Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What if....Todd Rundgren was MC for Mrs Thatcher's Funeral

Monday 8th April  marked the release of Todd Rundgren's latest album State and of course the death of a certain person. In view of Mrs Thatcher's views about the state I took this as a sign that I should think about what a playlist might be if Todd was asked to MC this upcoming event. Unfortunately his 'State Visit' to the UK is not for another couple of months so he will not be able to perform this function. However, due to the wonders of digital recording all we need is a docked iPod and a sound system to make your ears bleed.

Some people might see Billy Bragg as a more suitable performer for this occasion or The Jam. However, I think that would be a bit obvious and anyway I can't stand them. This is fantasy playlist for an aging progger as the best way of paying his last disrespects.

Track 1 Swing To the Right.
This song was written at the height of Reaganomics and sums up flavour of the politics of the Thatcher/Reagan right wing love in. 'Excuse me for living but I got my own worries- Like staying fat'.

Track 2 Bag Lady.
This is a pun for the playlist. On one hand it references Mrs Thatcher's handbagging of Europe. On the other hand it is a song about poverty and how the poor and homeless get ignored. During Thatcher's reign I lived in Bristol and I saw lots of mentally ill people living out on the streets as a result of psychiatric hospitals being closed without community provision being made. Homelessness and destitution became really common during the early eighties and sights of people in cardboard boxes became common.

Track 3 Johnee Jingo.   
  This is a song about people being conscripted to the army to fight on wars and ow it justified by flag waving a patriotism.
'To the man who owns the land  
We're all the same
But when his grip begins to slip
Then he'll be calling out your name
Johnee jingo
And the throne, the pulpit and the politician
Create a thirst for power in the common man
It's a taste for blood passed off as bravery
Or just patriotism hiding bigotry.'

I think these last two lines sum up the jingoism about the Argentinians around the Falklands war and how Thatcher boosted her popularity through sending soldiers off to shoot young conscripts in the name of a bleak piece of rock and how the tabloids sold loads of copies off the back of it.
Two lines of the chorus sum up how many people felt about it who said 'Not in my name'.
'Jingo don't you fight for me.
Jingo don't you speak for me.'

Track 4 Mammon.     
 A good stirring number. The target of this song is right wing Pastors. However, I think it could easily be applied to Mrs T. Although not a religious person I was disgusted that she quoted St Francis of Assisi and spoke in churches about inflation being a sin etc.
The line 'Your God is Mammon. Your God is dead.' This could be applied to Thatcher herself  in as much as the holy grail of the banking industry has turned out to be sham of smoke and mirrors. Or it could be applied to the people who idolise Thatcher.

Track 5. Honest Work.  
This is the most powerful and poignant track of all. It is about the fate of people who were thrown out of work in traditional industries in the name of modernising economies.
'I'm not afraid to bend my back
I'm not afraid of dirt
But how I fear the things I do
For lack of honest work
My family is lost to me
They could not bear the hurt
To see the state their boy is in
For lack of honest work.........
Captains of industry

Have visions and great designs
But none have room for me........
I know I’m not the only one to fall beneath the wheel
Such company cannot assuage the loneliness I feel
So many as resigned to be
Society’s debris
But I will be remembered for
The life life took from me’

I heard a man on radio 4 today talking about how he had lost his job, his home and his family as a direct result of Thatcher’s policies. This happened to whole communities in the North under Thatcher  and she showed no compassion for those people or communities. They were not even collateral damage. She seemed to relish it. It was deemed as tough but necessary medicine for people who had become complacent and dependent on union restrictive practices.   Many would agree that working practices in the UK had to change but it could have been done in a less heartless way.

Track 6 Strike.

A rousing number to unite people and remind us that a general strike could have unseated Thatcher and it could be an antidote to the worst excesses of the coalition. Every time Todd cries ‘Strike!’ the audience shout back Strike! and raise their arms.

Track 7 Who’s Sorry Now

‘Don’t surround your heart with hardness
You may someday need someone to sympathise
Before you’re crushed by your own selfishness
You must confess we are all in  
This together we....’

Speaks for itself. Thatcher’s self doctrine brought a callousness to the UK and broke down the social contract. However, ultimately we will all need other people just as Mrs T did when her health  failed her.

