And I Feel Fine
I was surprised and saddened, as were so many other life-long, hardcore fans, when R.E.M. announced on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, that they were breaking up after 31 years of being one of the most influential rock bands in history. Indeed, even as an adult, my stomach sank like a child who just had his favorite toy destroyed, as I read the press release and a smattering of articles which were already in full, epitaph-spinning, eulogy-delivering gear. While I generally reserve the term “heroes” for real men and women of selflessness and sacrifice or for close role models like my Mom & Dad, suffice to say, as both a music fan and musician, R.E.M. were my musical heroes and the inspiration that launched me out of adolescence and into young adulthood. Like a Perfect Circle of old friends, the band’s integrity and spirit, DIY, indie-before-indie-was-cool ethic, and prolific catalog of songs have been, in real enough terms, ever-present and a comfort to me, as familiar as family, and never more than a tap of the “play” button away, having seen me through vinyl, cassettes, CD’s, and into the digital age of my iPod. I could easily write a series of essays on what their music has meant to me over the years, and of the unique place in my heart they occupy as “my” band. In memory of that fact – shared by so many, yet personal to me – I raise a glass and say “Thank you, Michael, Bill, Peter, and Mike, and farewell.”
Martin Luther Zen
But, that’s really where my sadness ends. As I’ve gotten older and more aware of the world in which I live (and especially those areas of the world in which I don’t), and have experienced what life into my late thirties has had to offer, there’s so much more to be sad, heartened, inspired, moved, energized, captivated, and animated about. So lucid am I These Days, that even as I began to personally mourn the news of my all-time favorite band’s demise, I immediately snapped out of it, asking myself, “Of what other innumerable things should I, even more earnestly, be mourning or simply focused on?”
Granted, a great deal of my current temperament is a function of the significant growing up I’ve done in the past decade, no doubt. Moving and completely rebooting my reality numerous times; the passing of beloved pets; friends coming and going; witnessing the fleeting essence that is life withdrawal from someone’s eyes, as I watched my own mother die from cancer in a hospice bed in my parents living room; the dissolution of my 13 yr. marriage, prompting yet another reboot of said life. Conversely, I’ve never experienced war (thankfully), nor have I enjoyed and/or been tried by the rite of having children, as have most of my contemporaries. My life has evolved as it has and I’ve made peace with these things (and others), endeavoring to put it all in perspective in the way that we all must, with much philosophical and spiritual inquiry and growth along the way. Nevertheless, these types of personal developments temper you and permanently change how and what you find yourself becoming upset or moved as a result of.
Likewise, a steady awakening to deep politics, geopolitics, and world events has also flushed much of my naive concerns down the proverbial drain. In both increments and watershed moments, I’ve backed the hell up from the painting I’ve been staring at in the museum, and have increasingly looked upon the nuanced brushstrokes in context of the larger work – even considering the frame inside which it sits. When you do this, the point is not to detach from reality or to place yourself up on some phony pedestal of an enlightened observer. Rather, the opposite is true: To know what of it is important and to alter your course and actions, accordingly. It’s not enough to reach some false Zen plane of “everything and nothing is true, therefore, be pompous and talk with your eyes closed”. A truly Zen adage (reminded to me by an acquaintance) is: Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.
But, this is all just a preamble and segue way into the heart of my point…
The Insurgency Began and We Missed It
How can I possibly become saddened, melancholy, or otherwise moved by the dissolution of a rock’n’roll band – with four well-compensated musicians happily riding off into the sunset after a long and influential career – and not be a million times more reflective and ruminative about the larger matters of society and this world? I can’t.
