Even over 2 years ago this ‘Mary Celeste’ looming over the town centre brought concern, even if this concern was more about practicalities; a friend of a friend told me about the huge daily cost of crane hire; the accompanying crane is still there, waiting in vain anticipation.But the costs merely seem to add to the farce of the world that left it stranded. The building is a haunting from the world that was before the economic crash. Stood there, waiting to be clothed with walls, furnishings and busy busy people. But just like the
uneaten breakfast on The Mary Celeste, it doesn’t look like the builders are returning to finish off, as if they also vanished when that pre-collapse real was shattered.
It’s strange when thinking about how the crash happened nearly 4 years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago; when we are wrapped in a mediated-sensibility that is forever anticipating the return to this reality, for things to ‘get going again’, it feels like that event has never ceased being ‘what happened yesterday’.
Of course, back in ‘The Noughties’ things were far from being easy; it didn’t take much to notice the transparency of the business ethic that was draping all institutions in its shiny vacuity, and it didn’t take much to notice how many were excluded from this all smiles world when one walked around their town centre after 6pm and saw the distinct lack of smiles there. It also didn’t take much to realise that wars for oil and stupidly hot summers were clear indication that the finite planet would put an end to these capitalist fun and games.
Of course, I wouldn’t be making the point that it was OK back then anyway, and this isn’t the point of this bit of writing. However, before the crash, if you squinted hard enough, to only see the lights of the brightest/tallest buildings, and smiles of those able to afford teeth whitener, and also managed to squint hard enough to squeeze out the truth about your own alienation, one could momentarily lie to themselves and think “yeah, it’s not too bad yet, and I’m sure things’ll get sorted”.
This world is very similar to today’s, yet at the same time it also feels a million miles away. We know that things are going to get worse under the same set of rules, and we know we are going to have to fight really hard to make for something better – and this is really really daunting to people who can’t quite fully believe what they know: that they have nothing left to lose (at present I am still one of these people.)
When I see this Skeleton and its crane I am reminded about the sadness of the passing of time, and the utter strangeness, the other-worldliness that can hit you when you give something like this building more than a fleeting glimpse. For this skeletal structure time seems to have frozen, allowing us to glimpse back at a place that is over 4 years from us now, a place made to feel closer to us through the ominous anticipation of its return, but the sheer oddness of thing frozen in time makes this place seem more like another world away, and I think this is closer to the truth.
There’s certainly something that makes me feel very uneasy about being at ease with things in the year 2012, like I’ve accidentally pressed the snooze button on my wake-up-gotta-help-change-the-world alarm clock. With so much at stake, I’m walking around, still boozy from the previous night, too calm, way too calm, already in the storm and not even noticing it!
A weekly requirement has started to reveal its strange and disconcerting motives. An requirement that so many share, but which is so often not due to an addiction to alcohol. I can’t get through a week without heading out somewhere to intoxicate/semi-intoxicate myself at least once. But it isn’t so much the enjoyment of being drunk; there’s something more which this whole ‘heading out and getting drunk’ polava provides. Around the socially-dictated high point of the week (Friday evening to Saturday night), if I realise that I’m going to be stuck in on my own I feel massively discontent, no matter how little I want to go sit in a town centre Weatherspoons or Lloyds Bar. The weighty cultural suggestions around me send me into a text messaging frenzy, in aide of finding someone who’ll accompany me on a mission to relieve myself of this tension.
A few months ago I was partaking in an event (or more happening) in Sheffield which had links, due to a cohesion of objectives, with lots of other events going on around the same period. It was all very promising: the happening I was part of, named Pandemic (as in something all-inclusive, and something that can re-emerge at any time), is the antithesis of ‘the event’ as climatic conclusion of all previous hype. However, despite what was, or could be achieved, a day of such promising events never ever seemed to be fulfilled without the conclusive ‘mission complete’ feeling that a few (or many) drinks at the end of the day could provide (perhaps for myself more so). I was looking through photographs on Facebook of one of the linked events I couldn’t get to. The event sounded very interesting, yet most of the photo’s shown seemed to be of the ending part when people were drunk. Why do we need to have a certain degree of intoxication to feel that a day, which feels like it should be eventful, has been concluded?
