God (Cork); Losing my Faith

“God created the world

Then created the devil to blame for his mistakes

This track, if you aren’t familiar with it, is a spoken word b-side to Do You Believe In Shame?  Whilst Simon speaks extensively about losing his faith in books, this diatribe is pitched more squarely at humanity the god and devil inside all of us. For all his agnosticism, I’ve also felt that there is something ironically spiritual about seeing God in people rather than a hierachal figure head of a faith movement. Faith versus spirituality - It seems like a pertinent departure point for HFOC and my own crisis of faith in the human institutions of Catholicism and another New Religion, namely in this instance, Duran Duran, (though you could insert any cult / fandom here). And as two manmade institutions, my despair and joy ricochets between the figureheads and the people who prop them up.

“Don't know why this evil follows me (gotta take pay for the saints 'n' sinners in regulation hats 'n scarves 'n things)

So why does he try to bother me? (walking in formation down the lane they carry their cross make a church bell ring)

How many reasons do they need? (army majors pull a mean cool truth there lying in a swimming pool)

I might just be right this time (searching for the undeniable truth that a man is just a fool)”

Whilst a fan for 25 odd years I’ve only been a member of the fan community since paper gods was released. Like many women in the haze of those early post child bearing years I had lost myself entirely. Work, home, emotional baggage buried by the distractions of just getting on with things.  Faith and belonging are the panacea to lost identity and hopelessness. You only need to look at the inverse relationship between economic / political  stability and the uptake of organised religions worldwide to know this is true. 

Scrolling through tweets and posts it’s clear with 20-20 hindsight vision, that much of the language of fandom leans heavily on faith based origins- Devotion, love, long term dedication (esp through tough times), the wallpaper of our lives.  Within this language lies joy, community, a sense of identity and fun. 

The difficulties Iie in marrying this fantasy world with real life perspective. The narrative of who the band are is forever adjusted by fans to cast them in a good light - I’ve done it myself. I’ve rewritten some blatantly sexist videos as an artistic statement. I’ve been overly charitable, overly forgiving towards some fairly mediocre material, I’ve berated others for negativity.  Criticism of the current line up is sacrilege, but once they become former members they relinquish their status as the adored, much like the priest who left the priesthood to marry with no status, no pension, no thanks.  Members are only catered for when they play by the rules, otherwise it’s ex-communication.  There are rules in the cult of fandom and this year I broke a big one.  

It’s hard for any human organisation  to be anything other than humanly flawed.  I do believe in a higher power. It’s comforting, and many religious teachings extole virtues we should all aspire to. Similarly our house is full of music.  On my own journey back to myself, I’ve had to really get comfortable with the notion of how alone we all are. Each of us has a light in our boat, and when I hear a song that speaks to me it’s like someone has seen my light and decided to row along with me for a while. Into me see. Intimacy. That being seen is something that I hear at mass. God sees you. God is a bit of an inappropriate stalker to my five year old!!! But in all seriousness there are spiritual parallels in prayer and music. A connectedness in a life where we are realistically cut adrift from each other.

Looking beyond the virtues of faith, my biggest issue with Catholicism isn’t a boring  lengthy mass, or giving up chocolate for Lent. It’s the implied madonna culture of women as child bearers for the male leaders of tomorrow. The mother and child as pedestal figures, entirely divorced from the reality of the dire circumstances in which many children are conceived. It’s the campaign to protect life at all costs from conception, whilst failing to address the lives of the children that were born only to suffer abuse, it’s the lives that were torn assunder by the enforced pregnancies of rape.  The babies who were born to unmarried mothers in religious institutions only to die and be buried unofficially.  The “precious” children, now adults, forsaken because their existence is a reminder not only of the churches historical failures but of their continued failure to self reflect be accountable and grow.  Just a few things then!

The fragile nature of faith is compromised by a questioning mind; unsurprisingly the devout feel threatened by minority groups and will aggressively move to marginalize and diminish to avoid having their own beliefs challenged.

“The worst thing is how politics begins to leak into your life”

This fragility is worryingly giving voice to the oppressive regime of far right conservatives in the US...., all allegedly in God’s name.  

“I mean I'm not even American

But maybe we all are a little bit

And then I realized it was just the thought

That in this particular democracy

And probably every other one in the world

There is somebody in power who thinks he is more right

Then all the people who put him there”

Can I talk about God to my kids and not subscribe to this misogynistic, homophobic, utterly uncompassionate horror show?  Can I give them a more compassionate interpretation of some very sound moral values. Similarly, am I allowed to enjoy DD without drinking the koolaid?  I’m not even sure the band are responsible for 100% of this blind adulation. Fandom like religion creates a collective of individuals who come together under the umbrella of a larger figurehead and are defined by certain interpretations / rules that are self imposed.  

