More uses for Disintegration

Started by SueC, December 07, 2019, 07:32:30

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Good literature, art and music stays relevant for a long time after it was born, and can speak to new contexts as they arise.  You get this with Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, which, though over 150 years old now, still has so much of fundamental and timeless relevance to say about friendship, human beings and finding out you've had some basic things wrong for a long time, then admitting it and fixing it.  Same with Shakespeare - all the fundamental stuff about the human condition still applies, even if our costumes and stage props have changed since then.  Same with lots of books - and if anyone reading feels inclined to nominate a few, that would be lovely, because conversations are more interesting than monologues!  :)

I'm currently revisiting Disintegration with a different context at the forefront of my mind, that I've not previously thought about while listening to the album, and that wasn't a big public issue at the time of its release - it was an issue of concern to quite a few of us in the natural sciences though, even 30 years ago, and of course it got largely ignored by public policymakers and the media, although it is currently making inroads into general public consciousness because the long-predicted consequences are now starting to really bite - such as, in our country, with droughts and bushfires on an unprecedented scale.

I have often wondered why humans, who generally think themselves as a sort of pinnacle of evolution and as so wonderfully clever as a species, collectively behave just like bacteria - growing exponentially in population and in resource use until they exhaust the system they have exploited, and crash.  It is so sad to me that there are so many things we could have collectively done better, if only we'd used our brains, and cared enough to act en masse.  That we could have indeed made a better world, a fairer world, a kinder world, only we didn't - social injustice is systemically worse than it was when I was born, with an even greater share of the resources in even fewer hands, and with political power ever more concentrated amongst fewer people, and public brainwashing through media with vested interests greater than ever and playing into the hands of the bullies who are in charge of the classroom.  Wilderness destruction, species extinctions and pollution are accelerating, and we're now living in a chemical sewer, even in the supposed safety of our own homes.

The news isn't all bad - apparently the rates of some crimes have actually decreased, and obviously it's great to live in an era with good medicine and dentistry (for those of us who can afford it), and there are so many wonderful books and CDs coming out, and the Internet has put some power back in the hands of people, and there are actually a fair few fundamentally decent human beings in this world, which each of us will have our own subset of to love and cherish.

But in terms of the lifeboat we're travelling in, where we are at is terribly depressing.  In our household we know, have known for a long time, I've worked professionally with that stuff, and both of us have seen things with our own eyes that shock us deeply.  What we generally do is the best we can, and not run commercial news media, and only run independent news media sometimes, and not spend too much time reading the fine details of the depressing stuff we already know about, other than so that we can adjust what we do ourselves - bad news, and disconcerting data, without practical consequences in our own actions are pretty worthless, as they only demoralise, and we'd like to keep our energy for doing actual useful stuff, and for actually enjoying the short time we each have on this planet.

However, over the past couple of weeks I've finally started reading Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything, five years after my husband did.  It's basically the modern ecological companion piece to Rachel Carson's classic Silent Spring.  The book tells me nothing new in broad terms, but I am learning some interesting things about how humans operate as a result of Ms Klein's research and writing efforts, and about the whys and wherefores of the paralysis that's followed climate science.

Naomi Klein is hopeful still.  Not everyone is - David Attenborough isn't, for example, and I tend more towards his point of view, but while I feel this way, I still behave as if there is hope, because that's to me the ethical choice even on a sinking boat.  Or maybe it's because my Grade 1/2 teacher read us that fable about two frogs who fell in a bucket of milk, and they were both swimming all night, and eventually one of them gave up and drowned, while the other said, "Well, it probably is hopeless, but it doesn't hurt me to keep swimming as long as I am physically able."  And the frog's swimming churned the milk, and as the fable goes, caused butter lumps to form, from which he was able to jump out of the bucket.  The science on that is a bit dodgy - both the butter making (you do that with cream) and that you could make enough to push off and that you could push off enough to get out of the bucket - but it's a great story which still warms my heart, more than half a statistical human life span later.

If anyone wants a precis, this one is pretty much on the money, from where I am sitting:

But if you'd like some hope on top of harrowing reality, read Naomi Klein's book instead.

So yes, this is tough stuff, and sad stuff, and when I'm grappling with things like that, certain kinds of music are helpful.

