And if anyone can make being a Brummie in the 80s seem like fun, it has to be these. Ah, my lost youth
THE BEAST FROM THE EAST
And if anyone can make being a Brummie in the 80s seem like fun, it has to be these. Ah, my lost youth
A few words on religion from the master, Sigmund Freud:
“In my Future of an Illusion I was concerned much less with the deepest sources of the religious feeling than with what the common man understands by his religion with the system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddles of this world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here. The common man cannot imagine this
Chew your bollocks off, Hitchens!
A few days ago I received a gift from two very smartly and conservatively dressed young men – my very own Book of Mormon. The Mormons, for some reason, seem to have quite a presence here in the
I have to say I have a certain amount of respect for the Mormons, not only for their commitment but also for their tactics. Unlike the bothersome, half-witted Jehova’s Witnesses they don’t try and force themselves upon you, unlike those foul, creepy hypocrites the Hare Krishnas they don’t tell you they’d like to “give” you books and then try and emotionally blackmail you into making a donation once you’re in possession of a load of naff, rambling tosh you didn’t want to read anyway. My Book of Mormon was given to me completely free of charge, no questions asked. Indeed, very often when I’ve ended up speaking to them in town they haven’t even mentioned their religion at all, merely making polite conversation, us all being fellow ex-pats and all that.
This time, however, it was a full, sit-down chat of well over an hour long and we did talk about religion, not only theirs but also some of their potential rivals. Pretty interesting it was too. It was me, rather than them, who was asking most of the questions. I knew virtually nothing of their religion before, and so was surprised to find that there is a prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, alive and well on this earth today. Previous to our conversation I was also unaware of their theory that the native Americans are actually descended from a Jewish tribe who travelled to the
One of the questions they did ask me was if I’d ever tried praying. Well, yes, was my response – not only did we pray at primary school assemblies, but when I was very young I was forced to go to church with my mother and for a few years didn’t question Christian teaching (very few in fact, I became an atheist at the age of 8 as I remember). On the other hand I distinctly remember questioning my mum about praying even back then, and have asked her and other religious people about it since. Invariably I’ve found their answers deeply unsatisfying. I admitted to the Mormons that when I had tried to pray all those years ago it had left me utterly cold and I’d felt rather confused and a little silly about what I was actually doing. Again I turned the question on them – what is praying? They explained (I didn’t tell them this, but it really did sound silly to me), and told me what they felt during prayer – either a kind of voice or warm glow which confirmed to them that what they were doing, what they believed, and above all their Book, were indeed right. I told them that on the occasions I had tried praying I had felt nothing of the sort, which I conceded might well be my fault, since God was unable to make contact with me due to my lack of genuine faith.
Well, since then I have read a couple of passages from the Book of Mormon, before its diverting oddness wore off and dissipated into tedium. I haven’t been converted yet. However, this is naturally not the only thing I’ve read over the last few days – believer in redemption that I am, I have also checked out a few passages from Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything”, including one on the Mormons. Maybe a little repentance is due on my part – although I still feel exasperated at his position on
Keep praying for me boys by all means, but that road’s looking mighty long.
The quest for authenticity in politics is a frustrating one these days with everyone going all squeaky clean. In Britain Labour are probably the most shining example – after all it’s not that long since there were fully fledged Marxists in the party such as Coventry’s own Dave Nellist (expelled at the beginning of the 90s) and Labour Party conferences ended with a chorus of the Red Flag, complete with Old Labour and trade union veterans in cheap suits, looking more likely candidates for a heart attack than for a seat in parliament, punching the air in stubborn defiance of the new reality. But times have changed, Labour added the New to their name, went slick and right wing. They may not have been the first – the Tories hired Saatchi & Saatchi to give them the makeover back in the 70s – and were certainly not the last. Labour have picked up plenty of flak for their spin and soundbite politics, but only because they’ve been the most successful at a game almost everyone seems to be playing. More recently the Tories have also tried to be nice, meekly backtracking and contritely acknowledging that “there is such a thing as society”, whilst eco-friendly
But don’t despair all you Nazis! Fellow race warriors are still out there, you just might have to look further to find them. To
Ignore the silly bit at the beginning, it gets better.
