I’m off to Russia this weekend. I’m super excited. But it made me think. It’s the first country I’ve questioned playing in due to the corrupt oppressive politics and current human rights issues. Many artists will not travel there. They make a stand against such acts by refusing to go.
It certainly crossed my mind when I was asked to play. I can’t pretend to know everything about the political situation, the ins and outs of what’s happening with Ukraine. I try to keep abreast of what is happening in the world, but it’s not always easy to keep up, to understand or to even find balanced, unbiased news reports. But I am appalled at the oppression of homosexuals, for example, and the oppression of the media and freedom of speech. These things were highlighted around the time of the Winter Olympics this year, but they are not so present in the collective consciousness now, nearly 9 months on.
But I’m not sure that refusing to go there is the best thing to do. I understand and respect the stance of artists who refuse to play. Their refusal does bring attention to a situation. Much needed attention. But why should everyday people suffer because the government is corrupt? People are the same the world over, deep down they just want to live their lives and be happy. They want to come and listen to music, to dance and have joyful, meaningful experiences. Aside from politics, aside from all the bullshit that we fill our lives with. Music can do that. Music can give that. I love people. I love connecting with people in different places. If you were to refuse shows in every country whose government’s actions you found reprehensible you wouldn’t play many shows. You could rule out America, UK, many, many countries. Even my own country Ireland. The government there, while not oppressive in the way that some are, they have created an economic situation that is crippling everyday people, while the super rich can get away with what they want. Many countries are guilty of appalling human rights abuses, and many governments, perhaps all, are causing needless suffering. Political systems everywhere are failing their people.
I in no way support the oppression of any human being. I in no way support corrupt governments. I want to play my music to people. Everyone is welcome to my shows. Come one and all. If a person with homophobic tendencies can come and dance for a night beside a gay person and forget their bigotry and instead feel a sense of connection and kinship, then that is a positive change and a small step towards a more open and tolerant future. Likewise people of different religious or political beliefs. We need, now more than ever in the history of human existence, to come together and put aside our judgements and fears about one another. Because that’s all any kind of oppression is, fear. A symptom and a result of fear. A government in fear of losing power, or land, or money. A person in fear of someone else’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Deep down we’re all the same. We know it, we just need to remember it and put aside all the things keeping us from a peaceful, happy existence.
As a musician I have the privilege of feeling this beautiful unity when I play. On a really good night, when it goes off, for whatever reason, it can be transcendent. Music is a powerful thing. It has the power to genuinely unite people. All through dance music history there are stories of disparate groups coming together to forget their troubles and differences and be as one. The rave motto of ‘peace, love, unity’ is not some throwaway piece of nostalgia or goofy phrase. People really felt it. It’s a very direct realisation of the power of music as a positive force in the Universe. We’ve all had the feeling of listening to music or dancing, when the feeling of euphoria takes over. Inhibitions go out the window. It doesn’t matter who is beside us, in that moment we feel a truth – that we are connected, we are one, the person next to us is our brother or sister. But all too quickly we forget. We go back to our ‘real’ lives and put our experience down to alcohol or drugs or something else intangible that we are slightly embarrassed by. But I think we need to hold onto that feeling. Long after the moment. We need to seek that feeling out wherever and as often as we can. In music, in art, in nature, in love, in a shop buying groceries, in other people. All the time. Look for the light everywhere. Because in those moments, in those feelings, I think a truth about life is revealed. Real life. A truth we are all afraid of but have no need to be. That we are all one, all connected, that life is beautiful and love is all there is. And when we feel that, we are happier, greater people, more at peace and closer to reality. If my music can in some small way make people feel that, even for a moment, on a dancefloor, then it is worth travelling and playing, even in countries whose politics go against humanity.
So, much love to and solidarity with anyone, anywhere who has suffered, been abused or lives in fear because of who they are. It should be the most basic human right to live the life you want. To be who you want to be. To feel what you feel.
I look forward my gigs this weekend. Everyone is welcome, come one and all. Hopefully see some of you on the floor.