Back to today, as I walk around a city centre after a reasonably heavy night, I feel relatively over-relaxed about things; I am not half as concerned about getting things done that I was so adamant about getting done the day before. I’ll just go go home, eat heartily, piss around on the Internet and then go to sleep. Now, this in itself is by no means a sin, but it is state of being that is poles apart from the me of yesterday who was so much in tune with his concerns. However, it was also true that yesterday I was certainly anticipating heading out to give myself an half-decent blasting with alcohol in the evening. A drug providing one with a conclusive feeling to a day that has supposed to have been (or suggested to you that it ought to be) eventful.
Whilst participating in this series of happenings in Sheffield, I mentioned about these photos from this other happening to a friend (and co-organiser of Pandemic). Not at all to be critical of the way it turned into a drunken occasion, but precisely putting the question to both of us as to why events seem to need this end from the participators. We more or less suggested that this conclusive feeling, the feeling that confirms to oneself that “things are now complete now I am drunk, I can go to sleep now, satisfied”, is a compensation for the inconclusiveness of events that are suggested to be the ends for the means themselves, and also, and more fundamentally, it is a compensation for the inconclusive and often seemingly meaningless end to a day in one’s life.
I will continue to argue that we live under a social system that has exacerbated so many social issues to the point of being critical, and I’d argue that this odd problem is ever-more critical in our present times when everything is hyped up to the extent that so much never feels adequate, like it neither ever fulfils nor even arrives. But when one lives in a time when they are encouraged, by the language of advertising and neoliberal society on a whole, to feel that they are supposed to be having fun or experiencing something (or at least making plans to do so) all the time, days can very quickly feel incomplete/inconclusive meanders, making them seem so meaningless and empty when they aren’t packed with life-affirmation. Does this have some relation to the so called “binge drinking” culture, we are suppose to be suffering with in Britain? Well, yes, completely: the intoxication brings a feeling of finalisation and conclusion to our days which demand this of us ever more. Perhaps binge drinking culture isn’t the right term though? maybe a conclusion-searching culture, a satisfaction-needy culture, or, more to the point, a desperately-grasping-for-meaning culture?
Once we have undergone this process, the sense of a finalisation to something comes over us, that is physically powerful enough to give a feeling of completion to the week that’s been (perhaps?.) This gives us a needed satisfaction; a sense of meaning, and allows us to make ‘new weeks’ resolutions’ (yes, the weekend is a smaller model of the Christmas/New Year period) to do exactly the same again, once we climb out of bed on Monday morning and become (re)drenched in the social system’s asks of us.
The alcohol-made satisfaction, and the hazy and tired feeling the day after, makes for citizens who don’t want for much, and don’t care for much but some at-hand comforts such as hearty food and easy-watching television. One becomes as close to being ‘zombiefied’ as they can get. Nothing stirs you as much as it should: News that private security firms are being invited to take on roles that the police usually do is an ‘alarm bell’ of a story for sure, but my alarms are muffled by the lethargy induced by the drink.; then there’s the news about Police and Security ‘services’ blacklisting individuals involved in industrial action against the government’s Draconian measures (although this information may have been purposefully disclosed, but made to look accidental, to scare people away from taking action against government measures in fear of losing all hope of finding work, thus It’s likely I ought to remain passive to this news!)
This is one of the few weekends I have had free for a while. I wanted to write a blog about how climate change has dangerously slipped from the public imagination, and that the belief that it isn’t happening (or at least that humanity isn’t causing it) has risen. But I’m here walking around a Late capitalist backpack destination (a large art gallery) finding much to feel secure and satisfied about (again, not sins in themselves). I know climate change is still the mother of all issues, but for some reason my alarm bell reserved solely for this issue seems to be ringing much quieter than usual. I hope I haven’t fallen for the general cultural lethargy towards this issue. This is why the weekly alcoholic anaesthetising is but a player within the larger societal structure that’s always doing its best to numb us to anything that doesn’t ring its loudest alarm bells. The economy? Yes. Growth? Yes Consumer Spending? Yes. But the gigantic monster awoken by capitalism (Climate Change)? No, forget it – not now people can’t afford to shop ‘greener’.
