Posts Tagged ‘Manic Street Preachers’

The Holy Bible’s 20th Anniversary

29/08/2014

Holy Bible Cover

You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretences of your civilization, which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.

– Octave Mirbeau, The Torture Garden

Twenty years ago today, a white-hot-scattershot-masterpiece of pure punk rage was released.

I only discovered it about 13 years ago at the height of my teenage angst at university and it offered the startling consolation of feeling personally understood.

But unlike many other bands and albums I have since loved and lost, it has outlived my hormonally-charged emotions and scarcely a month has gone by when I haven’t listened to it all the way through at least once.

And it only becomes fresher, more relevant, closer to home.

An album that deserves a place in the annals of great art alongside Beethoven and Warhol.

A piece of work that – to quote the sample of J G Ballard explaining the reasons for him writing his nihilistic masterpiece, Crash – that rubs the human face in its own vomit, and then forces it to look in the mirror.

Track 1: “Yes”

You can buy her, you can buy her. This one’s here, this one’s here, this one’s here and this one’s here. Everything’s for sale…

…Two dollars you can rub her tits. Three dollars you can rub her ass. Five dollars you can play with her pussy or you can lick her tits. The choice is yours.

Track 2:

“Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart”

Conservative say: there ain’t no black in the union jack.
Democrat say: there ain’t enough white in the stars and stripes.

Track 3: Of Walking Abortion

I knew that someday I was going to die. And I knew before I died, two things would happen to me. That number one, I would regret my entire life. And number two, I would want to live my life over again.

Track 4: “She Is Suffering”

Nature’s lukewarm pleasure.

Track 5: “Archives Of Pain”

I wonder who you think you are. You damn well think you’re God or something. God give life, God taketh it away, not you. I think you are the Devil itself.

Track 6: “Revol”

Yeltsin – failure is his own impotence.

Track 7: “4st 7lbs”

I eat too much to die. And not enough to stay alive. I’m sitting in the middle waiting.

Track 8: “Mausoleum”

Life can be as important as death.

Track 9: “Faster”

I hate purity. I hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.

Track 10: “This Is Yesterday”

Do not listen to a word I say.
Just listen to what I can keep silent.
The only way to gain approval.
Is by exploiting the very thing that cheapens me.

Track 11: “Die In The Summertime”

The hole in my life even stains the soil.

Track 11: “The Intense Humming Of Evil”

Arbeit macht frei.

P.C.P.

Teacher starve your child, P.C. approved.
As long as the right words are used.
Systemised atrocity ignored.
As long as bilingual signs on view.

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The WORST Love Album In The World… EVER!!!

14/02/2014

BrokenHeart

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of us who are only too aware of the false promises of love and relationships.

Track / Artist / Album

1. The Everlasting / Manic Street Preachers / This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

2.  Love Will Tear Us Apart / Joy Division / Permanent: Joy Division 1995

3.  She’s A Star / James / Whiplash

4.  History / The Verve / A Northern Soul

5.  America / Razorlight / Razorlight

6.  Nothing Compares 2 U / Sinéad O’ Connor /  I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

7.   I’ll Take The Rain / R.E.M. / Reveal

8.  Life Becoming A Landslide / Manic Street Preachers / Gold Against The Soul

9.  With Or Without You / U2 / The Joshua Tree

10.  Can’t Stand Me Now / The Libertines / The Libertines

11.  Try / Nelly Furtado / Folklore

12.  The Scientist / Coldplay / A Rush Of Blood To The Head

13.  Every Breath You Take / The Police / Synchronicity

14.  Man Of The World / Fleetwood Mac / The Very Best Of

15.  I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself / The White Stripes / Elephant

16.  She Is Suffering / Manic Street Preachers / The Holy Bible

17.  You Oughta Know / Alanis Morissette / Jagged Little Pill

18.  Run / Snow Patrol / Final Straw

19.  Train In Vain / The Clash / London Calling

20.  Under My Thumb / The Rolling Stones / Aftermath

21.  Wish You Were Here / Pink Floyd / Wish You Were Here

22.  The Power Of Goodbye / Madonna / Ray Of Light

23.  How Soon Is Now? / The SmithsHatful Of Hollow

24.  Say Hello Wave Goodbye / David Gray / White Ladder

25.  Last Christmas (performed by James Dean Bradfield live on TFI Friday, 1996) / George Michael/Wham! / Lipstick Traces: A Secret History Of

Die In The Summertime

26/12/2013

Manic Street Preachers, “Die The Summertime”, The Holy Bible

Right, that’s enough Christmas cheer people; time for a reality check.

