Andrew E. Hall laments the [lamentable] current world order.
I’m sick and tired of hearing things from uptight, short sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics … just give me some truth …
– John Lennon
Good luck with that Jonno, given the caliber of public and private sector leadership in many of the world’s countries these days.
One of the craziest things I heard at the back end of 2013 was that the mayor of Toronto, Canada – who resembles a cane toad – reckons that being busted (although not by the rozzers) for smoking crack cocaine doesn’t present an issue when it comes to continuing in his position as the city’s leading citizen.
Rob Ford might well not be Toronto’s mayor when this gets published because the idiot has a habit of allowing others to video his crack smoking, his drunken rants, and his threats to commit murder. But he is a fine metaphor for the abuse of position that is fairly ubiquitous in, so-called, democratic societies.
We live in a world where large corporations have more political and economic leverage than all the rest of us put together. We live in a world of governments that are increasingly “conservative” – see also self-aggrandising and bent on limiting community entitlements to the point where the “little” people are left to fend for themselves … while indulging the top end of town (most notably the banking sector) in a form of socialism with their multi-billion dollar bailouts for screwing up royally. They created the GFC by on-selling dodgy mortgage bundles; they’ve been colluding to rig interest rates for years …
CEOs who should be imprisoned for daylight robbery walk away
with multi-million dollar bonuses.
And our governments tell us – in a deluge of PR material that is faithfully reproduced by the media – that it’s for our own good.
And vast numbers of us believe this nonsense.
Just give me some truth …
But where can you find it?
Do we look to Silvio Berlusconi – who has been prime minister of Italy about 16 times and indicted criminal charges on even more numerous occasions? He’s free, and still having a fine old time.
Do we look to Rupert Murdoch and his media empire to fairly and accurately report on what’s going on around us? Rupert couldn’t lay straight in bed if he tried.
Do we look to the newly elected Australian government – which is lying to the Australian people about asylum seekers and treating Indonesia with colonialist disdain? The Australian people are learning more of the truth about this issue from the Jakarta Post! This motley crew of career politicians is, at the very best reading, in denial about the truth of climate change … even as the largest storm in recorded history devastates parts of the Phillippines.
Let’s not even bother talking about American Republicans – a bunch of numpties.
So who can we turn to get a more cogent depiction of the human condition, a more realistic view of how we’re getting on?
Events that caused me some sadness in 2013 were the deaths of two of my musical idols, J.J. Cale and Lou Reed. What made me even sadder was that when I mentioned their passing to a 30-something-year-old friend of mine she said, “who?” I could only shake my head as the burden of age weighed heavily upon me.
December 8th 2013 marked the 33rd anniversary of the murder of another truth seeker, peace activist, and lyrical and musical genius, John Lennon.
I think my friend has actually heard of him.
One of the most uplifting moments of 2013 for me was watching the documentary Searching for Sugar Man about Latino-American singer/songwriter, Rodriguez (who is, thankfully, still with us), whose debut album, Cold Fact (1970), has been one of my favourites for more than 30 years.
Was it a huntsman or a player that made you pay the cost
That now assumes relaxed positions and prostitutes your loss
Were you tortured by your own thirst in those pleasures that you seek
That made you Tom the curious, that makes you James the weak …
You won’t get lyrics like that from sledge-hammer-sucking, wrecking-ball-riding, twattish twerking, pop tart, Mylie Cyrus.
How about these words from Rodriguez, Mylie, they might well apply to you …
And your measure for wealth by things you can hold
And your measure for love by the sweet things you’re told
And you live in the past of a dream that you’re in
And your selfishness is your cardinal sin …
Don’t try to enchant me with your manner of dress
Because a monkey in silk is a monkey no less …
How did he know?
My fervent wish is that when someone mentions Miley Cyrus, the person on the other side of the conversation replies, “who?”
Fat chance. But in 20 years’ time …
I suspect where I’m going with this has something to do with notions of applied “truth” and a visceral clinging – on my part – to the belief that there have been, and perhaps still are, people whose integrity and vision can galvanise people into thinking outside their personal squares. Who might persuade us to more rigorously exercise our democratic rights. And, maybe, revolutionise the way in which we relate to, and treat, each other.
There’s a juxtaposition here in that the more orthodox members of societies (see also those who think the status quo is the way forward) would claim that prescient personages like Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, John Lennon, Lou Reed, Hemmingway and Hunter S. Thompson were “deviant” in their personal behaviours – largely because they, allegedly, dabbled in certain substances … and in some cases might have been somewhat experimental in their intimate encounters – therefore their offerings are suspect and worthy of disregard.
Character assassination has always been a pet project with establishment types.
But truth will out:
Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone
They rape paradise and put up a parking lot …
Thanks Joni – your song should be played more on Bali.
Or Lou Reed’s:
Well Americans don’t care for much of anything
Land and water the least
And animal life is low on the totem pole
With human life not worth more than infected yeast
Americans don’t care too much for beauty
They’ll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream …
Lou was a New Yorker (for those who didn’t know) and was integral to the glam rock movement and the evolution of punk. He cared deeply about his country, was frustrated by contradictions between the stated and the actual. His music asked questions, uncomfortable questions. But sometimes discomfort is the only way to shock us out of our indolence.