I confidently reckon that Michael Stipe of R.E.M was alcoholically anaesthetised when he first wrote down his famous lyrics “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine”: something really bad is likely unfolding, is probably unfolding, but I feel way too snug to move and do anything about it. The threat of climate change isn’t directly linked to alcoholic anaesthetising, but as I say above it’s a player in a societal pressure on us to forget about anything outside the immediate gaze.
With initially morbid consequences, climate change (climatic chaos) needs to be put back into the public imagination in the ominously sounding 2012. It needs to be seen as the bed fellow to capitalism, to show how much we need rid of both; a continuous connecting of the two, like the other unwanted coalition we have been forced into a battle to stop; the Con-Dem’s. With so much that demands critical and thorough thought and debate from many of us (if the 21st century isn’t going to be a more action packed and gory sequel to the 20Th century horror show), here in the UK we have a government with a brutally simplistic world-view (allowed for by the, as of yet, mega pampered ride upon this earth that most of them have had) whose stampede against democracy, and everything that requires consideration, reflects this. We have a ‘leader’ here in the UK who has come out against what he called “anti-business snobbery” seeping into national debate (which roughly translates as “people who are critical of capitalism being put before the needs of human beings”) saying with sheer fucking stupidity that business “is the most powerful force for social progress the world has ever known”.
But as stupid as this is and as anti-capitalist as I am, I wouldn’t try to deny it that capitalism has also enabled technology to advance at a pace unknowable before its appearance, and we need highly advanced technology to try to prevent the environmental crisis we have started from killing most of us off. Yet, I think we can still see the moon landings from over 40 years ago as the pinnacle of technological progress, and they are certainly the icon of that peak. I don’t mean by this that technology itself hasn’t advanced since then, but that the more ruthless (neoliberal/free market) capitalism pushed its way through during the decade following 1969, only to reel in more ambitious, and also more socially progressive ideas for technological use, into the palms of the global market, for pure commercial benefit, to which any claim that the resources and funds weren’t there for better usage can be refuted due to the rapid shift of resources/money into fewer and fewer hands during this period (and what a waste!) The technology is there to build a better world; capitalism may have helped it along, but the better world and capitalism cannot co-exist.
Yet we are still at a stage where the governments and mainstream media (those who get their words heard by majority more than anyone else) do everything within their means to convince us that anything but the continuation of capitalism is impossible. So, instead of getting started on tackling the issues that really matter, such as addressing increasing poverty (in all areas of the world), addressing increasing discontent (in all areas of the world), and addressing the huge environmental issues (in all areas of the world), all that is showered down on us is the need to get the economy (capitalism) growing again. We are kept passive to the other issues; even if in some cases we are already experiencing them ourselves, they still aren’t a big issue because the panic buttons in society aren’t going.
But it’s fast approaching a stage where it is taking everything and leaving nothing. This simplistic idea that “capitalism gives us things, that it provides us with decent lives” may have had some truth at the peak of its compromise with the welfare state, but it’s validity as a statement has been fading away since. But now it’s also close to taking a liveable planet away. Everything being taken away needs to be woven together into a cohesive rejection of capitalism, because bagaining with it to leave us at least something behind is very unlikely to work. Perhaps the crucial factor about the aforementioned news above about Police and Security ‘Services’ blacklisting workers involved in industrial action is that the government aim is to fragment groups, so as to pick them off one by one. It just made me think of how if the system reduces everything down to isolated incidents, which allows it (the system) be too massive to be in line for accusation, and how the reverse needs to be done to succesfully accuse it: weeving all the carnage left behind by it into one cohesive message saying “no more”.
I hoped a friend who lives down here could have met me beforehand, to gain a bit more confidence from not being so utterly alone, but ended up having to work today. People have busy lives, I shouldn’t rely on them to give make me feel more at ease in my surroundings. I suppose I wanted them to be here to see who I really am, as one reveals so many truths about what they are made of when they are in environments they feel very uncomfortable in.
