Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Will You Still Need Me?

Now more than ever, Macca. Whilst so many of his fellow post-war rockers get more passionate about their support for fox-hunting than than for the thousands of children in unhealthy housing in this country, it's good to see that one rocker still has idealism.

Saving the whales used to be a fashionable thing in the 80s but now is probably rather passe, for the rock establishment. I guess at the time they were probably more interested in the potential hippy market than concern for cetacean well-being.

Of course, the entire area of animal rights is one of illogic and double standards on both sides. It is curious to me, as a Christian, that secularism has not brought about a greater standard of animal rights. I would never buy anything from Macdonalds or eat anything but free-range eggs and very rarely eat meat.

Yet factory farming is still very lucrative in Britain despite the animals being kept in horrific conditions.

From this view I actually have slight sympathy for the countryside alliance: it is hypocritical to ban foxhunting when battery farming exists. I feel even more strongly that efforts to ban bull-fighting in Spain are hypocritical. If I was a bull, would I rather die in the open air, lunging at a nylon clad ponce who's been throwing darts at me, or be herded into a reeking abattoir? Of course it's ridiculous to displace my Nietzschian outlook onto a ruminant, but then animal rights is all about displacement and empathy, no matter how illogical.

It is precisely because of the illogical nature of idealism that I do feel wounded at seeing the number of rockstars who campaigned in favour of bloodsport. It seemed to me that the post-war rock movement was all about living in a better world.

Whilst MacCartney was never the most charming of stars, his continuing support for animal rights and saving the whales is a great example to us all. Even if such a progressive cause was always going to look unfashionable as popular culture is coming to terms with what it really is.


  1. McCartney is clearly that rare case: one of the 1960s rock stars who didn't swing to the selfish-Thatcherite right of politics.

    Of course many less well-known people from that era went further left, e.g. Robert Wyatt.

  2. I must admit that when I used to argue that my opposition to foxhunting was *wholly* about animal rights, I was fooling myself ... I'm more conscious than I was then of the ambiguity (at best) of taking such a stance when you eat meat, as I do. Of course it has always had a lot to do with my opposition to the lingering legacy of enclosure, the rewriting of history to make out that "the traditional countryside" was a natural, ordained, indeed *organic* (ha!) phenomenon rather than something achieved through brute force and vicious treatment of the poor, &c, &c (and this of course is where you go back to the late 60s, as so often, and think of the Fairport/Pentangle/ISB axis). That being said, I find the sort of "Leftist" who says "you can shoot foxes for all I care", just as long as "toffs" can't hunt them, every bit as obnoxious as the supporters of hunting (in some ways more so because they pretend to be on my side).

    As I have said on my own blog, I have come to suspect that Lennon knew McCartney was more of a socialist than he was - Lennon's egotistical individualism was exactly the sort of thing that came out on the other side as Thatcherism - and never came to terms with the fact. It may have been a strong element in Lennon's hatred, for much of the 70s, both of himself and everyone else. Let's not even start on a certain Harrison song. But when you compare them to the Stones, the Beatles will always look like the biggest Butskellites imaginable, and that is the poignancy and the pain of hearing them now - the knowledge that the American pop culture they loved strengthened the politics McCartney at least hated. This is the dilemma many Liverpudlians face, probably more so than anywhere else in the UK - I've come across just such a person from that city who hates me, clearly mainly for pointing it out.

  3. My eighteenth century ancestors organized hunting games for the nobility in Southern German states and the Hapsburg Empire, so I feel some solidarity with hunters of the world.

    Recently I found videos of hare coursing in Bahrain and I felt a bit jealous of these Arabs. They are out there in the desert with their SUVs, falcons and greyhounds sipping tea and I am an intellectual in a concrete jungle.

    Then again I would not probably feel passionate about British fox hunting. The thing does not look attractive.

    As far as bans on hunting goes, I think there needs to be debate about ethics than the practice of hunting. For instance I find chasing a whole heard of whales into a bay and slaughtering them there just as disgusting as the factory farms. Some hunters are nothing but drunk brutes with no compassion for their prey.

    This is tied with the corrida, the whole practice originated in the Roman Colosseum where fighting with beasts was a common place. There it was a real bloodbath and carnage. Corrida is much more civilized when compared with its precursors. On the other hand I saw examples of this practice that were way over the top.

  4. @Tom
    It is true that some are more left-wing. Incidentally, have you heard anything by Billy Bragg? I like his politics but am afraid that his stuff might be awful hey-nonny-no dirges.

    It is possibly true about Lennon. Whilst I do like 'Imagine' I find ironically the 'imagine no possessions' coming from a wealthy man combined with the 'imagine no religion' actually reminds me of the Christian conservative argument that having loads a dosh is fine, as long as you don't LOVE your loads of dosh.

    Interesting point about the Liverpudlians; I just thought given my mention of FGTH how they adopted American accents given that they came from the city of the Beatles.

    I think that debating the ethics is a bit complex given that animal rights is entirel subjective.