Further to my post a couple of months ago on assisted dying, I recently came across this article from an American doctor on our unrealistic attitudes towards death that has struck a chord with me:

If I’m lucky, the family will accept the news that, in a time when we can separate conjoined twins and reattach severed limbs, people still wear out and die of old age.  If I’m lucky, the family will recognize that their loved one’s life is nearing its end.

But I’m not always lucky.  The family may ask me to use my physician superpowers to push the patient’s tired body further down the road, with little thought as to whether the additional suffering to get there will be worth it.  For many Americans, modern medical advances have made death seem more like an option than an obligation. We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.

These unrealistic expectations often begin with an overestimation of modern medicine’s power to prolong life, a misconception fuelled by the dramatic increase in the American life span over the past century.  To hear that the average U.S. life expectancy was 47 years in 1900 and 78 years as of 2007, you might conclude that there weren’t a lot of old people in the old days — and that modern medicine invented old age.  But average life expectancy is heavily skewed by childhood deaths, and infant mortality rates were high back then. In 1900, the U.S. infant mortality rate was approximately 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2000, the rate was 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The bulk of that decline came in the first half of the century, from simple public health measures such as improved sanitation and nutrition, not open heart surgery, MRIs or sophisticated medicines. Similarly, better obstetrical education and safer deliveries in that same period also led to steep declines in maternal mortality, so that by 1950, average life expectancy had catapulted to 68 years.

For all its technological sophistication and hefty price tag, modern medicine may be doing more to complicate the end of life than to prolong or improve it.  If a person living in 1900 managed to survive childhood and childbearing, she had a good chance of growing old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person who made it to 65 in 1900 could expect to live an average of 12 more years; if she made it to 85, she could expect to go another four years. In 2007, a 65-year-old American could expect to live, on average, another 19 years; if he made it to 85, he could expect to go another six years.

(…)

This physical and emotional distance becomes obvious as we make decisions that accompany life’s end.  Suffering is like a fire: Those who sit closest feel the most heat; a picture of a fire gives off no warmth.  That’s why it’s typically the son or daughter who has been physically closest to an elderly parent’s pain who is the most willing to let go. Sometimes an estranged family member is “flying in next week to get all this straightened out.” This is usually the person who knows the least about her struggling parent’s health; she’ll have problems bringing her white horse as carry-on luggage.  This person may think she is being driven by compassion, but a good deal of what got her on the plane was the guilt and regret of living far away and having not done any of the heavy lifting in caring for her parent.

With unrealistic expectations of our ability to prolong life, with death as an unfamiliar and unnatural event, and without a realistic, tactile sense of how much a worn-out elderly patient is suffering, it’s easy for patients and families to keep insisting on more tests, more medications, more procedures.

Doing something often feels better than doing nothing. Inaction feeds the sense of guilt-ridden ineptness family members already feel as they ask themselves, “Why can’t I do more for this person I love so much?”

Opting to try all forms of medical treatment and procedures to assuage this guilt is also emotional life insurance: When their loved one does die, family members can tell themselves, “We did everything we could for Mom.”  In my experience, this is a stronger inclination than the equally valid (and perhaps more honest) admission that “we sure put Dad through the wringer those last few months.”

At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture.  When a case such as this comes along, nurses, physicians and therapists sometimes feel conflicted and immoral. We’ve committed ourselves to relieving suffering, not causing it. A retired nurse once wrote to me: “I am so glad I don’t have to hurt old people any more.”  [My emphasis]

When families talk about letting their loved ones die “naturally,” they often mean “in their sleep” — not from a treatable illness such as a stroke, cancer or an infection. Choosing to let a loved one pass away by not treating an illness feels too complicit; conversely, choosing treatment that will push a patient into further suffering somehow feels like taking care of him.  While it’s easy to empathize with these family members’ wishes, what they don’t appreciate is that very few elderly patients are lucky enough to die in their sleep.  Almost everyone dies of something.

Close friends of ours brought their father, who was battling dementia, home to live with them for his final, beautiful and arduous years.  There they loved him completely, even as Alzheimer’s took its dark toll.  They weren’t staring at a postcard of a fire; they had their eyebrows singed by the heat.  When pneumonia finally came to get him, they were willing to let him go.

