A qualification of how much I love Morrissey’s music needs to be made. Merely thinking about There is a Light cuts me raw; I adopted It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore as a power anthem the second I heard it. Morrissey is up there in my top 5 music talents list. (A top 5 that sometimes includes 10 or 11 artists, but he’s up there, nonetheless).
Of course, loving his music does not mean I consider the man himself as beyond reproach. A salient point given his idiotic recent comments about the Norway massacre:
Millions of beings are routinely murdered every single day in order to fund profits for McDonalds and KFCruelty, but because these murders are protected by laws, we are asked to feel indifferent about the killings, and to not even dare question them.
Like Morrissey, I’m a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat in twelve years, albeit with a minor exception of a 2003 flight involving “Vegetarian pork” which presumably involved last-minute tray re-labeling. Like Morrissey, I also quite love animals - dogs mainly, puppies particularly: I love them so much I was once nearly hit by a car when I raced across a road to pat a spaniel. I perfectly understand the yen for not wanting them in a deep fryer.
But daring to use a human tragedy like Norway as some kind of opportunity to beat the drum for vegetarianism is repugnant of a calibre that listening to Ask on repeat won’t dilute.
Generally I have no qualms with celebrities using their power for good. Marlon Brando sending Sacheen Littlefeather to collect his Godfather Oscar. Perhaps. Merlin participating in his Big Brother exit interview with a taped mouth. Maybe. Big mouth Bono shouting out political platitudes during his concerts. Caveat emptor.
There’s a time and place for protest, for metaphor, for analogy drawing. In the wake of mass slaughter is not such a place.
To his credit, Morrissey did make some interesting points about the blood lust of contemporary news coverage. About the horribly familiar and gratuitous focus on the perpetrator; about victims becoming faceless statistics. And this is where he should have shut up.
My opposition to Moz’s analogy isn’t even grounded in offence. While I think his comments were actually much more egregious than the media coverage he chides, those likely to be most offended by him are too busy nursing broken hearts than to listen to a ranting Manc.
Rather, my opposition lies in just what a bloody bad PR move his diatribe was for vegetarianism.
Even as a vegetarian myself, I frequently find other vegetarians mercilessly annoying. There’s that wonderful scene in the Simpsons were the Dirt First eco-terrorist claims to be a Level 5 Vegan: “I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.” Vegetarians are too often either actually like this, or thought of like this: as holier-than-thou, preachy, pocket-mulching pedants.
Just like the cultee who’s just read a book on sugar addiction, like the taxi driver who’s just discovered talkback radio, or the newest Fitness First devotee, some vegetarians outrageously feel perfectly at liberty to tell people what to think, what to worship, what to eat. Hideous.
But not all vegetarians are like that. And the annoying qualities of some shouldn’t overshadow what a refrain from flesh consumption is actually all about.
Given the already troubled reputation of vegetarianism, the question needs to be asked as to whether stunts like Morrissey’s help or hinder the plight.
Non-vegetarians always assume vegetarians to be high-maintenance born-agains. Kinda like the way I think about people who separate their rubbish, wear clothing made of hemp and who listen to the John Butler Trio.
Having Morrissey present such a barbaric analogy puts Moz in a camp of extremists, of loonies, of people completely out of touch with reality.
He – and in turn the cause – then becomes complete unpalatable. Unappealing. Irrelevant.
No, Morrissey’s diatribe won’t stop me listening to his music – Viva Hate is on right now for motivation – but this spectacle serves as a timely warning about the need to separate the art from the antics. And for artists to think very carefully before anointing themselves as a spokesperson.