One’s cultural upbringing is seeping out from scars that were supposed to be long gone. “I know I’ll make ‘school boy’ errors when in there” one thinks to themselves, “how the hell can I ‘hold my own’ in conversation with this tutor who is going to be proper clever and know so much?” As much as you’ve fought against lowly assumptions of yourself, and you look at the progress you’ve made in that fight, at times like this it feels like you’ve still got a real long way to go. They certainly aren’t shaken from your shoulders. No matter how intensely I keep reminding myself that it is the cultural environment I’ve been raised in that still tells me “I shouldn’t be in such an highly place” and that “these places aren’t for the likes of me” these words feel to be physically pushing into me, like a school uniform that is too small for me, not daring to move my shoulders much in case I accidentally tear my clothes.
If only one of my friends who now live around here could see the real me now; see how naked I am at in this environment; how the barriers that usually hide now reveal everything; where everything negative anyone has ever said to me is crawling on my skin(even how using the words me and naked in the same sentence still conjures up fears of being laughed at in front of the class at school!) Then they could see why it has taken me such a long time, right up until my late 20’s to find myself in a building like this.
But I’m scared of the tutor in there seeing my nerves that I cannot hide – I’m going to speak to her about doing an MA in Culture Studies when I am the culture study! I bet she’s used to talking to really confident people who can assure her of their capability ( I picture a young man, perhaps two years younger than me, and a good few inches taller, who doesn’t walk with his shoulders so tensed-up that it’s like he’s constantly on a crowded train). But this is no help; feeling inferior to person you’ve made up in your head.
But then I try to remind myself that I’m here partly to help put that past behind me. But what if it catches up with me/keeps on finding me? Always presenting the caste of a downtrodden, easy-to-be-stupid-and-wrong me? Always taking perceived natural position below others. Always assuming that if there’s been a misunderstanding between yourself and another that it is naturally your fault. No! Don’t let this win! Well, I’m here now. At least we’ll get the chance to see if all of this is true now: that the culture embedded in me, assumes that I’m not clever enough to study, well, erm, culture…?
Perhaps I should write these thoughts down that I’m currently having whilst waiting for the froth in the cup to turn back into drinkable coffee, and use them to aide my application…………?
(I suppose writing this is a melancholy act. Even though my love affair with the music of Oasis has been over for over a decade, their music is still the soundtrack for a point in my early high school days in the mid-to-late 1990’s when things looked really bright around me, and society seemed cheery and optimistic [even if we realise how naive this was, looking back]. My friend gave me a cassette in 1996 with their best-seller ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’ taped onto it. It seemed to capture the essence of my then blissful excitment for the future, from a time when even the smell of Lynx Atlantis deodorant seemed to smell of good feeling. But it wasn’t just me, the 1990’s had fooled most into optimism for things to come; the ‘tracksuit’ wearing youth, who the band would later scorn, were walking around the ex-coal mining villages I spend my days in, playing Oasis, alongside Happy Hardcore tape’s on their portable tape players, and the name of the band was even sprayed onto many walls up and down. It Seemed like they had meaning for everyone, and it took me a while to realise that, to quote Morrissey, they said “nothing to me about my life” – Oasis truly were The Motorcycle Emptiness. But these illusions are gone now, and it’s time to brush away the cobwebs made by those dated-voices who still half-maintain them. Well, this is part of a tearing away of the remaining cobweb strands.)
Reading the sleeve booklet for The Stone Roses: Tenth Anniversary CD, when only 16 years old, reading about “the gruesome simplicity of Oasis”, to contrast them with The Stone Roses, I thought it was merely referring to their musical style. Little did I know, or like to admit back then (being a high school kid still very much in awe of the ‘Britpop’ icons), that this was also reflected in the Gallagher brothers’ attitudes. But this was ‘so-so’ in the period from 1995 to 2001, when the illusion of The End of History, allowed for people with nothing reasonable to say to be revered, because no threat was posed from their ‘give a shit’ and clumsy remarks. Now, in a time which might as well be a million years from the late 1990’s, these dated-voices are indeed gruesome.
