There’s a Bugsy Malone splurge gun massacre of class, politics and populism going on right now.
It was there prior to St Theresa’s whistle-blow announcement. She simply stuck a rocket pack on it all.
And for those of you who haven’t noticed; creativity, culture and the arts are slap bang in the middle of it all. And they’re getting it in the neck.
The news tells us that the working classes are on the march. That BREXIT was a vote fuelled by those left behind by global capitalism and its increasingly wealthy adherents.
And that BREXIT and populism are in some way proxy wars between the Haves and Have Nots. With a smattering of Saxon (serfs) v. Norman (lords) and suburb (Farage) v. urb (Cameron).
Terry & June have raised a flag and cried for England, Harry and some Saint’s flag we bought off the Genoese.
But the papers still like to present this as the old school cap doffing boot wearing (and traditionally socialist leaning and union advocating) working class stuffing it to the Top Hatted (and Right of centre) toffs with their Bunter-esque Trunks of Tuck shop plenty and fancy ways.
If you hadn’t being paying attention (and had been totally ignoring the role of little England in all of this) Brexit was an action against the establishment by a working class constituency bereft and defeated by relentless years of other people’s plenty being rubbed in their face.
And the working class hero, uncluttered by the over blown cultural self-assertions of the rich and powerful – their hordes and their funds, treasure chests, junkets and galleries all propped up by high performance German engineering and fashion divas and a handbag costing a month’s earnings – has stepped up and bloodied their nose.
Screw Culture. It’s an affectation and luxury of the Rich.
In some reports there’s a whiff of ‘the working class hero’ (WCH) being anti-culture – well, the kind of culture trumpeted by the City and its dinner party friends. Oh, and f.y.i. the WCH is anti the multi-culturism that the money monsters and politicians celebrate and espouse – seeing immigrants as the lackeys of the rich, working their factories and filling their low paid scuzzy jobs otherwise unfit by condition or wage for the decent indigenous WCH, either male or female.
This working class reactionary truth will be born out in France we are told.
As it is being born out in the Nordic and Germanic states. On a platform of anti-foreigner and ‘what about me?’
And these commentators apply a simple formula that seems to say that the right wing ascendency is ostensibly rooted in the disenchanted dispossessed working class.
And that the right wing ascendency is anti-liberalism (the cultural and social not financial kind) – therefore the WCH is against liberal arts and the profundity of self-enlightenment.
Therefore, the WCH despises any form of enlightenment – and would raise one dimensional variations of the same self – a clone army of book burning gallery trashing elitist toff beating brilliance – in preference to a vibrant exciting society and culture.
What utter shite.
Firstly, the Elite and the Rich are not necessarily the same. And the political shades of left and Right in both make over simplistic assignments futile. There are endless correlations and direct proofs of the connections between the Rich and Elite BUT the Elite – those relentlessly committed to self-selecting themselves as the leading lights of anything and everything – running things for others (whether they want them to or not), generally being in charge and walking around with an unbearable smugness and self-assertion – are not always Rich or vice versa.
It’s the power they crave. The career politician is on the top branch of these ravenous creatures – with their self-selecting voice of the people (ish).
They spend a lot of time with the Rich (negotiating with Industry and Finance over over-poured Claret because they absolutely have to of course). And they are of course at best very well connected, tied together with a thin thread that unravels back either to a musty study room in a sandstone schoolhouse (for all of his ‘one of the people’ Schtick, Farage is an Ex Dulwich College boy), a university hall, or backwards into the Square Mile. And if they directly have none of these, they know someone who does.
And the Elite, well, they are different kettle of picked Shark installation altogether. Many fiercely obscure their provincialism with Elite type affiliations and experiences. They jig and jump to the drumbeats of the urbane metropolitan – the art shows, theatre nights, picnics in the classically shrouded parks, Cirque du (insert exotic name here) and of course the relentless squalling pirouetting brawl in black that is modern interpretive dance.
Some would say thank god they do. We would exist in a cultural desert otherwise – any form of creativity being reduced to the cultural equivalent of The Pub Landlord’s ‘glass of white wine for the lady’ – a slightly demeaned but humoured unit of creativity that isn’t really proper.
It’s a fair point
If our culture really was just a bastion of the Rich, the arts would be a sclerotic lumpen dross – our lives populated by the myriad stools popped out the arse end of an unfeeling industrial production line of commercial arts and the venues that host them.
But to pretend that the fierce creativity of the UK is just a Rich man’s train set to be slashed, demeaned and derided is the kind of twaddle that might be peddled by the likes of the Faragists, trapped terrified as they are in their fortress of Purcell, Lloyd Webber, Betjemen and Top Gear.
So perhaps when the political commentators and the budget watchers point accusingly at money being wasted on some art house in Camden and cheer the swingeing cuts to the arts and to sources of culture, they’re pointing their guns the wrong direction. Perhaps they think it’s the most commercial of the arts that they think they are extinguishing – by which I mean art produced in the service of the Rich by self-conscious and socially attenuated art pimps in the absence of any real feeling and tension bar status and lucre.
