Exploring the Back Catalogue: Wish, Toxic Families & Mass Communication Bards

December 5, 2020

LOVE GONE WRONG, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS (continued)

End was one of our personal favourites on Show, which we had for yonks before Wish.  I guess we’re not particularly into shiny music most of the time, so a song like this appeals to us way more than Friday I’m In Love, musically but also lyrically.  Let me hasten to add though that if you were to go the other side of End into deliberately wallowing, wrist-slitting, let’s-lie-down-in-this-and-do-nothing-like-we-have-no-agency music, I’d be off the train as well, because I find that seriously annoying – the idea of deliberate victimhood, fashionable with some.  There’s a huge difference between that, and healthy confrontation of dark things about life.

Speaking of, Wish, from my midlife perspective, strikes me as more together and emotionally mature than its predecessors lyrically (I’ve heard all but the first three, and I’ve heard bits of those).  Some (but by no means all) of the earlier material I’ve heard isn’t what I’d consider emotionally mature, but then few people are particularly together in their 20s, and life is an evolution (unless people choose to stagnate).  I’d be worried if someone wasn’t writing more maturely in their 30s and 40s than before they were 25.

There seems to have been an extra effort on Wish too, to write the lyrics very carefully and thoughtfully, and as a result most of them make good stand-alone poetry as well.  While that’s not the only way to approach music and produce something excellent, it definitely works.

Now, I’m no expert on the history of rock music, but there was something in End musically that reminded me of the 60s and before.  Sort of, if the Beatles had decided to ditch the Wiggles part of them and gotten serious about writing dark songs, they might have sounded similar to this – although I’m biased enough to think that they’d never have sounded this good trying.  After all, in our view at this house, The Cure managed to outdo Jimmy Hendrix with their (noisy) cover of Purple Haze – no mean feat.  End would have fitted right in at Woodstock.

Before I have a look specifically at the lyrics, I just want to talk about the chorus (usually one of the first things people reliably pick up when listening to a new song), and what it’s made me think of for years…

Please stop loving me, I am none of these things

So much of what’s thought of as love is actually projection – in romantic relationships, especially when people fall in love in the first place; but also in too many parent-child relationships.  This is when people don’t love the actual person because they can’t or won’t see them; and all they see is a psychological projection.  If you’ve not heard of this before I found a good introductory summary here (but for the record, I’m not into astrology personally, and it’s not necessary to agree with Jung’s take to get this idea).

So in romantic relationships, people often project a fantasy onto the person they’re falling in love with, like they’re putting a mask on them and can’t see their real face.  If you’ve had a troubled childhood, it can be particularly hard to get around that, especially in early adulthood.  By my 30s I was tremendously suspicious of falling in love, because I’d been burnt by the process a couple of times, and because I hated the blindfolding and irrationality it could plunge you into, not to mention the direct line this process had to all your oldest, deepest, most painful wounds, which would then put you in hell all over again.

If this is painfully familiar to anyone reading and you’ve not broken the back of this yet, let me encourage you.  ♥  Do not despair – you can get out of this.  I know it often seems, when you’re walking in the valley of that particular shadow, that you’re never going to see the sunlight – that you’re doomed to stagger around in this darkness for the rest of your days, and be in that amount of pain forever, and the thought of that is unbearable.

There’s this saying that the darkest part of the night is just before the dawn.  That’s an idea I liked and held onto for decades.  Hope and optimism, and humour too, are things you have to cultivate, because you can’t do this without them.

When we were toddlers, we learnt to walk – and that process involved so much falling over, tripping up, experiencing hard landings and soft landings, getting bruised, frustration, pain, etc.  I love it when I see some parents respond to their toddlers’ crashes by saying, “Ooopsie-daisy!” and combining humour with warmth and encouragement towards them – and this encourages their toddlers to laugh at their own crashes, and try again.  If parents handle this the wrong way – with indifference, or with chiding, for example – they set up their children for anxiety around making mistakes and around not getting to grips with something straightaway, and for internalised negative views of themselves and their own ability to learn.  These things stay with you – in your “reptile brain” – right into adulthood if you don’t intercept and challenge that lot of BS programming that’s been bestowed upon you.

Basically, if you had lousy parenting even in some respects, part of your job in adulthood is to re-parent those mis-parented aspects of you – to do what should have been done, and do it yourself – to zoom back to the toddler you were, and the schoolkid you were, and the teenager you were, and to sit with that person, to listen to them, and to talk to them, and encourage them, and embrace them, the way it should have been in the first place, and the way you would with any other toddler, schoolkid or teenager, if it wasn’t actually you (and you learn as you go along that the toddler and schoolkid and teenager you were is just as deserving of love and care as the rest of them – no matter what you might have been conditioned to believe).

In a way, re-parenting yourself is also about seeing who you really were, instead of believing the projections dysfunctional parents routinely made of you, and pretended to themselves were you.  If you had a parent who liked to blacken your name to the world, you’ll likely find that they were projecting their own shadow onto you, and hating and punishing you for what were actually their failings and flaws, and turning you into a scapegoat, rather than sorting out their own personal shiitake. 

Scapegoats and Golden Children

There’s two classic projections dysfunctional parents make:  The scapegoat, and the golden child.  The kid who is picked as the scapegoat is more likely to be an independent thinker and empathetic and expressive and generally more different from the parent than the other children, and less likely to quietly go along with the parent’s ideas and demands.  This kid also, in a sort of poetic justice, is more likely than the others to get their own shiitake together in adulthood, and to reject and escape the role that was imposed on them.  In part it’s the nature of these children in the first place, and in part it’s that there is no percentage in holding on to a negatively distorted view.  In large part, of course, it’s that the pain of that existence drives you to needing to understand.

