Sunday, June 8, 2008

Indie Rock Is My Social Democracy; Videos - Wilt, Kerbdog & Helmet

(I'm being ironic! I do not agree with this brash, nationalistic, illogical, practically anonymous - and hence illegal - poster. Mind you, this legitimate Yes one is hardly much better)

This is a blog about music, not politics. However, it is about a particular type of music which is either explicitly or implicitly connected with politics. Call it punk or call it hardcore, or even (to some extent) post-hardcore, it becomes - generally - hypocritical to remain apolitical. Not least because the majority of its afficionados have similar sensibilities, but much more importantly because its very ethos encourages not only independent thought, but the expression of that thought.

I came up with a strange metaphor and/or analogy last night, between my musical tastes and my political preferences. This is in part the title of the post; that my broadening of taste out from typical punk/hardcore into more widely considered, yet still independent-minded, rock music mirrors the maturing of my political sensibilities from youthful radicalism to an acceptance of more nuanced, pluralistic and conventional politics. The process, in both cases, is complementary but not without tensions. Can you listen to DIY, uncompromising hardcore and the latest indie rock hype (when justified, of course) - just like believing in the ultimate tenets of (humanistic) socialism or radicalism, while appreciating the movement of day-to-day politics? I don't believe it's hypocritical as much as it is beneficial, progressive and, above all, educated. And let's face it, we all do it.

For the record, my current political preference is for environmental (Green) politics. Not only on account of the dangers of climate change, but - if you were to go down the considerably worrisome route of denying climate change's veracity - its multiple other worthy attributes (a good number of which can be found by reading either Kerouac's Dharma Bums or the infamous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). Green politics are neither particularly punk rock nor indie, nor radical or social democratic - they're more postmodern; so, to overextend the metaphor - post-rock perhaps?

What prompted these confessional remarks is what Peter Sutherland, former Irish commissioner to the EU, described recently as the most important decision of international affairs ever to be decided by the Irish people: the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (June 12th).

For my multiple American (and other non-European) readers, the Lisbon Treaty is the latest document involving the organisation and maintenance of the European Union (EU), agreed between the governments of all 27 current EU member states. Ireland, due to the particular nature of our constitution (and the 1987 Crotty case in the Supreme Court, but I won't get into that here) is the only country to put the treaty to a public referendum. All other 26 countries are very likely to, or already have, ratified the treaty by parliament.

Hence Ireland (4 million out of an over 200 million plus European population, incidentally) stands between full ratification of the treaty and a possible tortuous revision of the current EU political programme. As a student of politics - first in my class last year, I might add, as a personal detail and a small mark of self-aggrandisement - I had foreseen the dilemma of this unique referendum, in which a rejection does little constructive, but so much destructive. Essentially, I was from the start a cautious Yes vote, believing on balance in the merits of this reform treaty - adapted from but realistically differentiated from a proposed and defeated EU constitution - the importance of the European program, and the overwhelming support this receives from parliamentarians of all major parties.

Conversely, the No campaign - split between Sinn Féin, the minority republican party, a right-wing shady think-tank by the name of 'Libertas' and various ultra-Catholic groups, socialist parties and the minority wing of the Greens/radical movement - not only failed to inspire but perpetually aggravated. Narrow, factually inaccurate, uninformed, nationalistic and disingenous claims were presented to repeated and oft unheeded rebuttals from the Yes side - a problem not least because it drowned out much constructive criticism and opposition to the elements of European politics, much of which could be better organised and applied in between times at European and national elections. In brief, over the last month or so of campaigning my initial, informed choice was only further confirmed.

The above comments may well seem partisan, but they are my honest reaction to the political situation. The latest pair of national polls have shown that the result could in fact go either way, in a large part because of people who want to vote No because they feel uninformed or confused. To those people, I say three things: first, look to any or all of your elected representatives, and any political parties you may support - their wide support for the Treaty is less a mass conspiracy than it is a recognition of political realities and ideals; secondly, remember that our referendum is a unique and unusual occurrence, probably not best suited to the ratification of an exceedingly complex legal document; and thirdly, as such you are hardly expected to specifically read it in order to do your democratic duty - only if you have serious concerns about what is being presented to you, in the treaty and in your parliament and media.

