The riots happening in the US, due to the death of George Floyd, by the knee of police officers; and the public backlash the UK Government is facing over Dominic Cummings’ Durham/Barnard Castle excursion are more related than you might think at first glance.
The connection is power. Those who have it, and those who don’t.
The riots in the US began when three police officers attempted to arrest George, holding him to the ground and kneeling on him, on his neck specifically. The video footage makes his pleading that he can’t breathe clear. The police did not let up. They continued to hold him there. He then became unresponse, at which point the cops kept him there for another few minutes. He was dead. Murdered.
There is a long history in the US of unarmed black men being killed by the police. The community is hurting and under attack constantly. The statistics show this – in police suspicion, conviction rates and sentencing black people are disproportionatly likely to get longer and harsher treatment from the state. From the people with power.
This lead to riots. The community, frustrated at yet another needless death has taken to the streets, to protest, to riot. They took Martin Luther King Jr’s words to heart.
A riot is the language of the unheard, and what is it that America has failed to hear?
Martin Luther King Jr
The system has failed them. Systemically. They have no recourse. Previous attempts to bring justice, through the system, have occured only after similar levels of violence, and have resulted in the cops charged being acquitted. In the US it is incredibly difficult to bring charges against a police officer personally, or against the state for crimes commited by police.
Meanwhile, in the UK, where Dominic Cummings was reported, by two papers in a joint investigation, to have travelled 260 miles to Durham was initally met with silence by the government. As public anger grew, a statement was issued from number 10. Anger still grew. Dominic Cummings himself gave a statement, which included a justification for a 30 mile trip to Barnard Castle that many found unsatisfactory. The anger does not seem to be disappearing.
In the UK Dominic Cummings is a senior political advisor. We, the public, have no recourse to get him sacked from number ten. Unlike MPs there is no right to recall the MP to face a fresh election (and even for MPs that right is incredibly limited and thus hard to do). We are faced with a government with 4 and a half years left to run, with the Prime Minister’s right hand man perceived to be breaking the rules he himself helped to set and communicate to everyone about our covid 19 lockdown measures.
We have no power. The black people of America have no power.
Some on the Dominic Cummings situation say that they don’t have all the facts, that they can’t judge, that the calls were premature. To them I say that without the investigations from the press, without the public judging on the available evidence at the time that there were serious questions to be asked, we would not have got Cummings statement. We will never have 100% perfect knowledge of what happened or why here. You have to make a call on the available evidence. And, in the eyes of the public, that evidence means Cummigns should go. But we have no power to force it.
In the US, when reporting on the riots, a CNN team was arrested. The police claimed that they did not move when asked – except that the live on air video footage at the time shows them offering to move to wherever the police want. The reporter in this unit was black.
The main function of the press is to hold the government to account – to investigate, document and tell the truth to the public come hell or high water. That is a threat to those in power. The rule makers. And the rule enforcers.
It’s not surprising, when you look at the power dynamics in play, that the police would attempt to supress the press from documenting their activities in a volatile situation.
It’s not surprising, when you look at the power dynamics in play, that the UK Government has stopped follow on questions at their press conferences. That Boris tried to prevent his science advisers from answering a question about whether Cummings actions were wise. That the governemnt are trying to move us on to the next story.
Our awareness of their abuses of power threatens their power. Those in power will rarely explain their actions unless required to do so by law, or by public pressure. Especially when those actions might be even slightly controversial and threaten their power.
We must not give in to fence-sitting. Yes, revise your judgments when new evidence comes to light. But fence sitting aids those in power, and only ever those in power. It allows your voice to be silent. It makes it easier for those with power to go unchallenged.
The systems of power in the US, in the UK, are fundamentally broken. Citizens lack real power. They don’t feel they have a voice. Letters to politicans get explained away with platitudes or simplistic phrases that avoid addressing the actual problem. Their vote is meaningless thanks to gerrymandering of constituency / district boundaries that keeps the same two parties in a relatively comfortable back-and-forth meaning that those parties can look after themselves and their financial backers, with an occasional bone thrown to their voters.
And that’s before getting in to how changes that would remove power from those in power, that would make them more accountable, are usually heavily opposed by those in power and so… never happen.
No change for equality – be that black rights, gay rights, gender rights, or voting rights themselves has ever happened without violence being invovled in over-turning the system. And even those examples still need more work – as the US situation shows.
The US system has forced black americans to have another stab at demanding equality through riots.