A golden child is the opposite projection – the parent sees the child only in glowing terms, and it can do no wrong, and if it is occasionally thought to be doing something wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault that this is so, and nothing to do with them.  The child who classically gets picked by a parent for that particular projection is likely to have key things in common with the parent – including narcissism and entitlement, although both of those are also nurtured into a child by making it the golden child (and Australia’s toxic ex-PM Tony Abbot is a classic case of this, if you read/listen to what his female siblings have to say about life growing up in that family).  The golden child will classically be recruited by the parent into physical and emotional abuse of their other children, and often become an emotional pseudo-spouse to the abusing parent.

While the golden child seems to have it made, and will likely be given a great deal of (excessive) power and showered in gifts and favours and affection, and have a spin-doctor PR machine that makes them out to be perfect and wonderful even when they’re not, the golden child is also the least likely to break out of that view of themselves, and to undo their many dysfunctions, when they reach adulthood (and you can observe this exact thing in the leaderships of our ailing democracies – in people like Trump, Boris Johnson, Tony Abbot, Scott Morrison, and the monkey circuses surrounding them).  We can all see that casting a child as the villain/scapegoat is emotional abuse, but when you think about it, beaming an excessively glowing projection on a child is also a form of emotional abuse – neither children are seen as who they really are, or loved as who they really are; they’re allocated roles instead, and those roles emotionally damage the children.  One of your jobs as an adult, after a childhood like this, is to come to grips with the dark fantasyland of your parents, and to distinguish that from objective reality – and if you’re lucky, you will already have started this process by the time you were a teenager.

Because I journalled from age 13, and because I bumped into some really super adults in my orbit outside of my family of origin, and because of books and music and nature etc, I started the intellectual process of working out reality versus projection early on.  (The emotional baggage took far longer, and I wrote about that here.)  The scapegoating looked like this:  I was a “bad girl” from toddlerhood because I disliked the colour pink, which my mother wanted to dress me in, and because I said “no” a lot, and expressed my own wishes, which is completely natural for toddlers to do – it’s what they’re meant to do.  It also happens that what I liked, and what my mother liked, were diametrically different things – that was true when I was three, and it’s true now.  Emotionally immature people find it confronting when people aren’t like them, which partly explains racism, sexism, homophobia, soccer violence, etc.

So even though as a child, I got mostly straight As at school, and lots of academic and art awards, and kept my room clean and tidy, and kept to my own room or the outdoors a lot as my parents preferred me to do, and helped with chores, and had friends, and was compassionate, and kind to animals, and never picked fights with other kids, I was consistently portrayed as “bad” and “trouble” by my mother, and unjustly blamed for all sorts of things that went wrong in her life and in our family.  My mother routinely made up stuff about me that wasn’t true, and published it as gospel to the wider neighbourhood, and to my teachers, and my friends.  She was still doing this in my 30s, repeatedly making up stories about how I’d been sacked from work when a fixed-term contract ended (no matter how glowing the references), or how no man wanted me (when I didn’t have a boyfriend), or how I was a slut (when I had a boyfriend).  If anyone had anything bad to say about me she’d join right in – I can never once remember her defending my character – and if people said good things, she’d tell them they were mistaken, and that she knew the “real me” (which is so ironic, because my mother has never known, or wanted to know, the real me).

By contrast, my brother could do no wrong – even though he was a bully, and had a pronounced cruel streak, and thought himself too high and mighty to help with housework or offer courtesies to other people, and slacked off in high school to the point he had remedial tuition even though he was bright, and routinely swore at the dinner table (and elsewhere) using the foulest terms that would make even a sailor blush, and said things like, “What crap did you cook today?” to her as a teenager (I was in primary school and remember my shock; she’d have beaten me black and blue if I’d acted like this but all she said to him was, “Please don’t say that.”), and talked disparagingly of “poofters” and “boongs”, and was generally rude and unkind and inconsiderate to the wider world around him.  Furthermore – while according to her, I was a slut for having a boyfriend at one point in my early 30s, she had no criticisms at all when my brother, at around the same time, and while still married and living in the same house as his wife, got his secretary pregnant – a girl barely out of school, and 20 to his 40-something, and in his employ (think about the power imbalance of all that).  But when my mother heard about that, she was gleeful, because she didn’t like his wife.  My mother is an avid church-goer, and I asked her if her church lauded infidelity and abuse of power… but let’s not go there today, because then we have to get into institutional hypocrisy, on top of the personal kind.  And I’ll finish the examples from my own family of origin here, and they’re necessarily summary examples.

When an unreconstructed golden child gets to be prime minister, the pattern is predictable.  Tony Abbot is Australia’s prime recent example of that.  His sisters attest to him having that role in their childhood home, and what we got was an entitled, narcissistic, broken adult who, in government, continued to play the games he’d learnt at home:  That he is wonderful, that he can do no wrong, that everything he says is truth, that everyone should kiss his feet, that he’s entitled to special treatment and more money and privilege than “ordinary” people, that what he says goes and everyone else be damned – and of course, Tony Abbot scapegoated those who have the least power in Australian society – the refugees, the unemployed, the poor, the precariat, the ethnic minorities, not to mention women (of course).

I’m sure you can think of other examples of people in power who are like this, even in a past or present workplace… and they may never change, because they’re used to having all that unearned power and privilege, and to running the show as they see fit.  The idea of consulting with others (other than their sycophants) is anathema to them, and they don’t see any reason to.  They are God, in their own minds – or at least God’s rightfully chosen.