The biggest turning point for me was Simon’s sexual assault allegation earlier this year.  I’ve written about this and truthfully written very little since.  Here’s the thing. I believed her, not him. It’s probably an 95- 5, I don’t know, of course I don’t, but the rational logical part of my brain disconnected from fandom said to me in any other circumstance you would believe this woman, Shereen Hariri. That nobody would do what she had done for fame. That it was far more likely to be true than false. I couldn’t say that at the time. I wrote a very impartial article on this blog. SLB had very good commercial reasons to protect his brand irrespective of the truth of matters. What upset me more was the fans, turning on each other despite many people having experienced sexual assault firsthand, becoming rape apologists, begging supermodels to stand by him - even the band didn’t do that thank God (when pushed JT eventually addressed it briefly), though some of their extended team got into hot water. 

SLB wasn’t in Motley Crue. The alleged activity described would certainly be classified as sexual assault, but through the eyes of nineties celebrity culture I imagine it was regrettably commonplace and tolerated. Simon’s comments criticizing “that type of behaviour” were comical - esp in the context of his other comments at the time (there are some fairly dubious interview clips on YouTube). It’s all forgotten about now but what has remained for me, more than the actual story is the levels of delusion required to keep your membership card. It’s not isolated to this incident either.  

Recently the band released the Edge of America video, which was written around the same time as God. Edge of America is damning in its criticism of the treatment of the marginalized in society, and the pertinent timing of the video release around the now forgotten migrant caravan was the biggest defeat of Duran time yet. 

“Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess, welcome to the edge”

Somehow though, the associated spin around the video release diluted the meaning with environmental issues.  Both God and Edge of America are raw in their honesty. But the real message  today is DD don’t want to offend anyone (read are happy to make money from anyone), so they’ll say everything and nothing all at once. I’m going to take my own meaning for myself on that one. On a more comical note of delusion, the gaslighting of fans by DDHQ for DD40 takes some gumption, and a time machine. 

This is not a liberal band or a conservative band or an saintly band. They will play at Russian private parties and stand in North Carolina looking to repeal the bathroom bill. It’s a hard job keeping up with their values for living because they flip flop according to their commercial interests rather than any moral compass. They cannot ever mirror all your ideals, unless your ideals are theirs, and your own boat has been cast adrift - yet many fans are literally turning themselves inside out to approve of everything they do. 

So here’s the thing - enjoy the music and  park the idolatry. No human or human institution is worthy of unquestioning devotion. Be (your own) icon.  Part of this for me is broadening my online presence beyond DD. There is no “my people” that I went searching for when I couldn’t find myself. 23 and me says I’m only 5% duranie.  There is just me, and the music  between my two ears and I’m okay with that. As I’ve said before, the identity template for die hard fandom is far too restrictive and controlling for me. There’s a few duranie lights near my boat and I appreciate those.  Special mention to Adam who has been very supportive of my writing both here and at cherry lipstick. I rarely reread what I write here but when I do, it mostly stands up. I’d Iike to think my writing is a bit better. There’s posts here I would write differently and I have regularly been tempted to change them. It was, to quote you Matt, another person ago but they are of their time for me personally. It’s also the time to take it down though, and I’ve decided not renew my website at the end of this month. I’m sure I will continue to write somewhere from time to time. And some of that will still be woven with the pleasure I’ve had (and still have) listening to Duran. 

I have lost my faith, not just institutionally. As comedian Dara O Briain has said, “anyone who gives you an easy bullshit answer to life’s difficult questions.... get in the box”. The answer for me is not Paper Gods or the Duran fan “community.” And like Simon my faith in humanity is shaky. It’s the God and devil within us.  I will sit like a hypocrite in mass on Christmas Day because I haven’t figured it all out yet. But I will love the candlelight, the serenity, the hope, the quiet personal reflection. Equally, later that day I will put on my headphones and listen to a variety of artists I love, that still very much include Duran.  I will let the music take me on a spiritual journey, to a place in my mind that only I and that  song can go together. 

People are much nicer as individuals than the mob collective.  It’s easy to forget that in our haste to belong, particularly online. I’ve always enjoyed the duranies I’ve had the pleasure of meeting personally. We all have common ground regardless of our ideological beliefs. I have lost my faith and yet strangely my spiritual self feels better for it.  Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for reading. X 

God (London)

“God created the world

Then created the devil to blame for his mistakes

I closed the door of my hotel room behind me

It was like closing a chapter in the book of life

Outside 30 floors below I could hear the police

Using their sirens like wolf whistles to pick up young girls

On TV Oliver North his 15 minutes of fame

Ticking steadily away was being fuzzy about crucial events

Which had happened a year earlier- what a flake

But then who isn't

That was Reagan's defense at least

The worst thing is how politics begins to leak into your life

Back in our innocence we used to simply stick two fingers up

Say "fuck off" that was about all you had to say anyway

And then go back to the more important business of making music

So why was I sitting there feeling angry about covert operations

And illegal aid to the contras

I mean I'm not even American

But maybe we all are a little bit

And then I realized it was just the thought

That in this particular democracy

And probably every other one in the world

There is somebody in power who thinks he is more right

Then all the people who put him there

All the people who for once in their lives took an interest

Outside the wind was howling the who-who's

From sympathy for the devil

Round and round the concrete hotel walls and corners

That was then- this isn't”