They Don’t Give a Fuck
Last night, I went to see one of my favorite bands, Super Furry Animals, a Welsh group. Before their closing song, an audio loop of an anonymous, disembodied voice began decrying all of modern culture with its wicked consumerism, et cetera. Behind the band, a movie screen showed a collage of images. George W. Bush’s image, notably, elicited a few boos from the crowd. As the sampled voice honed in on its message, its words appeared on the screen, so we wouldn’t miss them: “All governments are liars and murderers.” The message was repeated and chopped up–remixed, if you will. Then the band quietly began playing their 1996 single: “The Man Don’t Give a Fuck.”
The song, like many of SFA’s, makes vague political statements (“keep the masses from majority”) while avoiding proselytizing or arriving at any definite conclusion. Chiefly, its mellow verses serve to lull the listener before the chorus chant kicks in with its deliciously vulgar release: “You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else! You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else!”
What struck me during the prelude to the song–the propaganda-feel to the film and anti-government rant–was that this is what the majority of the audience is perfectly willing to believe–that all governments are liars and murderers–yet they continually vote to enlarge and expand government.
It’s hard to accuse Super Furry Animals of pressing this point. Though definitely political, they have never been ideological. Their game is in pairing history and post-modernism, the obscure and the pop. But it’s safe to say they lean left. After all, they had, in their surrealist pastiche of high and low culture, just compared Albert Einstein to Che Guevara in their song “Hermann Loves Pauline” (both were asthmatics). Their most recent record contains a song inspired by their visit to a Marxist village in Columbia several years ago. They emblazoned their 1999 album, Guerilla, with the leftist slogan “Non-Violent Direct Action.” Et cetera.
Rather, the feeling that the government is lying to us, cheating us, and doing nefarious deeds under cover of night is so widely accepted (at least in the rock ‘n’ roll idiom) that it’s become cliche.
Earlier in the day, I’d been interviewing a musician friend for an article. We were discussing government. Several times, my friend blamed government subsidies of different industries for problems the country faces (prescription drug-pricing for example). Yet, he also declared that the ideal economic situation would be socialism.
After he’d cited several instances of government intervention worsening problems, I pressed him on his conclusions. “Don’t you realize that in socialism everything is controlled through the government?” I asked. Ahh, he explained, the socialism he envisions is pure fantasy.
It’s safe to say that my friend, like the Super Furries, is no doctrinaire socialist. Still, the evidence persists that the rock ‘n’ roll youth culture recognizes the problem (an excess of government) yet refuses to do anything about it. It’s a bizarre situation to me – a musician and writer who has always grasped the idea that only government imperiled my free speech and more of that force was simply dangerous. Weirder still in rock ‘n’ roll, with its declared anti-authoritarianism, that audience and bands alike would say, “government’s screwing us” yet imply “let’s make it bigger!”
Exhibit B could be the Beastie Boys’ anti-war single from last year “In a World Gone Mad.” In it, the Beasties take a moment away from equivocating George W. Bush with Saddam Hussein to plead for national health care. Like most rock stars, they don’t hate The Man, just The Right-Wing Man.
PunxforDean.com, PunkVoter.com, Rock the Vote–not to mention MTV, Rolling Stone, MaximumRockNRoll, Spin, Punk Planet and all the rest–are eager to harness the unifying power of music to political action, yet they then direct that power right into back into the authoritarian, nannying hands of the status quo.
Rock ‘n’ roll’s political lemmings continually ignore evidence that smaller government secures individual rights, allows greater artistic freedom, and generally stays out of your business. Not to mention the transparency that a smaller government provides! Concerned about the spying and warring powers of the government, rock ‘n’ roll statists have never realized that a smaller government would be easier to keep an eye on.
Sadly, the rock ‘n’ rollers would seemingly rather live in a collective dystopia where an enormous government shares and cares with them. Maybe all rockers have mommy issues. Maybe the self-destruction that accompanies rock ‘n’ roll leads them to believe that only government-provided assistance will keep them from burning out. Maybe it has never occurred to them that the policies they favor restrict the freedoms of others – the same accusation they level at “right-wing fuckwits” (to quote RollingStone.com’s “Well Hung At Dawn” column).
It’s enough to make me wonder if Super Furry Animals weren’t talking about politicians but instead the willing sheep who eat up anti-government cliches and vote socialist in whatever shade is popular that year. They’re the ones who don’t give a fuck about anybody else.
[This column was published by the American Spectator in a little different form. Below you’ll find the reconstituted version.]