Saturday, January 29, 2011

William Bloke at Home and on the Street

When I got up this morning and (I confess) briefly checked Facebook, I saw this photo, posted by singer Billy Bragg, with a status that said he "is marching through central London with the students":

People with placards marching through a London street
He's out in the street, working for the issues that matter to him and have always mattered to him.

It made me think of a recent brouhaha that occurred over Bragg and his house. Having grown up working class in the Barking section of East London, Bragg at some point used some of the earnings from his music career to buy a big house by the sea in Dorset, shown here:

Large white house photographed from the air
Recently, someone (possibly from the far-right British National Party) distributed a flier to his mostly conservative neighbors. It encouraged them to run him out of town for the hypocrisy of living in a fancy place while espousing the beliefs that he does.

To their credit, the townspeople reacted with horror at the racist language of the letter and defended Bragg generally.

I admit I had a momentary twinge, wondering, Why does he live in a big house like that? Why doesn't he give away all his money, if he believes so much in social change?

But then I realized that Bragg is setting a useful example for everyone else who is rich, whether self-made like him or through inherited wealth: You can pay high taxes and give lots of money to nonprofits you support and still have enough for a nice life and a big home, if that's what you want. You don't have to be Mother Theresa to be consistent.

Politics is more complicated than most of us think when we're young, but there are essentials that must be maintained. As Bragg wrote in his song From Red to Blue*:

You're a father now, you see things in different ways
For every parent will gain perspective on their wilder days
But that alone does not explain the changes I see in you
The way you've drifted off from red to blue

Sometimes I think to myself
Should I vote red for my class or green for our children?
But whatever choice I make
I will not forsake
So it makes sense that Billy Bragg is out in the street today, standing against what he sees as misguided austerity measures that hurt students and many others.

* Red symbolizes Labor and socialism in British politics, vs blue for the Tories. Funny how the American media completely changed the meaning of "red" in a few short years. I wonder if kids today have trouble understanding who was supposedly scaring who during the "Red Scare."

No comments: