This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
"Another fun e-petition." It's all I can say now. It's the year 2016 and I have been sideways-promoted to being VICE's Head of e-Petitions. We have a new site dedicated to news stories recounting the existence of unsuccessful e-petitions, and I am the head of it. It's called SiGNED. Our most successful story is an e-petition to rename Prince Charles "the Prince of Shit." It got 96,000 signatures and a push campaign on Facebook but Prince Charles still refuses to change his name. "I will not change my name," Prince Charles is saying, in a hastily arranged press conference with Sky News, "to 'The Prince of Shit.' These petitions mean nothing." But he is wrong. In 2016, e-petitions are all that matter. It is everything we have, the only news available to us. It caps off a trend that started two years ago when the government launched that website, and culminated with Britain locked in a sort of emotional void where the only way we can now communicate opinions is via e-petitions. This is all Kanye West's fault.
Trace your finger back through the timeline back until now: There is an e-petition to change the train station "Canterbury West" to "Kanye West." This is because of the word west—if you look closely, you will notice it is both a key component part of Kanye West's name (Kanye West) as well as the location of the Canterbury West (West) station. This is a humorous joke. The petition was actually first created in March, but nobody noticed it, and then about 900 people did and signed it, and that's when it became a news story. Hold on, I just need to check against my "writing up an e-petition as a news story" flowchart:
Oh, right, OK. "Sadly, Kanye (wealth be upon him) has been not always been afforded the respect he deserves," said Mark Kilner, age unknown, when describing the petition, which is about changing the train station name "Canterbury West" to "Kanye West," and which also yes has attracted some 900 signatures so far. "We cannot undo past wrongs such as retroactively giving Taylor Swift's Grammy Award to Beyoncé any more than we can save Jesus from crucifixion (although technically God kind of took care of that), but we can show our appreciation in other ways, and what better start than renaming Canterbury West Station to Kanye West Station?" Also nearly 1,000 people have signed it.
This is not the first time Kanye West has inspired an e-petition: You will recall, in March, that kid you went to school with who was really into Kasabian because "Serge is a lad" and it is "proper rock music" started a petition to ban Kanye from playing Glastonbury because, for the first time ever, he had bought a ticket. "Kanye West is an insult to music fans all over the world," Neil Lonsdale said, before clicking 'Like' on a "Jeremy Clarkson = LEGEND" Facebook page and playing exactly one chord on an acoustic guitar. "We spend hundreds of pounds to attend glasto, and by doing so, expect a certain level of entertainment. Kanye has been very outspoken on his views on music... he should listen to his own advice and pass his headline slot on to someone deserving!" 136,000 signatures.
I want to be upfront and tell you that I am extremely pro-Kanye. Not because of his music or his personality or anything like that. Kanye is an enormously powerful man who still, on the downlow, manages to rock a goatee, and he should be respected for that. Like, seriously: Did you ever really notice Kanye had a goatee? He could be directly standing in front of you, and you'd barely even notice it. Kanye West, every day of his life, shaves his neck and 80 percent of his chin in the exact same way your dad did after the marriage wobble in 1998, the same way Wayne Lineker shaves his face before his gooch. Kanye West is married to a woman so attractive she has essentially transcended humanhood and become instead a work of art, and he is doing this with a beard that is positively Spakian. We need to respect him for that and that alone. Everything else is just extra.
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But Britain does not know how to deal with Kanye West, because he is bombastic and self-proud and so arrogant it is art, and only ever really wears big T-shirts and a surprised-but-also-sad expression, and that jams against every uptight principle Middle England holds dear. Kanye West would find it impossible to be British. Imagine Kanye West eating a Yorkshire pudding: You can't. Kanye West refusing to pay 30p at a motorway services to take a shit because "your nan's house is only 50 minutes away, Kim." Kanye West grimly trying to enjoy an overcast day on a beach in Cleethorpes. Being British is an endurance sport, sometimes, and Kanye West is not fit enough for it. He is American in a massive, cartoonish way, and so we can only react to him with extreme polarity, emotions as e-petitions.
I think it says a lot that, e-petition-wise, there are more of us inclined to tear Kanye West down for being good at what he does than elevate him to the name of a train station for being iconic. That neither end goal of the two Kanye West-flavored campaigns were ever likely to happen—why would Glastonbury listen to headline booking slot suggestions from someone who calls it 'Glasto' and has been literally once? Why would Canterbury West change its station name to make it actively less helpful to travelers?—but they are both revealing insights into how the base British mind tries and ultimately fails to comprehend the diamond-complexity of Kanye West and all his facets. Is Kanye West good? Name a train station after him. Is Kanye West bad? Politely stop him from singing at a singing show that you are in no way obliged to attend. Fundamentally, we do not know how to deal with Kanye West. The only way Britain can edge close to understanding his complex goatee'd genius is through the medium of e-petitions. We are simple cell-structures bobbing in a complex sea; we are dogs trying to use a TV remote. We are cavemen throwing rocks at a magnificent sun; we are Britons trying to comprehend Kanye.
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