It reminded me of Manic Street Preachers’ less-than-comforting ode to growing old from their classic, white-hot-scattershot-punk masterpiece, The Holy Bible:

“Die In The Summertime”

Scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals
Colour my hair but the dye grows out
I can’t seem to stay a fixed ideal

Childhood pictures redeem, clean and so serene
See myself without ruining lines
Whole days throwing sticks into streams

I have crawled so far sideways
I recognise dim traces of creation
I want to die, die in the summertime, I want to die

The hole in my life even stains the soil
My heart shrinks to barely a pulse
A tiny animal curled into a quarter circle
If you really care wash the feet of a beggar

I have crawled so far sideways
I recognise dim traces of creation
I want to die, die in the summertime, I want to die

I have crawled so far sideways
I recognise dim traces of creation
I want to die, die in the summertime, I want to die

Or as The Who once phrased matters, “I hope I die before I get old”.

David Robertson on modern day Christian martyrs

18/11/2013

“Dead Martyrs” by Manic Street Preachers

Pastor David Robertson of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee and founding member of SOLAS – The Centre For Public Christianity, my old rival from my days debating on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? and their now alas deleted online forum has set up a new blog: theweeflea.  Robertson recently decried the lack of mainstream media coverage over the deaths of 81 Christians in Pakistan at the hands of Islamist suicide bombers in September of this year.

I’ll begin by conceding one of Robertson’s points.  The Pakistan bombing could have and maybe should have received the same level of attention from this country’s media and government that the Kenya shopping mall bombing did.  Perhaps the latter was considered more “televisual” by media editors.  I’m sure there are many parents of missing and murdered children who are aggrieved that the media coverage of their torments is dwarfed by the attention piled on Madeline McCann.  In this respect, we can more or less swallow Robertson’s post whole.

However, Robertson’s piece unwittingly reveals a deeper motive of his apologetic.  One of the categories it is filed under on his blog is called “The Persecuted Church” and during our debates on Unbelievable? in 2009, Robertson made out the Christian beliefs were coming under disproportionately harsh attack by “militant atheists” and “atheist fundamentalists”.  I am reminded of Paula Kirby’s excellent review of four of the “flea” responses to Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion (which includes Robertson’s The Dawkins Letters), “Fleabytes”.  Kirby addresses the topic of Christian paranoia in detail:

It is simply impossible to read these four books back-to-back and not be struck by the extraordinary degree of paranoia that is apparent in them.  Their authors seem determined to see themselves as persecuted and to predict worse persecutions in the future.  And this characteristic is not limited to the “fleas”: only recently one of the more evangelical Christians on this site declared his conviction that he would face imprisonment for his Christian beliefs in his lifetime.  Since, whatever these fears are based on, it’s not the actual content of TGD or the intentions of any atheist I know of, where do they come from and why have they taken such a hold of believers’ brains?

I would argue that it is pure wishful thinking.  This may sound unlikely: why should anyone wish to be persecuted?  But when we recall the persecution that the early Christians did suffer — incarceration, public floggings, other forms of torture, being ripped apart by lions or slowly roasted over hot coals (and bearing in mind that history teems with examples of Christians inflicting similar torments on others whose beliefs did not take precisely the approved form) — it becomes apparent that the mockery and candid scepticism that is the worst they face in Western societies today are a feeble trial indeed.  Would-be disciples in the 21st century can be forgiven for feeling slightly inadequate when compared with their more heroic predecessors.

It is not just the Koran that welcomes martyrs: the Bible, too, makes it clear that being persecuted is part of the job description for any serious Christian.  Consider these quotes:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5: 10-12)

(…)

A Christian’s instructions are clear.  Suffer for your faith!  Be persecuted!  If you’re not being persecuted, you’re just not trying hard enough!  But oh dear: how hard that is when they are surrounded by people who tolerate their belief, even if they don’t actually approve of it.  There is only one solution, and that is to make the very moderate criticism that they’re subjected to sound like the most vicious of persecution.  Write of the desire to ban religion, to wipe it out, annihilate it, exterminate it.  Claim that those who practise it will be imprisoned, disenfranchised, physically assaulted.  That their children will be forcibly removed from them.  Recreate the horrors of the Holocaust and the gulags in believers’ imaginations.

How else, in a liberal democracy, are they to stand any chance of claiming the rewards of the persecuted?

Kirby’s analysis strikes at the heart of the religious persecution dilemma.  On the one hand, Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs ranging from moderate criticism via the written and spoken word to the extreme religious conflict like that seen in Pakistan.  But on the other hand, persecution is very much part of their agenda.  Their founder was allegedly publicly executed for his beliefs and the Church has always taught that many of his followers died for their faith in the following years (even though the Bible doesn’t mention what happened to the 12 apostles!).  At the end of the 20th Century, the Church of England positively celebrated the sacrifice made by martyrs to the cause with the unveiling of ten statues in the stones of Westminster Abbey.