There’s no doubt The Daily Mail had reason to tweak what Noel Gallagher said in the article featuring the songwriter’s most recent ‘views’ (so as to show that “it’s ok for so-called working class heroes to become part of the establishment as long as they can make it out of poverty”). But whether Noel’s comments did or didn’t praise Thatcher is of no real relevance: his “I couldn’t give a shit” attitude (which is as course and as dated as any of the Top Gear Crew’s), and his simplification of desperately complicated social issues, now he as the wealth to keep himself and his family well out of reach of society’s growing number of desperate people (according to the Mail he “vows to send his sons to private school”,); this attitude is as right wing as the Daily Mail and is itself a Thatcherite attitude.
I will return further on to the question asking whether we should be criticising Noel or criticising the reason why celebrity voices are projected over other more sensible voices. But, in the present context, there’s no getting away from a reality where celebrity voices such as Noel Gallagher’s do permeate the four walls of our homes with ease, and are revered by the many that do listen to those icons to which they associate their own identity with inside this star-system complex inside ‘the society of spectacle’. And one must take into account how damaging reckless well-heard opinions can be.
One needn’t look far to find those who are inspired by his so-called “No Nonsene” straight-talk. A blog post from 2007 pits Oasis against Radiohead, using quotations from a Guardian article on Noel. Using a faux-soft-but-really-quite-fierce sense of nationalist pride to state, in favour of Oasis over Radiohead, “Noel is of course exercising the right of every free-born Briton – the right to take this piss. In fact, it’s not a right but a duty. The average Brit would much rather be thought to be an ignorant no-nothing than a pretentious wanker”. Well, forgive me for not wanting to be an average ‘Brit’. But also forgive me for abstaining from using this myth of an eternal national identity to think of ourselves in this way, as it requires a blanking out of the cultural constructs that helped maintain state power during uncertain times such as the expansion of industrial capitalism and the second world war; also, if you haven’t noticed, the last 3 consecutive governments have been doing their very best to erase these ‘freedoms’ and ‘born-rights’ that ‘us Brit’s’ possess – can’t be that eternal can they then?
Perhaps Noel’s most damaging comments in the Daily Mail were his simplified views on young people and, in particular, on last summer’s riots here in the UK. He makes sweeping statements that, whilst containing face value truths, are intentionally discriminatory: “There was a work ethic – if you were unemployed, the obsession was to find work. Now, these kids brought up under the Labour party and whatever this coalition thing is, it’s like forget that, I’m not interested. I wanna be on TV”. He makes an easy diagnosis, and then does what is all so convenient for a cultural icon who now has the ability to separate himself from all that goes off below him; refusing to understand the causations, and the complexities that are rubbing together down on the streets with ever-increasingly ferocity, as he sits back in his stylish home absorbed in his dated, out-of-context-Mod-cultured world view (most likely).
Over the past month I have been without a job (as my job almost mockingly gets the best out of the workers for 10 months, only to momentarily let us go, without pay, with little savings at the most dismal time of the year) and having been in the Jobcentre a few times of late, I can inform Noel Gallagher that there is “a work ethic” now; people are desperate to work, they are fed up with the lack of hope of any reasonable future for them, and they are angry about it – as the work just isn’t there. Both men who spoke to me today skillfully controlled their rage, but you could see the anger building, an anger that is building not just in the JobCentre, but all over the nation, and Noel Gallagher is so out of date with views that have had no bearing on reality since the 1990’s that he just cannot understand this. Yet we still hear from him (and see his daughter being groomed into a model to become another face in the star-complex at only 11 years of age, although that’s another matter, another Daily Mail matter that is!)
Whilst sitting and waiting, a man who looks fed up with life (you can genuinely see it in peoples’ faces) walks over to a Jobsearch machine (Jobsearch machines, noticeably, make the ‘job-searcher’ scrunch his face up – it’s a defensive mechanism saying “you lot don’t fool me, whoever you are” to the patronising act of having to search these machines for non-existing jobs, feeling that somebody’s taking the piss.) As this man turned to face the screen I noticed that the word money was sewn into the back of his branded jacket. It was a bitter juxtaposition; a social-control system held together by the domination of the necessity of individual social status and general attractiveness being based on acquisition, material wealth, and the act of making it public as glamour, and the poorest in society so desperately need the loudest of items to showcase what they so desperately need, in order to feel some self-respect and self-worth; hence the poorest wear the words of that which systemically makes them the lowest of the low. And this gap, between the riches and the poor, increases under right-wing governance: increased misery whilst surrounded by an increase of capitalism’s aspirationalism in society.
