John Lydon, Richard III, and the False Choice Between Empathy and Strength

KevinSpaceyRichardIII

Those that have been reading along will know that lately I have been fascinated by the career of John Lydon (Johnny Rotten).  I have read his two autobiographies, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs and Anger is an Energy, and I have watched the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury.  One of the things that many people don’t get is that Lydon has a great sense of humor and fun.  Although he felt there were important things that needed to be said, he knew how to get a crowd wound up, and he always did things with a sense of fun.  I found it really interesting that his Johnny Rotten persona was partially based on Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Richard is a deformed scheming character that uses his wits to rise to power.  

That led me to wanting to learn more about the play.  Tonight I am watching the Al Pacino documentary Looking for Richard.  This is a documentary where Pacino is trying to figure out how to get the average person to understand and open up to Shakespeare.  The film is scenes of the play intercut with discussions about what the play means and how to perform it.

This little bit of dialog interested me:

First Murderer:

Relent!  Tis cowardly and womanish.

Clarence:

Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish.

What is happening in that scene is that Richard has sent two murderers to kill a character named Clarence who is in line for the throne.  Clarence is trying to talk the murderers out of killing him.  The above lines are just a very small snippet from the scene.

I want to take them out of context for a moment.  I’ve been thinking lately about how males are given false choices about being macho and being weak.  The murderer says basically that showing mercy is to be weak.  Clarence replies that to murder is to be savage.  So many times in our society men make choices about what to do based upon if people will perceive them to be weak or strong.

Morrissey sang, in the song I Know It’s Over, that it, “takes strength to be gentle and kind.”  Well this is true, so often people send the opposite message.  Why is it that caring about nature and other people is often perceived as being weak?  How many times have you heard someone say, about someone that cares about the environment for instance, that they are some kind of, “faggot hippie.”  Meanwhile, men that rape the earth and exploit other people are often thought of as being strong and powerful, when they are really just giving in to their own ego?

I have seen so many times when males, who are really quite frightened of the world, hide behind a macho exterior.  I remember a gig in a redneck area where almost every single vehicle in the parking lot was a pickup truck.  The males at that show acted very macho.  There was clearly something tribal going on.  They were acting proud and macho, but they were really a part of a herd mentality and were clearly afraid of standing out as individuals.  It doesn’t take any strength to go along with the crowd.

And yes there are plenty of people on the left that subscribe to the herd mentality as well.  When I see a crowd of hipsters or hippies they are basically just wearing a different costume.  They are part of their own little tribe with its own rules.  They may think that they are individuals, but they are no different than a group that is all wearing suits or cowboy hats or whatever.

So many of the problems the world faces right now require cooperation with other people.  Many of our problems require national if not global solutions.  We need to get things done and macho male pride will only get in the way.

It takes strength to be gentle and kind.  It takes strength to be open minded and to be an individual.  It takes strength to stand up to a crowd when they are doing something wrong.  We need to make it more clear in our society that empathy and strength are not opposites.  Males are often taught the opposite of this.  However, if men keep acting this way, and one should mention that women have played their part in allowing this kind of attitude to persist, it will eventually lead to our doom.  The world can no longer bear males that are afraid to look weak in place of the common good.

The above photo is Kevin Spacey as Richard III.

Love Will Tear Us Apart Video

Today the weather in Austin is less than ideal.  There is a “slate grey Victorian sky” as Morrissey sang.  Certain music fits different weather patterns better than others.  A place as grey and rainy as Manchester seems to produce a lot of music that works well with dismal weather.  I wonder if there has ever been a study on how weather affects music?  I need to burn off to rehearsal, but in the meantime I thought I would leave you with some Joy Division.

Morrissey as Existential Hero

Morrissey_3

Morrissey as Existential Hero

Anyone that has read this blog over any amount of time will know that Morrissey is one of my musical heroes.  Here is a really interesting article by Kevin Michael Klipfel about Morrissey and existentialism.  Although anyone that is a fan of Morrissey will like this article, I think music fans in general and those that are also interested in existentialism will find something to take away here.

