OTHER PEOPLE WENT TO UNIVERSITY… (The Mire)

Mark Smith of The Fall

I didn’t mind being on the dole. I had a lot of time on my hands as a result. Other people went to university, but I read books, smoked cigs and looked around most days. It’s good to have a period like that in your life, when you’re not being forced to think like others. Don’t get me wrong: I had my fair share of dull days and my diet wasn’t the most healthy, but I read a lot of good books and wrote a lot, most of which found its way on to our first LP. I didn’t think of it like that when I was writing, though. I just felt an urge to write.
If you’re a cod-psychologist, I guess you could trace most of the Fall’s output back to this period, to the wilderness years, the dole days – back to young Mark laying the hard foundations for the rough and brilliant years that he hasn’t yet seen!

Mark E Smith, from a section of his autobiography, which is being serialised in The Guardian this week. Who knows how much culture in postwar, pre-neoliberal Britain depended on the indirect public funding – perhaps the best kind – provided by the dole? Of course, in the wake of Thatcherism and Blairism, today’s equivalents of the young MES would find themselves quickly harassed back to work in a cracker factory by a Restart course. (Aptly, one of The Fall’s many members was actually an extra in the scenes set in the Restart course in The League of Gentlemen.) The dole might have provided an alternative to university, a time in which proletarian autodidacts could pursue undirected research and engage in rogue reflections, but with the cutting of student grants and the introduction of tuition fees, the pause for thought which existed outside employment and official study is no longer available to many British students either.

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