Saturday, September 4, 2010

Goddamnit Morrissey

Morrissey is again courting charges of racism with his claim that the Chinese are a "subspecies." It’s hardly the first time he’s made such provocations (around the sixth, I believe), and further indication that his admirable sympathy for animals outweighs his respect for people with darker skin than himself. It’s extremely dispiriting that a man of Morrissey’s intellect has learned nothing from previous controversies.

So what now? Morrissey has already released this non-apology
If anyone has seen the horrific and unwatchable footage of the Chinese cat and dog trade – animals skinned alive – then they could not possibly argue in favour of China as a caring nation. There are no animal protection laws in China and this results in the worst animal abuse and cruelty on the planet. It is indefensible.
About which he is largely correct. But his willingness to paint the situation in terms of racial inferiority is at issue, not the live skinning of animals. Even his statement, which deems--I'm moving his words around here, but I think the meaning is present--the Chinese to be uncaring and cruel. As someone who cares about human and animal rights, I'm aware that horrible abuses take place in that country, but I don't think these abuses are due to subhuman characteristics, or that all Chinese people are responsible for what was likely decided by a small coterie of Beijing bureaucrats.

The Guardian’s Tom Clark notes that, as a singer, we can hardly call on Morrissey to resign. As a fan, I don’t even want that; his trio of 00’s releases, Years Of Refusal, Ringleader of the Tormentors, and You Are the Quarry, were all good-to-great, his best album-length product since the 80’s. Questionable lyrics have cropped up throughout his career—why exhort us to anti-DJ violence in “Panic,” and why doesn’t the “Bengali In Platforms” belong “here”? Although I don't many detect nativist sympathies, many hear them in "The National Front Disco."

These lyrics, along with the public statements Morrissey has made, are difficult to square with his embrace of his Hispanic fanbase. He dedicated 1999's Oye Esteban! tour to these fans, and famously procalimed he wished he was born Mexican. His 2004 comeback single, “First Of The Gang To Die,” was about a charming latino gangster.

I find it extremely odd that Morrissey adores the ethnic group who personify immigration in the United States, where he lived for nearly a decade, while vilifying British immigrants, as he did in 2008. Perhaps, as is so often the case with those who loudly denounce immigration, Morrissey simply doesn’t know the Britons of Bengali descent or Chinese people that he denounces. Maybe if, as with Mexican-Americans, large groups of British minorities became Morrissey fans, he might question his prejudices.

Maybe. But if Chinese people--or anyone else--decide they never want to hear from Morrissey again, I can't say I'd blame them.

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