The Myth of the Individual and Kate Tempest

Firstly I have to declare that I am a fan of performance poet Kate T. With the exception of the line about the “myth of the individual”, I think her latest work 'Let Them Eat Chaos' is a very impressive achievement indeed, though her 'Everybody Down' album is still, I feel, her magnum opus to date. Before I write BUT - it might be a good idea to visit this master-wordsmith's website at the following link – https://www.katetempest.co.uk/

At the top of Kate's home page you will see that she has links to her presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, Spotify and You Tube – so this young lady is indeed both social media and internet-savvy. To pretend that all these links, and her web site itself, are not about self-promotion would surely be something that Kate would not deny, because the last thing I would take her to be is any kind of hypocrite.

So, here is the BUT. If this is all about self-promotion then what is it that is being promoted? Is it an individual known as Kate Tempest and her work? Or is it just anyone? But surely not just anyone could have produced the remarkable body of work that she has? And at the tender age of thirty-one [at the time of writing] – well it seems a tender age to an old geezer like me, anyway!

I’ll admit now, that I’ve just used Kate as an example to illustrate a point, though I have to say that when I first listened to ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, that line about the myth of the individual did jump right out at me, and started rankling instantly! So, in my view, Kate Tempest is highly-individualistic and stands out from the crowd. And if she is an individual, then it is just as true that she is no myth either.

Go visit the web sites or Facebook pages of almost all authors, poets, musicians etc. and they are there for one reason - self-promotion. To promote themselves as individuals. Just like the web site you are on right now!

In my view, we are all individuals, but are some of us more individualistic than others? Now, I would say, undoubtedly yes. I watched some news footage recently of the four  w/bankers from Barclays entering court to face illegal money laundering charges. I don’t think I’m being too presumptuous here if I suggest that that they might be less individualistic than, say, Keith Richards, Tom Waits, Kate Tempest, Anne Sudworth, or even myself. I know which four I would sooner have round to dinner!

Now someone of whom I never had even a millisecond of time for in other respects, Margaret Thatcher, is often quoted as saying that “there is no such thing as society”. This isn’t quite true. The full quote is –

“And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour”.

On this, if absolutely nothing else, I agree with her, and it is surely hypocrisy, in my view, for those self-promoters amongst us to deny the truth of this statement.

If those who strive to be good at their work, whether it be a nurse or a teacher or an entrepreneur or a musician or an author [or a _______________ - fill in your own profession/vocation if you want to] are not rewarded for their efforts, stagnation will ensue. If you strive to be better and then only get the same reward as someone who sits around belching, farting and watching endless daytime TV, then what is the point of doing anything? It is about the individual and how they might relate to ‘society’, yes – but firstly it is about the individual. We are encoded that way, and in my view, it is not only hypocritical, but delusional, to pretend otherwise.

And now there is a new presumption entering the national debate, which, I think is both dangerous and divisive. Following the various terrorist attacks and the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London, we are hearing much about how public-sector workers are the most deserving in our society. Whilst only a fool would deny that these people are truly deserving individuals, it would be wrong, I feel, to then try and devalue the contributions made by others.

Too many people now seem to be expressing the view that only those who facilitate the day-to-day running of our society are the worthy. The corollary of this view might be that those who create employment and wealth [and generate the taxes and VAT to pay for the facilitators], or who manufacture things, or make art or music or literature or films, or are involved in any other activity outside of the public-sector, are somehow less deserving – and that would be a very dangerous assumption indeed in the kind of advanced and multi-layered society that we all live in today.

So I say, let’s all stand alone together in defence of the individual! Lost? I’ll see you on the other side of the great divide.

The Myth of the Individual and Kate Tempest