And now we have a rough-draft diagnosis for the summer riots! (in a sense the certainty of further riots is sown into the stitching in brand logos that seek our love.) Troubled events which Noel Gallagher ‘gruesomely’ simplified into a duality between what was going on in “Syria and Egypt” where “people were rioting for freedom. And these kids in England are rioting for tracksuits” to which he added “it’s embarrassing”. Embarrassing for whom? A proud ‘Brit’? He then went on to say, regarding the match thrown onto tinder sticks – the police shooting of Mark Duggan – “it’s all on Twitter and before you know it there’s a riot going on. It was mass robbery and I was embarrassed to be Mancunian”.
Usually finger-pointing is counter-productive, but because, as I said above, his words are heard well above more thoughtful words, I am going to make the point of the hypocrisy in this. Noel Gallagher scorning those who steal, when it is all-but empirical knowledge that Noel ,and his even simpler brother Liam, stole from cars and houses in Manchester to get enough money to pay for the musical equipment they needed in order to become the faces in the star-system complex which they have become. Noel Gallagher was stealing to fund something that gave meaning to him. Fair enough; poverty makes crime, and it’s becoming even harder for people from the lower working class backgrounds to have the opportunity to become musicians (read Owen Hatherley’s Uncommon for a more detailed account on why there were very few ‘Brit’ bands from the 1990’s who weren’t from affluent backgrounds.)
Inequality in society has increased more so since Noel was committing robbery in the 80’s/90’s, whilst consumerism and the publicity needed to fuel it has swallowed up even more of culture. Such a society both eradicates meaning, as commodification enters even more walks of life, whilst fuelling feelings of desperation through making us feel we can do nothing but try to boost our own status within this hall of mirrors. But many cannot afford to, and the future looks to be getting bleaker for many. Riots where people steal as many consumer items as they can carry don’t happen for the simplistic reasons you dispel from your mouth, Noel. That’s a very Thatcherite attitude you’ve got there ‘mate!’ (Make no bones about it; all the signs say these riots will reoccur. And when these are the comments that get heard in society, one can see that the causations haven’t only been unaddressed, but that these ‘tindersticks’ may be getting even drier.)
In an NME interview, following the one in The Daily Mail, where he tried to reproach the tinting to his words which made him sound like he liked Margaret Thatcher, Noel ended by saying “Also, for the record, on the day she [Thatcher] dies we will party like it’s 1989. Just so you know”. But it’s a defunct reply: holding up a collaged image of the working class heroes has no context whilst one uses Thatcherite dialectic to describe what’s happening to the lower working class now. Hating Thatcher the individual is far easier than opposing the social engineering she oversaw, the very social engineering that has taken 30 years to cook up these big problems in society, and is especially easy to do once you’ve finally benefitted from it (as is exemplified in comments made in The Daily Telegraph in 2008, where he blames Margaret Thatcher for the increase in knife crime in Britain, but explains the current situation saying “It’s horrible. It’s not just in London, I was up in Liverpool the other day and it’s the same there. The scumbags are taking over the streets”- but assuming Noel wasn’t threatened by someone with a knife, nor witnessed a stabbing, he’s obviously just making comments about people who he thinks are scumbags, which sounds like he’s also caught the disease of seeing large swathes of the population as ‘undeserving poor’ also commonly known by the awful term ‘Chavs’.)
But if the pre-fame Gallagher’s were in a pre-fame position today they too might have been on the streets of Manchester rioting. The ‘Gangster’ music which he abhors might have seemed more appropriate to his life, with its talk about the harsh realism of being at the bottom yet being constantly shown images of superstars, than the loved-up psychedelia of his much beloved The Beatles; the Britain of the 1960’s, or (more accurately) the Britain of a small area of London which is now projected back to us as if it was the whole of Britain, is so irrelevant to the Britain that we now live in that going to Indie Disco’s which play 1960’s songs, and their 1990’s take-offs, feels like entering The Land That Time Forgot, even more than stereotypically-uncultured northern town centres are supposed to.