Therefore, persecution and martyrdom is very much part of the Christian religion and makes it all the more sickeningly masochistic for it, as both Kirby’s analysis and the Manic Street Preachers’ song I posted at the head of this piece demonstrates.

Robertson has argued elsewhere on his blog that the existence of evil and suffering in the World is all part of God’s plan.  If we take this appalling “theodicy” to its natural conclusion then in a similar way to theists arguing that atheists have no basis to judge any action as “right” or “wrong” because there is no cosmic outcome beyond the grave; equally the atheist could argue that the theist has no basis for saying that an action is morally right or wrong since those murderous religious persecutors were ultimately instruments for God’s will in testing their Christian victims’ faith, conducting Job-like trials and sending them to a martyrs death where they will experience everlasting bliss beyond the grave!

I have not seen Robertson reproduce this claim directly on his newest blog, but all over the Internet you will read the “statistic” that 100,000 Christians die for their faith ever year.  However, as this article by the BBC’s Ruth Alexander neatly demonstrates, this figure is at best a massaging of the figures and at worst an exaggeration.  Many of the Christians dying in the World every year are actually victims of other Christians in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR), which has claimed the lives of in excess of four million from 2000 to 2010:

This means we can say right away that the internet rumours of Muslims being behind the killing of 100,000 Christian martyrs are nonsense.  The DRC is a Christian country.  In the civil war, Christians were killing Christians.

For the record, I disagree with the following paragraphs in Alexander’s article that religion had no part to play in the Rwandan genocide.  Religion was an essential factor in the mass murder of civilian non-combatants as the post-war genocide trials featuring the prosecution of priests and nuns amply demonstrates.

The remainder of the issue actually speaks to the atheist’s side of the argument.  Conflict, persecution and balkanisation of communities along religious lines are very much part of our case against God.  Who is carrying out the persecutions?  Secular humanists?  Godless Marxists?  No, they are Islamic fundamentalists!  This is not so much a case of Christian persecution as it is religious conflict.

Robertson continually barks on about “militant atheism” and “atheist fundamentalism”.  Yet if this charge is to stick, I challenge him to name a war that is currently being fought by atheists/secularists/humanists in the name of their non-belief in his invisible deity and/or their love of reason, honest debate and scientific scepticism or a non-believing terrorist movement whose adherents are blowing themselves and innocent members of the public to smithereens for the promise of an eternal reward.  In his post, he admits that the Islamist suicide bombers belief that they are acting under God’s instructions.  Yet as Sam Harris stated in his debate on morality against Christian apologist William Lane Craig (who Robertson clearly thinks very highly of):

Just think about the Muslims at this moment who are blowing themselves up, convinced that they are agents of God’s will.  There is absolutely nothing that Dr Craig can say against their behaviour, in moral terms, apart from his own faith-based claim that they’re praying to the wrong God.  If they had the right God, what they were doing would be good, on Divine Command theory.

This is a system of morality that is nothing short of psychotic and not for the first time, Robertson’s apologetics has fallen down like a house of cards once a step is taken outside his own personal echo chamber.

Richey Edwards: The Final Television Interview

17/06/2010

manicstreetpreacher has learned a great deal from this.

I’ve decided to take a respite from ranting against the parties of God and present the videos to the final interview that Richey Edwards, the Manic Street Preachers’ former lyricist and guitarist gave to a Swedish television station a few weeks before disappearing in February 1995 aged twenty-seven.

Part II / Part III / Part IV

Edwards, despite his best attempts at concealment by wearing a baggy top, clearly looks anorexic as he talks frankly about the Manics’ latest album, the white-hot, scattershot punk blast of rage, The Holy Bible, his lyric writing, and his recent mental breakdown which saw him visit The Priory for rehabilitation from drug and alcohol abuse.

Watch out for his opinions on pop-tarts Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston being “far more ruined in the mind” than he could ever be by virtue of their self-obsessed romantic pap.  Of course, those two pop divas have since had their fair share of Richey moments.

Towards the end, the interviewer asks whether Edwards would like to get married and have children.  Without listening to the end of the question, Edwards replies no, his dream is to write a perfect lyric that sums up how he feels about everything the in World yesterday, today and tomorrow.  If he is still alive out there somewhere, perhaps he will re-emerge when he has finally nailed it.