So you can see for yourself the links between the microcosm of the dysfunctional family, and the macrocosm of the dysfunctional society.

♦ ♥ ♦

When I met Brett in my mid-30s, I did see his real face, for months before we became romantically involved – because we started out as very good friends, and I deliberately slowed everything down from my side, plus he’s super respectful, and not the kind of man who would push a girl to have sex, even if he physically wanted it – when we talk about that now, he says that for him, the narrative is always more important than a shortcut thrill (and also that he was never particularly attracted to pornography chiefly because the narratives around that are such shiitake).  For my part, I wanted to know him very well before getting pulled under by the spell of sexual biochemistry and all the initial distortions that come with that – and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t perversely attracted to the kind of pattern that had been set up in my childhood – I’d seen that too many times.

I did eventually let go and fall in love with him – after lots of getting to know, and a while after he’d made a clear declaration that he hoped we would become more than friends – to which I’d said, “I really really like you, and I hope you can melt through all that protective ice around that part of my heart, and I hope that part hasn’t frozen to death in the process…”  But by then, I’d actually seen his real face and he mine, before the inevitable projecting of various fantasies that happens early on in a romantic relationship, apparently no matter how you try to avoid it.  (I have some poems I wrote in those first couple of months of being a couple that make me cringe – and far better poetry from later on, especially after we started having to solve some serious conflicts.)

Looking back, after projecting the fantasy face on him, I spent a while early on in our relationship projecting a shadow face on him, and reacting to that shadow face with all the stored-up pain and loneliness of my childhood experiences.  Then I realised what I was doing, and pulled out of the tailspin.  We each went back to seeing each other’s real faces, and then things got extremely solid.  It’s wonderful to have that deep level of friendship, relationship and co-adventure, not to mention sex as an expression of that, and not as this wrought kind of insanity that it will be if entirely in the hands of hormones and psychological dysfunction.  And don’t let anyone tell you the sex is better when it’s like that.  When all is said and done, flying is so much better than falling off a cliff.

I wouldn’t wish to paint a picture of having some kind of perfect relationship.  People aren’t perfect, therefore relationships aren’t, unless you’ve got your head currently wedged in fantasyland.  But friendship is real, and an egalitarian partnership is a fine thing, and a good relationship can withstand the warts neither of you have managed to remove yet, and the occasional outburst and injustice and unkindness, and even not-so-occasional stuff like that, so long as you’re not taking advantage and actually working through it.  Dysfunctional relationships trap people in unhealthy behaviours and stifle personal growth, and are a place of doom (and in some cases, incredibly dramatic near-death sex).  In contrast, imperfect but generally functional relationships encourage healthy and respectful behaviours, help each of you to be the best you can be, and are a place of nurture for your goals and talents (plus don’t actually confuse sex with asphyxia).

♦ ♥ ♦

Jeanette Winterson wrote a book called Sexing The Cherry, a longtime favourite.  At the centre of it are dark fairytales with much mayhem.  Somewhere in it, after a particularly dark thing, she says: As your lover describes you, so you are.  You can substitute “parent” for “lover” – same sort of point – and I partly agree, and partly disagree.  I think it’s significantly true until you learn not to march to the beat of other people’s drums, and more significantly, and harder still, not to care about that drumbeat.  You don’t have to be the label, the projection others put on you, but it’s one heck of a fight not to be, when you are starting out with that.  Just the defensiveness that usually goes with that territory early on shifts you over towards those false projections – that’s partly how curses and self-fulfilling prophecies work, until you learn to defuse them.  And of course, there’s the poisoning of the well with others, the character assassination, which creates prejudice, particularly in the gullible and the malicious.  Moving far away and starting again can help, as can not giving a rat’s posterior what the gullible and the malicious think about you.

♦ ♥ ♦

What got us here:

Please stop loving me, I am none of these things

A projection isn’t reality, and love of a projection is not love of the real person that’s being used as a movie screen.  Ditto hate.  The love and the hate are probably real, but on examination they have very little, if anything, to do with the real person they are aimed at – though they speak volumes about the person doing the projecting.  Of course, the act of loving or hating a projection can be very damaging to the people you’re projecting on if you have any kind of power over them (parent, employer, spouse) – and also to yourself, because you’re no longer in reality there, but in fantasyland – you’re basically deranged.   Also, love of a projection is basically just narcissism – it’s about your own wish fulfilment.  And the hatred of a projection is about the hate and unresolved shiitake inside of you – and sometimes, it’s about some people taking actual enjoyment from the act of hating and harming others (such people do exist).

Please stop loving me, I am none of these things

So says a person who’s essentially been put into “golden child” position by another person – rarely, says a person to their parent, rejecting the golden child projection that was aimed at them – more often, says a person who realises that someone who is “in love” with them doesn’t actually see them for real and is just in love with a fantasy – and also, may say a person who has been put on a pedestal by anyone else, and is therefore dealing with projections.

The best way to stop yourself from projecting is to not put yourself above or below other people.  In Transactional Analysis terms, that means adult-adult interactions with other adults (and adolescents) – not parent-child or child-parent interactions.  When you put someone on a pedestal, you’re likely to project your wish fulfilment fantasies on them;  when you talk down to them, you’re likely to project your own shadow (and you’re being condescending).  Neither of these is helpful.