In fact Noel’s simplistic attitude is echoed by many of the always-had-a-silver-spoon rich in this country who wish to see changes brought in that would take back democratic right from the likes of the pre-fame Gallagher’s. His disregard for those at the bottom of society in 2012 resonates with the ideas being spouted by Ian Cowie in The Daily Telegraph, for example, who’s idea for an ‘alternate’ voting system where voting is restricted “to people who actually pay something into the system” barring anybody who pays less that £100 of tax a year sounds like a rolling back of democratic rights to the Victorian times to me. This was a blog brought to my attention by George Monbiot in The Guardian this week, in which Cowie also managed to find the space to praise the British Empire’s one time control of the world, where “property-based voting eligibility” (a denial of voting rights for anyone who doesn’t own a property) “worked quite well when the parliament administered not just Britain but the rest of the world”; and in a funny way this all seems to resonate back again to Noel Gallagher, when he used to wield a Union Jack-covered Epiphone guitar on stage, as he lifted riffs from 1960’s psychedelic bands, who had already heavily borrowed sounds from colonies Britain had only just then recently let go (albeit borrowed with much more respect and appreciation); namely India.
But the problem isn’t with Noel Gallagher. The problem is that Noel Gallagher’s words (like Jeremy Clarkson’s, and even, although I respect him infinitely more, Morrissey) are revered by many in society. Why do their views become so important? To be fair, Noel Gallagher would be the first to admit he’s no sociologist, no critical theorist of contemporary culture – he rarely speaks to a paper without slagging university off! Although one needn’t have been to university be thoughtful about the world, Noel clearly isn’t. He’s got nothing of real worth to say. But yet his words have been made into something more.
The words of a star must be seen to be of more worth than yours or mine; they must be able to command respect to provide legitimacy for the society of spectacle that plucks them up into the limelight at random, in order for it to maintain its dominance. Its star-complex halos over us, keeping us hooked on the dreams of the respect and adoration that fame provides, even if it is necessary at times to block out certain faces who fall from grace. Noel Gallagher’s presence, his words and cobbled-together version of British working class identity, appeals as meaningful for many, and it can help mould an whole section of personalities around a narrow image. Whilst he commands more cultural respect than the faces who cover gossip magazines, he essentially has the same function, for a different section of people, whose impetus on difference from the ‘lower’ cultural faces is nothing of a difference on comparison with what makes them the same.
This structure has been maintained in what are still called western democracies since before World War 2. But its dominance has increased, massively helped by the fall of a disastrous-example of communism near to the end of the last century (although it had its own kind of spectacle, essentially a state capitalist dictatorship one) allowing it to cover the globe. All that was once classed as counter-cultural to the spectacular machine has been absorbed and reconstituted, killing off artists who couldn’t deal with their commodification. Noel Gallagher was so far already past the point of being anything that the great reconstitutor of past sounds that he was, that this would never occur to the likes of him.
However, can we now find hope, in how out of date their voices are, possibly signifying that the whole structure of control cannot maintain itself anymore? Their almost “let them eat cake” understanding of the scale of the problems in the world almost eludes to a likelihood the capitalist system’s requirement of the society of the spectacle for social dominance isn’t functioning properly anymore. It’s only a faint hope (I feel it necessary to end thoughts on things with a positive tone these days, to keep my spirits up in the face of all the sad sights I see and hear of in town centres), but it seems to resonate with a questioning of where the hell capitalism can go from here to maintain itself. For good or bad, it is very unlikely that there will be new high points within British culture, under our current social system, to save people for ever-more desperately clinging to its past.
To paraphrase the last words in Richard Seymour’s ‘The Meaning of David Cameron’; What is the meaning of Noel Gallagher? He means it’s time to accept the world needs big changes, and also, to quite appropriately (in the context of Noels inability to grasp the meaning of Radiohead) use some Thom Yorke lyrics, there can be “No more talk about the old days; it’s time for something great”.