These comments are particularly relevant to me personally, since like Edwards, I have in recent years attempted to escape from my problems in The Real World by immersing myself in issues that I have little if any control over and worrying about them instead of my social life, love life and career.  I suppose there are worse outlets of the kind of anger and frustration that I expressed at the end of last year.  At least I didn’t turn to domestic violence, alcohol or drugs.  But my obsession with blogging has been destructive in other ways and I have let many things slide in my personal life, which came back to hit me in the face very recently.

I have now learned to value personal relationships over work, hobbies and interests.  I have taken control of my own destiny and will be moving jobs and locations back to my home town from which I have been so far away the past nine months.  I’ve even started telling my parents I love them for the first time in my life.  Never again will I elect to sit in the quiet carriage of a train reading a book rather than sitting next to a half-acquaintance to ask them how they are.

Edwards is man from whom we all can learn; even if not always for the right reasons.

Of Walking Abortion

27/12/2009

manicstreetpreacher hopes he’ll be forgiven for spitting his dummy out for a brief moment.

I knew that someday I was going to die.  And I knew before I died, two things would happen to me.  That number one, I would regret my entire life.  And number two, I would want to live my life over again.

– Hubert Selby Jnr in an interview sampled at the beginning of “Of Walking Abortion”, Manic Street Preachers, The Holy Bible.

The following is the extract of a comment by Edmund Standing on his post about Rage Against The Machine winning the UK Christmas Number One:

I hate the middle class SWP pseudo-revolutionaries who have lived a nice life thanks to capitalism – and most often their parents’ bank accounts – then wank on about class struggle, the proletariat, Marx, Guevara, etc.

RATM are posterboys for that kind of shit.  Would they want to live in a ‘revolutionary’ Communist State?  In their minds I think yes.  Doubtful if it became a reality.

I don’t pretend to be some working class hero – I know I’m not. I don’t pretend to want to live in some Communist ‘utopia’ – I don’t want to.

I believe in social justice and a capitalist society that is more fair.  My pay is frankly a disgrace for the work I do (I mean my ‘real world’ work, not writing on the internet), but I’m not going to start pretending to be part of a revolutionary cadre and droning on about Marx.  I’m especially not going to think ‘fuck you I won’t do what you tell me’ is anything but stroppy teenage sentiment.

I just hate the fact that a whole load of Facebook junkies are feeling all smug for sticking a group of people who promote an ideology that resulted in the death of millions at the number one spot for Christmas.

This is my response, which I was originally going to post in direct reply to Standing, but I thought it was unfair to scar his blog with such a self righteous whine from a white middle class boy:

My pay is frankly a disgrace for the work I do

So is mine!  I probably get paid nearly twice as much as Standing, but I’ve had to spend tens of thousands in obtaining my qualifications with a university degree and a postgraduate professional skills diploma (£8K for what was a nine month course, plus living expenses while being out of work!).

I’m 27 years old.  I’ve recently qualified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.  And thanks to the recession and my former employers being a load of ungrateful, callous, twats, I’ve had to up sticks and move to the sticks because it was the only place in the country where I could get a job.  It’s about 250 miles and a nine hour coach trip home to see friends and family.

I’m renting a room in a shared house with a thirty-something electrician who has already bought and sold his own houses, runs a Land Rover and goes on holiday abroad about five times a year.

I can’t even afford to run a car and will have to inherit a lot of money or sell internal organs before I can get on the property ladder.

I had a horrible epiphany in the gym a few weeks ago that I am a product of Blair’s Britain: this buy-now-pay-back-whenever culture that has caused the credit crunch.

I feel that I was mis-sold my higher education.  “They” all said that you had to have a university education to get anywhere in the world.  “They” all said that your earning potential skyrockets if you have a degree that you’ll be able to pay it back no problem.

“They” also said that you had to have few months travelling on your CV, so I racked up £3K on a credit card during my gap year.

No one realises quite what a burden debt is until you have to start paying it back.  I now envy some of my former school colleagues who went straight into work after finishing their A Levels or even GCSEs and now have their own houses and cars.  Perhaps their earning potential is not as high as mine, but the difference is easily made up by them not having hundreds of pounds coming out of their bank accounts paying off student debts.

And don’t even get me started on the 750 quid that Gordon Brown steals from my pay cheque every month to fund his colleague’s expenses claims, red tape for doctors, teachers and policemen and allowing the NEETs to have as many children as they want free of charge.

I do at least have a private pension which is 5% of my salary after tax of course, and will then be taxed further.

