Those that follow me on Facebook and Twitter may have noticed I’ve become rather animated about politics these days. When I started my adventures as Cosmograf, I formed a firm opinion that it was best if musicians simply stayed out of political issues. I watched as some of my contemporaries clearly put their mark in the sand and pinned their party political allegiances to the mast, and I thought they were making a terrible mistake, dividing and alienating a potential audience when, it was all too difficult to get any attention at all for your music.
I’ve softened my views on that that though and here’s why. I had decided some time back that my approach for social media would be open and honest. I wanted to talk to fans as if they were friends in the pub and I’d tell them my woes and what was bothering me, the good stuff that had happened and the bad stuff too. This is how I interact with my friends in the real world too, although the boundaries have become blurred in that regard too. Some of the virtual friendships formed on social media have turned into very fulfilling real ones.
The power of these platforms to connect is actually very profound, although it’s sometime matched by a darker power that exposes you to ridicule, criticism and conflict. It’s this latter area where I’ve ran into some problems with some fans. Strangely though the arguments have not been about politics, more about the entitlement that some people harbour thinking that they own you once they buy one of your albums, and my inability to tolerate that mindset.
But I’m digressing a fair bit. Once politics comes into the equation there are certain levels I’m comfortable with and certain lines I won’t cross. For example I’d never resort to being a mouthpiece for any political party. I see the socials for some bands and they start to resemble a party manifesto. I think that conflicts with any artistic statement you are making. Then there are other artists, that won’t even state how they feel about anything for fear of upsetting a fan somewhere (There will always be at least one regardless). I do think though, there’s a middle ground where something deeply affects your core beliefs so much that you feel you have to speak out about it. And I feel that urge very often these days.
You could say that the reason I feel so compelled to vent my spleen, is a sign of the turbulent times we live in…In doing so I’m careful not to push an agenda, but what I’m railing against I guess is the existential threat, or what I perceive that to be. In other words in my interpretation, it’s more a threat to humanity than a party political issue, a question of showing empathy with those affected. In many cases, just speaking out when things feel wrong and being a good human being.
Case in point is the current energy crisis which has me so riled up I’ve spent far too much time than is healthy being angry on Twitter. I think the British people have been victim to decades of profiteering within the energy industry, leaving millions of folk with the threat of serious poverty, unable to pay their bills, whilst a small number take ever larger multi-million pound bonuses.
I’m really struggling with how this has been allowed to happen. How the very remit of government to protect our security, food and energy supplies has been compromised and our assets sold to the highest bidder. Why ordinary families now have to work long hours and can’t afford to heat their homes or feed their kids, and why despite all this, an enormous amount of people are more than willing to still support a government that thinks this is all normal and OK.
In looking for reasons why, I look at my parents and parents in law. They are good, honest law abiding people who have come from backgrounds where food and money was scarce. They carried values of the working class but also social responsibility. You have to work hard for what you have and you should value it and not waste it and help those less fortunate than yourselves.
These are good and honest values, but somewhere over the years their values and political views have been seriously altered. After 40 years or so of hard toil, they’d managed to work their way up the property ladder, paid off the mortgage, and were enjoying the benefits of generous work and state pensions. But along with the change of circumstance, followed a sea change in their view of the world. A fear is suddenly present that someone or something will take all that away from them.
To fuel that fear, the media are more than ready to pour some petrol on those negative thoughts. Nothing attracts attention more than a potential drama and the threat of something awful happening, and that sells lots of newspapers. They are literally there to stoke your fears and the threat is even more insidious when it is further skewed and driven by the political agendas and interests of the people that own them.
I think you know where I am going with this. The problem is that my parents and parents in law have fallen prey to the worst kind of brainwashing. A continuous barrage of propaganda, misinformation, and downright lies to convince them to fear everything.
They were told that Europe was evil, that immigrants were taking up their places in hospital waiting lists and stealing jobs from British people. They were told the EU was going to make them lose their sovereignty and very identity and that they’d have to pay billions for a place at the table in Brussels.
They were told so many things..that the world was under threat from political correctness and wokeism, and the nanny state was going to take away everything they enjoyed. They were sold lies and mistruths.
We know what happened and the consequences have been devastating. But I think there is far worse to come. I’m the father of two inspiring young people. The eldest is now 22, studying hard for a Masters in Business and has also spent the last 6 years working to fund herself through her education. Despite this she will leave university with a circa £50K debt and even if she manages to secure a brilliant job and embark on a great career, there is little chance she’ll be able to afford to buy her own tiny property until she’s in her 30s and will be well into her late 50s or 60s before she manages to pay off a mortgage. Retirement age by then will probably in her late 70s.
Contrast that with her grandparents that bought their first 3 bed house for about £3K (Equivalent today £60K) and had paid it off in their early 40s and retired on a great pension at 55, even on very modest salaries and one main income.
Even I as a Generation X’r, managed to get a completely free higher education at a local polytechnic along with a small grant. I bought my first property at 21 and I was far from paid well.
And now a mere 30 years later we face energy bills that have doubled in 12 months and are approaching several hundred pounds a month for most families. We are told it’s because of war, when the real reason is we’ve allowed foreign investors to steal our assets and make them into cash machines for their shareholders.
How was this allowed to happen?
Well it seems to me that through all the fear and propaganda, we’ve created a generation of voters that are now more scared of socialist values than freezing or starving to death. They’ve done well, they’ve never had it so good and they are bloody terrified someone is coming for it. Meanwhile their grandchildren are carrying that legacy into their uncertain futures.
Some of these themes I explored in my latest album Heroic Materials. I was struck by the contrast of the 99 year old war veteran and his grandchildren and great grandchildren, the former fighting great wars and poverty, and then his offspring having to deal with the climate disaster and finding some sort of way forward in a world where the cost of merely existing in it, was so ridiculously high. I thought that deep down the 99 year old man was battling with the notion that his fight had been in vain. The tyranny of foreign invasion was replaced by the tyranny of his grandchildren paying through the nose to live in a dying world.
And this is where we are…and it’s also why you should all stop buying newspapers, or at least choose to get your news from many sources.
It’s also why I’ll probably be continuing to highlight these issues regularly. Please also don’t mistake this as a manifesto for socialism. I tend to avoid ‘isms’ like the plague because as soon as you align yourself rigidly to a particular set of values, you automatically close your mind to the possibility that you are wrong. Humans are regularly wrong and it’s only through exploring the possibilities and the other views that we can work that out and become better…
Question everything…’Why?’…which is one of my favourite memes ever…