How we lost…

All right, people, listen up.  It’s time to climb up onto our electronic soap box.  Yep, I’ve been thinking about politics again and my proverbial panties are all bunched up.  Strap yourselves in, it’s apt to be a be a bumpy ride.

Let’s try a little thought experiment.  You remember thoughts, don’t you?  They’re what we used to rely on before we had focus groups, pundits, and polls.  Anyway, let’s imagine that we wanted to pull off a coup in some tiny imaginary country.  How, exactly, would that work?  Initially we’d have to seize control of three main buildings; the parliament, the bank, and the tv station.  By controlling the parliament building we look like we’re in charge and that gives us some legitimacy.  We also get to make the laws and gives us the control of the day to day workings of the government.  We need the bank because that’s where they keep the money.  By owning the bank we can lend and grant money to our supporters and starve out our enemies.  The tv station means we control the narrative. We can broadcast our world view, continually reiterate our legitimacy, and spread lies and rumors about our enemies.

As long as we control these three buildings we’ll succeed in our coup.  Control the message, the money, and symbols of power and you control the country.  The army eventually sides with you because they want to get paid and you’ve defined what it means to be patriotic.  The proverbial man in the street goes along because he probably isn’t paying that much attention.  The rich dude in the suit being broadcast from the parliament building must be in charge, right?  It’s not really that complicated and, thought experiments aside, it happens with some regularity in small countries all over the world.  Like it did in the United States from 1980 to 2010.  The Man stepped in and stole your freedom.

Oh sure, he goes again, just like those tea party yahoos.  “We lost our country.”  “Things used to be better.”  Blah blah blah.  Shut up and go buy a giant flat screen to watch drivel you stupid hippy.  Aren’t you finished complaining about the world yet?  Actually, no.  I’m just getting started.  There was a coup, and ‘we, the people’ lost.  Step into the wayback machine with Peabody and me and let’s see what happened to the three of our centers of power…

As I said, if you want to control power you have to take the tv station.  In other words, you need to control the media.  Here in the late 60’s we have three powerful television stations and all three of them are independent companies.  Not only that but all three of them have INDEPENDENT news divisions that are NOT expected to turn a profit.  We also have independent newspapers in most big cities.  In other words there are journalists that don’t need to worry about being popular and whose livelihoods are not directly controlled by a large corporation.  Look at what these guys reported: The Pentagon papers.   Actual war footage complete with soldiers coming home in body bags.  An illegal war in Cambodia.  The hosing and lynching of black children.  The marches of MLK and Cesar Chavez.  Watergate.  The list is much longer, but you get the idea.  Facts and powerful images.  What about now?

Every major, and most minor, news services are now owned by a few large corporations and every last fucking one of them has to be a ‘profit center’.  We’re in 3 or 4 fucking wars and you don’t hear shit about them.  You’ve been shielded from any horrific pictures or body bags.  Oh, they’re still happening. you just no longer get to see them.  We were sold a war based on lies and innuendo.  Dissent is ignored or, worse yet, mocked.  Your news isn’t much better than Pravda under the Soviets.  You get one heavily edited world view, that of the ruling elite.

But wait, the tv station doesn’t just broadcast news, it also entertains.  Let’s turn on the radio.  Here in the late 60’s you have unbelievable diversity in the FM dial.  Album rock, powerful disk jockeys, political activism.  Black and white music played together.  Rock and Roll!  Bob Dylan and drug references and anarchy!  There’s no question that the music of that era helped fuel the peace and social justice movements.  The main reason that this could happen was a cool little regulation that only allowed corporations to own 1 or 2 media outlets in a community.  What a great idea in a democracy!  What does your radio sound like today?

After the cultural upheaval of the sixties the Man took control.  Huge corporations gobbled up most media outlets.  The law restricting media control was rescinded (under Clinton) and now Clear Channel and Cumulus own almost everything.  In some rural communities they literally own every station.  A small group of people with one world view controls most everything you hear and see; movies, music, books, news.  Don’t think so?  Really?  After the Iraq invasion was sold to us with false information the lead singer of a country band, The Dixie Chicks, spoke out against the war and the way it started.  Clear Channel banned their music,  Walmart pulled their albums, and Live Nation canceled their gigs.  They went into hiatus for years.  Is there an artistic backlash to the current dominant paradigm?  Probably, but you won’t hear about it.  There’ll never be a new Bob Dylan because the Man is busy feeding you American Idol.  The Man owns the media and the news.

The story of the banks is pretty similar.  Until Reagan and Clinton there were strict rules governing how big banks could get, where they could do business, and what they could do with capital.  In other words, the Man was restricted from owning too much capital.  Those restrictions were lifted and we all learned the phrase “too big to fail’.  Just like media a few companies control most of the large financial transactions in the country.  Besides that those same corporations are now allowed, or even encouraged, to take jobs overseas in order to maximize profits.  The Man owns the dollar.