In The Future When All’s Well

Armed with wealth and with the, the best of health
In the future when alls well
I will lie down and then be counted
In the future when alls well

I thank you
I thank you with all of my heart
I thank you
I thank you with all of my heart

Lee, please stand up and defend me
In the future when alls well
Confront what you are afraid of
In the future when alls well

Every day I play a sad game called
‘In The Future When Alls Well’
Living longer than I had intended
Something must have gone right

I thank you
I thank you with all of my heart
I thank you
I thank you with all of my heart

Lee, please stand up and defend me
In the future when alls well
Confront what you are afraid of
In the future when alls well

Hold me closely if your will allows it
In the future when alls well
Paired off, pawed till I can barely stand it
The future is ended by a long, long sleep

The future is ended by a long, long sleep
The future is ended by a long sleep

In The Future When All’s Well by Morrissey.  It is on his excellent Ringleader of the Tormentors album.  I end some of my posts with the title of this song.  I am paying tribute to Morrissey, but I also like the dark humor involved.  In the future when all’s well is a place that will never happen.  It’s a romantic notion, that in some point in the future everything will be perfect.  Things can always get better, but life will never be perfect.  We have seen too many Hollywood movies, where everything is tied up neatly in the end.  That’s unrealistic and life is far better when you can cast such notions aside.  If you can learn to accept that hopefully you can live in the present and enjoy yourself more.  Trust me, I am by no means enlightened.  Far, far from it man!  I am a procrastinator that often puts things often until I absolutely can’t anymore.  I can be just as much a bastard as anyone in the moment.  I am wired to hot to ever be truly mellow patient.  But I think being a realist, and dealing with life somewhat on its own terms can help ever so slightly in pushing that boulder up the mountain.  Trust me, just like in the myth of Sisyphus, it’s going to roll back down many times.

Older and Shittier

Today I turn 36 years old.  I don’t say that to get attention.  If wishes came true I would be out in the woods with my dog jamming to the sound of silence, as recent weeks have exhausted me to the point of insanity.  However, I am playing San Antonio tonight and a gig is the next best thing.  Anyway, the only reason I even posted anything at all about my birthday is that I found this great quote by Morrissey today on aging:

“I’m aging, yes, the body has projects of its own and there’s nothing we can do about it. But the world is full of 19 year old people who are zombies with nothing to say…”

The New Greek Ideal

Don Juan
Picaresque
Wife beater vest
Cold hand
Ice man
Warring cave man
Well if this is what it takes to describe…
I’m not a man

Wheeler, dealer
Mover, shaker
Casanova
Beefaroni
A-ho but lonely
Well if this is what it takes to describe…
I’m not a man
I’m not a man
I’m something much bigger and better than
A man

Wise-ass
Smart-ass
Workaholic
Thick-skinned
Two-fisted hombre, olé
Well if these are terms you’d use to describe…

Oh, I’m shaking
Look at me I’m quaking
True grit
True blue
Kill crazy
So very manly of you
You are the soldier
Who won’t get much older
You are the slow Joe
Who signed up to go

Wolf down
Wolf down
T-bone steak
Wolf down
Cancer of the prostate

Ways to sit
And of course
Ways to stand
I’m not a man
I’m not a man
No big fat locker room
Hockey jock
Laughing
I’m not a man
I’d never kill or eat an animal
And I never would destroy this planet I’m on
Well, what do you think I am?
A man?

I’m Not a Man by Morrissey.  These lyrics are the best ones I have come across in a long time.  I listen to this song almost every day.  They allow you to look at the world through a new lens.  I called them the new Greek Ideal because they are idealistic, a place to strive for, but will not be reached by many.  But they are a path worth heading down, even if you fall short.  They outline the macho behavior that leads to war and the destruction of our planet.  Right now Morrissey is without a label and this record, World Peace is None of Your Business, is hard to find.  I wanted to wait till it was available again to post these, but they mean too much to me.  As soon as it is available get a copy.  Thank god he’s out there…