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Pete Lawrence - 06 Jan 2017


"There’s so much to do, so many possibilities. 2017 should be a surprising year."

“Engagement” and “thoughtfulness” are two buzzwords from Campfire opening keynote speaker Eno’s new year rallying call. Eno has been giving his thoughts about a cataclysmic year marked by a wave of Trumpism.  In several statements and interviews to support and promote his new album, he suggests that a total re-think is being called for. “I think we underwent a mass disillusionment in 2016, and finally realised it’s time to jump out of the saucepan.”

The man who is lauded with inventing the concept of ambient music has just released a new album on Warp Records entitled ‘Reflection’, one his best and most abstract records yet. It follows ‘The Ship’ from earlier in 2016 and marks a particularly productive spell for the ambient legend.

Eno has recently been equally prominent with his activism and speeches and appearing on various pro-Corbyn rallies and in his new year message, he adopts a less gloomy outlook than many people he knows. In an hour long studio interview and run through of his new album on Jarvis Cocker’s BBC6 Music show last weekend, Eno suggests that we should jump on the wave that has been created and surf it. "A revolution has happened even though it wasn't created by people like us"

On Facebook, Eno sums up where society is currently at as nearing the end of a 40 year cycle of decivilisation :

2016 was indeed a pretty rough year, but I wonder if it’s the end - not the beginning - of a long decline. Or at least the beginning of the end….for I think we’ve been in decline for about 40 years, enduring a slow process of de-civilisation, but not really quite noticing it until now. I’m reminded of that thing about the frog placed in a pan of slowly heating water…"

Most pertinently to the Campfire community, he urges those of us involved in social media to recognise that the free model no longer works in a post-truth world which is turning politics upside down.

This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too. It will involve realising that some things we’ve taken for granted - some semblance of truth in reporting, for example - can no longer be expected for free. If we want good reporting and good analysis, we’ll have to pay for it. That means MONEY: direct financial support for the publications and websites struggling to tell the non-corporate, non-establishment side of the story."

For Eno, a thoughtful approach that supports direct involvement and social responsibility is a duty as well as a choice. “In the same way if we want happy and creative children we need to take charge of education, not leave it to ideologues and bottom-liners. If we want social generosity, then we must pay our taxes and get rid of our tax havens. And if we want thoughtful politicians, we should stop supporting merely charismatic ones.

Eno was against leaving the EU in June suggesting that on balance and despite its faults, it had been an essential restraint on neo-liberal fundamentalism and for enlightened agendas. At the time he stated ““I feel the EU is one of the only restraints on the kind of neo-liberal market fundamentalism that has seen inequality rising throughout the world. I feel that it has been a net force for good in promoting enlightened social and environmental agendas. It could and should be doing a better job at all these things, but to do any job at all it needs our support.” In an interview last week in Flaunt magazine, his view is now considerably more reflective "I was completely humbled by this result,” he says. “I thought they were in a bubble, but it was me. I wasn’t paying attention, and I felt utterly ashamed"

His Facebook message concludes with a rallying call “Inequality eats away at the heart of a society, breeding disdain, resentment, envy, suspicion, bullying, arrogance and callousness. If we want any decent kind of future we have to push away from that, and I think we’re starting to. There’s so much to do, so many possibilities. 2017 should be a surprising year."

During an extensive and wide-ranging Jarvis Cocker interview on BBC 6 Music, Eno suggests embracing the huge changes currently taking place.

The things that have happened have been so dramatic.. There’s been a revolution. We didn’t notice it because we didn’t start it. We always thought the revolution would be coming from people like us. Well, it didn’t. It came from other people.

We have a choice to not recognise it or to ride it and I think that riding it will be the exciting option. It’s like surfing, sometimes a big wave comes along, what are you going to do? Hide your head? No, you have to jump on it and ride with it.

The new album's title reflects his current mood “This one in particular, it’s called Reflection because I find it very a good record to listen to when I ‘m thinking back trying to sort something out . Everybody’s lives are full and in a sense we’re always encouraged to be future oriented – look what’s happening and what’s going to happen.

I always want to digest as well and think about what has happened and how it fits together. Thinking back and reflecting on things – This last year has given us a lot to reflect on.

I’ve been writing this little essay ‘Too much information’ The point is that what can happen is that You can support any theory no matter how ludicrous it is, because quality of information turns out to be less important to us than quantity. If there are two ideas – one is right and one wrong, you’ve got a good chance of figuring out which one to follow. If there are 100 ideas and 99 are wrong and one is right, you will probably go with the 99. Quantity matters.

If the same things get repeated over and over for instance that Russia is planning to invade us which is the current piece of paranoia that is being peddled eventually you’ll start to think there must be something to it, There’s got to be fire where there’s smoke. I want to resist that trend to be swept on a wave of other peoples’ thoughts and create a space where you can actually think ...hold on, let me evaluate things myself. Let me decide what I think.

I hate this thing, oh god, that you get in online shopping malls ...people who bought this book also bought these books. I always want exactly the opposite. You want the reverse fliter..  If you like this, you’ve probably never heard of this so why don’t you look at it

It’s dull. If you’re in a hole, stop digging!

The thing that breaks this is play. Play is the way out of a lot of this, I think. Play is where here you experiment, take a risk and create a world for yourself where you can’t predict the outcomes

Play is a way of dealing with uncertainty and a lot of this comes down to the fear of uncertainty - the fear of not having secure boundaries around what you're doing, not having a world that is neatly packaged – it's a fear that you don't have to feel. That’s surely what being an artist is all about. Allow yourself to be in a new place and to be thrilled by it rather than threatened by it.

I used to have this phrase that children learn through play but adults play through art. By art I mean anything that we do that we didn’t have to do, anything that was a stylistic experiment – whether fashion, make-up, earrings, symphonies, cake-decoration.  When adults are doing that they're really playing. It's just play for grown ups. We don't take it seriously but I think that is the essential activity of civilisation. That's really what we have to be doing.

The point is to be serious about play, to make it part of your life, to make sure you don't marginalise it and think that my real job is being a chartered accountant and at weekends I play. You've somehow got change chartered accountancy into play. 

The new year resolution for everybody is to change it into play..





Ralph Pettingill

Top article! I'm intrigued and engaged at how B.Eno communicates- I really enjoyed the slot on 6 Music he did with Shaun Keaveney and Brian Cox . These ideas really get me thinking..


Michelle Spriddell

Very well said and yes play - reflection - piecing together - and riding the waves sounds like a plan I would like to follow ..... interesting about having to pay for the quality - so many of us are resistant because we feel it should be the norm yet now we find we have to be investing basically in those who care enough to strive for truths and quality in order to redesign or build a future we would like to see ....

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