Please stop loving me, I am none of these things

Celebrities are vulnerable to both types of projections by the general public:  Scapegoating, and being put on a pedestal.  It’s a popular pastime, and there’s entire magazines devoted to the practice.  The concert hysteria we’ve all seen with some bands, particularly young bands, is rooted in projection of fantasies, to the point of derangement.  It’s narcissism in the form of high-pitched screaming, underwear throwing, etc.  It’s also sometimes the projection of the kind of role model a person is looking for, especially in the absence of that in their own immediate environment.  As with a cult, that person will then defend his projection onto that person as if it is that person – even though the real person has flaws, and is not the perfect person they imagine them to be (although they may have good traits that were correctly identified by the person doing the projecting).

So can you love people you’ve never met, in any kind of healthy way?  I’ll give that a qualified “yes” and refer back to the different types of love the Greeks had distinct words for (see here for a summary if you’re not familiar with that).  Accordingly, we can have agape-type love for everyone – it’s a universal respect and goodwill and concern for welfare we can give other people on principle.  It’s the type of love you have when you don’t want people you’ve never met to starve in some faraway land or refugee camp, when you think of kids who have nobody they can talk to and your heart goes out to them, when you wish people well, no matter how well you know them (ditto for other animals; you have a disposition to care).  It’s possible because you identify with them; because they are part of the whole which you are also part of; because you know how it is to suffer or be lonely or cold or hungry and you can use your imagination to extrapolate, and you care.

I also find I love some people who are dead.  This includes my maternal grandmother, with whom I had a warm relationship, before I was sadly separated from her at age 11 when we emigrated to Australia – I only saw her one more time, for a few weeks when I was 15, when she visited – but we corresponded avidly with letters until she died, and I have boxes full of letters from her.  She is dead, and we can no longer correspond, or meet, but it didn’t change that I love her – that never left my heart, and she lives on in it.

Likewise, I have a love for Charles Dickens, even though he died before I was born and I’ve never met him.  Great Expectations was a set text for our English Literature class when I was a student, and is a book so full of humanity and compassion and honesty and wisdom that I love the part of this person that gave rise to this book.  I don’t just love the book, I love the consciousness than begat it, and I’m glad Charles Dickens ever existed.  I don’t imagine he was flawless, and I don’t know if I would have liked him in person, but my general experience of that has been that if I like the values in someone’s work, I have a good chance of also liking the person that’s behind them, on actual acquaintance.

That Charles Dickens example, you can extrapolate to hundreds of other people whose books or music or paintings or other art forms gave me light along the road.  You may not know them in person, but they are part of the village that raised you, and in which you live – and it’s important to you that they did what they did, so it’s quite OK to love their work, and the part of them that brought it into the world.  It’s a bit abstract, but that’s OK too – our brains generally start to get comfortable with abstractions by around age 14.

…and now, I really have to stop writing, and go to the beach to get some fresh air and exercise, and social time with my husband and dog.  :)  So I’m going to leave it at that for today, and look at the lyrics as a whole next time around (and I expect that’s going to be a bit more clinical, and less of a scenic excursion ;)).

Later!  ♥

December 7, 2020

This series is called Exploring The Back Catalogue, which was intended to refer to The Cure’s recordings going back into the stone age from whence some of us hail. 🤪  It occurred to me after writing the last entry that there is a valid secondary meaning to the thread title – because it turns out that when you explore and think about an interesting and voluminous musical back catalogue which not infrequently grapples with various aspects of the human condition, you end up also exploring and thinking about the back catalogue of your own experiences in the process.  That’s nothing new of course, that’s what good music and literature and art are supposed to do:  Get you thinking about life – both your own, and in general.

This seems to be especially effective if the musical back catalogue co-extends over much of your own life span.  You’ll get an album from 1985 and say, “Ah, I heard this song on middle school summer camp!” and you’ll remember the weather and the breakfast cereal and that one of the staff members had a wardrobe malfunction with his bathers, and how you brushed your teeth in front of the mirror while the English teacher who introduced you to journalling rolled her eyes at your technique (how rude! 🤬), and you’ll get a fierce ghost of the aroma of dust and eucalyptus leaves that early summer, in that particular place.  It’s amazing what music brings back to you, and how vivid such recollections can be.  It’s also really interesting to retrofit albums you’ve not listened to before into your recollection of history, and go, “Ah, this and that happened, I wonder if the music referenced that at all.”

It’s really fascinating to do this trip, both because I really enjoy thoughtful music, and because it’s like time travel – sort of like being a detective on a TARDIS and going, “What have we here?” at each stop, which also doubles as a deep dive into the layers of your own life.

Last entry, just one idea from the chorus of End kept me very busy – and today, I want to look at the lyrics as a whole.

END

I think I’ve reached that point
Where giving up and going on
Are both the same dead end to me
Are both the same old song

I think I’ve reached that point
Every wish has come true
Tired, disguised oblivion
Everything I do

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

I think I’ve reached that point
Where all the things you have to say
Hopes of something more from me
Just games to pass the time away

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

I think I’ve reached that point
Where every word that you write
Of every blood dark sea
And every soul black night

And every dream you dream me in
And every perfect free from sin
And burning eyes and hearts on fire
Just the same old song

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things
Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

Please stop loving me
Please stop loving me
I am none of these things

We were just reading through the main verses out loud this morning and Brett said, “The narrator sounds seriously fatigued.”  I laughed; it’s not the first time a Cure song seems to come from the pitch-black bottom of the deep dark well of burnout.  I laughed not because burnout is funny, but because of the recognition, and because if you don’t have black humour about stuff like that, you’re doomed.  🌩

Perfectionistic tendencies and burnout correlate significantly – been there, done that, and have seen it in others.  Journalling is a nice antidote for me, always has been – it’s actually relaxing, and enjoyable, and I love having no pressure on me, and not having to argue with an editor or withdraw a piece because they wanted to lobotomise it.  Paid writing is very different to this and after ten years, I’m taking an unspecified break and just writing for fun, while running a farmstay.  When the pandemic hit, I couldn’t take any more articles about knitting hot-water bottle covers (not that I wrote those, or that there’s something fundamentally wrong with knitting a hot-water bottle cover, it was just the umpteenth rendition of it, and the current historical context – let’s knit hot-water bottle covers while the planet burns, etc).