Some of you might think I’m throwing this together with a pastiche of borrowed words, and in a way you may be right, but more often than not the words of these people are way, way, more profound and moving than any I might write. And words, in and of themselves (despite what many record companies and publishing houses would contend), are a common resource to be used by all of us, and shared by all of us, as we weave life’s rich tapestry (I borrowed that one too).
Anyway, back to the revolution …
Comedy is becoming more and more important in revealing certain truths and intervening in certain potentialities. It is revolutionary in the sense that it allows us to reflect upon ourselves, and the circumstances in which we live, in an amusing way. It makes us think outside the box.
Peter Sellers in the film Being There; the brilliantly twisted pair of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore; the exquisite madness of Barry Humphries, a.k.a. Dame Edna Everage … Billy Connolly’s gut-busting stories about the dark side of his hometown, Glasgow.
Comedy played an important role – at least I think so – in averting the potential disaster of Sarah Palin becoming the vice-president of the United States in 2008. Thank you Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live for saving us from the horror of an Alaskan bimbo being a heartbeat away from the most powerful office on earth. It must be said, however, that Sarah often didn’t help her own cause, or that of her party, with her own special form of comic relief.
Chris Rock has weighed in on the gun debate in the US with his guns and bullets sketch, which I’m sure you can find on You Tube. Hasn’t had the desired effect, though … Americans are way serious about their guns.
And more recently English comedian/actor, Russell Brand, has been using his status and humour in an attempt to galvanise people into at least thinking about their current predicament. Russell starred in the movie Get Him to the Greek, which another 30-something erstwhile friend of mine thinks is the best movie ever. She is Italian and has evidently not heard of Federico Fellini.
But Russell has stirred some attention outside of his performances after being on the receiving end of an existential moment. He writes in The Guardian newspaper:
“It’s easy to attack me, I’m a right twerp, I’m a junkie and a cheeky monkey, I accept it, but that doesn’t detract from the incontrovertible fact that we are living in a time of huge economic disparity and confronting ecological disaster …
“The less privileged among us are already living in the apocalypse, the thousands of street sleepers in our country, the refugees and the exploited underclass across our planet daily confront what we would regard as the end of the world. No money, no home, no friends, no support, no hand of friendship reaching out, just acculturated and inculcated condemnation …
“When I first got a few quid it was like an anesthetic that made me forget what was important but now I’ve woken up.”
He is also quoted as saying: “… young people have been accidentally marketed to their whole lives without the economic means to participate in the carnival.”
With this I must take issue because the marketing is in no way, shape, or form “accidental”.
But Russell might be on the right track when he says: “If we all collude and collaborate together we can design a new system that makes the current one obsolete. The reality is there are alternatives. That is the terrifying truth that the media, government and big business work so hard to conceal.”
Would that it be so … but sometimes we are our own greatest obstacles.
I was in England recently with an expat mate of mine from these parts. Despite the amazing history and culture, art and architecture, the beautiful spaces (not to mention the pubs), many, many people – and I’m not talking about the overtly downtrodden and oppressed – live in cages of their own building.
Yes, the rule-bound, and often hide-bound, nature of English society can be pointed to as part of the cause for belittling aspirations … of trampling on dreams and freedoms. But we as individuals bear at least equal responsibility for what we can achieve.
It reminded me of the scene from The Life of Brian where Brian shouts down from the window of his mum’s house at an assemblage of folks who believe him to be the Messiah:
“You are all individuals!” says he.
One of the throng raises his arm and says: “I’m not!”
While we were in Old Blighty Neal and I reflected on our decision to take a risk and leave our past lives behind in our respective countries – our families, and many of our friends – and move to Bali to see if we could make a go of it. It wasn’t a discussion that involved any level of smugness I can assure you. More a “phew” moment … got away with that one … so far.
When the English soap opera Coronation Street (think of the equivalent in any of your countries) appears to be a documentary, reality can get a bit spooky.
The kind of passive revolution promoted by The Beatles in the ‘60s and early ‘70s in England and around the world might have had a chance of making a difference – and for a while it probably did – but people ran out of acid … and their parents’ money.
From this end of history it looks like we ended up in a world more Orwellian than Sgt. Peppers … even on Bali where the almighty buck, and people elbowing each other out of the way to make them, has transcended the more gentle community-oriented society that features in my memory of only about 20 years ago.
We could get into the role of organised religion in making us a more caring, sharing species but contemporary evidence (indeed, that of millennia) would suggest that it would be a waste of column centimetres.
And I’m not going to hop onto my social media bandwagon – been there, done that.
No, for me life’s truths lay in the words of my fallen heroes – and those who still stand up. It lays in the words and actions of 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai – the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (in 2013). She was the girl that the Taliban shot in the head (when she was 14) for promoting the right of females to be educated in Pakistan, and anywhere in the world where women are treated as inferior … by men who are clearly, themselves, inferior.
It is people like Malala who might shame us all into saying, “stop this!”
It is she and her courageous contemporaries who just might foment a gentle revolution that has been brewing for a long, long time.
And in anticipation of that happening I would like to send a message to those who are wont to quell such an event … some words penned by the man who topped this piece:
We don’t know what rules you’re playing
We don’t even want to play your game
You think you’re cool, you know what you’re doing
And six, six, six, is your name
So while you’re jerking off each other
You bear this thought in mind
Your time has come, you better know it
But maybe you just can’t read the signs …