    To take one example, rats are actually quite closely related to primates, yet I don't think anyone would oppose efforts to exterminate them.

    By contrast there is no way in which anyone can say 'whales are good', but I (like many people) find them very beautiful, graceful and magnificent creatures.

    As for the colliseum, bring it on, I say ;-)

  5. I tend to find Bragg's music tedious and boring - the one time I went to the Tolpuddle rally, I had to leave early to avoid him. For me, he is the classic case where the Reynolds/Stubbs '86/'87 dilemma - and the Simon Frith '79 one (apologies if you don't know what I'm on about here) - comes to the fore. I'll always find *that* accent, now pretty much crushed by American-led mass media at one end (the M25 corridor) and the new (hopefully) *post-racial* London identity at the other, a narrow, insular, dead ethnic-prole signifier, even if Ghetts and Giggs are questionable by any socialist criteria. I'd find almost any other old-prole accent more listenable in music, generally - and if you want good modern interpretations of the folk tradition, check The Unthanks. ASAP.

    The Liverpudlian thing is that it - along with Manchester - is the place in the UK where an antipathy towards neoliberal politics is most likely to be combined with a love of American pop culture. Other areas tend to be either much more pro-neoliberalism (Thames Estuary/M25 corridor) or less culturally Americophile (Yorkshire, north-east England). I have no doubt this has a lot to do with the fact that London, Liverpool and Manchester (as well as Glasgow - much more pro-US culturally than the east of Scotland, I tend to think) were Atlantic ports. After decades of containerisation, as recently dissected on BBC Four, the distinction is already dwindling, and within my lifetime it will probably be dead, but for the moment American pop culture is still more embedded in what were historically trading cities (see also Birmingham, which wasn't a port but was an industrial powerhouse) than elsewhere - which is what I was on about with my much-misunderstood "West Coast Main Line" thing. The opposite of the Liverpudlian dilemma is that faced by many Times and Telegraph readers and writers - who love the politics, but hate the culture - but I'm sure you know that anyway.

  6. @Robin
    I think English Americophilia is a very complex phenomenon, perhaps largely because many English don't seem to see America as a foreign country. I recently saw the cover to a Glen Beck book, and noticed that he held up Britain (actually, it might even have been ENGLAND) as the prime example of a rotten socialist state.

    However, I don't think English people really have quite the same perspective. My recent post on Jonathan Jones I think is a case in point: America seems to be the place where metropolitan softies can pretend they're not metropolitan softies and enjoy the butch speech patterns and (very superficial) machisimo without going to somewhere that votes Labour or where they might have to see working class people.

    Christopher Hitchens is a case in point: a spoilt public schoolboy who ostentatiously inserts the 'f' word into his embarassingly fake American idiom. All picked up in DC no doubt. I guess he could have picked up a few naughty words in the Gorbals or Sheffield, but I don't think we can pretend he'd fit in too well there.

    On a slightly tangetal note, which I hope to write about more, I do have mixed feelings about Scottish nationalism. I do feel proud to be Scottish, yet I've always seen the narrative of the poor Celts driven back by yellowtoothed Saxon bastards as drivel. Not only were the clearances, Glencoe, anti-Jacobite reprisals primarily inflicted by Scots on each other, but Scots is really a form of Medieval Northumbrian and far more culturally and demographically significant than Gaelic is, or has been in the past millenia.

    Anyway, I feel tempted to vote SNP precisely because they seem to me more English (in a traditional sense) than the modern English. If we leave, I wouldn't be surprised if the English from the South and Midlands entered negotiations to become another state of America. Not as ridiculous as it sounds: the Yanks would get a foothold in Europe and the Eton Eloi could feel they were part of something magnificent.

  7. Exactly. This is what I'm afraid of. When I look at the SNP/Plaid Cymru I do indeed see movements that have a definable culture of their own which is both proud of its history and conscious of its present/future role in Europe, similar to the social democratic side of English life in the Butskellite period. And as you hint most of the north of England would surely prefer to be in with an independent Scotland, rather than cut off from the part of the UK to which it is closest politically and socially ... the British state, unlike most of its European partners, has no experience of shifting borders and constitutional crises; those who run it are completely unequipped to deal with such a situation, so who can say the Cameronites wouldn't search for the easy way out should those parts of the UK which didn't vote for them decide they've had enough?

    I would agree that many English people don't see the US as "foreign", but I think this is a superficial assessment based on popular culture and the (necessarily) one-sided view they get as tourists in Florida or wherever. They would most certainly think differently if they actually had to live without the NHS or the BBC (though maybe not if they're heavy Sky viewers, i.e. the biggest Americophiles of all) or the other remaining public institutions (which *are* considerable in their scope *when compared to the US*). And this is why, although I have considerable sympathy for Scottish and other Celtic nationalisms, I am (selfishly) worried about their achieving their ultimate aims because I know the knock-on effects would make such institutions much less sustainable.