio, especially his last work, David With The Head Of Goliath.

Diversion – Caravaggio’s Last Stand.

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Caravaggio: no small resemblance to Oliver Reed.  A missed opportunity for a lively biopic with a minimal makeup budget if ever there was one.

Caravaggio, whatever else he was, wasn’t anybody’s poster boy for wokeness, even when he was alive, even by the standards of that era.  I’m not going into a detailed history here, but it seems that we can attribute fourteen entries in the police records of that time to him, six of which he was prosecuted for, including: carrying a bladed weapon in public, distributing libellous pamphlets about other artists, and assaulting a waiter with a plate.  Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in him fleeing Rome for Malta was when he murdered a chap – allegedly a pimp, so maybe that makes it alright(?) –  over a dispute during a tennis match – allegedly.  It might not be entirely true but, as they say, print the legend because it’s a great story.  Unless it was you getting murdered over an ambiguous umpiring decision in a tennis match.  A price was put on Caravaggio’s head and bounty hunters kept their eyes peeled.

During his self imposed exile, Caravaggio realised that he’d become a monster and all that potential he’d exhibited as a young man had been wasted.  Literally.  Or perhaps figuratively, metaphorically or symbolically, who knows anymore?

To demonstrate that he was now woke whereas once he wasn’t, he painted David With The Head Of Goliath, a remarkable painting in lots of ways.  Not least because it’s a double self portrait.

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Caravaggio’s David With The Head Of Goliath.  I’ve used this in classrooms with kids.  I tell them to point some part of it out and try to work out what’s gone on.  It’s because a lot of what’s described as spoon-feeding goes on in schools and what I think people need to do is to look for themselves and work things out, as opposed to having somebody tell them what they can see and what it means.  I’ll tell you what though, once they work it out, they aren’t half thrilled with themselves.  The other painting I use in terms of, paintings that tell stories, is Draper’s Ulysses And The Sirens.

The head of Goliath is Caravaggio as he was when he painted it: a bloated thug.  David is Caravaggio as a youth: full of promise and purity.  There’s a lot of debate about the look on David’s face which I’m also not going to go into here, but it’s shit hot, isn’t it?

Anyway, having completed the painting, Caravaggio sent it to the pope as a message.  You know, “I get it.  I was full of promise and I turned into an arsehole.  The youth that lived in me has symbolically (or perhaps literally, cheers) executed what I became and I’m ready to start again.”

The pope, on receiving this painting, understood what Caravaggio was getting at and pardoned him.

On his way back to Rome, Caravaggio succumbed to pneumonia and died before meeting the pope.

End of Diversion.

Still, the point stands, Caravaggio was a violent, abusive murderer.  Yet his paintings command millions of pounds and hang in galleries where they are admired by people who like that sort of thing.  As the bit I wrote underneath the painting on this post suggests, I’m doing my best to increase that number by showing it to kids who live in poverty stricken states who – guess what – turn out to fucking love all that arty-farty shit once somebody shows them how to look at it and what they can glean from it.

In short, what the third option results in is Good art by bad people is alright, Bad art by bad people isn’t.  Well, that’s what it looks like to me.  I sense a certain middle class snobbery at work here.

What does that tell us?  I suspect it tells us that some of us want to have our cake and eat it too.  Some of us want to castigate lesser artists for their behaviour while simultaneously lauding greater artists whose behaviour might not be any better.

Let’s look at a hypothetical question: what if one of history’s truly undeniable dreadful human beings also created truly, undeniably great art?  I mean Hitler.  Or Pol Pot.  Or Idi Amin or Joseph Stalin or somebody.  What if they’d also been painters on a comparable level with – or perhaps, even better than – Caravaggio?

I don’t know.  Maybe part of it is that they weren’t great artists.  Maybe we (I) cling to the concept that truly dreadful people can’t produce great art because they’re such awful people.  I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question isn’t it?

Like so many things, it’s going to come down to a subjective point of view.

David Bowie’s not universally loved and appreciated.  Or rather, the art of David Bowie’s not universally loved and appreciated.  He and his art are just appreciated more universally than that of, say, Gary Glitter.  Michael Jackson has more rabid fans than, say, those of Dave Lee Travis.  Caravaggio dealt in fine art and therefore gets a pass?  And it was a long time ago?  I don’t know.