I’m much more interested in the human condition than in knitted hot-water bottle covers, and it’s far more relevant to what’s going on around us.

Back to the song:  I talked about projection in the last entry, and End reads well for a number of contexts involving that, but Brett and I both think that this song is particularly spot on as a telling-off to the more deranged music audience members.  It’s a pity really, that this plagues contemporary music – and I think that’s why I’ve never been very comfortable at a contemporary gig with lots of screaming fans.  I’m really at home in a classical or folk music audience – and I just found a little clip of what I mean:

That’s the kind of audience I love being amongst, which makes me feel connected to the other people there, and happy to be part of the human species.  Have a look at them!  ♥  These are people you can actually talk to in a normal manner, and who aren’t going to make the musicians uncomfortable by behaving like lunatics.  I mean, OK, there’s clearly some lunatic musicians who enjoy having a lunatic audience – enjoy insane displays of veneration and hysteria, and underwear-throwing.  But I’ve never liked music by people like that, nor musicians or any other people who love sitting on pedestals.

From what I’ve read, The Cure came in for a fair bit of audience lunacy when they got commercial success, and I can completely understand why Mike Scott from The Waterboys made a point of disappearing whenever things got too big, or too crazy – went to an intentional community for a while, or disappeared to Ireland to play folk music.  Likewise, Liam Ó Maonlaí quit touring with Hothouse Flowers and went back to his roots:

Look at the audience interaction, it’s fabulous.  ♥   Everyone there is on the same level; it’s people hanging out as community.  I went to some Hothouse Flowers gigs in the 90s and their audience was actually so much more sane than the U2 crowd I’d seen in the same venue – you could hear a pin drop when Ó Maonlaí was singing a traditional Gaelic piece a capella during an encore, in an 8000-seater filled to capacity.  During louder songs, people were cheering and clapping but not screaming hysterically and fainting.

The first Cure gig I watched on a screen was Trilogy, and I thought to myself, “That’s actually a pretty nice audience for a contemporary gig!”  It wasn’t too over-the-top and people were doing nice things like slowly waving lights around.  Here’s a sample:

I’d have largely felt comfortable with that, as an audience member – and I think the 2018 Hyde Park concert had a mostly reasonable audience as well, compared to the norm for large rock concerts.  Brett saw The Cure in Perth in 2000 and says the crowd there was pretty well-behaved too – and joked to me, “But they didn’t play Friday I’m In Love so the audience cut Robert Smith’s head off and put it on a spike.”  :P

I can’t remember if it was Paris or Show, but on at least one of those albums, there’s the kind of female audience screeching that can shatter glass, not to mention permanently mangle the stereocilia in your inner ear.  (Brett is betting it’s Show because that’s an American audience.  :evil:)  I well know the sound from sometimes teaching in all-girls’ schools.  :1f635:  A good water pistol ought to be helpful for nipping this undesirable behaviour in the bud.  I didn’t encounter it in the classroom, or I really would have brought in a water pistol – it’s more that you have to wear ear plugs on sports days, etc.

I know a lot of tricks for managing an unreasonable classroom – but how do you manage an unreasonable concert crowd?  Do you stop the concert and say, “We will resume when people are quiet – meanwhile, security will remove anyone who gets nasty?”  (Probably not, although I have heard of bands stopping mid-song and turning the place over to bouncers if people in the audience are getting crushed or there’s fights breaking out.  Lovely.  🙄)

It’s funny, isn’t it, that people who actually enjoy listening to music for its own sake tend to behave in a civilised manner at a concert.  The hysteria seems to be largely associated with popular culture and fame – and if people go to concerts because it’s fashionable or because there’s a famous person on stage, that doesn’t suggest they’re particularly bright, or very mature.  It’s this sort of herd mentality, too – or lemmings going over a cliff, I don’t know.  I expect that people are more likely to behave like that when they’re in their teens or twenties than when their brain matures a bit, although there’s always exceptions to the rule… and of course there’s also many people who refuse to behave like this even at age 15, etc.

Of course, lunatic tendencies don’t always come with ostentatious outward behaviour, and clearly there’s plenty of projecting onto people that goes on without screeching or fainting or underwear throwing.  It’s a flaw the human brain is given to, and having a human brain is like having a high-maintenance exotic pet that you can’t leave unsupervised, and have to engage in a lot of positive activities to prevent various disasters.  (“Oh no!  My exotic pet just ate the postman!  Tunnelled into the neighbour’s garden and stole his shoes!  Rolled in a cadaver and then went to sleep on the sofa!  Peed in the pantry!  Chewed up my record collection!  Climbed up the curtains!  Left a dead rat in the washing machine! :1f62e:”  – “Well, you really should take it for long walks more often, dear!”)

Ah, the rich tapestry.

