As I sit here in my adult pajamas with an empty coffee cup beside me contemplating what has transpired over the last year I am left with a feeling that is both strange and new. I know this feeling is not purely a reflection of the last three hundred sixty six days ( this was a Leap Year, after all ) but more of a certain style of communicating that has spilled over from one segment of our daily lives and infected nearly every nook and cranny of popular culture. This bizarre sensation is a mix of disdain and cautious optimism. Out of respect for the human condition I will try to contain my delight while slamming the door on how things have been, and tossing the key into a pit of fire. But likewise I will temper my optimism regarding our future with a dose of reality. The "pathologically dissatisfied" will always find a way to ruin everything for everyone else. They can even ruin music. In fact I think it's fair to say they have been trying to ruin music in much the same way they have ruined film making. Everything has to have a deep message and as such, everything within their reach has been politicized. They are incapable of affecting the world with anything they might be able to engineer, so they flex their muscle by feigning outrage until those who can produce are so hampered by fear of retaliation from The Mob that they become effectively paralyzed. If you have wondered why life isn't as much fun as it used to be, you can thank those people. That dynamic will always exist. Not everyone wants that, though. Some of us just want to create some music and mirth. What makes this day different for me personally is that for the first time in my adult life I actually have a little hope that light will be shined on the dubious intent of those who make up The Mob.
Over the last forty years crocodile tears have become currency. In fact, it has become a full fledged industry. Stopping progress is a badge of honor, but ideological opportunists have turned it into an "us versus them" bloodsport with the full support of popular culture. We have no more gladiator fights to satisfy our desire for conflict, and popular culture has determined that feelings are more important than a patriarchal concept of winners and losers. Now feelings are more important than actual progress. It's group think, and it is unnatural. I remember back in school being slapped in the face in a profound way by my first experiences in group think. Occasionally we would watch videotapes of programs on television and they often contained the commercials that ran during the original air time. Invariably people, including myself, would laugh hysterically at the commercials we had all seen a hundred times even though they were only mildly cute the first two or three times we saw them at home. One person would laugh and everyone else would respond to that laugh with more laughter. Even as I heard my own laughter I remember thinking "This was never that funny, so why am I acting as though it's funny now?" I believe that the subconscious motivation was to show everyone in the room that we were all "in on the joke". That we understood its intellectual subtlety and that we were all clever enough and sophisticated enough to grasp the concept. It was unnerving, but it almost never played out any other way. I always laughed along with everyone else.
I firmly believe that public expressions of offense and outrage work in exactly that same way. When one person stands up for the rights of left handed amoebas with addiction issues who are held prisoner in petri dishes without trans-bathroom access, there are few people who want to be seen as insensitive by not showing their own remorse. As a society we pull for the underdog, and anyone who stands for The Big Guy is discounted as heartless. That's a human trait that may or may not be made even stronger by the guilt we are told we must feel for having been "The Big Guy" as members of Western culture. Pulling for the underdog is sweet and compassionate. We all do it. But what has been kicked into hyper drive of late is the villainization of those who do not wear twenty ribbons of various causes on their sleeves. When The Mob gather at your door with torches and pitchforks with severed heads on them demanding to know where you stand on topic A, none of us are willing to side with the person whose recently detached head is dripping blood on our doorstep. At that point your voice of support, or your measured silence becomes nothing more than a necessary defense mechanism to buy temporary reprieve from the violent, wrong headed vanity of those who desire above all else being seen fighting for the cause du jour.
The rush to condemn those who do not share in the free flow of crocodile tears is one of the things I hope will be looked at differently as a new year opens up before us. Too many people have been beaten into submissive roles because they don't have the time, energy or desire to fight back against The Mob after endless fifty hour work weeks trying to keep their heads above water. People whose self worth is directly tied to how much havoc they can create and to being seen, literally and figuratively as champions of the oppressed have been given free passes to destroy, to disrupt and to misrepresent facts and motivations of their supporters as well as the motivations of the people they are "fighting" against. It's become a fad with deep, deep pockets financed by people with agendas. It hasn't happened overnight, but it has been elevated to an place of unnatural prominence recently by popular figures routinely questioning the integrity of any who dare disagree with them. Hoax after hoax have proved that many who claim to be "oppressed" are nothing more than agenda driven opportunists, but we can't shake the addiction to being seen as both caring individuals, and as people who are willing to divorce ourselves from time honored tradition and common sense when given stern looks of disapproval by the cool kids who are demanding our society change. We all want to be thought of as caring as much as the cool kids. We all want to be seen laughing at that vapid, inane commercial for the one hundredth time when our peers are in the room measuring our response. Change that needs to be made is one thing, but change that is forced upon society by people who are themselves driven by an addiction to feeling important, which they often feel only when more and more heads are placed upon their pitchforks, is something else entirely.
So what does all of this mean to an underground metal drummer of arguably zero influence on the world in which he lives? Nothing much beyond giving his readers a glimpse into what he thinks about when he is not consumed by polyrhythmic exercises and feelings of love and affection for his wife, dogs, family and friends. I have joked about Loincloth being the world's first instrumental protest band. We could make up signs with sayings like "Words Kill" and "No More Blood for Ideas". We could defiantly throw our instruments down on stage and light them on fire, sneering and raising our fists to the delight of the audience without ever once uttering a word of explanation. I think that in today's world something like that would be successful. It's certainly hilarious to envision. In retrospect I think maybe that idea really does tie into this post. "Yeah!!! Screw them with all of their ideas and words made up of letters!" I can see the spot on Entertainment Tonight now.
I happen to be sick today, so maybe mild meds and a lack of good sleep have made me less reticent to open up here at The Poundry. My common sense filters are probably clogged with runny mucus and various tinctures. It's an abstract way to party for the New Year, but at least the drugs and lack of sleep are all legal. I just checked the clock as another droplet fell from my nose, and I am only thirty minutes away from another sweet dose of sinus pills. As I near the dreaded "50", is this what "partying" will look like for me in the years ahead? Conversations with friends have already turned more to new physical ailments than naming off cool, new bands. I guess the oatmeal line can't be too far away. Just know that the next thousand year old codger slowing you down in the line at your favorite cafeteria may be an astonishingly abstract thinker behind a drum kit.
As always, I want everyone to be happy, healthy and productive. I am glad to see a year full of transparently phony outrage and endless lecturing behind us, and I am cautiously optimistic that we may all take what we have learned with us into a new year, ready to work together for the things that really matter. Things like Confessor and Loincloth, pain meds and oatmeal.
Have a wonderful, and safe New Year everyone! And thanks for stopping by!