January 30, 2007
History is a matter of drawing imaginary lines. One epoch ends or begins because enough people agree that boundaries give character to a period of time. History condenses countless stories into one single story. It sometimes draws lines in the sand where there are none–or, rather, the writer of history does these things. The writing is always up for debate and the authors are countless. Usually the most comfortable story wins, sometimes at the expense of the truest one. But having said that, I have suggested that there is a True Story; and here is where the blasphemy begins…
I never saw myself as a historian, but if we are the custodians of our own memories, and if memory is the bedrock of identity, then anybody with a personality is a historian. Everyone is guilty of confabulation. Brains rearrange and rewrite memories in order to conform to the present moment. They manufacture a continuity that isn’t actually there. But making the present moment mesh with the past–finding any reliable connection to the truth–is difficult and sometimes uncomfortable. I take the position that the truest story and the best story are nearly always one in the same (art notwithstanding). History isn’t psychoanalysis. Psychoanlaysts think that confabulation is an important form of truth but I’m not so sure. The world is not a fantasy and, by the same token, subjectivity is not the only kind of reality. There is a world outside…lots of people have forgotten. Before something becomes a memory, it is light, sound and matter. And all material is the work of hydrogen atoms that have been given enough time to experiment with different combinations. Once something becomes a memory, it is still only a matter of molecules. People resist this–it’s humbling and frighteningly objective. But a world of glorified subjectivity is narcissism at its finest.
I called my last set of writings “Confessions of a Narcissist.” The joys and pains of a specific kind of adolescence are chronicled there. I should retitle it “Learning to Crawl.” Opening a weblog is a conceit of sorts and I understand. But if I’m allowed, I”ll categorize my vanity as little more than an expression of the “will” to survive. For the most part, you can have damn good time as a mammal on this rock but it’s getting dangerous out there. People who live by 4,000 year old mythologies control present-day weapons on both sides of Istanbul. Superstition is running scared, usually with a bomb on it’s back. It lives in our legislatures and households. It sends it’s advice to the corpses in Africa. It sends literary theorists to political debates. We live in a golden age of fascism where even the revolutionaries and radicals are sympathizers. I have been in their ranks and I left them behind for a reason. For Reason, I could even say. But in the classrooms and in the street protests, the People of the Book run the show. The fact that it’s another book hardly makes a difference. The Book is never Good enough. I never signed on for a life of professional apostasy but, as it turns out, turning your back on certain things is preferable to toleration and integration.
A world of glorified fantasy is death waiting to descend. Rock and roll has thus far been about fantasy and narcissism. If I have any shameless conceit, it is to be one of many assassins…putting an end to the Age of the Demons. The end credits are rolling and the heathens need new hymns. I know I do. That’s what Blacklist is for.
Everybody who makes an argument or sings a song knows to anticipate the argument of the naysayer. Why bother with all this? Politics and philosophy, they say, have no place in rock and roll (unless certain very esteemed music critics have dubbed your mode of presentation to be just subtle or clever enough.) But was there a time when the best rock music wasn’t political in some sense? Fashion and dancing can be substantive weapons but who’s fighting with them?
I’ve even grown less fond of those soundtracks for the collegiate literati; the post-punk politicians never got an ear. They saw fear and energy, heartache and exuberance, danger and darkness and that somehow equaled “pretention” as opposed to “authenticity.” None of this is new and the same flowers are wilting. This is about joining in and turning the volume back up…so far up that it blasts the fashionistas out of their droll slumber. And if it isn’t “clever” or “subtle” enough, that could be because I’d have authenticity mistaken for pretention by fools any day. Condensing that fear and energy into an ironic bit of melody so that it no longer quakes–that’s well practiced these days and it’s not what we do.
I write this mostly as an extension of the recordings. Actually, each is an expansion and reflection of the other. So, let the credits roll on. Somewhwere in the middle, as always, the end becomes the new beginning. Imaginary lines, maybe. But these are mine…