Nick Cave labels ‘cancel culture’ as “mercy’s antithesis”

"Cancel culture's refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society"

Nick Cave has shared his thoughts on ‘cancel culture’ in a new edition of his Red Hand Files newsletter.

Asked on his views on the subject by a fan, Cave linked his answer to another question about the idea of mercy, calling ‘cancel culture’ “mercy’s antithesis”.

“Mercy is a value that should be at the heart of any functioning and tolerant society,” Cave’s answer began. “Mercy ultimately acknowledges that we are all imperfect and in doing so allows us the oxygen to breathe — to feel protected within a society, through our mutual fallibility. Without mercy a society loses its soul, and devours itself.”


He then discussed ‘cancel culture’, adding: “As far as I can see, ‘cancel culture’ is mercy’s antithesis. Political correctness has grown to become the unhappiest religion in the world.

Credit: Joel Ryan

“Its once honourable attempt to reimagine our society in a more equitable way now embodies all the worst aspects that religion has to offer (and none of the beauty) — moral certainty and self-righteousness shorn even of the capacity for redemption. It has become quite literally, bad religion run amuck.”

Cave added: “‘Cancel culture’’s refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas has an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society. Compassion is the primary experience — the heart event — out of which emerges the genius and generosity of the imagination.

“Creativity is an act of love that can knock up against our most foundational beliefs, and in doing so brings forth fresh ways of seeing the world. This is both the function and glory of art and ideas. A force that finds its meaning in the cancellation of these difficult ideas hampers the creative spirit of a society and strikes at the complex and diverse nature of its culture.”

Concluding the message, he said: “But this is where we are. We are a culture in transition, and it may be that we are heading toward a more equal society — I don’t know — but what essential values will we forfeit in the process?”


Last month, Nick Cave held a special solo livestreamed show from London’s Alexandra Palace. Giving ‘Idiot Prayer’ a five-star review, NME wrote: “Without crowds, chatter and the mess of thousands of human bodies all bumping up against each other, it’s possible to focus purely on Cave’s devastating lyricism: religion, death and romance all getting their chance to shine in the golden and purple lights that softly illuminate the room.”

Cave also surprised fans last week by launching a new online store called ‘Cave Things’, which features a host of items all designed by the singer himself.

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