So there’s this US rock band called Tool. They’re quite alternative, but creatively complex and dedicated, with lyrical and visual artistry playing important parts in the overall effect of their music. They’ve done stuff like this. And also this.
Not everyone’s cup of tea. And not completely mine either, but I liked them enough to accompany my other half to see them live and they were completely, totally, incredibly, breathtakingly awesome. The complexity and intensity that they weave into their records was reproduced brilliantly on the stage. Amazing.
So amazing in fact that we wondered afterwards if we’d actually just been really stoned. So we had to go and see them again to make sure. And yes, they actually were that fantastic. All over again.
Their lead singer is a guy called Maynard James Keenan who is a bit reclusive, but holds strong beliefs and seems to be committed to voicing his philosophy through his various projects, and when he isn’t, he’s making wine and running a vineyard in Arizona.
When he’s performing on stage – with Tool at least – he takes the unusual choice (for a front man) of appearing not in the spotlight, but backlit against a backcloth, so he appears merely silhouetted. It tends to ensure that you’re focussed on the music and their projected visuals, rather than the performers, and it contributes to the mesmerising effect of the gig.
At the end of the second gig we saw, Keenan spoke to the crowd and asked them that if they’d enjoyed Tool’s music, they should allow it to inspire them and take that inspiration to do something creative, and this was important ‘because right now the stupid people are winning’, he told us.
At the time I went to my nice, safe, middle class, media-perpetuated goto image of what a ‘stupid person’ was. You know; trailer trash / council chav, fag smoking, trackie wearing, tat sporting, cider guzzling, brawling, swearing, state sponging, with half a dozen unruly kids and a couple of Pitbull type dogs. The ones who seem to only actually exist on the Jeremy Kyle show. (Does he grow them somewhere?) The ones who are the best argument for why clever people should have more kids.
But now I’m feeling less smug and narrow minded I realised Keenan didn’t mean those people. He meant the kind of US President who says things like, ”I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”
Or the kind of European money mongers who force an entire nation of people into poverty because their government has to be seen to be making an effort before they’ll deign to give them more money to pour into the empty abyss that’s merely deepened by the fact that nearly a quarter of their working population is unemployed. Because of the austerity cuts their government is forced to make.
Or the kind of Prime Minister and Health Secretary who push ahead with a Health Bill for NHS reforms despite thousands of health experts voicing their opposition.
Or a Prime Minister, Minister for Disabled People, Work and Pensions Secretary and Employment Minister who ignore the better judgement of the Lords and push ahead with a Welfare Reform Bill, despite the already mounting evidence that it is costing the most vulnerable people in our society their incomes, their dignity and their rights to be considered equally.
The Minister for Disabled People. The person who is supposed to be supporting Disability Rights and fighting prejudice, and encouraging opportunities for disabled people. But no. She’s the one charged with driving through the reform of the DLA (Disability Living Allowance). That contentious benefit that helps people with a disability have a bit of a life.
And seriously, it’s not that easy to get. And the claim form runs to an incredible 36 pages and 62 sections. If you qualify for the highest rate care and mobility component you get a massive £125 per week. Yeah, those disabled bastards are really whooping it up on that. I bet they’re holding parties every week, dancing on our recession-fuelled broken dreams and lighting their cigars with rolled up blue badges.
Let’s kick those cripples where it hurts because, like, life hasn’t already dealt them a pretty shit hand, has it?
But let’s spend millions reforming that system so we can make sure to save a few thousand from the losers who might be screwing the system. By screwing the people who really rely on the money. Yeah, that’s totally sensible.
I got off the point a bit.
To be fair the NHS does desperately need some sort of reform. It’s ridiculously inefficient. Clinging to the ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ argument just can’t wash. Like all our ancient institutions it needs remodelling in a way that will help it keep the best things it does, while cutting out the rubbish bits that cost loads of money and stop it doing what it’s supposed to be doing.
There are dozens of charities and not-for-profit companies who provide excellent health services very efficiently, and we shouldn’t be afraid to look at them to find out what they’re doing differently, and seeing if it would work for the NHS. It’s not the same as creeping privatisation.
So anyway, let’s get creative in the faces of those idiots.
In its most classic interpretation creativity of course means art, music, movies. They’re a great way to express dissatisfaction with the planks in charge of society and their actions because, well, you can’t really argue with a painting or a song. Historically, when the people have felt oppressed, the arts and comedy have really opened up as a brilliant means of speaking out, but will the current generation of artists step up to the plate?
And how about getting creative with the actual solutions to all these problems we’re facing?
I absolutely don’t claim to have any answers, but repeatedly turning to the old ways of looking at and doing things seems a lot like not learning the lessons of history. Surely we need to step away from the old methods that got us in this mess, and try being a little more inventive? We have people on this earth doing incredible and amazingly inventive things, and finding remarkable solutions to some of humankind’s trickiest problems.
So why can’t we apply the same creativity to the mundane stuff as well? I mean, it might not be sexy, but it probably affects more of us directly than the Higgs Boson.
In the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is the closest and probably only example of something resembling a philosophy book I’ve ever read, the author, amongst his many theories, talks about the separation that’s grown up between what he calls classical and romantic thinking – essentially science and art – and he argues that we need creative thinking and scientific thinking to come together to find solutions to better man’s existence in the world. To improve our quality of life.
So where are the sciencey people and the artistic people who could collectively think outside the box and come up with some ideas that might work?
I don’t know. How about patient A goes to GP B with disease X and GP B says, ‘it costs N thousand pounds to treat disease X, here’s the money, here are all the services available to you, and here’s what they all cost. We’re keen on giving you choice, now you can choose where to spend the money.’?
I don’t mean the GP literally hands over a cheque, but the government likes the idea of patient choice, they want GPs commissioning services, GPs don’t want the responsibility, so who knows? Maybe it would give small specialist services a chance to thrive at doing what they’re experts at?
I’m sure it’s riddled with holes, and I’m not really setting it up for serious consideration here, or to argue with you over all the reasons why it wouldn’t work.
But seriously, let’s get more creative with our solutions to these issues, as well as with our protests. Because the stupid people really are winning. And we’re doubly dumb if we let them.
(And yes, I do know I’ve gone from Tool to patient led commissioning via chavs, Welfare Reform, creative protestation and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That’s what over thinking gets you I’m afraid.)