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Sunday Soul -We Were Empire
Year 11 – Playlist 44/52 – Art, Essay and music for the week of February 15th 2015
Please don’t be sad. There’s no reason in the world to mourn the passing of empire. While it’s true that in twenty years your children will be dressing up like the kings and queens who have just betrayed you, stamping their party posters and stationary with Twinkie labels, and memories of bees, radios, gasoline, cash and televisions. They will run into tchotchke shops with fists full of credits, or global dollars and buy soya-plastic recreations of authenticity. This isn’t because the past that you and I have just overcome is better, or more worthy of nostalgia than the three dimensional, screenless computing they’ll be enjoying – wildly gesturing, lifting images and files that only they can see, plugging tiny little drives into their ears in order to access files, or their almost flying and totally electric cars. In fact if we had those things now we would be madly jamming them into our ears, and flapping around like idiots at Starbucks this instant. But these distractions wont be any more authentic or meaningful than the floppy disk, the CD or the laser disc. These tidbits of technology only represent a transference of information, a conduit from one point to another. These things are just not meaningful or authentic.
It’s true that the touch of paper is almost erotic, the weight of a box of records, or memories is symbolic and we are equally as struck by their unexpected weight vis a vis their seeming insignificance as we are by their lightness. But as is true today, we touch practically nothing, and the invisible ideology of “self” and “work” and “money” are the same messages we have been numbly struggling with for more than a hundred years. The meaning isn’t in the distraction, it is in the experience itself. Yet our precious tchotchkes are the very prized distractions which keep us apart. Apart from ourselves, from each other, from the revolution.
When empire falls it rarely knows it has fallen. Naturally following a battle, or a political tragedy, or even from the perspective of one’s own personal or cultural twilight it is fairly clear – thus the timeless phenomenon of the old man standing on his front porch with a baseball bat shouting “You kids get out of my yard!” But this is an illusion, and a matter of perspective. The same man, seventy or if he’s lucky eighty years ago, was running around on his own cranky old man’s property getting yelled at. Even the young architect’s interpretation of the timeless past’s lines and textures seem alien and cold to the old and the fallen. I feel this way as I watch a once quite liberal San Francisco rebuild itself as the barbary coast brothel it has always been before my very eyes. Oh how I love and adore her victorian landscape, her over priced, freezing cold, garageless apartments with their paper thin floors and walls and windows that neither open nor close. I hate to see these prefabricated boxes shipped over from China, stacked up and plugged in and then
sold for millions to people I wouldn’t party with if you paid me. I’m angry, cynical, and often totally discouraged. So it turns out I’m the defeated empire. I’m the old man standing on my own stoop shouting “You boring little self-centered workaholics! Why when I was your age I was sleeping with lawyers for money, and shooting speed in doorways and drinking myself into unconsciousness every night of the week!” But I haven’t got a moral leg to stand on…
When empire passes into twilight a magical thing happens (this is why I told you not to be sad.) Space is created for something new. I’m not promising you an unplugged generation of barefoot anarchists like we’re hoping for here, but when the distracted heights of the 1920’s had passed, despite our best efforts to maintain our spires and affluence, we made way for humanity, community, american socialism, public service, social welfare, and government assistance without shame. When the halcyonic idyl-wild of the 1950’s American suburb had passed into obsolescence, we made way for Martin Luther King Jr, John F. Kennedy, and a youth explosion the likes of which the world had never known before. And now that these angry young people have faded from radicals, into conservatives, into tech investors, into the faded grey faces of their golden years we are still speaking their language. We are still pointing fingers at the smokers, the government, the damned hippies and expecting other people to do something for us which we are as yet unable to do for ourselves. It isn’t going to work this time any better than it did the last time, or even the time before that. Until we start taking accountability for who and what we are I suspect we are still going to say whatever will get us paid or laid and just try to hold on to our place in line at Starbucks, and hope that something better comes along in another four years.
This is the moment in time. Right now. If you’ve written your manifesto, let’s have it. If you’ve got a hair brained notion about anything other than yourself, let’s hear it. This is the moment, as the tide turns and begins to fall away when we will be united in fear and hope at once, and hungry and desperate, deluded and in just enough denial to find a glimmer of truth in the worst of us, and spot the diamonds in among the rotten eggs. As the British Empire peaked, my darling Mahatma Gandhi toppled her over with a handful of salt and the truth. While the radicals of the 60’s switched from a post King world to a post Malcolm X world and said “No, we do not forgive you motherfucker!” John Lennon decided to break up the Beatles and take nude photos with his new bride in bed and move to New York City. We globally decided right then and there to give peace a chance. Maybe it’s time to give it another chance?
Wherever you’ve run off to, Alaska, Miami, Tokyo, or Tampa it’s time to come home. We have always lived in the twilight of capitalism, it’s what the twentieth century was all about. Now we live at a time when the great arch of her empire has at last begun to expire. If you know of a way to make things, start making them. If you can write, start writing. If you can teach, grab anyone who will listen and assemble your classrooms. If you can sing, even a little, then it’s time to open up your sweet lips and let your beautiful voice be heard. We were empire, indeed, and now as the result of avarice, hubris and greed you have been lead to believe, divided and totally conquered, that there’s nothing you can do to revive the bees, or to fight big oil, or to ever feel connected to the planet again (not at least that doesn’t cost you at least $250 and a few days off work, plus travel, and the extra money for drugs) but it’s only ideology – selling you lies, and keeping you swollen, numb and stupid like they like you best. But in the coming age we will meet our Ayn Rands who re challenge god and self, our Gloria Steinems who empower everyone and stand up to anyone who says differently, our Bobby Seals who aren’t even going to listen to you, and we shall soon see for ourselves that the age old lie that when the elite stumble and lose their way, that it is the duty of the lower classes, the poor and the forgotten to tend to their souls and revive them is not only true, but it’s amazingly what we do. Even though we know better, even though we want to. Because one thing we have on the man – the one thing we can not sell, and they can not buy – is love.
Thank you for listening. See you next week.
Here is the track listing for Sunday Soul: We Were Empire
1. Dead End Alley – Deepapella – Mr. Fingers
2. Pale Shelter – Virgin Magnetic Material Remix – Tears For Fears
3. Shellshock – Extended Version – New Order
4. Bring Down The Walls – Robert Owens
5. Don’t You Wanna Do It – Chrissy Edits
6. Fade To Grey – Visage
7. Never – Orbital
8. Dubtronics – Tom Gillieron Remix – Grant Dell & Jay Tripwire
9. Reminders – Be Be Cameron
10. Reflections – Andlee & Kollektiv KlangGut Remix – Brattig & Soloma
11. Love From Alice – James Benedict
12. So Close To Midnight – Flashbaxx
13. Rule My World – Kings of Convenience
14. Sunday Soul – Program ID
15. I Ain’t Got Nobody – Patti Smith
16. Sunday Soul – Program ID
Year 11 – Playlist 44|52
15 February 2015
Total Running Time: 01 Hour 22 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.