Tuesday, October 19, 2004

How the mighty are fallen...

We watched some more of Series II of Six Feet Under last night. I realised why I'm drawn to the series so much: Six Feet Under maps the limits of secularity in an age clefted in two by atheism and fundamentalism, producing surprising results. By setting the series in an LA undertakers, creator Alan Ball is able to examine what happens in a world where all belief systems are legimitated (and therefore none reign supreme). The deep message of the series is that secularity requires a notion of the spiritual - that the secular realm itself can only make sense by defining itself in terms of a transcendent world and the silence of death. The post post-modern Claire, whose every expression is saturated with irony and a nascent cynicism finds herself drawn to the possibility of being an artist. Her brother Nate slowly discovers the significance of responsibility in a world where he faces the reality of his own death. Brother David increasingly expresses his presence in the world as a gay man with a legitimate role to play in society. In each case, identity is imbricated within society at the deepest metaphysical level, implying that our social identity can only be defined by our relationship to what lies beyond us: time and death.

Later last night I lay in bed worrying for all the less privileged Nigerians who didn't get the chance to be 'exposed' (as the phrase goes) by western education or western experiences. In the increasingly globalised Nigeria, it is those with a diasporic interlude who will take all the best opportunities when they arrive back home. No matter how bright, how open, how curious - those who grew up here in the late 1980s and 1990s are always going to find the going tougher. I'm not sure there is a solution to this: each society has its elite, and each elite devises mechanisms of distinction which are hard to transform or subvert.

Then my thinking switched randomly to the transcience of fame. I was thinking about Manchester and the time I lived there (in West Didsbury). The Gallaghers (Oasis) drank at the pub at the bottom of my street (Clyde Road) - as did New Order. I remember walking behind Hookie (New Order's bass player) on Clyde Road. Such a banal thing to do. And yet years before New Order and Joy Division and the whole Manchester vibe defined the limits of cool (the Hacienda, Afflecks Palace, Dry Bar, Morrissey etc). Then I thought about the time I saw Kirk Brandon waiting for the same tube as I at Liverpool St in London (around 2001). He had been disgraced and lost a lot of money fighting a law suite with Boy George, revealing himself to be a rampant homophobe in the process. He looked like such an ordinary Joe, a fallen figure. And yet years before (I was around 14/15), Spear of Destiny had been the ultimate band, and Kirk Brandon was an cult star from another planet. They had such an unusual psycho-billy type look - the fans all had huge cliff-hanging flat top haircuts, with everyone wearing baseball jackets etc. And then there he was, years later, a man without qualities on a tube platform, wearing a beaten up leather jacket.

Not sure why I was thinking about this or how it related to my thoughts on Six Feet Under and on stay-at-home Nigerians. But then why should anyone take it that their thoughts are their own (this is such a modern notion), or that thoughts have to cohere?


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