I really have more important things to do and because of that I’ve been engrossed in the public argument between the veteran singer Sinead O’Connor and the brash, young pop star Miley Cyrus. What the hell it’s Saturday, sunny but mid-spring cool outside and I’ve slept in, had breakfast, had lunch, haven’t gone out and am just doing what I fucking well like.
Over the past weeks, I’ve been reading about Cyrus’s notoriously provocative antics at the MTV Video Music Awards 1913 and all the online commentary. Then she released her single ‘Wrecking Ball’ to a routinely naughty video, citing O’Connor’s iconic song ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ as an influence. Apparently unwilling to endorse Cyrus’s product, O’Connor penned an open letter ‘in the spirit of motherliness’ to Cyrus advising her of the perils of provocative antics in the harshly exploitative and perfidious music industry and of the danger it represents to young women in everyday life.
You would think a heedless, vacuous chit like Cyrus would just tell her to stick it, but she did worse than that. She tweeted a screen grab of O’Connor’s public battle with a serious mental illness and made a mockery of it – and a mockery of her lone, brave protest against the Catholic Church’s history of child abuse years before the evil spilled out of the closets into full public disclosure. It was a cruel, demeaning gesture and offensive to people suffering from mental illness everywhere.
O’Connor hit back with threats of legal action as she pointed out the damage this rehash of her bi-polar episode, with the suggestion that it was current, was doing to her career. Movingly, she said how hard it is to get work when people assume you are mentally ill. But Cyrus is blithely sitting on a fortune, her latest output parading around the tops of the pop charts and her spangled, uncaring, blaring, laughing bandwagon moves on.
Why do I care? Well for one thing, this isn’t news about the devastation of wars, pollution or people dying. It’s news for the living room, for people like me living in comfortable, ordinary suburbia with regular problematic jobs to go to on Monday and the weekly shopping to do sometime soon. It’s something to think about: whether there is justice in the world or such a thing as karma. Are passionate, idealistic, creative individuals like O’Connor forever doomed to be scratching for a living, or can we see it that she is in some way mightily blessed? That her life, full of unhappy struggle and thrown in the dirt as it was, is nevertheless a true, beautiful and authentic one?