So I was listening to Disintegration this morning, as the mood suits grief and introspection, and it occurred to me that the particular thing I'm sad about that's foregrounded for me at the moment is ecological disintegration, which is another aspect of a general theme.  While I don't think that was an intended theme for this album when it was written, it just happens to fit the mood in many ways, and really, it's the basic things in human nature which are dealt with on this album that have also led to the pickle we're in on this particular front.

Plainsong, when I listened to it this morning - and normally, to me this is a very ecstatic song of bright light in overwhelming darkness - became like a lament for something beautiful that is dying, and you're still celebrating its beauty with every breath it as yet takes.

I'm still listening, and may add more thoughts later.  But, I'm very grateful that music exists that allows us to work through very hard things emotionally, and that helps us see the beauty even in things that are dying.
SueC is time travelling


I'm having something of a love affair with this particular album at the moment - it just seems to be a good fit presently, and I'm even starting to like the couple of songs better that weren't that approachable for me before.  The inexplicable physical nausea reaction to one particular (and perfectly good) bass line has disappeared now - it's strange when we have mysterious reactions to things on a biological level that clash with our reaction on an intellectual level. :)

I just wanted to note that even though Lovesong isn't my favourite number, the experience of hearing it as part of the whole album is very different from hearing it on the radio, or on the "Best Of" - on the album, as a part of the whole, it really works.  :smth023
SueC is time travelling


Quote from: SueC on December 07, 2019, 07:32:30social injustice is systemically worse than it was when I was born, with an even greater share of the resources in even fewer hands, and with political power ever more concentrated amongst fewer people

You begin to sound like Robert in one of the recent interviews!  ;)

Quote from: SueC on December 07, 2019, 07:32:30... the particular thing I'm sad about that's foregrounded for me at the moment is ecological disintegration, which is another aspect of a general theme.  While I don't think that was an intended theme for this album when it was written

Yeah, I agree it was written from a more personal life (relationships disintegrating) view.

My own "celebration" of the 30th anniversary of the album is grinding towards its end. I've listened quite a few times in spring (& watched the stream from Sydney) and listened to "Entreat" in summer and a few more times to the album (mostly, ahem, in my car), but now I'm through (well maybe one more listen, depending on mood).
Theorize and talk yourself
Until you're tired and old


Quote from: Ulrich on December 20, 2019, 14:00:15You begin to sound like Robert in one of the recent interviews!  ;)

Maybe he reads widely as well!  :)

Actually, I have to say that it's so nice that Mr Smith seems to be generally well informed about the big-picture stuff instead of being stuck in a bubble/thematic subset. So many people appear to have tunnel vision these days.  I find it nauseating when people do TED talks where they're bursting with this misplaced optimism about how everything is improving, just because the thing that's their hobby-horse - like HIV in Africa or infant mortality or sanitation - is improving.  That's like saying, "Oh, we've made such headway with the crew vaccination rates and the relief of motion sickness on the Titanic." ...Hello, the iceberg???

I do wish that people looked a bit further than their own particular compartment...

SueC is time travelling


Another songsmith (even called Smith too) has written some lines which fit and ring true... (already written 20+ yrs ago):

"The writing's on the wall and it's making my skin crawl. But while Rome burns they're fiddling the figures, we warm our hands on the flames. "

(TV Smith, quote from the song "I know what you want")
Theorize and talk yourself
Until you're tired and old


For a fun twist:

...very appealing in a gallows humour kind of way... ;)

PS:  There seems to be a multiplying of Smiths around this place, @Ulrich:P
SueC is time travelling


Anyone finding themselves listening to Disintegration more than usual at the moment?
SueC is time travelling


Quote from: SueC on March 28, 2020, 08:25:41Anyone finding themselves listening to Disintegration more than usual at the moment?

No. I'd listened so often last year... now it's time to move on.
"Seventeen seconds" is one I might listen to more often now.
Theorize and talk yourself
Until you're tired and old


This is related, so I'm tagging it onto this thread. I recently went through the J-Files ( and copied a couple dozen interesting ones to my iPod.  It included two on The Cure, one of them a feature on Disintegration:

I've just listened to the J-file on Disintegration and its round-table discussion on the merits of this album, and I don't agree with a lot of the points being made, particularly by Richard Kingsmill.  I was a bit surprised about some of the things he said - he's always been one of my favourite interviewers because he does it professionally with no BS, asks intelligent questions and is personable.  I guess these are his "backstage" and personal views.