Borrowing money makes you a slave to The Man.  The first loan I took out was my student loan for university when I was 18.  I accumulated £11,000 over three years to go towards my university tuition fees (another unwelcome invention of the Blair government) and some of my living costs.  The remainder was funded by taking crap summer jobs like waiting on tables and packing boxes in factories 8 – 12 hours at a time.  That debt didn’t seem to matter because I didn’t have to start paying it back until I was earning over £15,000 per annum.

I then borrowed £5,000 at the start of 2004 to buy a car because I needed one in order to commute to a new job in a location that was inaccessible to public transport.  I had worked hard during my third year at university and obtained a 2:1 overall when it looked like I would have to make do with a Desmond Tutu.  I felt that I had deserved it.  I actually left the job after less than a week after a run-in with another member of staff who is probably the most evil and disgusting person I have every met in my life.  The firm were a bunch of cowboys working for the dregs of society at any rate.  I was better off without them and found a job with a much more respectable firm shortly afterwards.

But the car loan met I was tied to The Man for good and stayed in jobs I did not enjoy simply because I needed money to keep up the repayments.

Being a male under 25 years old, car insurance was a rip off.  The car, a V-reg 1.0 litre Vauxhall Corsa was a bag of shite.  It would have been ok for a housewife to go to the shops a few times a week.  Practically every service and MOT something had gone on it that needed replacing for hundreds of pounds.  Not enough to send it to the knackers yard though.  And again, thanks to Blair and Brown, the petrol costs were obscene thanks to all the fuel duty lumped on it.

I was trying to save up for a gap year abroad.  I would have been able to travel around the world five star more than once on the amount I wasted on that horrible bucket of bolts.

I did my Legal Practice Course at The Factory of Law which entailed borrowing another £12,000.  I was rather hoping that it would be a re-run of university, except this time I would do it the way that I wanted to do it.  I would have a proper work/life balance and I would score top marks throughout the year.  My fellow-students would be mature and professional and I would have much in common with them.

It didn’t work out like that.

The tutors at the Factory did not care a hoot about you.  You were there to fill a seat, pay your fees and get through the course as quickly as possible.  I dubbed it the “Factory” of Law because they sat you on a conveyor belt, opened up your cranium and poured as much legal information as humanly possibly within 9 months and moved you on.  I was appalled by the attitude of my fellow-students.  It was the first time since leaving secondary school that I had to put up with snide comments about my dulcet English tones.  There were a few good individuals there, as long as you went out of your way to find them.

During the Legal Practice Course I acquired a training contract with a firm, but it was not due to start for a year after finishing the course.  I went travelling to New Zealand and Australia.  I had some good times.  I came home with a lot of impressive photos of snow capped peaks and red oceans of scrub.  I also had to face some of the worst shit that I have ever happened to me in my life.  Was it worth the expense and the tribulation?  The jury is still out.

Now, just over two years away from thirty I have realised that you are nobody to your employers.  A number on a balance sheet.  Someone for them to exploit.  A slave to the system.  Working for your retirement (if I can even save up enough of a decent pension before I’m 70) and then I won’t have to work anymore.   That is what the education system prepares you for; not to excel, not to stand  on your own two feet.  All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.

Little people in little houses
Like maggots small blind and worthless
The massacred innocents’ blood stains us all

Who’s responsible – you fucking are
Who’s responsible – you fucking are
Who’s responsible – you fucking are
Who’s responsible – you fucking are
Who’s responsible

A dark face to Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas Number One?

22/12/2009

manicstreetpreacher takes a brief respite from all things theocratic and gives his take on how the cunning stunt of getting RATM to Christmas Number One has a less amusing side to it.

I just couldn’t believe it.  Returning from the gym on Sunday evening checking out my RSS feeds, I saw the news that Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name” had beaten X Factor winner, Joe McElderry, to UK Christmas Number One.  The shock chart result follows a widely publicised Facebook campaign to get the US-based rap punk group to the top of the charts in order to prevent Simon Cowell from ruining the best chart of the year with yet another insult-to-housewives-choice-idenikit-sugar-manufactured-pop-dreck-famous-for-five-seconds-forgotton-just-as-quickly-waste-of-plastic.

My initial reaction was joy.  Although I never got round to downloading the track, I morally supported Rage in beating X Factor.  It was joyful slap in the face to Cowell, regardless of the fact that he is a part owner of Sony, the record company of both McElderry and Rage and therefore a share of the profits will find their way into his high trouser pocket eventually.  However, that is missing the point.  As Charlie Brooker in The Guardian put it writing mid-week before the chart was announced:

But profit isn’t the point – or at least it’s not the reason I downloaded it.  For one thing, I happen to think Killing in the Name is an excellent song, so I’ve already got something out of it.  Most importantly, it contains genuine emotion.  Even if the climactic repeated howls of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” put you in mind of a teenager loudly refusing to tidy his bedroom – as opposed to a masked anarchist hurling petrol bombs at the riot squad – there is at least an authentic human sentiment being expressed.  Zack de la Rocha is audibly pissed off.

