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Guitars & Guns: A Slow Hand For Eric Clapton

Recently, I completed reading Eric Clapton’s autobiography. It was a compelling read that took me only three days to get through. I’m not a particular admirer of Mr Clapton’s music. ‘Layla’ rattles round in my head as one of those tunes that gets deeply imbedded in your subconscious from my pre-teenage years, and I love his album ‘Pilgrim’. Nonetheless, it is the only one of his that I possess, so you couldn’t exactly call me a fan.

I found the book to be a highly entertaining and an outstandingly open exploration of the musician’s history. It takes a disarmingly honest look at a life riddled with unparalleled ups and downs. Mr C has no problem holding the mirror up to himself, and admitting to not liking what he sees. It was well written, refreshingly lacking in ego, and totally absorbing. Considering that prior to picking it up (at the knock down price of $1.99 on Kindle) I had no real interest in Mr C whatsoever, it was an investment I found most enjoyable.

However, within its pages there were a couple of paragraphs I took issue with. I'm going to write to Mr C about them, but since they raise some interesting generic points, I thought I’d blog about them here.

From his youth, Mr C was a fisherman. It’s a very popular pastime in his native UK, and he has found it a relaxing and pleasant distraction throughout his often-tumultuous career. Later in life he took up shooting, which seemed to be a natural extension of hunting. I’m sure many of the rich and famous do. These so called ‘sporting pursuits’ are a feature of the lifetimes of many young souls. What I have a discomfort with is the manner in which Mr C justifies his attitudes to what he does:

Ethically it was never a problem for me, and it is the same with fishing. My family and I eat what I catch and shoot. It is fresh and healthy and we love it. I am a hunter; it is in my genes, and I am quite comfortable with that. I also support a lot of other countryside pursuits, quite simply because I believe they are an important part of our culture and heritage, and need protecting, usually from people or movements of people, who have little understanding of the delicate economic balance of countryside communities, and who have watched too many Disney movies.

It’s ironic that several pages later, Mr C relates the following:

It’s not everybody’s favourite sport, and some people can get quite worked up about it. I remember a few years earlier, with trout fishing, I actually hit a kind of brick wall myself. I was fishing down on the Test [an English river] when I suddenly stopped and thought, “Why am I doing this?” I had caught a couple of fish, killed them and put them in my bag, and I thought, “This is not right.” I was confused because I enjoyed fishing, but it seemed that if I couldn’t justify it to myself, at that exact moment, then I was going to have to stop. That’s when I decided that from then on, I was going to eat everything I caught. I have tried to apply the same principle to shooting, which is all well and good, but it’s a tall order, trying to eat all the pheasant and partridge I shoot. Nevertheless, we try.

Well… Here are a few observations I would like to make:

  • It’s quite fascinating that Mr C almost made a breakthrough when his higher self had him realise that he was doing something he really shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, he ignored it (which is fairly typical for everyone) and reverted to the ‘it’s OK if I eat it’ logic; but then as good as admits that he kills too much to do that!

  • The ‘eat what I kill’ argument is used by hunters all over, because that seems to make it OK to take the lives of other creatures. It is my understanding that cannibals also eat what they kill. But that’s not OK, because they eat humans and human lives matter. The lives of animals, birds and fish don’t, right?

  • The flesh of other creatures is 'fresh and healthy' to eat? Compared to what? Listeria pate? It may indeed be ‘fresh’, dripping with blood and all that. But I wonder if Mr C has read the recent reports about how bad meat is for people. It’s not so healthy after all, to say nothing of the fact that it carries the vibration of terror experienced when it was killed. Or perhaps fish, fighting for their lives at the end of a line with a barbed hook piercing their flesh aren’t worried at all. Perhaps their thrashing about is not desperation to save their lives at all. Perhaps they’re just enjoying the ‘sport’. And those game birds. They just love that ‘dodging the shotgun pellet’ thing, don’t they? It’s so exhilarating!

  • Let me ask you as a reader: Do you know what’s in your genes? Did the doctors tell your parents? Are you an accountant, or a nurse, or maybe a monk? I can accept that Mr C is a musician, through and through. But the “I am hunter, it is in my genes” bit is a crass attempt to justify bloodlust. We’re WAY past being hunters as a species. It's a lame justification at this stage to blame it on the gene pool! Funny how that hunter-killer thing runs in some families, eh?

  • Amongst those other countryside ‘sports’ that Mr C supports, is fox hunting. A spokesperson for him is on record as saying "Eric supports the Countryside Alliance. [for this read: movement of people who enjoy mindlessly killing innocent creatures that are just trying to stay alive, some of which they will label vermin because it’s a convenient justification for their actions, even though said creatures are simply trying to eat what is natural for them.] He doesn't hunt himself, but does enjoy rural pursuits such as fishing and shooting sports. He supports the Alliance's pursuit to scrap the ban [on fox hunting] on the basis that he doesn't agree with the state's interference with people's private pursuits" In other words, if it’s OK for Mr C to have fun blowing defenceless creatures away, he can’t really claim it’s not OK for everyone else to do so too.

