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Monday, 28 March 2016

Understanding empathy, a tee and a B-side

Chairman Mozziah says

I probably should be posting part whatever of my Maladjusted essay, but I've lost interest (drama can be exhausting), so here's something else to upset people instead. Recently, Our Mozzer as the @BRSChairman tweeted:
It sparked quite a few replies:

Shoving aside the philosophical existentialism of identities (including pessoa), I'm interested in the concepts of truth, boundaries and attraction.

The Dramatically Delude Dozen of the #BRS frequently share divergent opinions, not least about issues relating to Our Mozzer and often about each other. Hence the various schisms over Faggate and Supremegate and the responses to my Jimmy Saville readings of Maladjusted songs. Only Morrissey knows the truth of his own actions, the inspirations for lyrics and fonts and the plethora of issues and rumors which surround him. The rest of us can guess or research, defend or reel back in bewilderment. Or try to understand.

Morrissey planning a holiday in the land of Skippy and Home and Away in a luxurious Supreme caravan. 
I can't claim to know what specifically led to the empathy tweet. Was it somethings that we tweeted or was Morrissey having a bad day with yes men? Maybe he felt the need to be challenged? Was the Mozziah experiencing a Monty Python moment? Is it that we see the Mozziah as our savior, to tell us there's nothing wrong with us? I mean, it's not like he cultivates a cult-like following, doesn't want to be judged etc. I dunno and I wouldn't expect an illuminating answer if I asked. Only Marcus replied with challenging questions, which were, of course, unanswered: just like prayer.

Who would seek empathy from a fully grown man who rides a short equine?

Anyway, the pessoa @BRSChairman doesn't was us seeking empathy from him. He wants us to be truthful and to be ourselves; although I'm sure that seeking empathy and being honest and yourself are not mutually exclusive.

Or I'll kill you

I must admit, that when I disagree with Morrissey or with Our Mozzer's pessoas, or even with other members of the #BRS, I tend to remain silent. I pretend not to have seen the tweet or post. Or, I reply with a tangential deflection.

One example of where I disagree with Morrissey and some other #BRS members is with a certain vegan t-shirt. I even felt a slight pang when Moby posted a pic of a man with illustrated arms wearing one (minus the Morrissey branding).
I agreed with the highlighted comment.
I made a tangential joke in reply to a photographic tweet of Miss Misery wearing the said item of clothing. I went for empathy over challenge.

You can buy this t-shirt at the Mporium and there are numerous non-Moz variations. OK, it's meant to be ironic. I get that. It's just something that I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing.

As a vegan, I can empathize with Morrissey wanting to reach for his arms cache shelved on the top bunk of his Supreme caravan at the Tweed Heeds South Big 4, as the stench of unholy murder drifts over from the evening's ritual BBQing. But I'm not a murderous zealot. And neither is Morrissey, nor, presumably, Miss Misery.

I just wouldn't want some crazed vegan doing a shooting spree at a Macca's like messed-up omnivore James Huberty did - especially if they were wearing a t-shirt like this or if the cops later found one in their closet.

I also wouldn't want veggies to do something like the recent lynching at Dadri, where a Hindu mob murdered a Muslim man and injured his son because they were thought to be eating dead cattle during Ahimsa (alas, they were wrong, it was mutton in the fridge and on not bovine), To quote The Times of India:

The real issue here is whether we will allow lynch mobs to enforce their dietary and cultural choices on others and let them get away with murder. Neither the state and central governments nor civil society should lose sight of that...

Christian Dior
A lot of people, including Mozziaphiles and members of the #DDD, have issue with many of Morrissey's pronouncements. I'm not talking about the hysterical responses in the media or the negativity at SoLow, but the reactions of people otherwise empathetic to Morrissey.

The thing is, Morrissey reads a lot, is apparently active on Twitter, spends a fair bit of time on YouTube, has a need to be heard and has identity issues, as played out via the pessoa. These things are referenced in numerous songs and interviews, TTY statements and Our Mozzer's Twitter personalities. What we have are a potent mix of exposure to many varied and conflicting world views and a complex, fantasy-prone personality.

As an aside, yes, conspiracy theories as we now know them did exist before the Interwebs became popular and any blithering idiot could create a website or a YouTube channel devoted to their own ignorance and paranoia. I mention this because in pondering Morrissey's interest in conspiracies, I wondered if they pre-dated his LA exile, but then realized that any well read, library, newsagent and book shop loafing oaf would have access to plenty of conspiracy theory literature. And I should know, because I used to be one.

So, what has this to do with a fashion designer? Let me quote a possibly overrated B-side ditty.

I could've run loudly and proudly 
all forcible entry 
and morally bankrupt 
and never non-violent 
and drawn to what scares me 
and scared of what bores me 
years alone will never be returned

It's a song that's a reflection on choices, including Morrissey's own choices for the pursuit of a career.

But I think the most revealing lines are what's I've highlighted in bold. Although the context of the lyrics claim otherwise, Morrissey is drawn to what scares him and scared of what bores him. Hence things like the videos with skin heads, the UKIP statement, the conspiracy theory stuff and Our Mozzer following Alex Jones on Twitter. And hence the I'll kill you tee.

It all adds to his mystique, but is a product of his adventuring and contrarian nature. He's drawn to what scares him and inevitably shares some of that with us. I think it explains a lot about Morrissey, Our Mozzer and the pessoa phenomena.

I could say more, but you get the general idea.


