Thursday, June 05, 2014


"OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you're an animal, baby, it's in your nature
Just let me liberate you
Hey, hey, hey"

These are lyrics from an actual song. Drink them in. Really ponder them for a moment.

Now, tell me, what is Robin Thicke's point? What is he trying to say about the human condition?

Yes, these are lyrics from the number one song of 2013, 'Blurred Lines' by Robin Thicke. Number 1. As in, it was the most popular song, for the greatest number of weeks, in 2013.

Does this reflect poorly on us? Or on Mr Thicke?

It's a strange time for the arts. The tools of production have become so cheap, and we are swarmed by a "me too" generation, who have all decided to leave school and become famous. As if it's a choice, or even a legitimate goal.

It's a cacophony of mediocrity. The din of so many people hoping that, as long as they are blasting noise into the atmosphere, they are on the path to celebrity.

So many people speaking, so few with anything to say.

How did this happen?

Was it the rise of the cult of celebrity? Did teachers stop doing their jobs? Did the world change so drastically that critical and artistic thought is obsolete?

Part of me wishes it was a simple answer, but I have a feeling it is something more fundamental to our being, and therefore utterly complex.

It strikes me as an interesting coincidence that, at a time when information is more easily available than ever, when science is making possible things that seem like science fiction, when technology has made human discourse (over formerly impossible distances) as simple as the push of a button, we are so distracted by shiny trinkets and rutting.

We ignore volumes of information, and instead follow the simple answers of small minded politicians.

We read the blatant lies of a biased media, then espouse those lies as our own and promote them to others.

And our arts become a redundant or rehashed parody of post-modern repetitiveness, marked by endless film sequels and vapid pop stars.


Or something darker lurking beneath the surface? A deliberate ignorance, via distraction.

Because what can be more terrifying than the lifting of the veil on the mysteries of the universe? Carl Sagan once said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience, because it gives a person a clear perspective of just how tiny and insignificant we are in the universe.

What better way to avoid this realisation, of our own lack of importance in the universal construct, than to distract ourselves with trivialities and 'bling'?

One of my favourite comedians covered the topic on-stage:

"Of course, uh, the universe is gradually slowing down and, uh, will eventually collapse inwardly on itself, according to the laws of entropy when all it's thermal and mechanical functions fail, thus rendering all human endeavours ultimately pointless. Just to put the gig in some sort of context."

It was his opening line of the show.

A risk, yes, but Bill Bailey has something to say about the world. It's what makes him an artist.

And there have been others, from Oscar Wilde to Bill Hicks' 'It's just a ride' speech, delivered when he knew that he was terminally ill with cancer. But perhaps Stanley Kubrick said it best, when asked: "If life is so purposeless, do you feel it's worth living?". His answer is breathtaking.

"The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning...The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."


And this is what artists used to do. To illuminate. To ruminate, just as we do secretly but never really talk about, on that great question.

'What is the point of it all?'

It's a terrifying thought. What if there is no point? What if everything I work and strive for has utterly no consequence?

And the easy answer is Robin Thicke.

Oh, "stop being bitter", you say.

But truly, my criticism comes from nowhere near bitterness. If anything, the ineptitude of masses of would-be artistes means that I have less competition.

The truth is, I want better from all of them. I want them to think harder. In fact, I want all of us, artists and non-artists, to think harder. Because we are all diminished by the lack of critical and creative thought that is permeating our culture.

We can ignore that darkness, that niggling doubt of our own mortality and our place in the universe, by staying distracted by meaningless fluff.

Or, with every conversation, every piece of work, every relationship, every creative endeavor, we can illuminate it instead.

Which kind of world would you rather live in?


P.S. thanks to Barry for the inspiration.

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