The Smart E’s “Sesame’s Treet” bleeped through the hills of a west country location in 1991. There was an air of delight and mirth when someone pointed to the ridge yonder. “Look,” they chuckled, “the pigs are dancing!” Story checked out, I turned my head to witness a couple of police officers jumping and waving their arms, mocking the fashion of a dancing raver. Imitation we never took to heart, ravers were tongue-in-cheek about their chosen music; repetitive beats over a children’s tv theme was comical nostalgia, and not supposed to be taken seriously. As for the police, seemed as individuals observing, they saw the simple truth that there was no harm in what we were doing. Yet there was always hate in the establishment they took orders from, and we were months away from being grounded by force.
Hysterical measures by a desperate conservative government, who failed to see the value we held for something they couldn’t understand, an electronic art movement, principally, a modern folk music.
Authoritarians detest art, least the progression of art, seems to me. And it has been plaguing my mind of recent. Freedom of expression, they fear, encourages liberation, unrest and consequently, rebellion. Munich, 1937; Third Reich leaders combined two opposing art exhibitions into one, the “Great German Art Exhibition.” The first hall featured art which Hitler considered suitable, orthodox and representational, lots of flaxen folk gallantly posed like Roman deity sculptures, and local idyllic rural sceneries.
The second displayed what Hitler deemed “degenerate art,” contemporary, progressive and mostly abstract. But they ensured it was demoted, through exhibiting it callously, with disorder, and bestowing dissuading labels on it, describing “the sick brains of those who wielded the brush or pencil.” Hitler pushed stringent boundaries onto German artists, because he figured art was key to the rise of Nazism and his vision for the future.
Damn, he hated the Bauhaus. Forced the art school to close in 1933. Their angular designs which would herald the most efficient revolution of modernist architecture, were deemed communist intellectualism by the Nazi regime; give them an archaic Spalato Porta Greek arch, or be shot!
I see humour as my art, my aim is to make you laugh, whenever possible. In a week where a keyboard warrior reported me to Facebook for an ironic slate at Boris Johnson, yet a grammatically atrocious meme, stating they need not pay for a holiday, when purchase of a dinghy from Argos will see them put up in a hotel, is hailed as hilarious, I receive a message of eternal doom for the grassroots music industry, from a professional musician.
Gone, it seems, are the days of eighties “alternative comedy” of the Footlights, of Ben Elton and Rick Mayell scornfully ridiculing Thatcherism. Gone is the echoing mantra of Joe Strummer demanding “a riot of our own.” Today the art of comedy, and music, barely touches political matter, and never takes risks. Humour is subjective, as is all art, I accept this, but art enriches our lives, provides joy and entertainment, and should never be curbed or censored. Yet we find a consistent urge by blossoming traditionalists to dampen the spirit of artists.
The Trump administration eliminated the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. An annual $150 million is a devastating blow to the industry, yet hardly major cost-cutting as it weighs in at only 0.004 percent of the federal budget. Akin to the ethos of the “Great German Art Exhibition,” history is peppered with examples of right-wing philosophy opposing art. The Stalinists enforced stringent principles of style and content, to ensure it served the purposes of state leadership, methodically executing the Soviet Union’s Ukrainian folk poets, according to the composer and pianist, Dmitri Shostakovich. Just as Chile’s coup of 1973, when Augusto Pinochet tortured and exiled muralists. Singer, Víctor Jara was murdered, his body presented publicly as a warning to others.
In the UK, the reopening of lockdown restrictions despite the pandemic still mounting, where it seems perfectly acceptable to travel to foreign lands on a luxury holiday and return without quarantine, where we are encouraged to shop till we drop and eat out in restaurants to save the food industry, and it’s commonly accepted our children will be used as lab rats in a herd immunity experiment, a government, who let’s face it, should have imposed a lockdown sooner, as was the example of every other developed nation worldwide, rather than fail to attend meetings with the World Health Organisation, and use unreliable companies to supply software and PPE to help combat the virus, simply because they are mates of theirs, will not allow us to have a sing-song in a pub.
Now, at first, I accepted the possible threat, but in light of recent lessening of restrictions, I fail to comprehend the logic in this, in continuing the restrictions on art and music. Given the historical facts surrounding the authoritarian’s apparent hatred of art, I am beginning to fear the virus is a being used as a convenient excuse to suppress and suspend creativity. Oi, loony leftie, shut up, stay in your home and watch the celebrity Pointless special.
I suggested, didn’t I, art is subjective? If Hitler liked the conventional, representative of Renaissance tradition, it was his prerogative, but there was no need to kill everyone simply because he couldn’t draw horses very well. Since the invention of photography can duplicate precise imagery, artists seek expression, inimitability and design according to their own mind. If it constitutes liberal or reformist ideals, why should it be devalued by opposing attitudes? The problem arises when oppression is enforced, freedom will return the fire, and will be back, refreshed, to bite them on the bum!
Just as the Jamaican JLP party of the right, battled burgeoning Rastafarians into the Wareika Hills in the 1950s, and labelled them “Blackheart Men,” or bogeymen, yet the surge of reggae and the popularity of Bob Marley today sees Rastas accepted in Jamaican society for the tourism it attracts, The Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 did nothing to control travellers in the UK. Less than a decade later the free party scene metamorphized into a rave generation which saw youths rally to support them. You cannot curb progressive movements in any art without risking a wave of rebellion. Ironically, the very thing they’re trying to prevent.
We’ve seen a return of the rave, police fearing a riot if they try to prevent them, but they reflect nothing of the magnitude of the nineties, yet. Unless grassroots music venues and pubs who were regularly supplying live music are reopened, even if that means social distancing measures are in place, it is inevitable you will open a gapping underground and future generations will strike back. This does nothing for the values conservatives uphold, or their vision of a totalitarian future, but furthermore severely punishes every professional in the arts industry from rock star to sound engineer, every prospering new performer in an era formerly to lockdown, I see equivalent to those swinging sixties; a time I suspect most baby boomers of tory ethos hold dear. An era where every youth was in a band, and focused on music rather than belligerent misdoings.
Yet still, gammons, I believe is the modern terminology, if the left is snowflake, persist in whinging about how youths have no respect, how they were flaunting rules in the park, gathering, conspiring, they so suspect, against them. What if they are, though probably just socialising as they likely once did in their younger years, what if they’ve some masterplan to overthrow this Tory charade; they surprised by this? How egocentrically imprudent, how selfishly insular. This is people’s livelihoods they are toiling with. As Bob Marley once said, “a hungry man is an angry man.”