Subjectivity 2 – The Revenge

10 January, 2009

I suspect my last post may have prompted the odd ‘what the fuck is he on about’ moment.

As I’ve said before, minds tend to work well when given a metaphor to sift ideas through. I’ve been spending a lot of my down time (well, most of my life really, but it seems to have been especially on my mind recently) trying to put my thoughts about belief, trust, religious and philosophical categories into some kind of form I can express.

Everyone has some opinions about such – and everyone has strong opinions about the kind of music they like (and especially the music they loathe). It struck me just how similar the expression of those can be – hence the last brain-spurt.

The music/belief parallel can be stretched further. And I’m gonna.

I have several friends who think very highly of The Smiths. I, to put it mildly, do not. Among these friends I’ve noticed an odd tendency towards evangelism… every single one of them has, apropos of nothing in the conversation at the time, suddenly tried to convince me of the genius of Morrissey at some point.
And I have to say to them;
‘Seriously – I don’t care how influential were, how Morrissey’s lyrics epitomised the Thatcherite zeitgeist or how ‘good’ a guitarist Johnny Marr is. I think they suck. Listening to them hurts my head and makes me stabby. Morrissey couldn’t write me a fucking shopping list.’

Despite this, I still love those guys who tried to convert me. I don’t hold their (dreadful) taste in music against them and, indeed, there are several bands we enjoy in common.

Which one of us is right? What’s the truth here? Were they wrong to try and share their love for The Smiths with me? Am I just too narrow-minded to appreciate the subtleties of their oeuvre? Or The Smiths really and truthfully a bunch of overrated whiners?

There is no right answer to these questions.

I know damn well my dislike of The Smiths (or Linkin Park, or Coldplay-Who-Are-Shit) is utterly subjective – just the same as my love of Gabriel-era Genesis, 13th Century Troubador songs, the voice of Lisa Gerrard and Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for ‘The Fountain’ is.

But there are those (my dear friends are not among them, I emphasise) who will cheerfully tell you that The Smiths are the best band in the world and anyone who doesn’t think so is an idiot. Or that the music of Bach is ‘inherently superior’ to that of Robert Johnson. Or that ‘jungle music’ is damaging to the soul.

Those kind of folk are rather harder to have a conversation with.
It’s not what they believe – it’s how they act upon it that matters.

I don’t have any problem at all with people believing something different about the nature of the universe than I do.
I don’t even mind them being passionate about their beliefs and expressing that passion to me.
I do have a problem with them telling me that they are indisputably right and that I am stupid/deluded/evil for believing otherwise.

But what about things that are absolutely true? Not subjective at all, like musical tastes, but testable facts?

I would say that there really aren’t that many such absolute facts, and that even these are mostly subject to interpretation.

And this pisses off two superficially different, but fundamentally (pun intended) similar groups – the Christian Fundamentalists and the self-styled ‘Rationalists’.

I’ll be picking a fight with them both soon.

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Subjectivity

7 January, 2009

I have a friend who is unable to utter the name of the popular beat combo Coldplay without adding the phrase “…who are shit”.

Now, I am sure that there are many people in the world whose opinion of Coldplay differs from his. After all, they are a very popular band. There are likely many folk for whom Coldplay is the epitome of contemporary rock music and who have found deep emotional and personal resonance with their work.

But you won’t convince my friend of this. You could play him track after track, attempt to point out the lyrical expertise… it will not shift his opinion. His loathing for everything Coldplay stand for comes from a very deep place – his conception of what is ‘good music’ is only one factor, I am sure.

Now, unless Coldplay do something utterly miraculous, or my friend undergoes some kind of transformative experience, this will not change.

But who is right? Are Coldplay shit?

Well, yes. They are.
But not as shit as Linkin Park.

This is the entire history of human religious debate in a nutshell.