Last night I was lucky enough to catch the Plastic People of the Universe live, not far off their 40th anniversary as a band, albeit with changing personnel over the years. Usually I’m pretty sceptical about going to see anyone that… old basically, having had a few bitter, should-have-known-better experiences seeing drug-addled or merely bereft-of-ideas/dignity old punks doing the rounds. But all this cynicism is no way to go through life! And the Plastics are indeed different. Though musically less radical than their sister band Dg. 307, the Plastics are indisputably the most important Czech band of all time in terms of their historical impact, evidence of which is the fact that they figure as a central part of Tom Stoppard’s play Rock n Roll. Although back in the days they claimed not to be a dissident band, they were nevertheless forced into that role, and their lyrics and music have a disturbing quality which was certainly enough for them to be considered a threat by the communist elite: perhaps simply failing to acknowledge the regime was seen as the greatest insult.
Most of the male members still sporting variations on the classic “Czech former dissident” chic, which these days means long, straggly grey hair unravelling out of a frequently sparse and unevenly distributed array of remaining follicles, an abundance of beards and jam-jar glasses accompanied by an avowedly scruffy dress sense (none of them, perhaps reassuringly, look anywhere near as cool as ultimate rock star Pavel Zajíček), they remain the Bohemian art-rock band par excellence. This look, in combination with the band’s vocal style – the vocalists themselves alternate, none of them actually singing but all with a remarkably similar, scathingly weird style, at times even vaguely reminiscent of Mark E. Smith – lends them an image of something like deranged, admonishing preachers, hippies gone badly wrong. All, that is, except for the younger Eva Turnová, replacement for deceased bassist Milan Hlavsa, whose husky delivery is strangely rather sexy, an odd counterpoint to their uncomfortable sounding music. The music itself is clearly influenced in part by post-hippy experimental rock like Beefheart, the VU, the Doors, but with enough of their own warped input to make them quite unique and not only limited to one particular period in time, with similarities not only to the aforementioned Fall but sometimes also Killing Joke and other post-punk, as well as incorporating free jazz elements in the form of Vráťa Brabenec’s sax playing, plus bizarre synth noise and classical string instruments.
In this country the Plastics have spawned hundreds of imitators, but remain head and shoulders above them – although the clones capture the Plastics’ sinister dissonance, they invariably sound turgid and lumbering, whilst the Plastics themselves still manage to sound quite light on their feet, often approaching funky. Last night was a perfect example – despite their advanced years they sounded youthful and relevant. The old regime may no longer be around, but they know there’s plenty left to kick against. Either that or they just carry on ploughing their own furrow regardless. A Czech legend.
Probably not very original or pithy of me to refer to Christopher Hitchens’s “Unfairenheit 9/11” attack on Michael Moore as such, but in this case both words do seem highly appropriate, and anyway, you started it with the clumsy, smartarse titles Chris. For some reason I ended up flicking through Hitchens’s “Love, Poverty and War” (a pompous book title if I ever heard one) the other day, upon which I noticed the following two passages, in two separate essays. First, regarding Michael Moore and Farenheit 9/11:
“We are introduced to
And in a later essay on the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of
“…Local people are getting used to the sight of professional young American women, white and black and Hispanic, effectively on patrol… I ran into civilian advisors who were supervising voter registration and a census, rebuilding the electrical generators that now run at close to melting-point, reopening the long-closed Iraqi National Museum and irrigating the parched and drained habitat of the southern marshes, dried out and burned by Saddam Hussein in an ecocidal attempt to punish the stubborn resistance to his awful will… driving through Baghdad one day I was amazed to come upon a demonstration against pollution sponsored by the local Green Party. Perhaps
Well we all know now, don’t we Chris?
The sad truth is that Hitchens, who has in the past produced some thoroughly entertaining and often painfully accurate, bombastic journalism – for example his devastating Trial of Henry Kissinger, or on a lighter note the hilarious kicking he dished out regarding all the sentimental bullshit surrounding Princess Diana’s death – has disappeared up his own arse and fallen into the same trap as Irving. Michael Moore too undoubtedly, but at least he still has a sense of humour, whereas these days Hitchens, who snipes at
The result of all this hubris is that this once fine polemicist exposes himself to humiliation by rabble rousers like the ubiquitous George Galloway, a tawdry attention seeker with only a fraction of Hitchens’s intellect and integrity, who can, now that Hitchens has become such a lugubrious, bloated beast, out-smart him in public debates by playing to the gallery. How the mighty fall. I don’t doubt Hitchens’s sincerity or even his fundamental decency, but he has, as the quotes above show, succumbed to lazy hypocrisy. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, Chris. Wake up, grow up, and say it loud: Sorry!