The UK hasn’t had riots in a long time. And no-one wants riots. But when people are left feeling as if there’s no other way to get the systemic injusticies addressed…. perhaps they are, to turn a phrase, inevitable.
I’ve not provided any sources here. If you’re genuinely curious to learn about the history of Black Lives Matter, of how civil rights were actually achieved for minority groups, of how modern democracy in the US and UK is gerrymandered into an absurd caricature of how we’re all told it should be then google can help you learn.
PS: No, I’m not saying that I want a riot. Or calling anyone else to riot. I’m simply observing how violence has been a part of every system change so far. Maybe we can break the pattern. Maybe. But there’s a lot of examples of when the peaceful route didn’t work.
This is going to be a tour of the music that has defined parts of my life. As I sit writing this I don’t know how long it’s going to be. But I’m going to try. It’s going to be sorted into four stages of my life – childhood, early teenage years, late teenage years, and adulthood. Within the stage though there won’t be much chronology. Every song has a legitimate youtube video available. And where possible they’re also in the Spotify playlist. With one exception.
The Early Years
Peter and the Wolf – Sergei Prokofiev
I adored this as child. Part music part narrated music educational tool I’m not sure it belongs on this list, but I have such a resonance to it, as my parents had it on LP and I’d play this quite frequently.
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
Really strong memories as a child of playing this on my parents stereo, a fantastic adventure taking me away from home.
When I’m 64 – The Beatles
This one reminds me of trying to learn to play it on Piano, and those years I spent learning to play…. mostly not getting good enough to be able to play much in the way of popular music.
Yesterday – The Beatles
Ok this is the last Beatles one. But this one has always always filled me with intense emotions. Longing for a simpler time before I had troubles. Even from a young age I was pining for simpler happier days.
Imagine – John Lennon
Ok so John Lennon solo isn’t The Beatles. Ok. Again though, it resonated with me from such a young age, hoping and longing for a time when everyone would be happy and just get along.
Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
This song has an incredibly intense association with a pub in Happisburgh, Norfolk called The Hill House. They had, separate to the main pub a sort of converted barn that was a pool/games room. Had a separate bar available that was open for events but was usually shut. Anyway I associate this song so so strongly with that place because one time it was on the jukebox there and it’s just stuck with me ever since. It probably also helps that there’s a name connection in my head between this song and a family member.
Wild Rover – The Dubliners
Ok so this one I don’t recall as The Dubliners exactly. But I have a super strong memory of being with my parents at a pub called The Star Inn in Lessingham, Norfolk listening to a local band called The Cromer Smugglers – Folk and Sea Shanties were their repertoire. And this one was guaranteed to get the pub singing along. I banged the tables to hard during this song. It never fails to take me back to those nights in the pub with them playing.
Millenium – Robbie Williams
This takes me back, unsurprisingly to the turn of the millennium. I actually don’t like this song. But it always makes me think of the millennium, my visit to The Millennium Dome (as it will always be known to me) and so it makes this list… begrudgingly.
Angels – Robbie Williams
I loved this song. I wanted, needed what it promised. It still brings a tear to my eye, the feelings that it makes me remember from back in my childhood.
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
The feeling of being ruined or broken, that resonated with me so much back then… and it still kinda does.
Barbie Girl – Aqua
I always loved this song, a severe guilty pleasure. Is it cheesy? Yes. Do I care? No. Enough said.
Complicated – Avril Lavigne
A song about frustrations, and things just aren’t working out, relationship wise. Like many of the songs here I still remember all the words.
Sk8er Boi – Avril Lavigne
This one tapped into my feelings about how unfair it felt, at the time, when I had no luck on relationships, and hoping that they would recognise that they’d picked the wrong person at some point.
Agadoo – Black Lace
Ah, middle school discos. I never did learn why we had to push pineapple to shake that tree! This always takes me back there. There were quite a few candidates from this band tbh but I think Agadoo has the strongest connection for me.
Girls & Boys – Blur
Girls who want boys who like boys to be girls Who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys Always should be someone you really love
Need I say more?
Heaven (Candlelight Mix) – DJ Sammy
This song. I was browsing the internet one day, some time after 9/11. And I came across a 9/11 memorial video that used this as its background music. That packed one hell of a punch that is still with me to this day.
Space Oddity – David Bowie
The legend. This song makes me long so much for space. For the escape it provides. And whilst I know it all goes wrong in the song, it’s still beautiful. And I think this song might be part of what inspired my interest in space travel
And I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Another song that takes me right back to a pub, and this time…. karaoke. I love everything about this song. Belting the words out at the top of my lungs (when not doing karaoke anyway).