Just getting back to the wording of End before I wrap up, here’s some particularly nice writing from that song:

I think I’ve reached that point
Where every word that you write
Of every blood dark sea
And every soul black night

And every dream you dream me in
And every perfect free from sin
And burning eyes and hearts on fire
Just the same old song

It’s unsurprising that you can also read these same words for a starry-eyed, overly adoring person in a romantic relationship – psychologically, all these things are related, through being about projections instead of reality.  You can’t change people’s behaviour, but you can work with boundaries and consequences so that they might think about changing their own behaviour –  and ultimately you can decide whether or not to hang around them.

Primarily though, the behaviour you can influence the most is your own, and that’s really your main job in life.  Here’s a little song about that which will nicely conclude this entry.

December 8, 2020

It appears we’re not quite done with End yet.  Now that I’ve looked, I’ve found the following snippet online:

In a 1992 interview with Propaganda magazine, Robert Smith spoke about the connection felt by his fans towards the emotions reflected in his songwriting. In “End,” the lyrics “Please stop loving me / I am none of these things,” seemingly forms a plea to fans to limit their idolization of him:

“This will always be an emotional band. I find it easy to write about what pours from my heart.  It just so happens that much of what flows from it is downcast — almost desperate. Music is my way of moaning, of crying, of throwing a tantrum. It’s not calculated, it’s how I feel at the moment […]

Because my very private emotions have constantly been put on display like this for so long, many of our fans have strongly identified with them. These people seem to believe that I somehow have a special insight into things — that I’m somehow able to deliver all the answers to all their problems in life. I’d really rather not be thought of in that way, which is why I included the song “End” on the last album.”

Quote from https://genius.com/The-cure-end-lyrics

Now isn’t that interesting.

Psychologically, the problem isn’t that people are identifying with emotions or situations – that’s something our social-mammal brains are supposed to do, so that we have a hope of living peacefully in groups and so that cooperation and social cohesion becomes possible.  Identifying with others makes you want to be around them, makes you want to be helpful and to act in the common interest, rather than always prioritising your individual interest.  We’re actually quite driven by emotional proclivities – by wanting to do things or not do things, as opposed to doing them because we rationally recognise they are good things to do – it’s much harder for us to do something just because we know it’s good for us, if we don’t feel like doing it.  (But there’s tricks to use for that, etc.)

So, it’s actually a good thing for people to identify with each other, to understand that we have emotions, problems, dreams etc in common – and to understand where our differences lie.  Have you noticed how having common ground with someone else actually helps you be curious about your differences – rather than apprehensive or aggressive?  How a baseline level of respect and trust helps people understand and appreciate those things on which they think or feel differently?  That baseline level of respect and trust comes significantly from identifying with others.

The problem is that we’re not doing enough of it – and that our social groups have become too large for our brains.  We’re evolutionarily set up for small-tribe living, and we’re actually living in complex societies with millions of people in them now.  It’s impossible to have working relationships with a million other people – your brain can handle interacting regularly with a “tribe” of maybe 100-200 people in a meaningful way, at a stretch.  More than that, and it gets stressful.  In cities, people tend to avoid each other; and one of our modern dilemmas is that we’re the loneliest we’ve ever been, even though surrounded by an ocean of other humans – too many humans.

And many of us aren’t connecting with each other as much as we were necessarily connecting when we were hunter-gatherers, or even agricultural villagers.  In recent decades, with increasing job insecurity in the West and many people forced to up and move many times to pursue the next job, we’re getting socially dislocated many times over, and a good support network necessarily becomes harder to maintain.

People who are into sports or religion generally get little plug-in communities when they relocate; but if you’re not into those things, or you’re introverted, or have social anxieties, or your daytime job puts a hundred people into your face every day and you can’t face going to choir group or Scottish Highland dancing or the photography club or whatever else you might be interested in on a weeknight after that because all you want to do is be on your own and read a book, then you may end up having few social contacts that aren’t around your work.

In addition to that, you may live in a culture where people tend to be more aloof and aren’t that emotionally expressive or interested in welcoming new people into their circles – and this is the common experience I share with people from Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African and other “warm-culture” backgrounds, as an immigrant to Australia – it’s a shock (and if you grow up like that, you may not even realise there is an alternative).  I grew up in part in Italy, and am part-Italian, and that was culturally my favourite place to live because people were just so much more open, expressive, socially welcoming and generally colourful than what I’d seen in Germany, or what I’ve seen in Australia (although here you can hang out with cultural groups from those backgrounds to at least partially replicate that kind of experience).

The British culture is famous for the stiff upper lip.  It doesn’t mean everyone British has it, but it’s a cultural tendency.  A lot of Anglo-background men (and many men in general, more than women) would rather walk barefoot on hot coals than express emotions that make them vulnerable.  It’s to do with how people are “edited” around culture and gender as they grow up – much is amputated in the process of “civilising” a person to a particular cultural standard.  And throw into the mix the international problem of family violence and other dysfunction affecting many families – well, it all adds up to a lot of disconnection, and a lot of deficit.

Many people who grow up with a lot of disconnection and isolation (and even many who don’t) will use books and music as another way of connecting to the rest of humanity.  It’s alternative universes you might actually want to live in.  It allows you to dive into how other people think and feel, and see other ways of doing things, including better ways of doing things than what you might see in your immediate environment.  Literature and music saves a lot of people from doom, if you ask me.

One problem with our modern culture is this:  When we lived in small tribes/villages, we had our tribe/village bards, but we actually knew them.  Although their music and poetry might have moved us (unless we were saddled with a Cacofonix), we also knew they had flaws because we lived with these people, and talked to them regularly.  They were just one of us, who happened to have the gift of the gab or of music, while others had the gift of woodcarving or boat-making or whatever.  Plus, music and poetry had more community participation – just look at the centrality of that to the everyday lives of many people who don’t live in Western mainstream culture.