Compare this to the pissweak vocal doodle that is Joe McElderry’s X Factor single.  For a song whose lyrics ostensibly document an attempt to gather the spiritual strength to overcome adversity and thereby attain enlightenment, The Climb is about as inspiring as a Lion bar.  It’s a listless announcement on a service station Tannoy; an advert for buttons; a fart in a clinic; a dot on a spreadsheet.  Listening to it from beginning to end is like watching a bored cleaner methodically wiping a smudge from a Formica worksurface.

But then nobody’s buying The Climb in order to actually listen to it. They’re buying it out of sedated confusion, pushing a button they’ve been told will make them feel better.  It’s the sound of the assisted suicide clinic, and it doesn’t deserve to be No 1 this Christmas.

Hear, hear.

However, the my joy had cold water thrown on it rather quickly with this post from prolific secular, pro-Israel and anti-fascist blogger Edmund Standing who pointed out that far from being mere rebels without a cause, RATM are:

[T]he musical equivalent of the Socialist Workers Party – i.e. they’re ‘revolutionary’ loons who hate the West and wish we were all living in some Soviet hellhole.

Let’s have a look at some of their views.

Starting with the band’s official website, we immediately find images of books including Che Guevara’s ‘Guerrilla Warfare’, ‘The Anarchist Cookbook’, ‘The Black Panthers Speak’, and ‘Malcolm X Speaks’. So, that’s a book on Communist revolution by a vile totalitarian, a terrorist manual, and race baiting material.

Che Guevara is of course the icon of choice for every rebellious teenager, lefty idiot, and pretentious pseudo-leftist celebrity going. The real Che was a walking nightmare…

The Che worship of people like RATM is particularly ironic, given he wanted to ban rock music.

Other influences on RATM include the far-left pseudo-scholar Noam Chomsky and the bloated fake left-winger and propagandist-for-profit Michael Moore.

In an interview with Chomsky, RATM member Tom Morello proudly stated: ‘I want you to know… Noam Chomsky books are the ones most prominently featured on the rage tour bus’.

Zack de la Rocha of RATM considers Chomsky a ‘good friend’ and cited him in an ‘anti-war’ rant at the 2007 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival…

500,000 Britons have ‘rebelled’ against Simon Cowell’s chart dominance by buying the records of an extreme left-wing band of wannabe terrorists.  The only thing that gives me hope in this situation is that the majority of those people probably haven’t got a clue about the politics of RATM, which, of course, really makes the whole ‘campaign’ all the more pathetic.

The words, “down”, “Earth” and “bump” spring to mind.  Perhaps if Standing had blogged on RATM sooner he may have stopped the campaign and McElderry would have given us the ninth Simon Cowell/ Louis Walsh manufactured for a TV audience Christmas Number One in a row…

Many of the commenters on Standing’s post have concurred with him.  However, many have begged to differ, calling him “po-faced” and that the stunt was “just a bit fun”.  Who cares about Rage’s politics?  They are a rock group who have some dodgy, hypocritical and inconsistent views.  What punk rock group does not?  Does Standing begrudge The Sex Pistols very nearly successful attempt to hijack the Jubilee Number One in 1977 for their ridiculous cut n paste ethos?

This reminds me of the occasion in 2001 when my favourite band of all time and whose moniker I have purloined for blogging purposes (so far without being slapped with a copyright action, touch wood!), Manic Street Preachers played a live gig in front of 5,000 fans at the Karl Marx theatre in Havana, Cuba in front of Fidel Castro himself.  The album they were promoting was Know Your Enemy (overall rather tepid, still containing some of their best work, quite a few guilty pleasures!) was chocked full of references to Cuba, not least of which was “Baby Elian”, regarding the fiasco in the courts over custody of a little Cuban boy called Elian Gonzalez who was found washed up in Florida following a boat disaster his mother did not survive while she was attempting to escape to America.

Everyone at the time knew that Cuba has an appalling record on human rights (although they have a cracking healthcare system if Michael Moore is to be believed, erm…), but it was the principle of the band speaking out against the relentless Americanisation of the planet in spite of the fact that everyone would much prefer to live in a McUSA rather than a Red Cuba!  The Manics have always been the biggest load of self-contradictory, ill-thought-out, slogan-ripping-off-without-actually-reading-any-deeper-into-their-heroes tools, but that’s partly why I love them so much.

