Barefoot Doctor Bit- The Ethics of Receiving (or Refusing) Honours & Prizes
Last week Pete Tong was awarded an MBE medal by Prince William at Buckingham Palace, ‘in recognition of his career in broadcasting and music.’
Like previous DJ recipients Jazzie B (Soul 11 Soul) and Norman Jay MBE the Radio 1 star was delighted to be honoured, in contrast with earlier refusniks John Lennon and Benjamin Zephaniah. Skrufff asked Barefoot whether accepting prizes (or gifts) inevitably bonds the receiver to the giver.
Barefoot Doctor” I’m obviously tempted to start by quipping ‘you know when it’s all gone Pete Tong when Pete Tong gets an MBE’ but it all went Pete Tong way before this, just as it all equally went right at the same time – yin and yang, right and wrong are inseparable after all.
And anyway I met Pete Tong in Ibiza some years ago and there was nothing wrong with him at all – on the contrary, good on him for winning the distinction – couldn’t have happened to a more charming man.
Going back to the early 70s though, as a rebellious teenage hippy, I loved John Lennon arranging for his chauffeur to drop the award back at the palace with a note saying “Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing (and) against our support of America in Vietnam”.
It was the perfect move aesthetically speaking, relative to the time and context.
I also totally shared Benjamin Zeppaniah’s view (in 2003 that accepting an award is tantamount to playing into the hands of the rulers of ‘Babylon’ – that was appropriate to the time and context too – for him, that is.
But that was then. Now the world’s both progressed and regressed considerably and society and the structures upholding it have morphed almost out of recognition since.
Everything is fusing together (as well as splitting apart) like apps on a smartphone homepage.
The British Prime Minister vacations in Ibiza, Pete Tong gets an MBE (is there possibly a link?), Mick Jagger, daddy of all arch rebels (and Jade etc), has already been a knight for years, the US President doesn’t wear a tie on TV, everyone’s being watched and Colorado made nearly $2 million in tax revenues from recreational pot sales last month.
Asia loves K-Pop, there’s not a single old car in Seoul – that’s Gangnam style, Kim Jong Whatsit with the bad haircut is sitting there trigger-fingered just up the road, tooled up proper nuclear-style as his people actually eat mud and grass to stay alive, and EDM is storming the world like gold or oil, almost just another hot new commodity, and all the while the sea levels are rising and rising – shake it up, shake it up.
Personally I think even in this madhouse of ours, with rare exception, it’s impolite to refuse an honour from anyone. Always receive, and be grateful must be the way of the well-mannered – and I do believe, as a seasoned martial artist, good manners are paramount at all times, in all contexts with everyone.
And then having accepted the award – that new access-most-areas pass – perhaps use it if you want, to roll for a while with those in the higher reaches of government and industry and possibly influence them to instigate some positive changes.
My particular concern is for electronic music itself – not just the induction of its proponents into the so-called establishment, but its rampant absorption into mainstream US and hence global commercial culture – that it’ll stop being a true expression of the rebellious urge and so become dull, no longer edgy enough and die.
I’m banking on the current exponential rate of development and the new levels of brilliance and originality going on being on such an unprecedented scale it’ll preclude that disaster.
Myself meanwhile, I’ve always quite fancied both a knighthood and an honorary PHD (for my humble contributions to the amelioration of the human condition or whatever), just so presenters have to call me Sir Dr Barefoot Doctor in BBC interviews – and keep a straight face.”
Questions by Skrufff.