  1. Ok. You’ve reeled me in to comment with this post, so well done. I found this very interesting. First of all, the Be Kind To Animals tshirt I tweeted you about, but I’ll jot down what I said here. I think that the statement is a case of turning the sadly violent power differential humans impose on non-human animals on its head rather than inciting violence.

    I could be entirely wrong on that one. But humans have commodified and ignored the feelings of sentient non-human animals for centuries. Millions of animals are constantly being murdered, so in my guess, it is a reaction to the violence, which I believe is probably not meant to be taken literally. Although… as Moz himself has said before – people who work in abattoirs and animal testing (torture) facilities deal in the language of violence constantly, so perhaps this induces such a reaction. I’m not advocating it one way or another, but think it’s about a power reversal. Another interesting point may be that the shirt is SUPPOSED to induce shock to get us thinking – why are we shocked about the thought of killing people, yet tacitly approve of the murder of millions upon millions of beings daily in slaughterhouses? Every time someone tucks into a steak, that’s precisely what they’re doing, yet we find a message on a tshirt shocking? Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.

    I believe it is about animals reclaiming power, or those with voices reclaiming it for them. Perhaps in a sense it’s analogous to hip-hop singers reclaiming the N-word after centuries of slavery and torture, but maybe I’m digressing.
    Regardless, I don’t see the shirt leading people to go out and start murdering people for eating hamburgers; and I can hardly stand it when people blame a song or shirt or piece of artwork for them murdering loads of people because they themselves are clearly dangerously unwell. I own the shirt myself, however so I could be biased, but those are my thoughts.

  2. Now… on empathy you also have my attention. Because some of you know I work with youth in mental health/crisis. In such a position we have to exude empathy towards others of course, and at least reflect it, if that makes sense. However, we can’t know what anyone else is ever thinking or feeling, no matter how hard we try – of course this can lead one into solipsism, in its extremes. Does anyone else have thoughts or feelings? Does anyone else even exist? How can we know? Well… a vicious cycle. It’s my belief we can only understand by analogy. Perhaps this is a form of narcissism in itself because again we relate it to the self, and how we would feel in a similar situation, etc, but in the end it’s our only means of beginning to understand. If I feel pangs when others do – it may be particularly because it’s something I can relate to. But I also generally avoid a lot of human contact because of my sensitivity.

    My response to Chairman in the tweet you posted was entirely reflective my feelings on this topic. I don’t expect empathy, but what I say online is generally quite genuine –and - as I’ve said before, this is a massive risk. In my everyday conversations, even with people with whom I’m supposedly “close,” I often cannot be as open. Part of it is luck of the draw – many people I know don’t believe in my depression – I’ve tried – no dice – they just don’t believe it’s a real illness, even if it’s rendered me bed ridden at times. I just don’t have the energy to re-explain. So I say, “I’m fine.” No loss, I can’t make people believe in things they don’t want to believe in. Other people in my “everyday life” only care about things like if I’m moving to a bigger house, or how many hours I work. Well – what a yawnfest. So I can’t really speak how I want to with them.

    I found a number of like minded people online, which is great – and I believe what drew me to Morrissey is how much I see myself in his art. I can’t say I know what he’s thinking because I haven’t sat down and had a personal conversation with him – well at least in person. But even if I did know him in person of course I wouldn’t know what he was thinking. The one thing I do know is that he says things through the song and written word which I strongly relate to.

    And with empathy, I could waffle on for ages about how it’s a psychological construct, is it a social construct, etc but I don’t want to bore everyone to tears, if I haven’t already.

  3. Good, thoughtful comments. Much more insightful than my waffling pithle. Thank you.

  4.  With regards to the "kill you" shirt, I don't get the big deal comrade, it sounds to me like you are more afraid of the possibilities of being murdered by vegans when really, anyone, meat eater or not could kill you at anytime and they don't need a shirt suggesting such lol As a private school victim of T-shirt censoring, I fully believe in the freedom to wear whatever you want, regardless of anyone's reaction. Marianne says one might even recognize a social group one feels comfortable with like other animal advocates. Which I totally agree!Chucks comment about the shock value works too, it's just another clever slogan.

    Christian Dior is a really beautiful song,  the vocals are just ear-gasmic. Although "drawn to what scares..." Is one of those forever quotable moz lyrics personally, my favorite bit is:
    Lyonise maverick, ah
    Design if you can, ah
    The way to just be a man, ah
    To just be a man, ah

    The way to just be a man, early echos of the latest album's I'm Not A Man. But what does make a man? The tough macho image we automatically conjour up, we know now to be a learned perspective. It took men like Marlon Brando and James Dean for the general public to see that gentle is the strongest persona of all. We often think that women have more empathy and compassion because women are programmed as such. Evolution has made meek mothers of women who dote on babies and men. That's not the case anymore. The opposite is thought of with men, men are expected to be cold Clint Eastwood emotionless hard and sturdy.
    It's my personal belief that a person can at least think in terms of both sexes. It would be interesting to see how different each person's right supramarginal gyrus (area of the brain that controls empathy and compassion) actually is and how they react to decisions. Decisions based on how other people's feelings would make us feel, it is very different from completely putting yourself in someone's mindset while detaching from your own.
    Which brings me to the most difficult direction in Chairman's tweet Be yourself, doesn't sound difficult but I don't get along with myself. I'm always questioning, always thinking, always comparing, and always wanting to be different from everybody. Instead of putting up a front on Twitter, I'd rather just save my comments for here and my scribblings.

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    1. I've realised that I'm just too polite to feel comfortable with the slogan.