In a way you're already on a hiding to nothing when you ask, "What's a band's best album?" and "Is this album a masterpiece?"  If a band has produced a number of excellent albums, I think which one is the "best" becomes so subjective - and even if you were to create a list of criteria by which to judge that, then depending on which criteria you chose/prioritised, you'd get different answers.  I don't personally understand this widespread interest in pinning down the "best" this and the "best" that - why can't we just say, "I think this is excellent!" and leave it at that?

"Masterpiece" is also a curly topic.  The Mona Lisa is spruiked as a masterpiece and I've never seen why.  It's no more competent than a whole bunch of other paintings by lesser-known artists, and I think da Vinci did a whole bunch of other paintings that are actually more interesting and more competent.  Who makes these declarations of absolute worth, and why should we care?

Anyway, you're invited to discuss what you think, including how you'd answer the questions they pose to their round table.
SueC is time travelling


Quote from: SueC on March 11, 2021, 17:12:27"What's a band's best album?" and "Is this album a masterpiece?"  If a band has produced a number of excellent albums, I think which one is the "best" becomes so subjective

Well, indeed. Opinions will always differ, especially when a band has released many albums and made some line-up changes.
We've had fans on here who prefer the "old" albums (up to '82) and then some who think "Disintegration" is the best.
Of course, Robert likes to see it as a "masterpiece" himself, I'd bet. To come up with a melancholy album like this after the commercial success of "KM, KM, KM" was a courageous move, to say the least.
Theorize and talk yourself
Until you're tired and old


When we do "Which Cure Song Are You Listening To Right Now?" on this forum, it pops up into an associated Twitter page as well and I occasionally look at that page to see if anyone's contributing to the topic on this "shorthand" platform, even though I obviously prefer longform.  :winking_tongue  Anyhow, yesterday someone there wrote that they were listening to Disintegration (the whole album) because it "fits the zeitgeist" - and I laughed wryly, because it's so true and because I'm nearly there myself again.

I wrote the original post for this thread before the pandemic officially began, and it's interesting to revisit the theme nearly two years later. How did people reading this go, in that time? For me, it seems I've come full circle again to the same conclusions as nearly two years ago, after a temporary burst of optimism in the first year of the pandemic.

I've never personally experienced the 1960s, as I was not yet around, but rightly or wrongly, the 1960s always seemed to me the last time when it seemed possible that the West could change its trajectory and choose community and egalitarianism over rampant consumerism, so-called growth economics (there's a perpetual motion machine myth for you) and exploitation of the precariat and the planet, to the accelerating detriment of both. And then, of course, the "greed-is-good" 80s happened, and Reagan and Thatcher and their ilk, and neoliberalism - and it only got worse, not better.

I smile wryly at the recollection of George W Bush being elected at the turn of the millennium when I was nudging 30, and how I thought, "That's it, it couldn't possibly get any worse." How wrong I was, but apparently I'm in good company. Only a couple of days ago I was talking to someone who was nudging 40 at the time and thought the same thing. And many of us have watched with increasing concern as things spun out of control in the last two decades in particular. Currently, the US, UK and Australian political systems (and many others besides) are clearly broken and dysfunctional in ways that would have seemed like the plot of ultra-dystopian fiction had a person from the future come to the year 2000 to tell us what was going to happen. But here we are. The world is increasingly in the hands of the bullies, the ignorant, the greedy, the self-serving, the utterly shameless.

And yet in the first year of the pandemic, the Titanic was slowing down and its passengers started talking widely about things that had long been pushed into the background by people being on their hamster wheels, anaesthetised by various narratives, etc. More and more people started actually looking critically at the Titanic, and at the people in charge of its cockpit. The way of doing things on the Titanic, and its actual direction, were both being widely discussed. BLM protests happened, with white people widely joining in instead of widely spitting on demonstrators - a friend who walked in the 1960s civil rights movement and in BLM said that was a big difference. People questioned government policies that entrench poverty in the precariat - policies that provide a cheap and desperate workforce, both at home and abroad. With mass unemployment, Australian unemployment support payments were temporarily doubled (because unemployment now affected too many people for their politically expedient scapegoating) and the roof didn't fall in. Many people worked from home and the roof didn't fall in. People reflected on what was truly important in life. People asked questions that need to be asked. People really noticed the bad smell in the room that they'd hitherto had to background.

