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July 21, 2011

What We Learn About Politics From Sting and Rush

Verum Serum has a post contrasting a Police song's take on cars with Rush's.

The Police song -- Synchronicity I, I think -- goes...

Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, Contestants in a suicidal race.

That is, all you wage-slaves headed to work each day are lemmings in a suicide machine.

You hear this an awful lot from artists. An awful lot. You see this basic idea -- the emptiness and awfulness of normal, quotidian life -- in dozens of movies, like the empty American Beauty, and damn, if they don't win Oscars a lot.

Death of a Salesman was about this. So, instant classic.

This is a silly and solipsistic conceit. Let me define that word, in case you don't know it:

sol·ip·sism (slp-szm, slp-)

n. Philosophy
1. The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.
2. The theory or view that the self is the only reality.

Taken out of the realm of philosophy, the word is mostly used to describe a non-thoughtful, non-philosophical insistence that one's own experience can be generalized to all other's experience. That is, it's a baby thing. Like babies who lack any sense of perspective outside their own heads, the solipsist is incapable of using his imagination to guess what the world might look like from other vantage points.

We are all prisoners of our own experience, it is true, but the solipsist is a willing prisoner, and generally refuses to even try to see the world from a different point of view.

Now, artists love songs like this, and movies like this, because these movies speak to them. They are of a specific psychological type, mostly. They themselves could not function happily within the confines of what most people would call "a normal life," and are driven towards more Bohemian, atypical lifestyles.

I don't begrudge them that. As someone who's wound up, whether by choice or by chance, in a sort of Bohemian limbo myself, I get why they chafe at the idea of 9 to 5 and nicely-trimmed suburban lawns, myself. (Actually I don't get the latter and never have -- what the hell is the problem with a nice lawn?)

So these songs, and these films, can be said to be the stories of their own lives and their own choices, the rejection of "normal" life and more common non-artistic dreams and ambitions. And certainly, for any successful or semi-successful artist, their choice to take an oddball path can be justified; if it all works for them, wonderful.

But they don't leave it at that. The message of these songs and movies is that the Square, Normal Suburban Workaday Life just wasn't for me, because my psychology was such that I couldn't hack that would always be miserable in such a state; it's almost always generalized and universalized as something much, much bigger:

The life you lead (assuming you're not an Artist) sucks and you're a fool or a coward for leading it.

What? How did we get there?

Not everyone has talent enough to be an artist and produce art on an occasional schedule (when the Muse moves one) and yet be good enough at it so as not to starve. In fact, the number of artists a society can support is surely hard-capped at no more than, say, 1% at the very most, and only during a period of strong, strong economic activity, when artists who can't make a living on their art can get paid good wages as a waiter or something.

This is so obvious, isn't it?

So what the hell is the Artist scorn for all non-Artists?

And why is there no recognition by the Bohemian Lifestyle crowd that the Bohemian Lifestyle isn't very attractive for many people, anyway? Some people really don't like the Bohemian thing of always worrying about rent and never having anything saved for the future.

We call a lot of such people "parents." If the Bohemian lifestyle is tough on an adult -- and it is, unless you're quite rich -- imagine what it's like for a kid.

Artists always claim that among their most important gifts and among their most crucial skills is to see the world through other people's eyes, or imagine a world that isn't, but could be.

Really? Are you sure of that, guys? Because if you have that capability you sure the hell seem to spend an awful lot of your time suppressing it in favor of dogfood morality plays that tell everyone they should just put together a stick and bindle and go hobo-ing on the trains and "see where life takes them."

Something I really like in movies is where the hero or heroine finally has a real job. Tommy Boy was not a great movie -- good, not great -- but I can't tell you how much I liked the occupation of the heroes in that.

They made, and sold, after-market car parts.

How great is that? The heroes actually made good quality car parts so that people could fix their cars. They weren't in Hollywood Cliche Occupations like Artist, Photographer, Magazine Editor, Fashion Designer, Architect, Writer, etc. (Or the ubiquitous Cop or Lawyer, but those professions are usually only seen in the specific genres of crime picture/legal drama.)

They just made stuff, and sold stuff, which other people needed and bought. They didn't have the Philosophically Heroic Profession of Artist; no, they had the mundane profession of car parts manufacturers.

Meanwhile, in parts of the movie they don't show, it's the Car Parts Manufacturers who actually create the excess wealth in society that permits an investment in nice-but-not-necessary diversions like Police albums and therefore makes Sting millions of dollars denigrating the Car Parts Manufacturers.

Just people going through the humdrum, and yet quietly heroic, work of actually building the things and growing the food that actually makes civilization possible.

And this is all so obvious. It's not that they lack insight or perception to see this. It's in plain sight -- no special skill at perceptiveness required.

No, it takes something else. An affirmative, deliberate choice to be blind rather than sighted.

All in order to flatter themselves, and insult other people for not making the choices which were, for them personally, better suited than others, and make millions of dollars denigrating the economic heroes that make their Bohemian existences possible in the first place.

Childish and solipsistic. But children can be so nasty like this.


Here's an Honest Song About the Life of an Artist: People call this a "comical" song. It's a funny thing I'm learning -- you can usually tell a whole lot more truth in comedy because more "serious" works are filled with dishonest dramatic posturing.

But if you're being funny, you're often being real.

So here's a song that expresses the proper sentiment regarding being so damn lucky as to make millions of dollars for banging on a guitar.


digg this
posted by Ace at 05:18 PM

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