You will probably not be shocked to learn that Nick Cave, a 62-year-old white male artist whose work has been digging into dark human obsessions for decades, is not especially fond of the idea of “cancel culture.” Cave said as much in his Red Hand Files newsletter earlier this year, when he wrote that he won’t change his problematic older lyrics just because “a perpetually pissed off coterie of pearl-clutchers” might object. But now Cave has addressed the whole “cancel culture” phenomenon directly. He’s against it.
In the latest edition of the Red Hand Files newsletter, Cave answers two questions from fans: What his idea of mercy is, and what he thinks of cancel culture. Cave writes that he thinks mercy is necessary for the exchange of ideas and that it must be nurtured. Cancel culture, Cave continues, is “mercy’s antithesis.” He goes on:
Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world. Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.
Cancel culture’s refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society. Compassion is the primary experience — the heart event — out of which emerges the genius and generosity of the imagination. Creativity is an act of love that can knock up against our most foundational beliefs, and in doing so brings forth fresh ways of seeing the world. This is both the function and glory of art and ideas. A force that finds its meaning in the cancellation of these difficult ideas hampers the creative spirit of a society and strikes at the complex and diverse nature of its culture.
But this is where we are. We are a culture in transition, and it may be that we are heading toward a more equal society — I don’t know — but what essential values will we forfeit in the process?
You can read Cave’s full answer here.