How sick is it that many of us invest more time blogging, Facebook status-posting, and even having “real” human conversations about the empty, cultural sinkholes of bad television, video games, sports rivalries, frivolous internet memes, and every other meaningless trapping of a decadent, and increasingly morally bankrupt society than we do the things that actually matter to our freedom, existence, and humanity? I’m guilty of it myself. I’m not making a blanket argument against frivolity and “fun”, nor imagining or recommending a colorless, straight-jacketed culture where everyone must walk around in a morose and moribund state of abject grief, gnashing one’s teeth in perpetual empathy for all the world’s unsolved problems. Human’s need the ability to express all of their feelings and emotions – and God knows that for as enriching as art and music are, we also use these cultural products, along with humor and mindless nonsensical diversions, to great effect as therapeutic escapism in dealing with the seriousness of our personal lives. What I see so much of that bothers me is an over emphasis on the unimportant, a cultural slide towards ignorance and a redefining of fulfillment with the most vapid and superficial of ideals, to a point where we elevate our entertainment to a hallowed place not shared by so many other things which ought to occupy it. We might even argue that, in many ways, we’ve already arrived at this lowly ‘destination ignorance’. Not just ignorance of the academic, be it literary and scientific “book smarts” – that’s bad enough – but, ignorance of the human condition and a willful disregard for reality itself. All too often, the subjects and things which are the most important to our lives and continued (or desired) well-being are the very things which are the furthest from our attention, if, indeed, even on our radar at all. It’s enough to Turn You Inside Out.
Consider This the Slip That Brought Me To My Knees
What better way for me to honor the spirit of a “political” band than to shine a light on a few of the topics I consider at the forefront of this country’s current and future condition. Here are just a few things that we should even more strongly mourn or consider the gravitas of:
- Crony Corporatism: mega-banks and their subsidiary multinational corporations, acting as supra-national governmental bodies, have usurped sovereign nations as well as the “free market”, while lauding itself as “Capitalism”, when, in reality, it bears no resemblance to the system of that name. By controlling the regulatory processes of their various constituent industries, they write, lobby for, and get passed the legislation that reinforces their hegemony, while using those regulations to eliminate their competition. The incestuous, interconnected, inter-owned combines of Big Finance, Big Pharma, Big Agri-business – Big Everything – all do it. It’s called Fascism: insider corporate corruption teaming up with government to bring you mercantilism. Then, they fund and inculcate dumb, often well-meaning buffoons who have “had enough” of the economic warfare waged against them to push for an end to Capitalism, in favor of more and more Socialist, Communist, and Collectivist solutions (always involving more “state” regulation) to a problem that was engineered by these Monopoly men to begin with. Through these near-sighted, left-leaning dolts, they also convince the general public that anyone with a dollar more than they have in their wallets is “rich” and needs to be taxed – and, of course, the lion share of this “tax money” ultimately finds its way not to the government and “the people”, but to the very mega-corporations who have maneuvered themselves, through the fraudulent legislation they wrote and successfully got enacted, to receive this money, interest-free, straight out the back door of the bought-and-paid-for government who collected it for them. All that is accomplished is that the middle-class gets taxed into oblivion, their wealth extracted through ever-increasing austerity measures and funneled to the Corporatocracy, while the real mega-rich park their assets offshore, safe from the very taxes they help to promote. The end result is that the economy is shut-down even more as a) industry is moved overseas, b) few non-corporate employers remain who can actually afford to employ anyone, and c) the middle class (the largest population of “spenders”) have nothing left to spend. And fat, deceptive, pseudo-Gonzo journalists like Michael Moore, stumbling around with a forced and phony lunkheadedness that would make Columbo blush, make documentaries blaming it all on “Capitalism”. Capitalism was never even on the racetrack, moron.
- The end of Constitutional money: the passing of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 brought the U.S. its very own central bank – the bane of wise men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin – and the fiat Federal Reserve Notes we currently use as money. Its very name is patently deceptive, for the Fed is neither federal (it’s a cartel of privately owned banks), nor does it have any reserves (it prints money out of nothing and controls interest rates to artificially inflate and deflate our economy). In this system, debt = money; It’s inherently not money, and is counter to any real form of prosperity. For every dollar created by this Monster, a dollar of debt is created – and owed back (at interest) to the Fed by the U.S. Government, who is the borrower. Welcome to the (Banker) Occupation.
- Loss of ownership of your own labor: 1913 also saw the same banking interests that brought us the Fed push through legislation which established the graduated Income Tax – a form of rent or feudal tribute we all must pay to our government owners for the privilege of working – as well as created the Internal Revenue Service to collect this tribute. A direct tax on your own labor; a fine for daring to support yourself. It’s important to note that a graduated income tax is one of the 10 tenets put forth in Marx & Engels’ Communist Manifesto. We didn’t need it to be prosperous for the first 150 yrs. of this country’s history, and we don’t need it now. So, who does need it? The private banks who are the stockholders of the Fed need it in order to generate a recursive income, since their Ponzi scheme, by definition, creates ballooning debt and inflates the money supply to increasing levels of worthlessness. The creation of the aforementioned Federal Reserve would not have been complete without a mechanism for collecting this debt. Enter the I.R.S. Many are startled to discover that the income tax collected by the I.R.S. does not go to fund some loving catalog of government projects or programs, building roads, or providing assistance to low-income single mothers. Rather, all – yes, 100% – of the collected income tax goes to servicing the interest on the debt owed to the Federal Reserve (private banks) by the U.S. Government. This all could be done away with if the federal government were to exclusively issue credit-based, debt-free U.S. Notes as legal tender, and do away with the Fed, entirely. That would actually be Constitutional.
- Unconstitutional and illegal wars: George W. Bush and his regime of Neocons used phony, conjured intelligence to get Congress to approve an illegal war in Iraq, despite NO clear evidence of WMDs and NO clear evidence of Iraq having participated in or harboring anyone supposedly responsible for 9/11. Obama not only continued this war, but went a step further in ignoring Congress altogether, instead taking orders from the U.N. and using our “credibility” with that world government organization as the justification to launch the next loving “Kinetic Military Action” against Libya – itself a lie, as the so-called protests that began the debacle have been shown to have been fomented by Western governments/military (including U.S. Special Forces and British SAS) in the months leading up, to ignite the situation that served as the pretext for NATO forces to ultimately invade yet another sovereign country. How many illegal and unnecessary wars must be fought in our name and under false pretenses before we say enough is enough and demand that our government not be involved in needless foreign entanglements where millions of people, be they guilty or innocent, and including our own men and women in uniform, die for the advancement of the Anglo-American Empire?
- Creation of the ‘Super Congress’: this new ‘Council of 13′ goes far beyond any previous congressional committee, and represents a frightening consolidation of power and a benchmark loss of true representation in legislative actions in our own Congress. The mere creation of a body such as this stands in total contempt and rebuke of the core principles of this government and of our founding documents’ intentional limitations and safeguards against such concentrations of power, and of too many strings being controlled by too few levers. I say with no amount of exaggeration that, having heard this was passed, the scene in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith where Emporer Palpatine declared the Galactic Republic, henceforth, an Empire, began playing in my head: “So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.”
- Loss of sovereignty and the agendized disintegration of our Constitution and Bill of Rights: the same “cloud network” of multi-national corporations mentioned above, acting as a stateless, boundary-less Borg hive, with intent to harmonize all laws in an open scheme to dissolve all forms of sovereignty, soft-pedaled under the innocuous term “globalization”, have no use for sovereign governments (save their own corporate bodies), let alone your individual sovereignty. It’s more than Gordon Gekko-esque greed. It’s a salivating hunger for power and control, and the best way to achieve said goal is to relieve us, the little people, of our pesky, provincial notions of property rights, self-defense, and self-determination. And what better way to obtain something than by having it voluntarily surrendered, as opposed to taking it by force. If they can convince you that it’s liberal and loving to go under U.N. Agenda 21 control and to pay a Draconian carbon tax to Al Gore and his modern-day sale-of-indulgences scheme to “save the earth”, or that it’s downright conservative and patriotic to give up your Constitutional rights, permitting, with a smile, unlawful search and seizure at the latex-clad hands of the TSA, all in the name of “security” and “fighting terror”, then most of their job is already done for them. We the People need to stand up and be classically liberal, classically conservative, non-suicidally loving, and wisely patriotic and not be suckered by the schemes which would seek to reduce our individual freedoms, and by extension, our humanity. It is possible to address the real problems of this world while not slitting our wrists upon the altar of Collectivism. It is necessary that we each jealously guard our freedoms and our own lives as if they were one in the same – for, in many ways, they are. “Hang your collar up inside, hang your freedom higher”.
So, yes, a great band – my favorite band – is no more and I’m a little choked up about it. But, if all the inspiration I’ve ever received from their artistry is to not go to waste, it’s only sensible (and appropriate) that I recycle and channel that positive energy back into reality, and put it to good use.
I wish that caring, learning, being educated, discussing, pursuing, and becoming active about these things (and so many others) wasn’t seen by so many to be a chore or an afterthought – or worse, not a thought at all – and that holding their liberties and their human political will in as high regard as their entertainment was more Automatic for the People.