I’m going to break this loooong text up a little by posting this lovely clip of Australian indigenous band Yothu Yindi to illustrate that last point:

…and doesn’t it make you want to jump up and join in?  It’s social glue in that kind of community (lucky people!).  It’s really something meant for participation.  There wasn’t originally so much distance between performer and spectator – that’s a more recent thing.  (If this makes you ache, sign up for an African drumming workshop, you’ll love it! :))

These days, we may still have the equivalent of village bards in some places (and we do where we live), but we also have mass communication, including printed books and recorded music.  Someone who would normally just have been a village bard suddenly becomes a bard in many places that have a knowledge of the same language – not quite a global bard, but a bard with an audience of millions, instead of a couple of hundred villagers/tribespeople. 

And on the one hand that’s great because it exposes us to so much diversity of styles and ideas.  On the other, it creates a problem for the brain, because we no longer have personal contact with those sorts of bards.  This is unsatisfactory to our small-tribe brains, which are programmed for connection and communication.  There’s something missing if you can’t sit down around a table with your village bards present.  Furthermore, you don’t know from experience that these mass-communication bards have, let’s say, really bad halitosis, or a short temper, or hate Chinese people, or are motorheads, or are greedy, or unhelpful, or have bad table manners, or poor personal hygiene, or enjoy stringing reptiles up and watching them die slowly, etc etc etc.  If you don’t see that stuff, it can be easy to irrationally imagine that these mass-communication bards are somehow rarefied and extra evolved, and removed from the human grubbery you see all around you, and wish to get away from.

And now I’m going to come back to the point about modern social isolation, and common family dysfunction.  You may grow up with few people in your immediate orbit who enthuse you with their examples or values – but see things in books or in lyrics that you think are so much better (and they may be).  Or you may live in a family and/or society where people don’t talk about their emotions, and you have a hunger for that, and then you see it in books or music, and you wish you could have that in your day-to-day life.  And especially if you’re young, it becomes so easy for your brain to project fantasy onto those mass-communication bards, in a similar way people do when they fall in love with someone.  Plus, you’re not cynical yet and you think it’s bad manners to think badly of other people in the absence of evidence.  :angel

I’m trying to think back about the extent to which I did that as a young person.  My immediate family members were violent and emotionally abusive, and I grew up mostly either outdoors communing with nature, or indoors with my nose in books – magic gateways to alternative universes.  I was interested in music from a participation point of view (we had a really wonderful multi-instrumentalist teacher in primary school – a real village bard – and she also taught us to sing harmonies, call and response etc, rather than baa-baa-black-sheep stuff) – there really wasn’t much music in the family I grew up in – and I’m not counting my brother’s blaring of Kiss and other tasteless stuff through his expensive sound system until the walls shook and the neighbours started complaining.

I grew an embryonic interest in contemporary music when we moved to Australia, through the ubiquity of 96fm in Perth in the 80s – and they really were a very good station, not Top-40 but more educational.  At age 14, I managed to get a copy of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, and shortly afterwards the predecessors to that – it was an eye-opener.  The males in my household (father, older brother) were violent bullies (as was my mother, just for the record, but I’m trying to look specifically at male examples here), not to mention misogynists, racists and homophobes – all they ever seemed to express was anger and disdain, and the concept of love they promulgated was so toxic it took me decades to completely recover from it.

Because Bono (like Robert Smith) is rather free and lavish with his emotions (and wasn’t nearly so annoying before U2 hit the big time), it was through those albums that I became super-conscious that not all males were like the ones in my family.  And by the way, I have that in common with Noel Fitzpatrick, the Bionic Vet – similar family of origin dysfunctions, same albums – let’s take a little break to look at what he grew up to be (and if you’ve never seen Oscar, this is a treat):

Noel Fitzpatrick listened to these albums on a remote Irish peat bog, and I, on a remote Australian farm – with music, animals, books and some excellent teachers more common features in our respective stories.

Bono expressed anger, but on behalf of other people, or because of structural injustice – how amazing was that – a male not being angry for the sole reason of not getting their own way.  :1f62e:  Also, what he had to say about love, number one, wasn’t primarily about romantic love, and number two, even when it was, actually expressed respect for his partner – how good was that?

I probably did have a hyper-inflated idea of Bono’s personal goodness at that point, but the same would be true for authors like James Herriot.  At any rate, even with the warts I can see in those people as a grown-up, they were vastly superior specimens of masculinity than what I saw at home (or in the local community of rednecks), and it was really important to understand that men didn’t have to be misogynistic, bigoted, bullying posterior orifices to be men.  I much preferred that take.  And while I probably overestimated the personal virtue of people like Bono, James Herriot, and other better examples of how to be human, I was much too distrustful of the human species in general to idolise those people in anything like the way I saw my classmates idolise their respective pop stars etc.  And I’d never have screeched or thrown my underwear upon meeting these people who were important role models to me – I would have died of embarrassment to even consider that – it’s so vacuous and stupid, not to mention bad manners.

All young children will put their parents on a pedestal initially, given half a chance – and when your parents fall off the pedestal, the search for replacements is on, until one day you (hopefully) learn that pedestals are a really bad idea – and that you don’t need to be a child anymore (or at least, that you have an adult self at your disposal now).