There is a difference.
And it is worth pointing out that the UK culture (certainly from the 50s onwards) has been a visible bastion of WCH culture and arts – from the edgy raw playwrights of the Angry Young Men to Black Country metal heads taking over the world, to Skinhead and Mod and the Casual culture of the football terraces. The sources of WCH art energy and colour are relentless.
Locked inside all of these movements are threads and collisions of fierce feeling – the source of their potency and raw power.
Tension. Struggle. Pain. Debauch. Poverty. Frustration. Elation. Sadness. Revulsion. The feelings we feel when we are alive to the life we live – unfettered from luxury and emollient comforts. That is the stuff of art and the fuel of culture.
There was once even a whiff of this raw energy in YBA but, well, really, how many dots can one person silk screen to hang on a banker’s wall.
When someone once defined art as something that has no utility I believe that they meant something that has been created for no reason beyond the outpouring of expression demanded of the artist by something within them.
I believe that the relentless fillip of fund trader bonuses, commission monies and personal strategies for increasing wealth kill this spirit in artists. They become complicit – part of the spiritual algorithm of wealth creation.
And this makes the lie of the artist’s expression. It becomes the social smile painted on the face of a misanthrope.
But there is a value to everything – even if it is financed by the money monsters putting on emotional lip stick by hanging someone else’s very expensively framed empathy on their walls.
We should salute the fact that the absence of feeling in either the Rich or the Elite – too consumed as they are in the pursuit of the material to the detriment of their emotional and spiritual selves – has created the desire to invest and finance struggling working class artists and elevated them up and into the limelight
The struggle to express themselves in lives riddled by attrition and want with desires and dreams close to suffocated is for me a beacon of the power of the people called the working or struggling classes.
And this is good. Far from being the murderers of the artistic darling – they are the universal mothers of them.
Centuries of artists, poets, performers and musicians from the ‘lower orders’ have enlightened every aspect of our cultural identity – all the more potent for the thick unforgiving skin their expression has had to burst through.
Yes, they are elevated on the back of the money with which the Rich buy emotion and feeling – the jewellery of a feeling expressive being – but none-the-less there is a circle of existence and creation in this that we all get to enjoy.
There is something at work here, with a sort of structure and rhythm. As one set of artists elevate up and out, others pour in and take their place.
There’s a reason for this.
Tension does not live a long life amongst comforts and plenty: the struggles that demonstrate themselves within it are the toxic nihilistic kind – locked into petty drug spirals and alcoholism and the artistic and literary caprices of the decaying elite.
The artists that enter this world on the back of great success tend to struggle to maintain their edge. It certainly struggles to transfer itself to their progeny.
There is a phrase – clogs to clogs in 3 generations – used to describe the journey from rags to riches to rags – through the ascent, apex, nadir and subsequent crash of three generations – initially climbing up on the new wealth of one particular member, vast monies made through hard work, moments of genius or simply brutal profiteering at. And the second generation raised in the immediate shadow of that person have some of the same spirit and nous in them to continue the ascent – BUT by the third generation, expensively educated far from the relentless grunt and grind of profiteering and money worship, look to different inspirations and passions – some pointless, some benevolent, some enriching but few of them money making in the same manner – they have entered the luxury of conscience freed to think of things other than climbing out of the primordial soup of want and struggle and making ends meet.
The luxury of conscience is not a hot bed of art and literature. Many luminaries have come from this world – the gentleman of letters, the learned and the scientists and the academics perhaps. But rarely does the fierce fire that creates movements and shape epochs come from this fountainhead of the Rich.
Brexit was a punk act, a swastika on the combat jacket of the forgotten and the dispossessed. I am unsurprised that John Lydon AKA Jonny Rotten came out on favour of BREXIT.
BREXIT is an emotion. Not a reason. Expressed by an epoch shaping creative force.
BREXITEERS are not anti-art. The reason-obsessed and the overly rational within their ranks might be. The sniffy, blinkered and the insecure perhaps.
And it is those that use the connection between grants and funding and private investment and the arts and the subsequent elitist enjoyment of them as a way of packaging them up with the rest of the European curse. For a very simple reason.
Creativity is a shifty foreigner to their rationally class-exacerbated perceptions. One that speaks a language they cannot master or ever wish to try.
So, when it comes to the Arts, current affairs commentators may be better served spending their time contemplating whether Right wing people are mostly Left brain people.
As with many things, this is not about politics. Or religion. Or science. Or money.
The arts, artists and their supporters are under suspicion by the cohorts of the ‘left brain’ as they find them wooly, voodoo or self-interested. They mistrust the layers and complexity. In much the same way they rarely trust foreigners whose culture and society they do not understand -or for that matter their own feelings or the right to express them.
There is no over indexing by shade of class, regionalism or faith. You are as likely to find this thinking in the working classes as you might in the rich; in the devout as the with the humanist; as much in the Northern reaches as with the Southern tribes.
So whatever else we do, my thought is this – can we unshackle the arts and creative expression from the armies of politic.
The only left and right at work here are hemispheric not politic.