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Some of Michael Jackson’s fans have rented advertising space on London buses this week (4th March 2019) to protest at the British television premier of Leaving Neverland.  They’re right about one thing: facts don’t lie but that’s because, by their very nature, facts don’t make statements.  A bizarre choice of words that could quite reasonably be taken the opposite way that they were intended.  Notably, they chose not to defend Jacko with a quotation from Billie Jean, “And be careful of what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth.”  They might as well have done though because if people – as an entity – lie, then that includes Jackson and his defenders.

I’ve heard people defend Jacko because he was never convicted of any of those offences and therefore it’s still alright to be into him and I can dig that.  Mind you, Jimmy Savile was never convicted during his lifetime either, so I’m not sure whether or not that’s a great defence.  It’s putting a bit more faith in the legal system than I’m generally prepared to, personally.

I’ve heard people defend Bowie and Jimmy Page because the underaged girls with whom they slept said they were into it, so maybe we shouldn’t stick our noses into things that the perpetrators have no issue with.

I’ve heard people – including me – argue that the moral values of different eras ought to be considered.  Even when I was at university, a long time ago, but not in terms of the big picture, grown men lusting after schoolgirls wasn’t something that a lot of people would have batted an eye at.  Is it reasonable to castigate people for doing things that weren’t frowned upon when they were doing them but now are?  The woke thing and all the issues that go with that.  What about things that are first seen as fine, then seen as bad, then seen as alright again?  Or the other way around?  How does woke work for such things?  Beats me, which is why I avoid the term.

In terms of the main thrust of this post, my belief is this: whatever it is that you think is the right thing to do, do that.

Media organisations such as the BBC face pressure from all corners to set some sort of example but I’m not sure how realistic that is.  Banning the art of Gary Glitter and Michael Jackson is nothing more than virtue signalling in order to prevent other elements of the media from pointing at them and decrying their lack of moral fibre, while simultaneously selling advertising space around articles and programmes around documentaries about the same people.

People aren’t the media though and shouldn’t be treated as such.  It’s up to you what you think, say and do.

 

Part 2: What’s The Point?

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Maude Flanders: subtext – Look how great I am and how dreadful everybody else is.

As time inexorably rolls onward, in some ways, it’s hard to get away from today – this moment in time.  It’s an odd time to be alive, as perhaps most are.  There exists, I suspect, a section of society which can’t wait to be offended by something.  That’s not all that new either.  Again, from The Simpsons, Maude Flanders’ catchphrase of, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” is about that.  I suspect that Maude may be The Simpsons’ most woke character, despite her being dead.  And that’s something to think about, possibly: Maude being woke, not her being dead.

We don’t live in an ideal world but that doesn’t stop us trying to make it so.  But that won’t work because everything’s more complicated than we’d probably like it to be.  I suppose that a perfect world would constitute the sugar without the pill, so to speak but that doesn’t make people happy, however much we might like to think it does.  We need downs to make us notice the ups.  A life with no suffering at all would be a life with no joy as well.  It’s the proportions that are the problem.  That, and the fact that it’s obviously no fun to suffer while you’re suffering, no matter how much good it might be doing us.   Do we have to suffer for our art?  If so, how much?  And is it right that other people should suffer for it too?

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Left to right: Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier.  Hoffman breaking character, Olivier adhering to Stainislavsky’s dictum.  Ironically.

While filming Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman opted to stay awake (not woke, cheers) for three days straight as that was what his character had to endure too.  You know, following Stanislavsky’s Method Acting.  When Sir Laurence Olivier, who played the Nazi dentist found this out, he asked Hoffman, “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”  Hoffman suffered for his art.

To paint The Raft Of The Medusa, Theodore Géricault studied rotting corpses and limbs and noted how they decomposed in order to represent such horror with paint.  More suffering, but maybe more for those whose arms and legs rotted under the curious gaze of Géricault than him.

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Théodore Géricault’s The Raft Of The Medusa.  Note the figure with his face down and arm outstretched slightly to the left of the middle at the bottom of the raft.  That particular corpse was modelled by Eugène Delacroix.