So last year, I was the most hopeful I've been since leaving childhood behind, about the future of people and the planet, and the possibility that things could be turned around from their disastrous destination. But then that public focus seemed to dissipate again, and this year it seems to me it's back to the minority, and it seems to me that the voices pushing for economies over communities, for profit over people or the planet, are once again dominating the public conversation with their megaphones. And then you see hordes of people celebrating the easing of lockdown in Sydney by shopping at K-Mart en masse, and it's just emblematic of how things don't change - neither the consumer mentality, nor the apparent ease with which many people accept the built-in obsolescence of rubbishy throwaway products and their manufacture abroad by what amounts to slave labour, by corporations with poor social and environmental standards whose upper echelons stash their misbegotten riches in offshore bank accounts so they don't have to pay tax etc.

Or you read the daily Crikey email, which informs you about the bipartisan opposition in Australia to a federal political corruption watchdog - why? Because both major parties are knee deep in corruption, in travel rorts, in misuse of public funds, in pork barrelling, in spending public money preferentially in the electorates that voted them in instead of fairly across areas of need, in throwing our taxes to corporations and mates while neglecting to fund and administrate education, health, the environmental crisis, mental health and homelessness properly. The political culture has become so corrupt that politicians don't even blush at their misuse of power and public resources anymore, and they certainly aren't accountable. We've got MPs with historical rape allegations which the police refused to investigate, much as child sexual abuse allegations against churches (or any other power echelons) were historically often not investigated properly by police. The watchdogs are colluding, if they're not getting their teeth extracted already by the people making the rules about how society is run.

So how can anything change, especially if most of the public aren't kicking up a stink about this stuff? Even revolutions, when you look at them historically, just seem to replace one bunch of inept and corrupt people with another in the long run. It's as if shit always floats to the top and then holds the world to ransom. Just like in Orwell's Animal Farm. It's both that the system is fundamentally broken, and that human nature is fundamentally broken - because the voters on the whole don't just vote these corrupt people in (sometimes because the choices on offer are all awful), but go on to believe their lies and to turn them into their champions.

Plus, consumers often don't want to stop consuming at insane levels, or to drive small fuel-efficient cars instead of 4WDs and SUVs, or to not actually go on as many overseas holidays as they can afford - they want to believe in a perpetual motion machine, all the while the human population is growing alarmingly, replacing biodiversity with human biomass, despite of the fact that efficient contraception has been around since the 1960s. Since 1970, over 60% of the world's wildlife and natural ecosystems have been wiped out - in less than one average human life span. We're also consuming more per capita than ever before. The biosphere is now at the point of collapse - and we party while the ship goes down, and many think greenwashing or tinkering around the edges is going to save us, or that a technological fix will come to our rescue. Want to see the Apocalyptic Horsemen? It's mostly a case of looking in the mirror.

It is incredibly depressing to confront this all over again after the brief respite of hope when many people were actually turning their brains on during the pandemic last year. Now many of the same people just want to go back to "business as usual" - and it seals our collective doom.

George Monbiot wrote a really good piece on this recently:

My husband says he never got his hopes up during the pandemic that humanity would have some kind of collective epiphany, or develop any kind of critical mass of thought and action that would allow for optimism. He says that climate scientists are now choosing to spend more time with their families, instead of doing more climate science, and this tells you where we're going. I get it - I worked as an environmental scientist in my 20s and saw firsthand that the powers-that-be will reject the professional advice they commission you to prepare for them, and saw that this was a pattern going well back before my time, and has continued ever after. The bulk of the advice is always ignored, and the politicians and civil service CEOs parade the mere commissioning of advice as if it's some kind of meaningful action, and a substitute for actual implementation.