Your Song – Elton John
Another song of Elton’s that takes me back to a similar time frame with again suppressed crushes and feelings and trying to let them out through this song.
Earth Song – Michael Jackson
My parents had the music video for this and I watched it so many times. The pain the earth is going through that it shows. Oof.
Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns
This wonderful wonderful tune always reminds me of Jonathon Creek and his windmill – what with it being the theme tune. Always puts me in the mood to watch an episode. Maybe the one with the painting in the locked room.
The Early Teenage Years
Where Is The Love – Black Eyed Peas
Particularly in my earlier years of this section, I felt this song really hit home about a lot of the problems in the world. Too much hate, selfishness and uncontrolled anger.
Lambada – Kaoma
Given my old username on several sites it’s probably a surprise to no-one that this made the list. It introduced an old late night (I think maybe the 1am slot?) talk show spot on Talk Radio (Which became Talk Sport). Mike Mendoza show was, I think, the presenter who used this as his intro music at some point. And it’s stuck with me ever since. And dear lord I wish I could dance like this!
Wonderwall – Oasis
Again an emotional connection to a particular memory. I loved this song from childhood. But it’s most associated with a throw away comment my Graphics Design teacher in high school made as a mockery of liking Oasis. It was meant in jest, but it stuck with me.
Nightswimming – R.E.M.
Nightswimming has both an emotional and physical connection. It’s my longing for the water. For peace. For tranquility that you only find I the dead of night. And the memory is of the only time I went swimming in my parents pool at night. It wasn’t peaceful – such was the nature of having guests over and the adults having had a lot to drink. We actually ended up singing Bohemian Rhapsody loudly at stupid o’clock in the morning so that a neighbour came out and yelled at us. But. But but but. despite that, this is still a song I associate with that memory. It’s the emotion and longing to do it properly that make it though.
Man On The Moon – R.E.M.
Another song that reminds me strongly of this period of my life. No particular memory for this one though. Maybe it’s because of the idea of moon landing conspiracies. I was quite into conspiracies back then!
Flowers In The Window – Travis
A strong memory of singing this in the car at some point with mum. I also just find it a really upbeat song. The music video though…. that’s… something I didn’t see until. much later. Probably for the best….
How You Remind Me – Nickelback
Another strong memory of singing this one in the car with mum. Windows down. Just singing to let the frustration out.
El Tango De Roxanne – Moulin Rouge
I was obsessed with this song, and still really really love it. The scene from the movie is also fantastically shot and staged. I remember distinctly listening to this on the way to school sometimes. The pain of having an unrequited crush.
Garçon – Koxie
I came across this song originally because a friend asked me to find it for her, and naturally I gave it a listen. I don’t speak French and certainly not well enough to understand it unaided, but when I looked up the lyrics it stuck with me – a woman basically speaking out at street/sexual harassment, which combined with the beats are some I’ve never forgotten. IT also helps that it reminds me of that friend.
Thank You – Dido
Again this song resonated with my so much when I was in high school. I’d be singing it to myself a lot. I can still feel the bleakness of the mornings and wanting the hope of someone making it worth it. Wishing for someone to call me.
White Flag – Dido
Another Dido one. A song I can remember belting out with my mum, usually changing the word ship to shit. Another one I’d sing to myself all the time at school due to the hidden unrequited crushes I had in my time there.
Life for Rent – Dido
I never really found a place that I call home. Oooof. Again a strong emotional resonance for me from back in this time. Not really feeling like I belonged anywhere.
Beautiful – Christina Aguilera
This song just… it hurts to hear. The video is so painful. I cannot overstate how much this song hits me right in the gut. And the song is still true. “every day is so wonderful. Then suddenly. It’s hard to breathe”. Just. Relatable. It also wasn’t until many many years later I realised just how LGBT focussed this video was (and including outcasts from society generally). And this was in 2002. How things might have been if I’d woken up then instead of burying things. Smash that fucking mirror.
Cleanin’ Out My Closet – Eminem
Being discriminated against. Never meaning to hurt the parents. Just. Emotions and feels. One of the few ‘rap’ songs I used to be able to sing all the way through. Maybe I still could.
Family Portrait – Pink
In our Family Portrait, we look pretty happy. This… this felt like my life. Pretty much every single line of it.
Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) – Pink Floyd
This always reminds me of a story my mum told me about when she was teaching at a school for children with special needs, and they used this song in a school play. Bit of a controversial choice I’m sure. Also the video in the full film is haunting with the faceless children and the meat grinder. The official video I’ve found is, unfortunately less haunting, but still, it’s the song that makes me remember that anecdote.
