Meddlin' with Mendelson Joe
Canada's poster boy for political activism chats with Shalom Life.
Mendelson Joe is a colourful, sharp-tongued, quick-witted individual who is known as an artist/painter in North Ontario living life on his terms. A rarity for most, he would prefer to live off the grid as the state of our government turns his stomach -- so much so that in the past, he has painted a number of well-known government representatives by replacing their facial features with a pair of buttocks. Oddly enough, the subject is readily recognizable.
He is a well-informed political activist who enjoys talking about current affairs and his views regarding life and the world at large. Shalom Life recently had the opportunity to engage in a brief dialogue with Mendelson Joe.
You became a painter by accident in 1975 by finding paint in someone’s garbage and all of a sudden, your work is highly sought-after. I love how life presents these opportunities.
Life is like that for all of us if we notice. You just have to pick your garbage!
Becoming an artist is a struggle to make a living. How did you fare with it?
What’s a struggle? Now you’re getting into an area of esthetics. I’m an artist. My whole ideological base is driven by being artistic and idealistic. Most people in music are not idealists. They do it because they like it but they do it for the money. I’m an ‘artist’ in the real sense of the word. In my case – my ethic – I have a gift that I have to work hard at to develop so you never stop learning. I’m still teaching myself how to play guitar after playing for 55 years! It’s a process that doesn’t stop. For the rest, it’s a business.
So money is not important to you?
I don’t care about money as much because I don’t have children to support.
What is important to you?
Well, I feel a huge responsibility to your kid and kids in general to not leave a world of ‘pooh’ behind, and that is what we are doing to our children.
You are a free spirit – one I would assume who thrives on living off the grid, but you don’t. Why is this?
I am a political activist. As a Canadian and a former pop star who has travelled the world, I understand what democracy has afforded us. I also recognize that the world is full of psychopaths who are in charge of the world (in most cases). In a society such as ours, we are actually afforded freedoms to speak and express ourselves without being killed for our views this is important and you can’t offer your views and keeping the powers that be in check if you are ‘off the grid.’
You have an interesting viewpoint about women. Can you share that with us?
I recognized very early on how freakishly weird the world was, especially for women. I’m an advocate for women because I believe if they were in power, things would most certainly be different. Men are in high-powered roles whether it be a political or business role and they are fucking everything up. They were probably not mothered properly, and this is why women need to be in these positions. They have what it takes. My masterpiece in music that has never been released is titled “Women Are The Only Hope.” And, I really believe you are.
You were born in 1944, before the war ended. How did that shape or inform your family's view on being a Jew?
Yes, I am a Jew and feel strongly about that, but I have also realized that it doesn’t make me holy or believe in God. It’s the equipment that I was given and my parents were very screwed up about being Jews. They were hypocrites and I try really hard not to be. I was raised by afraid and hypocritical people because of it. I learned ‘paranoid’ at a young age because of it.
“Humans are cancer, God is not the answer he’s just a placebo” is a line from your current album Live at 65. Where does this come from?
People are self-possessed and are ruining nature for sport or recreational purposes and it’s crazy. I live up north and these ‘humans’ come up here for the weekend with their snowmobiles, getting drunk and killing themselves and they make noise and terrify the wildlife and they stink up the air and call it ‘recreation’ with mother nature. Go for a walk, snowshoe, and why pollute the earth? The fact that we are still tolerating these individuals is crazy!
You have lived a full life and have much concern for future generations. What words of advice would you offer them?
That they are the future and to strive to make change. Arm yourselves with information, be informed. Our political leaders [Harper] has hitched us [Canada] to the American wagon. He’s evil! If you have cable and want to really inform yourself, there are two balanced programs that will help you and they are: PBS – News Hour and TVO – The Agenda. These are balanced programs with no agenda, they present the ‘facts’ so that you may make a decision based on the ‘facts.’ They both deal with international affairs and matters regarding women's issues. The good news is that it is good, informative media without bias. On that note, The Simpsons and The Daily Show also offer wonderful commentaries based on the realities of American and international affairs the latter being up-to-date. At the end of the day, the reality is ‘we have to solve our own problems,’ so go and arm and inform yourselves.
To enjoy more of Mendelson Joe’s music and art, please visit www.mendelsonjoe.com www.karenrobinsongallery.com