Listening to this interview of the talented, thoughtful and eminently decent Billy Bragg by Scott Simon of NPR, it’s almost possible to forget that this is the same Billy Bragg who wrote (shudder) “The Price of Oil,” “The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie,” and most of the songs on the “England, Half English” album.
David T adds:
Mr Bragg has written a book: The Progressive Patriot, which came out last week.
I’m in the process of reading it, and haven’t much to say about it yet. However, it is classic HP fare. Here’s the Amazon blurb:
What does it mean to be English? What does it mean to be British? Is the cross of St. George a proud symbol of a great tradition, or the badge of a neo-Nazi? In a world where British citizens can lay bombs to kill their countrymen, where religious fundamentalism is on the increase and where the BNP are somehow part of the democratic process, what does patriotism actually mean? Our identity can change depending on what company we are in. For example, someone could describe themselves British to one person, Scottish to another and, say, a Londoner to another, and be right every time. But problems arise when someone tries to tell you what you are, based on your skin tone, religion, accent, surname, or whatever. This book is Billy Bragg’s urgent, eloquent and passionate response to the events of 7 July 2005, when four bombs tore through a busy morning in London, killing 52 innocent people and injuring many more. A firm believer in toleration and diversity, he felt himself hemmed in by fascists on one side and religious fanatics on the other. The suicide bombers were all British-born and well integrated into our multicultural society. Yet, they felt no compunction in murdering and maiming their fellow citizens. Inclusivity is important, but without a sense of belonging to accompany it, what chance social cohesion… But where does a sense of belonging come from? Can it be conferred by a legal document? Is it a matter of blood and soil? Can it be taught? Is it nature or nurture? “The Progressive Patriot” is a book we all need to read. It pulls no punches in its insights and its radical vision offers a positive hope for a country teetering on the brink of catastrophe.
Update: And here’s Bragg performing his latest iteration of “The Great Leap Forward” on Craig Ferguson’s late-night American TV show. (Hat tip: Darren in the comments.)
A rather one-eyed take on recent events, in my opinion. But, as others have pointed out, I believe it would be possible to discuss these matters with him and get a respectful hearing, and not be shouted down as an imperialist, a Zionist, etc.
… and a last footnote from David T
Comedian Bill Bailey performs his spoof Billy Bragg song, “Unisex Chipshop”, accompanied by Billy Bragg.
(This was at Glastonbury a few years ago. I missed it. Was watching Morrissey instead.)