Track 8 Broke Down and Busted

That is the state of the country as a result of the Thatcher legacy. I never understood how banks, which don’t make anything could be seen as a major source of income generation without a healthy real economy to serve. I also couldn’t understand how service industries could be the dominant part of an economy without a manufacturing economy to serve. Or how housing could be a major asset in a country where people didn’t own much else or have the underlying wealth to pay for it.
Of course- it all turned out to be phony wealth built on easy credit and fiat money.

Track 9 Something in my Mouth

Hot off the presses from State-released this week.

‘Might be a word
Might be a kiss
There is something in my mouth
Something in my mouth for you’

Todd doesn’t say what the something is but in the case of Mrs T then for a lot of people its likely to be something you might get from the mouth of camel, a llama or a heavy smoker. So hum this pleasant ditty and use your imagination.

Track 10 Compassion

‘You’ll get no judgement from me
I can only feel compassion’.

This is a really inspirational song and preaches non-judgementalism and good will towards all beings. It seems to express the Buddhist concept of compassion and is a feeling I ought be experiencing but even to Mrs T but I am finding it really hard. Maybe Todd can move the crowd to put all our bitterness aside. It is hard especially with someone who seemed to despise kindness towards the weak.

Track 11 Love is the Answer

A real crowd pleaser and an ever popular encore song.  And for everyone present, a real antidote to Thatcherism.  

Todd Rundgren comes to the UK in June. Gigs include The Sage in Gateshead and venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and other cities.
His extensive back catalogue is available as CDs or downloads from Amazon and other distributers.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Mick Philpott and the Right Left Switcheroo

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of press coverage of the infamous Rick Philpott and his terrible crime. One of the bizarre things which I find about the coverage is that the way the story has been portrayed by both the left and right wing press seems to parody how social issues are normally covered in these outlets and brings out the shortcomings of how they respectively analyse such issues in the normal course of events.
First case in point is the Daily Mail. This newspaper constantly emphasises individual morality and individual responsibility. Social inequality and failings in the structure of society are rarely allowed to be seen as a contributing factor for social problems by this paper. Criminals are normally held as solely responsible for their actions regardless of the adversity they face in society. And yet this week, the paper concluded that a system was responsible for Someone's criminal behaviour. In this case - the benefits system. Admittedly this is not a system which sociologists normally associate with causing deviant behaviour. However, it is in some ways a watershed moment because if The Mail can believe that the benefits system can cause crime then surely it ought to be possible that other systems and institutions and factors such as structural inequality might also affect people's behaviour and that to everyone can be equally held personally responsible for all of their actions all of the time.
Meanwhile, the Guardian, in trying to deflect the idea that that the benefits system could be a factor in the crime, reached a watershed of its own. They actually admitted for once that individuals have responsibility for their own actions regardless of what systems or societal Influences they may have been subject to. This paper which would normally see Philpott's disgusting sexism towards his partners as a result of a patriarchal society were arguing strongly in a big headlines 'Don't let Philpott off the hook' and describing his behaviour as criminal rather than a response to a broken society. In order to counter the Daily Mail assertions the Guardina had to discover free will and individual responsibility.
Of course there are lots of other factors which might go towards explaining Philpott's terrible behaviour: evolutionary psychologists would look at the reproductive value of his anti-social behaviour ( he has been a prolific father) towards women and point to a genetic component in his behaviour style. Learning theorists would look to the sort of be hour he had winsessed in his childhood environment and I could go on and on.
The true fact is that no single theory or perspective can in itself explain a whole set of events or the psychology of an individual.
It would be nice if the turnabout of the left and right newspapers learnt from this that no single theory or view of human psychology can explain our society or any of the individuals in it. In any case people do have free will and are not just passive victims in a deterministic world.
This is something we also need to remember as educationalists. We must teach the full diversity of biological, behavioural, social and societal factors which influence human behaviour as well as are unique capacity amongst animals for reflection and development and not just a narrow discourse from sociology.
I don't hold out much hope of change from biased newspapers whether they be on the left or right or from people with a strong political ideology. I do have faith in education.