Caveat: it is not without wariness that I appropriate song lyrics, movie quotes & titles. To an extent, all word juggling is a weird sort of magical allusion. And it comes about that some words which seem piddling and insignificant or irrelevant lead me through to different areas of understanding. My understanding of the universe I’m in has been partly shaped through different authors, musicians, groups, soloists, films… emotions affected, nuance added to emotion, pictures sharpened or obscured. They all make as much sense as each other in different ways. Shots trombone: I find I catch sight of myself imitating in crazy mirrors, strutting or bent sinister in 5D. There are always further reflections to be found, and one might never be able to account for all the implications. Crazy mirrors…
You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t, rise above.
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of love
‘Ten years asleep’ is, however, not a Bruce lyric. It’s a song by Kingmaker. Kingmaker was a pre-Britpop band from Kingston upon Hull, chewed up and stuck flat to the pavement by the mid-1990s. I saw them support The Wonder Stuff in 1991, 20 years ago this December. They were not a bad band. Paul D. Heaton, of The Beautiful South, and also a Kingston-upon-Hullion, saw them as middle-class chancers from suburban castles. I would tend to agree that there was an element of the student/indie disco irritant about them, but what their address has to do with anything is beside the by. Perhaps a similar gleam of clever-clever bitterness momentarily threatened Heaton’s industry.
True Pop Anecdote: a personal experience of Paul Heaton. I was working in a hotel bar in 1994, serving him a gin & tonic with Becks chaser at 10.30am, and he invited me out for a drink with him and pals when I finished. I arrived at Bairds Bar in the Gallowgate around 14.00 in time to see him being carried out, paralytic, by two of the crew. My pints of lager were supped with a more together companion of his. Make what you will of that metaphor for the working-class artistic burden.
Anyway, I remember reading that the Kingmaker song ‘Ten Years Asleep’ was written as a comment on the preceding decade of Conservative government, the co-opting of 1970s punks into The MANagement, the gleeful abandonment of a society identified as non-existent by Mrs Thatcher, the triumph of the brutes. ‘Don’t pretend to care when you don’t care,’ it suggested that lamentations were meaningless if a society was just going through the motions, if complicity was commonplace.
Of course, of course, the point is, I was reminded of this track by hearing and reading nothing all week but ‘ten years on’ themed pieces. The ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the USA, specifically the passenger jets flown into the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon, as well as the loss of a flight presumed headed for the White House. I haven’t wanted to join in the mass of commentary, of remembrance and application of meaning and justification. This is partly because I have communicated my thoughts in other places over the years since then, in anti-war pamphlets, blogs and such. It is partly because I thought it would be superfluous. What can I add?
It was a fucking shame, excuse my Anglo Saxon, that so many people died, it always is a shame, as it is a shame that so many more thousands have died since in wars fought to no good purpose but for national leaders to be seen to be doing something about something about which nothing can be done, not by perpetual war.
I said this on the day in 2001, in fact, and I recall because I wrote it down: ‘There’ll be a horrible bloody revenge attack on someone, when they could be turning the other cheek.’ Rising above. By which I meant not doing nothing, but inviting dialogue, finding out why and what for and what could be done to stop it. Perhaps spending military budget money on building bridges, I mean, actual bridges, or schools, perhaps, perhaps getting into actually unbelievable levels of debt doing nice stuff, for example.
However, there was no cheek turning, just a continuation of the previous decades’ posturing and out of focus ideologies. Hearing G.W. Bush today talking about God, as if it helps give him gravity, and Blair in a BBC interview surfacing to offer the demented view that his foreign policy actions have had no impact on people worldwide… I wonder about that failure of logic, the absence of even a smidgen of understanding of words meaning peace, hope, love, the same as I wonder about any people who try to justify murder and vicious attack. I wonder… well, I read somewhere – I am having trouble sourcing the quote – that Christopher Hitchens, who supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, criticised those opposing the wars as the kind of people who, on discovering a poisonous snake in their child’s room, would first call People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). I like to think of myself as the kind of person who would not respond to such a discovery by setting fire to the rest of the house.
It is unfortunate that these are the first things that come to my mind, that this is a world that’s been ten years asleep, having nightmares of planes slamming into buildings and war without end, bitterness without resolution, people believing everything that people tell them about what must be done, that things must be done, that people must be told. I think this is part of the reason why I have become a teacher. I wanted to encourage people to think for their selves, to understand and to question words, so the people that want to burn down the house cannot sustain forever a monopoly on running things.
All I can add today: peace.