• Frank Furedi
  • Frank Furedi
  • Sociologist, commentator and author
Article

Manufacturing anxiety

The right to criticise George Soros

Thierry Baudet: not your typical populist

Don’t turn the Christchurch killer into Voldemort

A perpetual war of identities

Why identity politics has been so bad for Jews

Competitive self-harm

The crusade against masculinity

From misbehaving boys to violent men: the poisoning of male identity

Fear and the renunciation of politics

Fear today

Fearing fear itself

Academics need courage, not anonymity

The first culture war

Tragic that love of country is now off the syllabus

The politics of fear

Why students feel so vulnerable

Why we shouldn’t fear being alone

The politicisation of identity

Why I’m sceptical about stories exposing Russian antics

Who’s guiding our children?

How ‘gender neutrality’ could screw up the next generation

The EU’s shameful crusade against Hungary

The toxic legacy of parent shaming – and the damage it does to children

Why Sweden’s populist moment matters

The Only Thing We Have to Fear

The great jerk rice debate (what a waste of time!)

Identity politics has conquered the Westminster bubble

Why Labour has a problem with Jews

The campus culture of fear and its costs

The paradox of our safety addiction

How Project Fear wants us all to panic over Brexit

The flight of the elites from the nation state

Now they even want to racialise the World Cup

The mainstreaming of porn

Hungary: The bad boy of the EU

Universities’ risk aversion is hampering intellectual progress

A war that begins in the nursery

Curse of helicopter parenting

Grenfell Tower fire a year on

‘The fear of populism is really a fear of the masses’

Gyáva lett a nyugati ember – Frank Furedi a Mandinernek

Who will speak for the European working class?

1968: The birth of the new conformism

El miedo a vivir con nosotros mismos o la sociedad medicalizada

The truth about Karl Marx

The cultural appropriation police are turning fried chicken, dreadlocks and prom dresses into a race

“La decadencia de Occidente” de Spengler: un siglo de pesimismo cultural

Loneliness can’t be ‘cured’. We must learn to find value in solitude

La apoteosis de la victimización

Orban’s victory: Another blow to the EU oligarchy

The myth of Cambridge Analytica’s power

A culture of bullying? Grow up

Italy has dealt a blow to the EU

Why the people must be sovereign

Stop this moral crusade against circumcision

Don’t blame the young for thinking JFK’s assassination sparked WWI - they’ve been tragically failed

Why they love baiting the Russian bear

My encounter with George Soros’s bright-eyed missionaries left me deeply disturbed

Turning the Army into a Safe Space

Switch off your kids’ phones and let them play outside

No patrimony

The fantasy of the ‘youthquake’

A liberal defence of populism

Turning childhood into a mental illness

The hidden history of identity politics

The meaninglessness of Charles Manson

The rise of duty-free politics

You can’t fine your way to free speech

The long plight of the right on campus

Why cheating has become the norm

Why I wrote a radical democratic defence of populism

Whiteness: a nonsense category

A radical life

Taking out a patent on culture

Exam stress is not a mental illness

Don’t play with fire

A culture war masquerading as a youthquake

Generational revenge: the politics of ageism

Populism on the ropes? Don’t be so sure

A revolt against deference

Masood’s motives? We may never know

Does Erdogan have a right to hold rallies in Europe?

Nincs szükség egy európai transznacionális birodalomra

The Therapeutic University

Universities blame others for plagiarism. They need to look at themselves

‘Just like Hitler’: The diminishing of the Holocaust

If you need a ‘detention director’ in your school you might be getting discipline wrong

There IS an alternative

RIP Zygmunt Bauman

Campuses are breaking apart into ‘safe spaces’

Why Millennials are so fragile

2016: A war of words against the people

Interview: ‘Despite fear, we should focus on the positives’

Standing up to the new school of anti-Semitism

Italian revolt

Populism: a defence

Fidel Castro: A tragic cold war figure

Free speech is at grave risk on university campuses

My Leonard Cohen

MY LEONARD COHEN
It was in August 1967 that I first properly encountered Leonard Cohen. Of course I had heard of him before. In one of my seminars at McGill University, after telling us to go and read some of Cohen’s poems, my tutor proudly declared that Cohen used to study literature in our English department. I dutifully read some of his poetry, and his novel Beautiful Losers, and came to the conclusion that although he was not a great writer, he had a remarkable way with words.

In all likelihood, my engagement with Cohen would have ended when I gave up on Beautiful Losers had I not later worked as a guide at EXPO67: the world exhibition in Montreal. The best thing about working there was not the money, but the access we had to free concerts in the evenings. The night Leonard Cohen came to sing, the café was about three-quarters full. There were around 70 of us in the audience, drinking beer. It was when I saw a tear in my then girlfriend’s eyes that I realised I was listening to something very special. Cohen had just finished singing ‘Suzanne’. It was at that moment that we knew he had looked into our souls.

I spent the next couple of months hoping to see Cohen perform, but without success. Word got around the McGill student ghetto that he would soon show up at a well-known local folk club — the Café Prag — but we couldn’t find out when. I would not see him sing again until the Isle of Wight music festival in 1970, where, bizarrely, he came on stage after Jimi Hendrix.

His debut album Songs of Leonard Cohen, released in December 1967, remains his most powerful work. With that album, he gave an intensely sensual form to his poetic imagination through the medium of song. I have never heard anyone sing about human weakness and raw pain with such sincerity.

His song ‘One of us cannot be wrong’ self-consciously preys on our insecurity to remind us of a few unflattering truths. Its opening line, ‘I lit a thin green candle, to make you jealous of me’, confronts us with the uncomfortable truth that we devote far too much energy to playing games with each other.

The melancholic and at times depressing tone of some of the songs is punctuated by an aspiration for transcendence. His songs are about alienation, our estrangement from each other. But there’s always something more. ‘The stranger song’ explores estrangement with great depth and beauty. I still sing that song in my head whenever I feel sorry for myself. Cohen’s stranger might be gone before you can blink an eye, but don’t forget he is the kind of man ‘who is reaching for the sky just to surrender’. That’s the kind of guy I wouldn’t mind sharing a few drinks with.

Cohen’s second album, Songs from a Room, struck me as far more sad than his first. There’s also an undercurrent of cynicism in songs such as ‘The story of Isaac’. However, some of the songs nonetheless stand as a testimony to the artistic aspiration to capture an elusive sense of human freedom. ‘Like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free’, he sings in ‘Bird on the wire’.

Paradoxically, the song on that second album that inspired me to try to do something worthwhile with my life was not actually written by Cohen. It is an old French song, about the reaction of the French Resistance to invasion by the Germans. ‘The Partisan’ begins with the lines:

‘When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do
I took my gun and vanished.’

This melody of defiance is tinged with the realisation that resistance will exact a very high price. And yet this person is not prepared to surrender. The song ends on a hopeful note:

‘Freedom soon will come
Then we’ll come from the shadow.’

The refusal to surrender — it’s one of the most stirring things in Cohen’s art. At times, yes, his songs draw us toward the modern purgatory of depression and disorientation, but Cohen does not surrender. Even in old age he could sing ‘First we take Manhattan’ and really sound like he meant it.

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