50 minus 12: Personal and private… and public

Posted: 5 August 2014 in media, politics, world, writing
Tags: ,

I’ve been reading and listening to (digression: how come you listen to something, but you read [about] something, you don’t read to something?)…

Sorry, let me start again. So I’ve been reading and listening to various pieces about what Prime Ministers are like; how they act “behind closed doors”, how he (or she in one notable exampe) behaves as an employer and as Prime Minister towards other ministers and staff.

In this, I have the invaluable aid of Nick Robinson’s two radio 4 series entitled, sensibly enough, The Prime Ministers. Definitely worth listening to if you have some time. Leaving aside your personal preferences as to someone’s politics, does “it” matter? It, of course, being what someone’s like as opposed to what they achieve.

I’ve never signed up to, say, the belief that if a minister cheats on his missus, then he’s likely to cheat on his taxes, or if he does that, that indicates he’ll be a traitor to his country. But this has been something that’s, on and off, occurred to me to ponder for years ever since I heard the unproved allegation (let me stress that, unproved) that Errol Flynn was, well, let us say that the allegation was that he wouldn’t have exactly thrown Nick Griffin out of his house.

But even were that to be proved, would that change my enjoyment of The Adventures of Robin Hood? Should it? Should my appreciation of the mastery of that role change depending upon my view of the person performing it?

If a public figure (and I include writers and other creatives in this) has political, sexual or other behavioural attributes with which I disagree, should it affect how I view their work?

If someone acts in business in a way which I believe is reprehensible, should that affect my enjoyment or otherwise of his or her actual work?

Turning it around, merely because someone shares my own views, be they political, religious or whatever, should I view their works with more sympathy? If I admire someone as a person, should I similarly admire their work?

My gut reaction to the last question is “of course not!” Just because someone’s Jewish, for example, doesn’t mean that I should like their work or otherwise. Merely because I like a writer as a person, and am friends with them, it doesn’t follow that mean I automatically like what they write.

The corollary of that, surely, is that if someone doesn’t like Jews, that might prejudice me against them (although prejudice implies unthinking pre-judging, and I’m not pre-judging, I’m judging) but it shouldn’t mean that I’m prejudiced against their work

Well, yes, in one way. No in another.

Let’s say there’s a creator called “Ethelred Graystone” (I checked, there’s not.) But young Mr Graystone has political views which I find abhorrent. It could be that he’s extreme left wing, while I’m a right winger, or that he’s somewhere to the right of Rush Limbaugh and I’m somewhere to the left of Tony Benn. Doesn’t matter – we disagree, fully and vehemently.

So by buying his work, no matter whether it’s good or not, he benefits. My purchase of his product enriches him. He benefits from my purchase (whether directly or indirectly). In the case of someone with whose business practices I disagree, my buying his product allows him to continue his lousy business practices. (“Lousy” in my opinion, of course, not necessarily an objective view.)

Of course, this came to the fore a couple of years ago with the Enders Game movie and the author of the novels upon which the movie was based, one Orson Scott Card. Card’s views on homosexuality are repulsive and he actively funded organisations seeking to make it illegal. Now, neither the books nor the movie interested me; I don’t, as the phrase has it, have a dog in this fight. Me not buying the books or saying I’m going to boycott the movie has no force because I wasn’t going to anyway. But many of my friends chose not to go to the movie because of his views. That’s their choice; it’s a free market. I was less sure about the torrent of abuse that fell upon DC Comics when they announced that Card was to write a Superman adventure for their digital comics line. Isn’t the idea that he gets to say what he wants and we get to protest? I’m uncomfortable with economic boycotts simply because of the collateral damage. However, I’m not about to criticise those who through honest motives feel differently. It’s something I still need to think about, I suspect.

This obviously has less of an impact if the person is no longer with us; has died, popped his cloggs, or however else you want to phrase it. Wagner is the poster child for 'horrible views' vs 'glorious music', at least according to some. I've never been a huge fan of his work, but not because of Wagner, because I don't like the work. I think the quandary only really comes into play if you believe that by singing the praises of his work, some will come to admire his views. I would say that's a ridiculous thing, that only cretins could admire his views, but sadly, as Twitter has been proving to me a lot lately, there are a lot of cretins around.

Back to people who haven't joined the choir invisible.

If I disagree with a politician's policies, there's not many reasons to vote for them (other, of course, than being the lesser of two evils. I'd vote for anyone in the main parties, though I might dislike their parties' policies in a heartbeat if it stopped Nick Griffin or one of his cronies from the BNP from getting in…) But if I agree with the policies but dislike the person intensely, should I still vote for them?

Well, as a general rule (there are always exceptions, of course) yes, I think I should.

And once again, reiterating the point, because it’s often thrown up: if a candidate has screwed around on his (or her) partner, what relevance has that to whether or not they’d be a good MP? He’s not elected (as far as I’m concerned) to stay faithful to his partner, but to put (or attempt to put) the policies upon which his manifesto was based, into law.

Moreover, if a creator is unpleasant to me or my beliefs, what relevance has that to whether or not I enjoy their work? (If I regard the work as unpleasant, then it doesn’t matter who produced it, and whether or not I agree with them or disagree with them about anything, I won’t buy it.)

I know people who are so anti-smoking, it’s almost a religious belief of theirs. Does that mean they shouldn’t buy a work from a creator who smokes?

Where do you draw the line? Or should the line not even be drawn?

I’m still thinking about this – I suspect I will be for some time – but a masterpiece on ‘the person’ vs ‘their art’ was written by Andrew Wheeler about Roman Polanski. Read it, now.

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