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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, April 21, 2003
    Unhistoric acts
     
      ... the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
    - these words may have been written in tribute to the artists collected in the Box of Trash, which has been on my player since a sortie into town this lunchtime ("You may as well come in," said the bloke from Probe on the phone earlier, "You'll only get bored at home." He was right).

    Hardly any of the hundred-plus artists in this low-cost 5-cd box are known outside the circles of collectors of 60Õs psych/garage music. I'd never heard of Diamond and the Higher Elevation or Teddy and His Patches before today. Their performances are unhistoric acts. Yet their influence goes a long way. Hearing the raw energy in their stripped-down sound, is a great antidote to the over-sophisticated, layered, self-conscious stuff we're used to today.

    So the George Eliot Middlemarch quote could easily be found in the Trash Box booklet. But it isn't. It's in the front of Richard Sennett's Respect: The Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality, which I'm just about to start reading. It's had a good press, this book. In it Sennett looks at the pivotal role respect plays in society. He argues that respect is the glue that keeps society together and a serious factor in social change. It's a novel approach to issues around inequality.

    In the Trash Box, The Split Ends sing about being Rich with Nothing, skint but wealthy in spirit. Sennet's argument is more sophisticated than that, (... how self-esteem must be balanced with feeling for others; proposing a welfare system based on respect for those in need ...). But perhaps there's a similarity of spirit. After all, Sennet's outlook has been formed through an 'outsider' musician's experience: as a young man living in a single-parent apartment in Chicago's run-down, race-torn Cabrini Green, Sennett learned to be a cellist; a hidden life if ever there was one, then and now.