Why Morrissey can be racist and you can’t
Of course you’ve all heard the news: The most influential pop idol post-Jackson pre-Gaga has made some scathing remarks against the Chinese. But isn’t it fascinating that he made them so bluntly, and without pretense of shame?
We all know Morrissey is not an ignorant man. Ignorant people, as we know, have anachronistic views about hot-button political issues, and could not be counted on to quote passages from “Middlemarch” at a dime’s throw. Why, then, is it okay for an intelligent, literary-minded person, to say unforgivable things which have not even the slightest possibility of misinterpretation about them—not the slightest chance they could be written off as hasty, ill-worded or out of context? Probably because when those things have the merit of being so over-the-top in bad taste they almost qualify as camp.
In simple terms, it’s because genius gets a free ride most of the time. Especially genius that does not take itself seriously. We don’t know how to judge someone we suspect of being smarter than us and of not taking themselves seriously. What if we’re just missing the joke? Or what if, as D+T writer and father of Advancement theory might put it, What if they’re just being Advanced? Morrissey, existing as both a national treasure and a symptom of a beautifully ironic age, can basically get away with murder. The complicated part of it is that, from the man’s own perspective, the entire population of people that falls under the category of ‘The Chinese,’ cannot. Because, as we all know, for him, meat is murder.
Is a viewpoint which excludes or demonizes an entire cultural entity a valid viewpoint to be held? Or, on the other hand, is that viewpoint valid which exonerates the words (though note, not actions) of a person on the basis of what good they’ve done in the world before the grievous error was committed? It’s strange, but it seems that, in the case of modern celebrity, we keep coming back to the post-WWII Berlin reconstruction model of thought, which blames the greatest minds for becoming Nazis even under extenuating circumstances on the basis that where racism is concerned, there can be no extenuating circumstances.
Which is a nice thought, in theory. But then again, so is the not entirely unconjectural one that we ourselves, when under some kind of unforeseen pressure, would not become traitors to some cause or other that lays at the very core of our being.