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Sunday Soul – We Are Empire, We Shall Not Fail
Year 11 – Playlist 42/52 – Art, Essay and music for the week of February 1st 2015
The word empire is derived from the Latin word imperium. It means a rule, a command; authority, control, power; supreme power, dominion, realm etc. and comes from the word imperare which means “to command”. An imperial political structure can be established and maintained in two ways:
1. as a territorial empire of direct conquest and control with force or
2. as a coercive, hegemonic empire of indirect conquest and control with power.
Method 1 provides greater tribute and direct political control, yet limits further expansion because it absorbs military forces to fixed garrisons. Method 2 provides less tribute and indirect control, but avails military forces for further expansion. Territorial empires tend to be contiguous areas. The term, on occasion, has been applied to maritime empires or thalassocracies, (like the Athenian and British empires) with looser structures and more scattered territories. The expression has lately been applied to business enterprises which span continents and control vast market shares above board (the world wide conglomerate of KFC or Starbucks) or pass virtually unnoticed by the main, but are deep within everything we touch, eat, or drink (Monsanto, Halliburton etc.) and the term hasn’t been used as a criticism. Rather empire as a business adjective is almost always considered a compliment – like “Dude you own her!” or “You totally fucking hella rule.” Dig?
The trouble with empire is that while it unites territory, resources, and people, as well as streamlining trade and creating continuity for systems, standards, and information, this has not yet been employed as a method of business or governance which is inclusive of the peoples who are being standardized. So the taxes, the resources, the fruit of the labor is always returned to the castle, or central leadership. So The king feasts on rump roast, and pours the sugar into his tea wearing his delicate diamond tiara while the people who mined the diamonds live in their own filth without health care, and the people who hack at cane sugar all day are regarded as sub human, and live in squalor, and in the end the empire is good because the labor is provided for in terms the king can understand (at least their shame is covered now, and we have given them outhouses) and this is seen as progress, improvement, and fair. Further, the empire is often run by other kings, princes, and governors which have been allowed to rise to power for reasons of convenience, or are placed their for issues of control, or who were there first or don’t pose any sort of threat in the first place. So the people of the annexed territories are savage, and only have value as long as they stay out of the way and/or perform the required labor for low costs.
You can easily see that this is anything but sustainable. The concept of “empire” only really works for those who benefit the most, or are nationally or ethnically connected to the source of the world domination. So the green pants squad take over, and let’s say you love green pants. For a time you’re going to be delighted and feel like a member of the ruling class because you, like the rulers, are parading around in your pantaloes verde and feeling pretty fancy about it. But sooner or later you see that those who prefer red velvet slacks are being used as cheap labor and dehumanized and you start to wonder…. and you’re told “Oh darling, how can you possibly feel compassion for the animals who wear red velvet? They aren’t even human.” If you’re a complete idiot you’ll fall for this and go along for the ride, but if you have a heart and a brain then you’re going to join the resistance and underneath your green pants you’ll be wearing some red velvet out of solidarity. This is true because all human beings are our brothers and sisters. This is a truth. Our failure to communicate, collaborate, and love is exactly that: our failure. We are the ones who must learn more, grow our hearts and minds and find a way to come together. Oppression is not the answer, and no one should be the “cheap labor” for anyone. Everyone all over the world is worthy of their hire, and deserves to be treated with dignity and equality. These ideas are born, preached, and spread like mid summer brush fires in times of empire. And yet we are all wearing a pair of Nike runners, and you’re probably holding a chubby KFC drumstick while you read this aren’t you? Please try not to get any on the couch, ok?
So historically, once the king has all the good territory, and the lesser nobles have jockeyed for position, word among the workers begins to spread and the tectonic plates of history begin to shift. Cousins stop speaking to one another over land treaties, sons hate their fathers, daughters are married off to monsters, and the poor get poorer all the time. Until one day a Nobleman is assassinated, and everyone scrambles to take sides. It’s new coke vs. coke classic and pepsi hasn’t said a word yet. It is here when we call our brothers to arms – Here is where we become “The Starbucks Family” or we rebrand Wall-Mart as a “Hometown Store” or we start spending millions on explaining how “interested” in sustainable energy BP or Exon Mobile are. We strive to shore up our citizens and provide a sense of collective identity. When Levis moved their operations from San Francisco, California where they were born to Mexican sweat shops, they did a curious thing: They raised their prices, and spent millions of dollars to advertise the concept that Levis were “Made and Crafted.” This galvanized the notion of hand made dungarees and good old fashioned American awesome.
I don’t know if the millions paid off in sales, I haven’t purchased anything from the company since they sold their hometown out and headed for the sweat shops, but you can see the idea, right? We come together as a people around an appealing concept and in these moments, at these rallying points we are empire. We are the hands and feet of this corporate occupation. Our asses are emblazoned with those little red tabs, and we are the infantry sent out into discotheques, and down boulevards to display our buttocks wrapped in thick, snug denim which is now spun in Mexico for pennies and sold back to us for a third more than they were before and we feel hot, sexy and proud to be “made and crafted” in Mexico. The way I tell this story sort of takes all the fun out of it doesn’t it? Sorry.
So the object of war is not to defend the people, freedom, or to emancipate people from oppression. It is to rally the empire, unite the people, and shore up power, resources, and keep the profits flowing back to the throne where it belongs…. The king pays the people to cut off his second cousin’s head, and the first cousin’s husband is promised endless gold in exchange for providing gunpowder and bullets. The fourth cousins once removed are promised never to be attacked in exchange for their strategic neutrality, and finally the strapping allies are each promised a piece of the pie once the smoke clears from the battle field. And back home business is booming – literally. Anyone who questions us is a traitor. Anyone who speaks, prints, or spreads dissent is a traitor. the wheels are turning, and there is no turning back now. Our children want to go, and we couldn’t talk them out of it if we tried. Whether it’s bombs or lattes, the war has begun and we are not interested in surrender, and there is no possibility of defeat. We are Empire after all, we shall not fail.
Thank you for listening. See you next week.
Here is the track listing for Sunday Soul: We Are Empire, We Shall Not Fail
1. Prohibition Blues – The Missourians
2. Follow the Music – Pawel Kobak
3. 1976 – Toomy Disco
4. Voices – Pete Heller Main Mix – KC Flightt
5. Keep Warm – T-Empo’s Balearic Ballistic Mix – Jinny
6. La Marseillaise – La Vie En Rose
7. The More I Get – Larse
8. Organ Donor – NoOneKnown
9. Odecca – Thomas Brinkmann
10. My Son – Acosta Wink
11. How Ya Gonna Keep’em Down On The Farm Now That They’ve Seen Paree? – Arthur Fields
12. Sunday Soul – Program ID
13. The More I Get, The More I Want – Teddy Pendergrass
14. Sunday Soul – Program ID
Year 11 – Playlist 42|52
1 February 2015
Total Running Time: 01 Hour 8 Minutes
May the stars above you shimmer and shine, guiding your heart always, all of the time. May they guide you sweetly, all the way home. And may all your sundays have soul.