All The Things She Said – t.A.T.u.
I have always had a habit of not being able to shift things out of my head – words said or heard. Actions taken or not taken. And this song just is that in music form.
Mid / Late Teenage Years
Every Time We Touch – Cascada
This I associate with Sixth Form College, and the very final years of High School. When I finally started finding a stable long term group of friends… up until we split ways to go to university any way.
Fascination – Alphabeat
Again I associate this one with the late period of High School, where I had finally found friends. I don’t think there’s a particular reason this one is associated with those feelings beyond just the time. But that’s enouhg of a reason I think to be included.
We Didn’t Start The Fire
I first heard this song during my Graphics Design course at High School. The teacher (yes, the same one from earlier) had us make a music video for this song by selecting editing and curating graphics from various sources. That was my introduction to this, and I loved the song immediately and still do.
Comfort Eagle – CAKE
A manifesto of sorts about the fairness of not only the music industry, but also in a way capitalism. To resist it is useless. To quote the song.
Suburban Knights – Hi-Fi
This takes me immediately back to the Sixth Form College discos we’d have at a local club we’d rent out. First place I heard this was on the dance floor with friends.
Living For The Weekend – Hard-Fi
As above. It takes me straight back to that place and time.
Rooftops – Lostprophets
Standing on the rooftops. Everybody scream your heart out. I used to want to do that. Sometimes I still do. This song is for those times. (Just a shame about the singer making me feel guilty for liking it)
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
This song. Oh god this song. It resonates down in my very core being. And the music video never fails to make me weep. Whenever things are bad this is one of my go to songs.
Stars Over Cloughanover – The Saw Doctors
This song just makes me want to go walking at night in the country, aimlessly. Escaping away from everywhere. Other people moving on to different things, but myself feeling comfortable where I am. That’s what I wanted. That’s what this song gave me. That’s something I still want to do
Chasing Cars – Snow Patrol
This song reminds me in particular of one crush I had. Just wanting to lay down with them looking up at the stars forgetting everything that’s wrong.
Tequila Boom Boom (Casamañana) – Los Del Rio
This is another song a friend introduced me to when she asked me to find it for her. And it’s been in my library ever since, reminding me of that friendship.
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
This song has one very very specific memory. English class, during GCSEs. The teacher was late. Myself and some friends did a one-line-each version of this whilst we were waiting. The teacher walked in just as I got to “I’m a sex machine ready to explode”….. it was funny at the time!
Destination Calabria – Alex Gaudino feat. Crystal Waters
Year 10. House Party. I was hosting for a friends birthday party. No parents. Just me, the dog, and lots of people and alcohol. I’d been up all night. It was silly o clock in the morning. I was in a stupor. The TV was on the music channels. And this came on.
It also has an association with a head shop called Ali Bongo that was, for a time at Snetterton Market and would often play it, but now as far as I know, only has their Norwich shop. Used to buy some good intense sticks and burners from there.
(Warning this is the explicit version of the video)
Don’t Dream It Be It – Rocky Horror (Picture) Show
The final soundtrack piece here. Honestly the entire floorshow, or even play/movie could be on here, but this is the most important bit from an emotional perspective. I remember seeing this for the first time watching it and just….. this is the point where I fell in love. Don’t dream it. Be it. (For those uing Spotify this song starts at 2:45. The soundtrack is cut illogically up 🙁 )
Sex On Fire – Kings Of Leon
This takes me back to Freshers Week, for the simple reason that I heard it So. Goddamn. Much.
All Day – Girl Talk
I can’t remember exactly when I heard this for the first time, but I’m 99% certain it was something that the YouTuber CGP Grey mentioned maybe on one of the podcasts he does. And it. Blew. My. Freaking. Mind. (For whatever reason this isn’t on spotify)
Viva La Vida – Coldplay
This takes me back to my sixth form days. I love the sound it’s just…. a beautiful production and every time I hear it I can feel those sixth form years coming back to me. I think the religious references also help it to resonate with the as whilst I don’t consider myself to be religious I’ve always had a fascination with religion.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These) – Eurythmics
What’s not to love about this song? Everybody’s looking for something. Words that have resonated with me for a long time.
Well, that’s it. That’s the music of my life. There’s plenty I want to include – more soundtracks, more Queen… but I think these are the ones with the biggest emotional impact or the biggest link to the past. Thanks for going through this journey!