Saturday, January 28, 2012

Talkin' About a Revolution

Life is good. In fact, life has been good. Overall, compared to my parents' lives, I'm having a good one. It's a bit boring, but that's expected. I'm a bit of a boring person. Me = bourgeois sensibilities wrapped in some aspiration for 'hipness' sprinkled with the occasional (feigned, I'm told) sympathy for socialist ideals. It's all very predictable. I was trying to figure out the other day whether I was in the 99% or the 1%. According to this at the Wall Street Journal, I am apparently part of the 99%. I am, however, above 77% of the U.S. population. That's a pretty significant statistic. That means that I make more money than approximately 240 million people in this country. (See here.)

Thinking about incomes. My initial income in graduate school (my first year) was $12,500 (before taxes). This was the 1998-1999 school year. I was able to live pretty decently in Pittsburgh with that income. I'm not sure how, actually. I think the income increased marginally and by my third year it was $15,000 per year. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the border between Oakland and Shadyside (in a very nice area, actually) and it was an area that might be termed 'gentrified.' I bought CDs (plastic things with music on them) frequently, spent money on alcohol and um other things, traveled a bit here and there. I went to England in 2000, which was a lovely visit.

I moved to New York in September 2001 (actually physically moved into my place on 112th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam on October 25) and my rent was about $750. By that time, I think I made $20,000 (before taxes) but I don't remember feeling particularly poor. In fact, it was good times, as far as I can recall, in terms of money at least. Shit, I saw a ton of bands, including Tool, who were Goddamn expensive.

There was a big jump, obviously when I got a 'real' job, which was in the fall of 2005. But for New York standards it was relatively low--I've since discovered that academic starting salaries in the humanities are the lowest at my institution in New York.

Which brings me to the election. Occasionally, people will bring up the current 'race' between the Romney, Gingrich, Paul, etc. I have some basic knowledge of their policies. I don't follow things too closely but I am aware of their positions on a few important things. I am also somewhat cognizant about Obama and his policies the past three years. My basic position on all of this has been very accurately articulated by one Matt Taibbi, he of the ceaseless wit and genius brain. He notes:

... this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.
In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.

He adds that "the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time" in the United States.

I understand that people care about elections. I also understand that Americans (especially young white middle class Americans) find it anathema to consider the option of not voting. But that is essentially my stance. I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils as opposed to someone I want to be president. I voted for Obama in 2008 (with some hesitation). But I did. On election night, I was really excited, actually. I texted back-and-forth with a friend about the future. It was a hopeful moment. But that moment is gone. Perhaps it's lazy to say that Obama has disappointed. But I like to think that I have substantive reasons for thinking that none of the candidates, Republican or Democrat, represent truly egalitarian values. This is not a personal slight against Obama. I'm sure he is a very nice person (unlike, say, Gingrich). But what is one to do, if one believes in a set of things and none of the candidates subscribes to those values? Voting is where we get to exercise our democratic prerogative(s). But voting has been rendered an empty shell by the dollar signs in everyone's eyes.

Most of the musicians I like seem to be on the Democrat divide, which is not surprising. But few are for a truly revolutionary approach. I'm not talking about fringe figures but mainstream figures. It seems quaint to remember, but in the 1980s, there were 'mainstream' bands who espoused (almost) revolutionary impulses. There were punks (Dead Kennedys comes to mind) of course but also mainstream artists who were culturally and politically in the avant garde (even R.E.M., of course, and the Smiths who sang "The Queen is Dead," Bruce Springsteen, even John Mellencamp, and yes, even the uber-produced contribution of Bruce Hornsby). The 2000s and the 2010s have been periods of artistic orthodoxy. More or less, anyway. You see bands lining up to support Obama when he's basically been a shill for corporate leeches.

I guess I'm saying that music that is politically radical yet popular is a thing of the past. I'm open to be proven wrong -- that Obama is the one to vote for. But until, then:

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