I think my head solved my existential problem at the time by finding a sort of surrogate non-human that it was OK to put on a pedestal – having grown up non-religious, at 14 I was rather impressed by the way Jesus spoke of the Pharisees, and the Sermon on the Mount etc, and because you’re sort of invited culturally to view him as superhuman and a completely different kettle of fish, I did.  By the way, I wasn’t proselytised, I was just reading.  But the text invites you to view Jesus as a big imaginary friend you can talk to in your head anytime, and that was some wish fulfilment for an isolated kid (plus it’s common for very young children to create imaginary friends, so with religion, you’re really scaffolding onto that).  And in retrospect I think it’s better to recruit a non-human story-based fantasy figure into your own re-parenting, than to project fantasies onto fellow humans and thereby turn them into some kind of God they’re not (and yes, the parallels…).  Michael J. Straczinsky, by the way, put the cartoon character Superman on his personal pedestal for much the same reasons, when he was growing up (his bio is called Becoming Superman and is a great read).

Now where were we?  I know there’s one thing I need to come back to before I can wrap this up; and that’s the modern deficit in emotional connection.  Because there is a solution to that, and it is that more of us need to become forthright about our own back stories and flaws, and to talk about our emotions and thoughts, and how we got through various horrible things, and all that stuff that’s usually hidden away as too personal, so that there’s always people like that in the immediate community to talk to, and you don’t need to project that wish onto some distant mass-communication bard.

Say I online, which is a form of mass communication too, but actually, a good forum is an online community, and makes connections between actual human beings, in an actual human way (but few are the forums who seem to do this well).  But online doesn’t have to be very different from the old snail-mail penpals who actually become connected on a human level.  Plus, I’m like this in person too (e.g. read our guest reviews), and was switched into this sort of thing in my 20 years in classrooms:  Emotional stuff was always invited into the discussion, even if we were doing Physics (but it is easier to do that with Literature classes – having taught both, and a few other subjects).

And now I want to put in a good word for the mass-communication bard.  I consider myself fortunate to have worked with crowd sizes that fitted (sometimes barely, depending on student load policies) into the small-tribe setup of the brain I have courtesy of being human.  Because of this, I could always connect with the people I was working with in a meaningful way, so that they weren’t just faces or numbers to me, but actual persons I cared about, and could care about in more than an abstract way, because I could get to know them well enough – through surveys at the start of the year, and essays, and class discussions, and letting them tell me their stories and ideas and dreams – and by not being a robot, myself; not too secretive about my own life and experiences, but openly human.

Likewise, when I joined an online journalling group six years ago, the size of the group was conducive to personal connection and relationship.  It is large enough to have some diversity, but mostly not too big to be overwhelming or a chore.  It’s a sort of subgroup in the main group, because the main group is too much to handle – that would be a fulltime job, and I have lots of other things to do…

I spent nearly a decade writing regularly for an Australian self-sufficiency magazine, which forms a kind of community as well.  However, that’s where I was running into some limitations.  For nearly two years now I’ve had reader letters on my desk that I’d hitherto always answered, but it just snowballed, and though I keep saying to myself, “At least I could send a postcard!” the weeks and months go by and I do nothing about it – because it’s just gotten too much for me.  The best will in the world comes crash bang up against the fact that I just can’t do this forever and ever – it’s overloading my brain, and my brain says no, even though the letters are still out and so is the stationery, and these are nice people.  I’ve stopped writing for this magazine for other reasons, but a nice side-effect is that this problem isn’t going to keep snowballing.  And this is the baby version of the problem every mass communication bard comes up against – that you can’t personally talk to everyone in your audience who wants to, because you’re wired for small-tribe connection and will burn out if you try to do more than that.

Thankfully I was never mobbed etc, in working with the public.  Amusingly, Brett came home one day a couple of years ago and told me he’d been stopped in the supermarket with, “…I wonder, are you Brett Coulstock, husband of Sue, who writes for such and such?  Please tell her that her articles really cheer me up!”  :lol:  We laughed about that – the fact that he was recognised.  This year, I met that reader at the stockfeeds, “Hey, I met your husband at the supermarket a while back, I hope he told you XYZ.”  Of course, when you’ve spent 20 years in education, you get kind of used to getting recognised in the street, around your workplace catchments anyway.  I’m sure some of them are hiding from me, but others definitely aren’t, and these kinds of imprompu reunions can be really lovely.  But that’s at a small-tribe level, and verbal, so it works out fine.

I can’t even imagine how horrible it would be to be doing this kind of thing on a vastly bigger scale.  Unless you put some serious boundaries around yourself, like maybe living in hermitage at the bottom of a deep cave, it would kill you.  That’s the other side of the equation of mass communication.

Let’s finish by going back to this:

I find it easy to write about what pours from my heart.  It just so happens that much of what flows from it is downcast — almost desperate. Music is my way of moaning, of crying, of throwing a tantrum. It’s not calculated, it’s how I feel at the moment […]

Quote

In other words, the writing is cathartic.

I’ve sometimes wondered why the UK and Ireland have come up with so much good contemporary music, compared to, say, Italy.  Here’s a hypothesis:  Maybe Italians are happy to moan, cry and throw tantrums in everyday life, and therefore don’t have the same need to go write songs about it, to let it all out.  …or maybe, it’s because they spend less time stuck indoors in miserable weather…

But I’m going to stop now, before another thousand words pour out.  :lol:

Hopefully, this is the end of the discussion of End and matters arising from it.  :angel

(Mine, I mean.  I’d like to actually get to the next song one day.  However, if anyone wants to jump in, and further discuss End or matters arising from it, that would be excellent, and a good reason to delay going to the next song.  :)  On the horse forum people are always jumping in.  Maybe horse people are more verbose or extroverted or whatever, compared to fans of bands said to be gothic even though they’re not.  :angel)

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