If you own the TV and the Bank it isn’t that hard to buy the Parliament.  The last impediments to that were campaign finance laws and those were just struck down by the Supreme Court.  The candidates that represent the Man have endless capital and total media support.  In fact, the Man controls both parties.  Does it really matter which Goldman Sachs guy runs the Treasury, Paulson or Geithner?  Probably not.  A meeting of all the truly independent law makers could take place in a minivan.  The Man owns the government.

Look, I know I’m an old curmudgeon.  I know I’m falling into a nostalgia for the ‘way things used to be’.  But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.  The Tea Party points out that Wall Street is too powerful and they’re mocked as backward and ignorant.  Dr. West points out that Obama hasn’t done much for poor people and the so called left wing jumps all over him.  As a country we used to care about education.  Now we limit it to the rich and powerful.  We used to care about poverty, but no more.  We used to get facts in our news, now we get Fox and pundits.  Oh, fuck all y’all.

Let’s go back to our thought experiment for a minute.  Once the coup is over what do we need to do to keep power?  Oh yeah, subjugate and humiliate the populace so they can’t rise up in revolution.  TSA any one?  Drug tests for everybody.  Police state 101.  Break the unions.  More laws and fewer civil rights.  Yep, that sounds about right.

The Man lost control of this country for about 20 years but in 1980 He started a coup and we lost.  Caring became ‘having a bleeding heart’.  Educated became ‘elite’.  Black men were granted rights and then put in jail so they couldn’t exercise them.  Dissent became ‘unpatriotic’.  War became normal.  Poor became invisible.  Artistic became blasphemous.  Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger became PBS pledge drive specials while the radio became a ghettoized wasteland.  Facts became two guys yelling at each other.  And ‘we the people’ became ‘us vs them’.  We lost a war we didn’t even know was being waged.

So, is it hopeless?  Probably.  But maybe not.  A lot of groups lost.  Hippies and farmers, veterans and minorities, artists and dreamers, readers and auto workers.  The Man depends on a strategy based on divide and conquer as well as death by blandness.  All of us losers blame each other and tune in some ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’  on the big screen.  If we stopped fighting each other and turned our focused attention on the Man instead we might get somewhere.  Because he needs us to buy His products.  He needs our ratings and our attention on His advertising.  Imagine the possibility.  A coalition of freaks and losers.  Punks, Tea Partiers, bikers, hippies, minorities and the poor marching hand in hand, voting the same way, demanding power.  The Man lives in fear of this every day.  Perhaps that revolution is coming.  Can we put aside fear and divisiveness long enough?  Only time will tell.  Until that time, Fuck the Man, Vaya con Dios, and Viva la Revolucion!

– Archbishop Angus


Easy riders…

I know that a lot of you who read this blog don’t ride motorcycles.  Fair enough.  What I don’t necessarily understand is why not?  Why would you willingly close yourself off in a cage when you could be free in the wind?  Yeah, they’re dangerous.  Joyful things frequently are.  And yes, sometimes they’re wet, or cold or hot or just fucking miserable.  So is life.  Get over it.  The worst ride on a bike is still superior to the best ride in a padded cell.  That’s okay, to each his own.  But there are a few things that bikers know.  You might want to learn some of them too…

* The shortest distance between two points is not necessarily the best route.
* There’s no such thing as uniform temperature.  There are cool spots on bridges over the river no matter how hot the day.  Underpasses stay warm long after the night has cooled.  The shade of a semi can be the difference between scalding and comfortable.
* The world is full of wonderful, and not so wonderful, smells.  All the time.
* 85 mph is really fucking fast.
* We are all connected in a deep and profound way.  Bikers usually wave to each other on the road.  Drivers never do.
* Most drivers don’t give a shit about human lives.  Otherwise they’d pay more attention to what the hell they were doing.
* The distance between life and death is measured in inches.  Your skill and patience as a rider determine how many.
* There is not reason to be shy when you can be powerful and loud.
* Security is bullshit and no amount of it is worth giving up ONE FUCKING SECOND of freedom.
* Our roads suck.  The billions of dollars we spend on gas and transportation taxes are being spent somewhere else or just stolen by guys in limos.
* Riding with a group of friends is way more fun than riding by yourself.
* Motorcycles, like humans, are customized and unique.  Cars aren’t.
* Girls love the way a Harley vibrates.  “Nuff said.

I could go on and on (and I usually do) but that’s probably enough for now, I have to go pack the bike for a ride to Fresno.  It’s supposed to rain but I don’t really care.  The next time you’re driving your generic padded cage to the store and you see a biker, stop and think about the things he, or she, knows.  Because while they might be cold or wet or at risk, they’re also free.  They inhabit the world and chose adventure over convenience.  And they will lead the revolution.  May all bikers Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

– Archbishop Angus