I see my hero Morrissey is in a spot of bother with the NME again, this time for failing to hold views that they find acceptable on the subject of immigration. The last time some of you may recall he was in hot water for being racist, not that he actually did anything racist unless you count waving a union flag at a concert as racist. Which I accept that some folk do for reasons that are utterly beyond me.
I remember it well because I was in my final years of school at the time and I incurred the wrath of the folk with Anti-Nazi League stickers on their schoolbags for being an unrepentant fan. They of course were easily dealt with by asking them how in a school with a population that was 60% Asian they had managed to avoid making one single Asian friend or acquaintance. But that was fifteen years ago. More recently I found myself in the remarkable and unique position of receiving death threats and abusive emails of a mainly graphically sexual and sexist nature after this appeared on Indymedia whilst also receiving threatening emails from folk claiming to be affiliated with the BNP for some snide remark or another. Mind you it's nice that both the racists and anti-racists have something to unite them even if it his just their violent urges towards women.
Moving on to today the NME are as I say on their high horse about racism. As in the past they are opposing racism by continuing to cover black/Asian music in a completely tokenistic way if at all and getting hysterical if anyone fails to show total obedience to the party line.
Having read the interview I felt Morrissey came across as a bit muddled and vague on the issue though not half as muddled as the NME who appear only to have been clear in their aim to draw attention to the ailing rag that ceased to be even remotely relevant over a decade ago and prior to that had been in a slow decline since the late 70's.
The editor states that he is not accusing Morrissey of being a racist but then goes on to do so by implication by refusing his offer of support of the 'Love Music, Hate Racism' campaign they are currently in a flutter about. I must say I was rather disappointed by Morrissey's offer to involve himself in the campaign, I cannot bear pop stars in campaign mode. If his remarks are not considered racist then why are they unwelcome on an anti-racist platform?
When Morrissey agrees that immigration can enrich the existing culture of a country they are pleased but any suggestion that it changes the culture is frowned upon. How on earth can a culture be enriched without it changing? No change will ever be welcomed by everyone. Preferring the way things were in the past does not mean one is going to stark lobbing bricks through the windows of Chinese takeaways.
What I find most odd of all and have for a number of years now is why it matters if a musician is racist. If I were to write a letter to the NME demanding that they do not feature Pete Doherty in their paper because his open drug use is a bad influence on young people I'd be pilloried. I'd be told that young folk are not stupid and can make up their own minds on drugs. Similarly if I argued that rap should be banned for promoting a culture of violence I'd be compared to Mary Whitehouse and laughed at for the rest of my life. So why then does it matter what anyone's views are on race or immigration surely these clever young pups who make their own minds about drugs and don't copy everything they see on TV or in print will not be influenced. In any case I though our rock and pop stars were supposed to outrage conventional morality or does that just extend to the umpteenth sight of tired old tits and lurid depictions of mock violence. So much for artistic freedom.
As an aside I did love the interviewing journalists shocked shriek of '...you sound like a Tory!' in response to some of Morrissey's remarks. Oh yes because sounding like a Tory is so much worse than sounding like a Labour voter. Is there any real difference other than a bit of tribal feeling left over from when it did matter? I appreciate that English readers may have a different perspective on this but from my Scottish perspective and in the context of Scottish politics I have a lot more respect and time for a Tory voter than any Labour voter. Up here Labour is the bloated, corrupt, uncaring, self-serving establishment, I have no doubt the Tories would be equally useless in office but I find their voters have at least put some thought into their beliefs. The herd mentality of the Scottish Labour voter has given us Councillor Terry Kelly and too many like him.
Anyway to return to the hoo hah round this interview. I bring you the following remarks from The Guardian website;
'WarwickLad - "Any chance that someone can let us know what English culture is"
I think it's getting drunk on pissy lager, wearing a pair of skiddy union jack boxers on your head, and chanting a chorus of "here we go" ad nauseum.'
Who knew England didn't have a culture? Far be it from me a mere Scot to attempt to define it, lest I be accused of oppressing you all with my big tartan jackboot but I shall list the first ten things that occur to me as I think of English culture. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Kipling, PG Wodehouse, cricket, odd pagan traditions -maypoles and the like, soaps, Carry On films, saucy postcards and public schools. Hardly an exhaustive list but that's what I managed off the top of my head. I could have gone on or put some thought into it and come up with better.
In any case what did the English ever do to deserve being told they have no culture to be proud of? All the British Isles participated in the Empire so if that's the crime then the punishment isn't being very fairly distributed. No nation on earth has a stainless record. Germany is allowed a culture even after the Holocaust and rightly so, Turkey has a culture despite the atrocities it committed against the Armenians, again rightly so and one day Saudi Arabia might allow itself a full and open culture even after it's oppression of an entire gender and disgraceful treatment of Shi'ite Muslims. We'd all quite rightly be up in arms if some oppressed people in far off lands were being told they didn't have a culture. Of course in England no one is being jailed, tortured or put to death for saying that it does have a culture and that at least I would have though is something to be proud of.
Shutting down debate and denial of culture are more likely to lead to the sort of resentment that fuels racism than leaving people to express their views and acknowledge their culture. After all the expression of racist and bigoted sentiments amongst immigrants appears to be tolerated so why a few harmless remarks about immigration should be cause for alarm is a mystery to me.
Update: Further to the above my esteemed chum The Ill Man has drawn my attention to this which I quite like, with some reservations. I particularly resent the implication that there is something awful about sounding like Peter Hitchens who I'm rather fond of despite disagreeing with a fair bit of what he says. He is worth reading which is more than I can say for many with views nearer my own.