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I've cancelled very few people in my life.
I cancel only for betrayal. And even then, I forgave one of those people. I didn't forget. I certainly won't open myself up to that person, I will always be guarded, but I forgave. He doesn't know I forgave him, but forgiveness is always for the benefit of the forgiver.
Cancelling is like kids in London carrying knives because everyone else is and they don't want to be the ones getting stabbed, or like people in the USA arming themselves with guns because that's how you stop yourself from getting shot. I mean, it's seductive logic, but without trying to solve that problem, all I want to say about it is that it tends to exacerbate the very problem you're trying to solve.
Cancelling is like that. If I cancel someone, then all I'm doing is adding to the climate of cancellation. Of course, if you don't cancel someone or some company at the behest of your peer group, that is, as part of a pile-on, then you become the cancelled — a less physically savage, but perhaps as emotionally destructive an outcome as that suffered by Derek Vinyard, the Neo-Nazi character portrayed by Ed Norton in American History X, after he becomes disillusioned by the politics of the Aryan Brotherhood in prison. I'm where Derek was at that point, but without the belief in Aryan supremacy.
So when "Panic" by The Smiths came on my rotation today, I decided to enjoy it, trying to set aside the bitterness I felt towards Morrissey for his support for far right groups led by Islamophobes. That was a different time. It's part of the tapestry of my life. I can't cut it out. I won't. I haven't forgiven Morrissey, but I'll no longer attempt to excise his work from my memory. He didn't betray me, we're not exactly mates after all, but his increasingly unhinged views don't affect my life.
The fact that I allow myself to enjoy "Panic" doesn't in any way condone what Morrissey says or does today. Quite the opposite, his views are abhorrent to me, but I have to allow my life to be a journey, a story if you like, with plot twists and betrayals. Listening to him singing doesn't mean I celebrate who he is today, I'm celebrating a moment. If we constantly re-contextualise every moment in our lives based on whatever the prevailing conditions are (and who decides those conditions anyway?) then we are just going to end up at a Year Zero of our lives, forever.
Now I know what you're thinking. How about the Colston statue then? That's what "we" were then, so knocking down the statue was wrong, right?
No, that's different. Nobody forces Morrissey on me. I don't have to see Morrissey every day as part of my civic life, and whatever I think of Morrissey, he's said some terrible things, but he hasn't done the modern equivalent of what Colston did.
Having a statue in a public place is a celebration, not just a remembrance. It's a constant provocation to the descendants of those who suffered terribly — literally an in-your-face reminder that we still have a long way to go to address the wrongs of colonialism.
Leave Colston in the history books, sure, don't cancel him, but don't venerate him either. Remember him for the lessons we must never forget, but we don't have statues of Hitler, do we?
I'm not arguing for pulling statues down, but I can understand why at a particular flash point in our recent history, this daily, public provocation was seized upon as a focal point for anger that had been boiling up for decades.
I'm not arguing for remembering fuckers with fondness. Part of the reason plot twists in life and story are so powerful is precisely because they allow us to re-contextualise the past. Something that was sweet is now bittersweet.
I'm arguing against making memory purely bitter. The more we pour the acid of bitterness on our memories, the more painful and meaningless our lives become.
Modern life is about shrinking the sweet and widening the bitter.
I'm arguing against a world consumed by bitterness.
I spent years wallowing in bitterness. It got me nowhere. It got others nowhere. It didn't change minds. It didn't change anything. The fuel of bitterness is life and its ashes are those of happiness.
I'm for the bittersweet. I'm for nuance. I'm for fighting hard for sweetness rather than for pile-ons that make what was sweet, bitter.
Panic was a good song. It's still a good song. I had no opinions about Morrissey back then. Now I think he's a wanker. I can think all of these things simultaneously.
Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ...