Take a look at this video. If you’re, I don’t know, maybe 38 or older, you might remember it being EVERYWHERE, particularly in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1:
Let’s take a second and dissect how politically bold this video was at the time, and frankly, still is. We open with Nancy and Ronald Reagan, sitting President at the time. It’s 4:30pm and they’re in bed (SICK BURN!). Nancy is reading a book about Frank Sinatra (SICK BURN!). Then, the president goes to sleep and starts having a bad dream. You see boots marching through a jungle and picking up the severed heads of cold war leaders on their way. The video came out in 1986 and the Vietnam War had ended just a decade earlier after 20 years of a devstating offensive that decimated the lives of a huge population of human beings both American and Southeast Asian, (particularly people of color and poor people when it comes to the States), and was considered by a lot of people throughout the world as both unjustified and a proxy war in an attempt to gain leverage on the Soviet Union. You know, fucking the little people up so that the big important people can stay “civilized.”
And that’s just in the first 40 seconds of the video. Watch the rest. It’s fucking awesome. Fight me.
Artists are in a unique position to question authority. It’s one of the very tenets of rock and roll! In our current climate, we have Donald Glover’s scathing critique of endemic racism and violence, “This is America.” We have Kesha’s absolutely devastating distillation of #metoo and hard Fuck You to Dr. Luke, “Praying.” Kendrick Lamar gave us “The Blacker the Berry.” And those songs and videos are so fucking necessary and bold and fucking fierce and strong as fuck. But they’re oblique, in a way. None of those artists, in their videos, are very straightforward about failures in leadership. None of them take on Tr*&p in a focused, laser sharp way like that Genesis video did. That is not to dis on these modern artists, by the way. It’s just kind of how we do right now.
If you go on to The Googles (yes, I am a billion years old, why do you ask? Here, hold my chardonnay while I pull up AOL so I can check out my favorite web ring) and search for “music videos about D@3ald T%$mp,” you will find pretty much nothing from any mainstream band. Some press release about U2 doing a single or some shit back in January, but first of all, fuck off Bono, this isn’t your fight, and second of all, U2 is irrelevant, they have zero impact on anyone anymore.
It’s all indie bands. There are T^#mp squaring videos out there, but most of them aren’t very good, and all of them are from bands that don’t have much of a national voice.
So. Now. Let’s turn our attention to what’s been happening here in little old Portland, Maine.
About a year ago, my beloved SeepeopleS, a band who has ALWAYS been political, put out this video:
Now, a note about SeepeopleS first. SeepeopleS is the brainchild of this guy Will Bradford that you all probably know to a certain extent if you’re here in Portland. I've known him since 2003. We've been through the shit. He's my bestie and this is part of why this shit is so personal and important to me. He knows more about world history and current day politics than anyone I’ve ever met, though I will fully admit that I don’t tend to hang with a geopolitical crowd. In his music, he blends the tenets of conscious and intentional living with the politics, and even throws in a little humor from time to time. The point is, there’s a point. There’s a point to the politics. Usually that love is the only thing that matters. That you don’t have to participate just because the system says you have to. That reality is not the capitalist construct you’ve been fed.
So I have to wonder - what’s different about the zeitgeist such that the Genesis video would be embraced 30 years ago and this video would be complained about so fucking much that it got banned from Facebook. That SeepeopleS would be labeled by Facebook to be a political organization. And that the band itself would be threatened with being removed from the service.
Sure, Genesis had a lot of money back then and they had the dollars to promote the thing. Fine. But this isn’t a matter of promotional funds. It’s a matter of people who saw the video being offended by it.
What’s offensive about that video? There’s nothing in it that isn’t truthful - our world leaders from the beginning of time have been power hungry people who exploit the poor and the othered to gain financial and political power. It’s not the inclusion of Russia, it can’t be… in 1986 the Cold War was still going on and the Berlin Wall hadn’t even come down yet; Russian sentiment was at a higher fever pitch than it is now. We even have a president whose pedigree includes a career in television and film sitting in office as we did in 1986. What’s different?
What’s different is us. I don’t remember 1986 very well, I was pretty young, but it was a very different time. Soul Train was on TV, and rap was just starting to come of age, moms still cooked dinner and you were expected to eat what was made, you rode bikes and read books to keep busy, and you had to call people on the phone if you wanted a social life, and the insidious tendrils of unbridled capitalism were just starting to take hold - in many ways, because of Reagan’s administration and the policies that came out of it that favored big businesses. And, most harmfully, humans, particularly humans in the US, have ingested a steady diet of fear, nationalism and xenophobia for the last 30 years, and we have internalized it. The era of modern terrorism started with Reagan, and we’re living in the endgame, the ultimate goal, now. Remember Back to the Future? The Libyans! It got everywhere, into our pop culture, and into our bodies and minds. We are trickle down economics. We are Islamophobia. We are Say No To Drugs and the Crack “Epidemic” (LOLOLOLOL “EPIDEMIC” BTW THAT SHIT WAS PLANNED TO DESTROY BLACK PEOPLE DO THE READING). And 9/11 was the tipping point that sent us into the abyss.
The result of all this? We’re policing each other with alarming intensity. It wasn’t Zuckerberg who decided that that SeepeopleS video was not appropriate, that it violated community standards. It was you and me. It was our cousins and friends and coworkers. It was dozens or possibly hundreds of people reacting to their internalized fear and complaining that someone had the audacity to question authority. Because authority makes us feel safe, it makes us feel secured. And it makes us easily and swiftly monetizable. We become so fucking lucrative when we’re scared.
The people who complained about this SeepeopleS video are the very definition of fascism. The terrifying thing is that this time, fascism isn’t in service of destroying a race of people or giving power to a political agenda; those things are red herrings. Rather, fascism in this modern age is about money. It’s about who has it and what can be done with it once you get it. What can be done with it is that you can buy off your president, you can buy off your elected officials, and the policies that you are purchasing will ensure that the American public stays forever and always a good, abiding consumer.
We are complicit. Beyond complicit, we are the engine of fascism. The forcible suppression of opposition. We are that. We do it ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO EXPLOIT US. Think about that for a second. It’s the greatest con job of all time.
When I see something I don’t like, I don’t look at it or watch it or give it any more thought. But that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have the right to say it or make it or put it out there. Do I not want to see children being killed or people being raped? Sure, of course not. But they put that shit in movies ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I don’t go see those movies. But I don’t believe you shouldn’t be allowed to make them. Make what you want if it harms no one (debatable that media does harm if you give fair content warning, back off). The call to make such things should be in response to the will of the people. Don’t like it? Don’t spend your money on it and it will go away. But don’t complain to some “authority” like you’re a little kid crying for mommy to fight your battles for you. I don’t fucking like Insane Clown Posse. But I have not for one second thought about complaining about them. Who cares? Enjoy and leave me out of it.
We’re self policing. We’re self policing on behalf of those who control us. It’s McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Hunts all over again. Our administration loves to invoke the “witch hunt” to draw attention away from the fact that we are just all busy witch hunting each other. If it happens to rich important people it can’t happen to us, right Twitter?! Bad news, though, everyone: witches don’t exist (at least not like you think they do. Ask me about the realities of witchcraft sometimes, happy to talk about it).
Watch the video again. Watch it:
The fucking mushroom cloud that explodes at the end is in the shape of a heart. Love. Compassion. Understanding. Vulnerability. Care. Community. These are the only things that will be left once all of this is over. The center cannot hold forever. There will be a reckoning. And when that reckoning comes, the very same people who reported this video - and who are reporting videos and art and writing all over the country right now, SeepeopleS is not alone in this - will side with the popular opinion and point fingers at whomever is holding out and pretend that they didn’t have a hand in pushing a sinister agenda. They’re anonymous. A complaint is private on Facebook, you don’t have to tell anyone. One person, one cell phone, lying in bed on a Sunday, press a button and it’s done.
Fucking cowards. Stand up and make your own public stance known if you feel so strongly about it. Where’s your video supporting Tr&^p if this shit is so offensive? Try, maybe. Be a person who does more than complain from the comfort of the shitty McMansion you can’t afford in some suburb bereft of culture that was sold to you on the mountain of lies that a house in the middle of nowhere was a good investment (it’s not, it just makes you a good consumer, funneling money into big banks who give zero shits about you. Well done. The Patriarchy thanks you for your generous donation). I don’t agree with the idiot who was out on Monument Square with a sign that said NO IMMIGRANTS all day yesterday, but props on that asshole for leaving the house. You know what I mean? Like, at least the piece of shit who shot John Lennon got off his ass to do something he believed in instead of just posting HOT NUCLEAR TAKES on Lennon from the comfort of his bathroom while taking a shit.
30 years has made a difference. It is time to unhook. Your tech overlords will not save you. Your elected officials will not save you. That fear you have in your heart for what’s coming next, the fear of being destitute, of losing your home, of not being able to send your kid to college, of the earth shedding her burden of humanity, of dying of a disease you can’t afford to treat? That fear will not be assuaged by securing our borders, it will not be cured by some phantom promise of more jobs or money that never materialize, it won’t feel better after calling the cops on some black people doing normal human things, it will not be cured by giving tax breaks and municipal incentives to Amazon. It will only be cured by you, when you make a choice to live without fear. That choice has to be yours, and it has to be true.
And that’s what that SeepeopleS video is really about. It’s about speaking your heart, even when your heart is completely at odds with what is going on around you. It’s about being truthful and transparent in the face of lies. It’s about smashing down those who control you because you do not need to be controlled. You have everything you need inside of you. No one can take that from you. No one. But boy the fuck oh boy isn’t it goddam deeply upsetting to watch someone step outside of the jail within which you’ve made your nest? Don’t you just get so jealous that they had the ovaries to step through the bars? Don’t you envy them with your very soul?
I love lyrics, and since this piece is ostensibly about SeepeopleS, I’ll leave you with one of my favorites of theirs:
You got yours and I got mine but we're running out of time
What good are opinions when no one seems to be listening?
Cause you can see on every face, everyone fell from grace
Everyone is as lost as you, too scared to feel, too tired to do
So we're no longer looking forward to fast food service futures
We're no longer looking forward to robot lives full of robot lies
Cause you got that and I got this, but I think we've got the same wish
What good is an answer when you don't even know what the question is?
What you should feel, what you should do is entirely up to you
You weren't there to make a decision about your own existence
So nobody as the right to sell you--you can just refuse
Nobody has the right to tell you--you got a right to choose
So send me a line, I'll give it a try
I'll come on up for air
Can we come to an agreement here
With so little time its time to begin a final compromise
Then we might find truth behind the lies
XOXOXOXOOXOXOXOOXOOXOOOXOXOOXOXOXOX 4 LYFE VK