  • So, blood sports are “an important part of our culture and heritage”, are they? Hmm. Just how important a part of the UK culture is killing animals for fun? Is it bedrock stuff? Is that what attracts the droves of tourists who flock there? Is that part of what defines Brits? Or is ritualised 'sport' killing something indulged in mainly by the wealthy and privileged? Whoever does it, does that make it right? Does it mean that this aspect of the culture is good, admirable, acceptable, pleasant, meaningful, harmless or beneficial? If something is part of some precedent established centuries ago, does that mean that the action should be protected? Shouldn’t we look at our past actions and examine the barbarity of them? And if we can see it, and recognise that it is not necessary, (even if it is ’fun’) shouldn’t we be NOT doing it anymore? Don’t we eschew what is bad? Don’t we seek to purge the parts of our heritage that are no longer appropriate? How is slaughtering harmless creatures that we don’t need for food appropriate? Consider these aspects of the UK's heritage: Tens of thousands were executed by burning and beheading. The Brits invented and ran concentration camps in South Africa long before the Nazis ever adopted the idea. Unfortunates were locked in work houses and used as forced labour only a century ago. Criminals and undesirables were habitually deported to the other side of the world to face a bleak and uncertain future, almost within living memory. The list goes on and on. Yet you don’t do these things anymore. They are no longer parts of the culture and heritage that are embraced. Surely progress is about looking at our faults and flaws and moving away from them, not clinging on to them because they have once been aspects of culture and heritage? (Yeah, but Mr C is only talking about taking the lives of a few animals, isn’t he? No harm there is there? Unless you happen to be the fish or the fox or the bird. But we all know they don’t matter, don’t we?)

  • Then we come to the “delicate economic balance of countryside communities”. Oh please! This is the complete crock that has been touted around by those who have bloodlust ever since I was a kid. It was nonsense then, and it’s nonsense now. Communities simply DO NOT survive because a bunch of Barbour jacketed ‘sportsmen’ come and blast the hell out of the birds the locals have bred for the purpose. Maybe in the whole of the UK a few hundred people are associated with this for their employment. But to generalize that countryside communities rely upon this ‘delicate balance’ is farcical. Please Mr C, point me in the direction of just one of these delicately balanced communities. Explain the math of it to me. I understand economics. Tell me how a whole community exists because of killing. Then, if you can actually find one, (which I know you’d fail to do, because such places ceased to exist at the turn of the nineteenth century – swat up on your history) explain to me how it’s right, or acceptable in this age? How did you get suckered into believing this ridiculous propaganda? Haven’t you explored it for yourself to reveal the nonsense it is? Or is it too convenient an excuse.

  • And finally, the Disney comment. LOL. It’s true, those of us who have watched Disney movies all grow up believing, and cherish the knowledge in adulthood, that animals can talk (and often sing), are wholly benevolent, exist to help humans in times of crisis and should therefore be protected at all costs. Our attitudes towards them clearly have nothing to do with respecting their right to life; nothing to do with valuing them as beings in their own right; nothing to do with abhorring the cruelty and suffering to which they are subjected; nothing to do with realising that as a race in order to survive, we need to evolve and stop doing harm to everything around us; nothing to do with accepting that harming them only harms ourselves; nothing to do with the thought that the measure of us as humans is how we treat the meekest and most vulnerable amongst us; and nothing to do with the knowledge that if we can’t treat animals as they should be treated, there’s probably not that much hope for any us.

Despite the way it appears, I have a very high regard for Mr C. I really enjoyed his book and he is clearly a very fine musician. Moreover, I have a great deal of respect for what he has achieved in overcoming some major life challenges (he put in place for himself). He's doing well on his pathway, but he's got a long way to go in certain areas, and some key learning has passed him by – so far. I hope he 'gets it' in time. After all the compassion he's demonstrated, all he's managed to overcome, and the outstanding mastery he has achieved in other areas of his life, it’s almost unworthy of him to not choose to see past the deceptions he is kidding himself with.

I apologise for sounding off at him in this way. I'm not picking on the guy. He just provided me with an entree to a blog subject. I’m afraid that his comments are reflective of the thinking of the majority of the population, who are content to pull the wool over their own eyes and find what should be unacceptable, quite normal. This needs to be put right.

PS. In case the title of this blog means nothing to you, a slow hand clap, when given to a performer, is a sign of disapproval. 'Slow Hand' is also Eric Clapton's favourite nickname.

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