Shut Up and Play

The recent news of the Rolling Stones’ current tour and the coverage of the rant song, Sweet Neocon reminds me that giving people some credit for intelligence and sensible discrimination is sometimes uncalled for. Then there’s the big significance attributed to the rant band “Green Day” and their showing at the MTV VMA extravaganza. The coverage linked here includes the amazingly inane sentence, “GREEN DAY, the anti-war punk rockers, swept the MTV Video Music Awards in a sign that American popular culture is turning against US presence in Iraq.” After all, “American popular culture” has been anti-establishment for forty years now. “Anti-establishment” is what sells best to conformist, materialistic, wealthy, guilt-ridden, and neurotic societies.Now we have Kanye West, who earns high placement on the dumb public statement list with his, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!” uttered on Network TV. See coverage here.The stupidity of West’s most recent public statements is self-evident to all except partisans who can’t seem to bring themselves to say something temperate that would indicate failures at all levels of response to Hurricane Katrina, period. But blaming and sloganeering get emotional responses going in an audience much more than do clear-headed or fair-minded statements.Rock and Roll, including all its derivatives, from Punk to Rap, is the music that children move toward after nursery rhymes, playground songs, kids’ TV, and cheerleading chants. It serves as acoustic environment, anthem generator, and emotional entertainment for our pre-teen and adolescent populations and for our post-adolescent selves. It’s not a vehicle for elevated conceptions or elucidations of complex positions. Even the very few lyricists who’ve been declared “poets” by reviewers who have self-interests in glorifying their own positions as cultural arbiters do not deserve ranking in the canon of Modern Poetry.Because the uninformed rebelliousness of youth has become the dominant quality of our anti-heroic pantheon of cultural icons, we find ourselves in the absurd situation of being led by iconoclasts and rabble rousers. The fact that we are bombarded with endless streams of cultural programming into accepting the rubber-stamp rebels and mind-addled minstrels who entertain us as heroic and worthy of emulating in some way is sad enough. But when these know-nothings are raised to the status of political and socio-cultural spokespersons, the results are at once lamentably stupid and dangerously irresponsible. It happens, of course, because those who sell us popular culture and entertainment hail these celebrities as significant.Unprepared for the psychological compromises fame and fortune work upon their dysfunctional mindsets, popular stars come to think of themselves as leaders. They broadcast their opinions as if they mattered. This would be funny if it wasn’t so alarming.Popular mass-entertainment culture is about as important as candy bars and sugar-coated cereal. Hearing what Mick Jagger, or Green Day, or Kanye West think about the political and social realities of the world strikes me as absurd as Captain Crunch coming out against the war or a political slogan appearing on a Hershey Bar.

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