I have a biography of the band R.E.M. called Fiction, first published in 2002.  Guitarist Peter Buck replied rather well to the apparent contradiction of cash-raking, corporate-cock-sucking rock stars speaking out against globalisation and capitalism.  I didn’t have my copy to hand at the time of writing, but he said something along the lines of all of us being guilty of it to an extent.  Most music magazines have adverts in their back pages that are essentially selling prostitution. What are the chances that the clothes we are wearing now were stitched together in some Taiwanese sweat-shop by an eight-year child being paid $1 a day? (Although on a balance of probabilities Mr Standing is exempt from this piece of rhetoric…)  Al Gore obviously hasn’t given up his 4X4 and jet travel as he is shown using them in An Inconvenient Truth!

The realities rendering us all hypocrites shouldn’t prevent people from rebelling against the system on the odd occasion.  If Rage Against The Machine’s politics were more influential, I think the joke would turn sour and people would know where to draw the line.

But this episode graphically demonstrates the inexplicable paradox at the heart of the public’s perception of the left-right divide.  As Boris Johnson pointed out in a piece first published in The Daily Telegraph in 2005:

Cycling through London, I check out the words on people’s T-shirts, and I was amused the other day to see the letters CCCP on someone’s chest.  Yup, folks, that’s what the fashion-conscious British youth is wearing, a celebration of the great doomed Soviet experiment of 1917 – 90.

Remind me: who was the greater mass murderer, Stalin or Hitler?  Well, Stalin is thought to have been responsible for about 50 million deaths, and Hitler for a mere 25 million.  What Hitler did in his concentration camps was equalled if not exceeded in foulness by the Soviet gulags, forced starvation and pogroms.  What makes the achievements of communist Russia so special and different, that you can simper around in a CCCP T-shirt, while anyone demented enough to wear anything commemorating the Third Reich would be speedily banged away under the 1986 Public Order Act?

On that occasion, Johnson was commenting on the death of Melita Norwood, a former Soviet spy whose crimes against the British state were only discovered in 1999 when she was aged 87.  As a result of her advanced years, the Labour government decided she was too old to prosecute.  Compare that to the way that former Auschwitz guards are (quite rightly) hunted down and thrown in the dock when they have to feed through a tube.

I disagree with my father on many political, philosophical, scientific and above all religious matters.  However, the one gem of political insight he imparted to me in my teenage years which I have retained ever since is that that you can quite literally get away with mass murder as long as you are left wing.

Why is it that the figures of the far left are deified while those at the opposite end of the political spectrum like Hitler are remembered as history’s monsters?  Instead of all those students wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “CCCP” a few years back, why didn’t they try wearing a garment displaying a swastika?  Instead of the monochrome profile of Che Guevara hanging from a million student dorm windows, what about the corpulent features of Herman Goering or his rather more gaunt counterpart in the Wehrmacht Joseph Goebbels?

It’s disgusting how Stalin is being made into a hero now.  Earlier this year, a renegade Orthodox priest displayed icons of him alongside Russian saints outside his church in St Petersburg (or Leningrad as it seems to be called again), which the Communist Party rushed to imitate en masse and distribute.  The Communist Party in Russia are petitioning the Russian Orthodox Church to have him made a saint.  The man was voted third greatest Russian of all time in a poll at the end of 2008.  At this year’s worldwide May Protests, Communists were out in force displaying icons of Stalin.

What on Earth were these people protesting against; too much freedom and democracy and a shortage of gulags and slave labour?

I read an article in The Times a few weeks ago that a school history text book has been produced under the loathsome shadow of the Putin administration which airbrushes (literally) Stalin’s crimes against humanity.  In some European countries it is a crime to deny or trivialise the Holocaust.  Why aren’t there laws against doing the same in respect of all the millions communism has killed?

But then again, aren’t we in the West slaves to commercialisation?  Isn’t that the point of Rage Against The Machine and their ilk?  Hasn’t our consumer culture left as emotional emaciated as a gulag prisoner?  For all the paradoxes, the latent contradictions, the childish political posturing, the ghastly nightmare that would ensue if they had their way, I can’t help feeling some affection for people who want to prevent society degenerating into this:

But I still know which I would prefer.  We need hypocrites like Rage Against The Machine and Manic Street Preachers to remind us how lucky we are and how much worse things could be if we had to live under the heel of Stalin, Castro or Mao.