For what it's worth, Hardcore for Nerds (that is myself, gabbagabbahey) is advocating a Yes vote. Let it not be said that I don't have the courage of my convictions.


As a respite from the politics - which is, you know, only the discourse of democratic individuals, the expression of true personal freedom and agency, and the highest level of human communication - here's some (Irish) indie rock, shading towards (American) hardcore:

Wilt, 'Distortion'

Kerbdog, 'Sally'

Helmet, 'Bad Mood'

(^ that's John Stanier, the current drummer for Battles, in the video above - in case anybody doesn't know their punk/hardcore history. History is always nearly as important as politics :)


Jenny said...

An acquaintence of sorts on a message board I frequent is voting No because the people weren't allowed to vote on it. Does this decision, if passed, bring Europe together in a sense?

gabbagabbahey said...

it's a reform treaty designed to make the existing institutions of the EU more efficient - so yes, it does bring the people of the member states closer together in a sense. But really, there's not all that much new in it.

the 'Vote No because other people weren't allowed to vote' is an argument I hear a lot, and I really don't agree with it.

thanks for the comment - I realise this is a little different from most of the stuff I post here. Hope you enjoy the rock!

Dave said...

The funny thing about all this is that it could all have been avoided 3 years ago if some bright lightbulb at EU HQ had realised that transforming a basic reform treaty into a monolithic document entitled "Constitution" with a flag and an anthem and all the delusions of a nationstate might actually be a terrible idea and that the masses of Europe would quite understandably be horrified by the idea.

And now we're stuck in a situation where a combination of fringe lunatics and a horridly inept Yes campaign have left people so wary of whatever could be in such a document that there's a good chance they'll reject the thing. The No campaigners will continue to bemoan the excessive bureaucracy they've spent the last few months campaigning to maintain, the Yes campaign will continue to be non-plussed by the entire situation, and nobody will have learned anything!

Longman Oz said...

(1) It is not possible to separate politics from music and listen to the type of songs that we both do!

(2) Just continue to let your music tastes broaden out - I wouldn't question it! It does not have to be at the expense of what you currently listen to. I still find bands such as Minutemen, Dead Kennedys, and Mission of Burma amazing, even if I now may spend more time listening to new Canadian bands or whatever.

(3) I share your interest in environmental politics, but I stand by my opinion of The Green Party in Ireland!

(4) Petey Sutherland reads my blog! He was on the radio and he ripped off two of my points for shooting down the "no" arguments completely! :-D

gabbagabbahey said...

dave - I think I agree with you; personally, I don't mind describing myself as a 'European' in addition to my Irish citizenship/nationality. But I can see how the whole preceding constitution idea scared people off. Damn those ambitious Eurocrats!

As I'm now technically part of the Yes campaign, I can only defend its ineptitude. Since this is a reform treaty - i.e., a treaty designed to reform things - it's really quite unexciting. Hard to sell against exciting, attention-grabbing No propaganda (which, I might reiterate, is obscuring a lot of valid critical argument).

I think Gormley realised the same thing when he canvassed Grafton St - IT, yesterday - and got fed up answering questions about abortion. From the article he definitely sounded a bit non-plussed, unfortunately.

so what do you think about the new Fight Like Apes track?

longman - I don't know, I still kind of feel guilty listening to Arcade Fire. Neon Bible was my #2 album of last year, but still...

Green Party rock! - even just compared to the stale/centrist/non-existent political formulas of the other parties (I'm looking at you, LP) ;)

Peter Sutherland knows how to use the internet? Wasn't this guy, like, from the 80s?
I should find the proper quote from him for this piece. Wouldn't agree with Sutherland's politics - FGer - but some of the European heavyweights are coming out with some well-spoken arguments.

and American readers - the latest person to come out on the No side; John Bolton, former Bush US ambassador to the UN. Nice!