By Hans Ebert
It’s definitely been because of the erratic behaviour of President Donald Trump, but these last few weeks, a keyword playing over and over again in my head is the one called Tolerance.
Trump- it’s almost impossible to call him President- is intolerant and intolerable- a 70-year-old manchild, who seems to be going through senility and regular bouts of delusional power mongering. His White House today is where nothing is real and there’s everything to get hang up about. BUT, if there’s nothing you or I can do to stop the elephant in the room, tough as it might seem, there’s a need to show tolerance by ignoring the problem. Trying to stop a stampeding elephant can be dangerous, so just move away and don’t get involved with things and people where you just can’t win.
It’s like having nothing to do with those who don’t bring anything to your life other than misery and pettiness- those who just have nothing good to say about anything because their own miserable lives are stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again. What we do- or what I have only recently learned to do- is to keep away from them and ensure they never ever enter my life again. What’s the upside if you let them back in again? Nothing. So…
For almost a decade, a friend of mine has practiced a tougher stance of living one’s life with his credo being that if someone has nothing to offer, he has better things to do with his investment of time.
Unlike myself, he’s not interested in being seen and heard on social media. His whole life revolves around family, and, whenever the mood strikes him, getting together with a handful of old friends and trying to make some music together.
Being financially secure, and with a solid family unit on one side, and a longtime loyal “second wife” on the other, it’s one of those lifestyles enjoyed by thousands of successful Chinese businessmen in Hong Kong, and which is accepted as being the norm by all those who are in the know. Everyone involved is happy with the situation. The women have done the maths, know they’re set for the rest of their lives, and my friend believes he has the right to lecture me on how I, too, could be leading a similar lifestyle. No, I couldn’t. But listening to these lectures have made me tolerant enough to smile and just let it all waft over me. It’s almost soothing and has an Om-like effect of tranquility.
This new-found tolerance has also swept over me when listening to music, or listening to musicians- mainly “musicians”- talking about others making music. One takes it in, but not really. It’s more of a nod or a smile while actually listening to the voice- and sometimes voices- in my head.
Sometimes, the voice is talking to me, other times, it’s perhaps playing a melody line or formulating an idea. It’s far more interesting staying “there” than getting involved in things that have absolutely no return on my time. Yet, we allow these distractions in, because, often, we’re way too polite to walk away when the levels of bullshit reach tipping point, or else stay there and listen to those with half-baked ideas and try to show them the way.
For years, many of us have engaged in this form of non-engagement, and we have the scars and lunch and dinner bills to show for it. At least today, there’s social media to engage in thoughtless “conversations” with there always being the option to stop what is many times total nonsense- small talk that dissipates into gibberish.
What’s also made me happy these days is a new found tolerance to music- all types of music and all types of music events. Maybe, this offers me a glimpse into the human condition and doesn’t make me wince when a complete stranger calls me his “bro” or “dude”, or even, “bitch.”
Being more tolerant these days, the thinking is that I am learning a new language while being welcomed into a new culture with its own form of music, fashion, lifestyle and culture. Or Kulture.
As always, but far more visible these days, are those with plenty of ideas…but without the money to make any of these a reality. Especially in a small city like Hong Kong, there are the new dreamers who believe that simply being a Westerner who’s gigged in a few coffee shops in the UK makes them ready for their close ups, Mr DeMille. And so they’ll talk incessantly about what they did in 2008 without realising the irrelevance of any of this.
But, these days, if forever reason, in the company of these buffoons, exercise tolerance. Why create waves by telling them that their Use By Dates were up a decade ago? Surely, more helpful would be to talk about Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney coming together to write and produce the underrated classic that is FourFiveSeconds, a wonderful example of what happens when three musicians from completely different musical backgrounds come together and create one track that will always stand the test of time.
Why didn’t they record more music together? Perhaps getting one thing right was good enough, and more would not be better. It’s like knowing when to leave a relationship instead of trying to recapture that magic that’s no longer there. Holding on for the sake of holding on only holds you back.
Of course, exercising tolerance must always come with a sense of humour. You need that when running into people you’ve helped along the way, but who’ve cut their ties because you’ve moved on and they haven’t. They’re still gigging with the others lost in the funeral pyre.
I met a couple of these people recently- Hong Kong jazzsters- the most pretentious and two faced beasts of burden around. The ageing female singer looked as if she’d swallowed a turd upon seeing me, and, for whatever sense of insecurity was plaguing her, mentioned something about recording something or another in New York.
The saxophonist with her breathed alcoholic fumes in my face while apologising for not being in touch and used the word “man” so much, I thought I was back at Woodstock.
I practiced tolerance by listening to Drunk Man Talk while astral traveling and thinking how it’s mainly females with no recording careers who always say they’re recording. And then?
A few days later while still practicing tolerance, a friend and I met with a musician in his late twenties- a recent arrival in Hong Kong who talked about Ed Sheeran, Lenny Kravitz, how there are seven million people in Hong Kong, his new band and all kinds of other shit. It was naive shit. But being tolerant these days, I slipped into my best Eddie Murphy-doing-James Brown voice and told it like it is: “You should change your name to Assman, motherfucker, and go the gay way. Fuck all this Lenny Kravitz shit and just become Assman and get your ass out there and perform some Abba tracks.” I wasn’t lying. This was the best shortcut to getting known and have his music heard.
Sometimes, tolerance leads to the truth, and cuts through the crap. Why we listen to crap when we know it’s all crap without getting off the pot and just cutting loose is when one realises that too much tolerance can be intolerable.