And so the Murray River is a cesspit despite at least four decades of alarm bells being rung by environmental professionals, and despite billions of public money being spent on its so-called management plan this century. The Great Barrier Reef is collapsing and Australian species are driven to extinction daily while our so-called environment ministers spin the greenwash and fly to international summits to sign meaningless bits of paper they won't actually abide by (they just want to appear to be abiding by it, while conducting business as usual). The planet is cooking while conspiracy theorists and corporations dominate airtime and agendas.

It's like living with a terminal cancer diagnosis, for the whole planet. I love this planet and I grieve for its destruction. My husband and I are saving 50 hectares of near-pristine Australian bushland from clearing, by mortgaging ourselves so we could purchase it, and stewarding it properly (with indigenous methods) during our lifetimes - with no help from government bodies or environmental organisations, while the corporate tree plantation next door attracts subsidies from public money that comes from you and me, and even get to claim they are "carbon storage" though of course over their complete life-cycle they are not.

Over 2 million hectares of Australian native ecosystems have been cleared over the last 20 years, despite so-called clearing bans. You can work out for yourself what a vast area that is, compared to the little pocket we are protecting with our own means.

My husband says to me that all we can really do is look after our patch and enjoy the life we have with each other. He counsels me to back right off again on reading too many news articles and to just focus on what I can do in my own little circle - just like a terminal cancer patient needs to learn to focus not on their diagnosis and what's going to happen, but on what they have left, and how they can make it meaningful and not waste it.

This morning, he dropped me on our northeast corner on his way to work, and I walked 2 kilometres through our bushland. And all was right in this little world. Wildflowers are blooming spectacularly, and dozens of parrot, cockatoo and smaller bird species were adding noise and colour to the forest canopy. They are all OK, for now. As I walked, I felt better, in this small intact world we've called Red Moon Sanctuary. I was soothed by the abundance of life all around me, in one little pocket of Australian coastal-fringe land that was never obliterated by bulldozer.

(More photos here.)

Once I looped back to our house, I continued into the paddocks to check on the domestic animals there. We had a storm last night, and a 27-year-old horse with a congenitally short coat needed his rug taken off so he could enjoy the morning sun. The 20-year-old still looks in his prime and is very much enjoying life with us after his prior existence of 17 years of social deprivation and standing in small sand yards, as racehorses often do. My 24-year-old (now mostly retired) riding horse has (treated) Cushings and is ageing rapidly, but even at his now-slow pace of life I could tell he was enjoying his morning, craning his neck to observe something he found interesting in the bushland, and turning his tail to me to request a tail-dock scratch. He scrunched up his face like horses do when you find their itchy spot, and when I left, went back to grazing in the field. The donkeys and calves were divided between sunbaking and pottering, and made the picture of a companionable inter-species group. Here too, everything was OK.

Back in the house there were lingering aromas from last night's baking. I was presented with a sourdough culture and some lessons by a guest recently, and am now making sourdough bread. The first attempt looked a bit flat, but tasted brilliant nevertheless. The second attempt looks and tastes the part. Meeting people like this - over 90% of guests who stay with us are inspirational in some way or other (occasionally we get a more ordinary guest, and very occasionally an annoying one) - helps us to have a little more working optimism in this world (particularly if they are young people, which many of them are), and to feel less isolated with these huge problems confronting humanity. It's very therapeutic to meet a steady stream of people who are doing their level best to be part of the solution. It's like a little candle in the darkness.

As is, of course, good art, literature and music. That too sustains us. Right now I'm not revisiting Disintegration yet (though Bloodflowers is of course always on the menu when things get pensive). Right now I'm mostly listening to live sets, and pricking up my ears at It Can Never Be The Same and Step Into The Light - both are applicable to our own lives right now, for different reasons. I'm even allowing myself to be soothed by Sharon Shannon, and other Celtic toe-tapping stuff. Sometimes you need to acknowledge the dark, sometimes the light - both are real. There's nothing like music to bring either to life. I hope all of you have your own go-to stuff to help you make sense. ♥
SueC is time travelling


In postscript to the last post...

...maybe I need to go live in:

Stoicism City

(...but wait, aren't we already doing that? You know, the last panel is just like an anthropogenic climate change "sceptic" - if you'll excuse the sullying of the word "sceptic" here...)

SueC is time travelling