Eugène Delacroix’s most famous painting, Liberty Leading The People, shows the figurative figure of Liberty as she strides across the corpses of those who have fallen in, presumably, the battle against those who would oppose liberty and freedom.  To my mind, the starting blocks of liberty are in your own mind.  Freedom of thought, you dig?

Previously, I wrote a post about transgender issues, specifically a statement a transgender person made: “I want to be perceived as a woman“.  My point, discussed at some length (for a change) was that we shouldn’t tell people what they perceive – it’s up to them to decide.  All a transgender person can do is their best in terms of resembling the gender they wish to be perceived as and hope that other people do perceive them in the way that they want to be perceived.  Telling people what they perceive is a non-starter, or it should be.

Liberty lesson number 1: you don’t get to increase your own freedom by limiting other people’s.

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Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading The People – over the piles of bodies of those who have fallen in the battle against tyranny and oppression, in this case the French Royalty.   Someone’s got to suffer, evidently.  Not Delacroix though.

What much art depicts is struggle.  The struggle of artists to express themselves, the struggle against those who would silence them and the struggle to be noticed.

Most of us would like to be recognised for doing some good.  Often, it seems as if the world is at odds with us which just makes the struggle even more palpable, even as it makes everything more difficult.

When a country is liberated from an oppressive regime, the first thing that happens is that the symbols of that regime are torn down while crowds cheer the symbolic dismantling of the oppressors.  We saw it live on television as statues of Saddam Hussein were pulled to the ground.

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A crowd bays as a statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down.  When it hit the ground, they pulled it to pieces.  There is a suggestion that this photograph was manipulated by the USA, with only a small crowd being ushered in to witness the symbolic toppling of a brutal regime.

Since then, the area’s hardly been idyllic.  War has raged since then and there is the possibility that only a violent nutcase such as Saddam would ever bring peace to a region that hold so many groups of people with diametrically opposed ideals.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it?  As Jane Austen wrote in Emma, “Half the world can’t understand the pleasures of the other.”   So that, at least, isn’t news.  The continuing veracity of that statement suggests that even as the world interminably changes, at the same time, some things remain exactly the same and, perhaps due to our different beliefs in terms of what is right and what is wrong, will perpetually remain so.

But it’s not even as simple as that, is it?  As I suggested in Liberty lesson number 1, you don’t increase your own freedom by reducing someone else’s – or you shouldn’t, but where does that leave us?

Should Gary Glitter and other paedophiles be at liberty to pursue their sordid and predatory interests?  No, they shouldn’t because some people’s interests involve making other people suffer and that’s a recipe for breaking Liberty lesson number one.

The question we’re left with is this: what do I think about it?  People should be free to express their opinions and other people should be free to reject them.  Ideally through thought and analysis of our own opinions and other people’s.

The reality is so complicated and multi-faceted that I don’t know if it’s even possible to be right about most things.  That’s what woke really is – an attempt to state that a particular position is right because it’s also what I think.

Personally, I’d think I’d almost rather have someone doing the ‘wrong’ thing, whatever that is, having given the matter thought – proper thought, not a knee-jerk reaction – than going along with something they’ve been told is ‘woke‘ because, like those who’d like tell us precisely what we perceive, that’s a recipe for thoughtlessness and, as human beings, there’s no excuse for that.  You can be as woke as you like but one thing’s for sure, and that’s that however woke you currently believe yourself to be, it’s a temporary state of affairs that you may well find yourself defending in the future.

The capacity for abstract thought.  It’s what we’ve evolved and the last thing any of us should be doing is subcontracting our thoughts out to other people.  As I quoted Jimi Hendrix at the top of this post, “I’m the one that’s gotta die when it’s time for me to die.  Let me live my life the way I want to.”  Mind you, maybe that’s what Gary Glitter thinks too.

But it goes for everybody, which is the part that we, and certainly the likes of Glitter, Bowie, Jacko, Polanski, Allen, Caravaggio and, quite possibly, Socrates tended to miss, isn’t it?  Everybody should be thinking of the children, but maybe they shouldn’t be telling everybody else about how much they’re doing it.

 

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