I am listening to a lot of Kate Bush. She’s what one might call The Man. Except she’s The Woman. For a woman with a squeaky voice, she has balls. Or, to continue the feminist theme, she has ovaries… big ones, full of eggs.
I only heard Kashka from Baghdad for the first time last week. It is said (but who knows, the things that people are known to say!) that it is about a gay couple. Whether this is true or not, generally Bush writes about alienation very well – here, she sings as an outsider herself, observing Kashka and his/her feller, seemingly concluding that the pair have realised true happiness with each other even though they live their lives outside of society. (Incidentally, Kashka can be a girl’s name too, which is why I’m not sure if it really is about a gay couple. But then, Kashka also means a kind of mushy food in Polish, which provides another obvious statement about the song.*)
Anyhow, the song made me think about how a minority flout the status quo in order to live in a way that they consider to be righteous. As I was cutting out shapes from orangepeel today and sticking them into my notebook for reasons known not even to myself, I mulled over this feeling of alienation – or rather its opposition, the populace, which is something people like to think about to simplify problems and perhaps even to blame our problems on external factors rather than our own silly actions. The alienation I refer to is the self-anointed one that intellectuals infer by talking about ‘people’ and the way they behave.
Systems as we know them function with rules, even though rules are not always followed. Human beings, however, I think will generally act for themselves or with their dependents in mind, not on the behalf of the nation. Although we can and do claim to love the land that cradled us from birth – our womb from womb – we treat her like a shady auntie (rather than a devoted mother): we might give her some cash if she asks for it, but we do so begrudgingly, and we don’t trust her to do the right thing with it; we certainly don’t have a clue who she works for, but we have the sneaking suspicion that she is in bed with the mafia.
And the state whitewashes the populace in the same terms: people are stupid, ill-informed, selfish idiots; they wouldn’t know what’s good for them if it came and jabbed them rudely between the shoulder blades.
What emerges from this is an uphappy status quo that satisfies all camps (well, most of the camps for most of the time). We, The West, feed off the mantra of the land, which says that we are free, that we have a choice.
Yes, we have choices. We can choose to read filth, to pour whatever brand of cola we wish down our necks, how to dress, who we give our money to (and whoever we give it to, suffice to say that we always give it – all of it), and even how we vote.
We can choose who we vote for, and I see two problems emerging from this.
First, it excuses the notion that we only have to think about society every four years, when we should be voting every moment of our lives – for that is the freedom we are seeking, is it not? – voting by the choices we make. It is really not enough to complain about a system that we are happy to use all the way up until the moment things start to fall apart. Is this not hypocrisy? Where has the sense of responsibility gone?
Second, being given the choice of fair trade and not, of who to bank with, or who to vote for, we are directed away from the idea of making any more fundamental changes to society. We are making choices within a tightly prescriptive set of rules within the confines of indoctrination. Trying to alter this is a bit like trying to find out what lies outside of the universe. I would be happy to take this even further to say that this lack of choice, the difficulty with which the imposed structure makes it possible to really choose, together with our own apathy that is perhaps an emergent characteristic (but nevertheless, we must appreciate that noone else is going to break this characteristic but ourselves), is why we will continue to progress with the boom-bust model of capitalism, drawing ourselves further and further away from the equality that we wish for, an equality that such as system is never capable of achieving by its very nature.