Hello and welcome back to Indie Music on Tap season 2 where we cover depression and how it affects indie musicians around the world. We are wrapping up our second season with a book giveaway, and we will announce the winner at the end of this episode. Today's theme is that kindness is the glue.
With music from: Bardo Stars, The Ruralists, and Krister Axel.
If you are angry at the person or thing you are supposed to be angry at right now then you are not paying attention. There's only one thing, one place to direct a general sense of frustration: that is at the corrosive influence of money on politics. The results are in, these are facts. In the last 20 years, just under 1 trillion dollars went directly into the pockets of the 1%. The rest of us saw our wealth decrease collectively by about a half a billion. So, to be clear, that means one thousand billion dollars worth of wealth was created in the last two decades. Every penny of that money went to the exact people who already had plenty of it; the rest of us have been scrambling for as long as we can remember.
Now think about the end-game there, which is where we are now. The goal is always division, which is where the wedge issues come from: abortion, racism, human rights. The list goes on. I am reminded of a quote from Frank Wilhoit:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect...
And to this I would add that neoliberalism plays the exact same game, but with identity politics: So there are in-groups that cannot be criticized but deserve to be, and out-groups that are incessantly vilified with no logical explanation for it. Exhibit A: Judy Woodruff, from 'liberal' media outlet, PBS News Hour.
Woodruff: ...in its first decade, your plan would cost over 34 trillion dollars.
Sanders: First of all, if we do nothing, I think the estimate is that we would spend 50 trillion...
To which of course, Woodruff pivots again, and leaves that simple point unacknowledged: costs go down, not up, in total when the massive cost of healthcare premiums goes away. Judy Woodruff is petulant and disingenuous at best, and this is what passes for journalism now. We are no longer being told what is actually happening, instead we are told exactly what to believe. No more facts, just reading corporate memos aloud like some form of modern gospel. And you had better get on board, or you're either a liberal, a terrorist, or both.
The point here is just that there is no allegiance to truth or honesty, from this publicly-owned, ostensibly unbiased media source. It's all optics, every source of news in this country is just trying to make Warren look just like Sanders, which couldn't be further from the truth. The simple equation is this: incrementalism will not solve our problems; not today and certainly not tomorrow. California is burning; the Arctic is melting; and the working class hasn't had a fair shot in more than a generation. This is not the time to make concessions; this is the time for bold leadership, and a serious paradigm shift. If you have been paying attention at all to the Cambridge Analytica scandal (and the warnings from Ed Snowden), you know that nothing is a secret anymore. Every like you ever clicked on Facebook, every tweet you've ever shared, every photo you posted a comment to, and every message you thought was private, is churning in a database somewhere. It's just like they can read your mind, except it's not magic, or some form of psychic power. Rather, it is raw data that can be mined to create very effective campaigns of ideological warfare. How can you tell if you're being affected? It's actually really simple: how angry are you?
If you talk to any therapists eventually you will learn that fear and anger are branches of the same tree. There was a fantastic opinion piece that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer late last year that seems to have been quite prescient. It discusses the lifelong effect of unfulfilled existence, you might say, and how an early life of hardship can lead to a sort of hot-button type of anger that becomes easy to trigger, and over time starts feeling like home. People become addicted to anger, because it masquerades as a form of control. And when you have so little control over the world that you live in, that anger is very real. And sadly, it becomes very easy to hijack - your affinities are well-known, and it's already been discussed that an algorithm can understand you better than your best friend, better than your mother. So if you're angry at the 'Libs' for trying to take your guns, ask yourself who gave you that anger? If you are angry at the Bernie Bros for standing in the way of the Hillary train, ask yourself who gave you that anger? If you are angry at a poor Guatemalan family for daring to seek shelter, and being hungry and needy in a moment of weakness, ask yourself who gave you that anger?
Because the bottom line is that anger is an almost useless emotion; it leads to irrationality, and bad decision making. That's why we say - don't get angry; get even. Anger is only useful as jump-off point, as a catalyst. If you make decisions in anger, you are not doing it right. Again, why are we angry? well the root of anger is fear, with two distinct types: fear of losing status, and fear of being blamed. If you are poor, and afraid, and thus angry, the logic goes something like this: I don't have the luxury of being opinionated, nor do I have the time and resources to be well-informed. This system that I live in is oppressive, I can barely get by as it is, so I need to cleave towards the selfishness of self-preservation, as it were, and I got to do what I got to do. I am angry at anyone and anything that talks down to me, and that pretends to understand my situation.
Now if you are wealthy, and afraid, and thus angry, the logic is quite different: I have worked the levers of power to my favor, and I don't want to give anything up for someone I don't know. Even though this system still feels vaguely oppressive to me, I am not a target, so it's easy for me to pretend that all we need to do is make a tweak. If only everyone did their part the way I am doing my part, then we might be okay. But there is an 'other' to be angry at: all those people that won't concede that our entire existence is at the mercy of multinational corporations, and we need to work inside that system. The fear here comes from knowing that something's going to go down, with no idea what that looks like, coupled with a vague resentment of being blamed, and perhaps even some guilt for preserving one's own success at the expense of others. And the anger is directed at anyone who doesn't respect the internal calculus of concession, and anyone who dares to ask for an explanation about it.
So anyway, we need to get rid of the anger. That's why I called this episode 'Kindness is the Glue' - because it is. Kindness is the glue that binds our collective humanity; and anger is the poison that destroys it from within. So I ask you, anyone who is listening to this: if anger is what drives you, please find another way. Turn off your television, if you must; and remember that a thousand billion dollars, in the last 20 years, went directly into the pockets of the already wealthy. And much of that was dumped into the toxic swamp of dark-money politics, which then, subsequently, was used to design ads targeted directly at you, in order to make you angry, and thus easier to control. Anger in itself is not bad, but decisions made in anger are. It's not your fault that the world is crumbling around you; it's not your fault that no one can catch a break. And now, apparently, finding relief in hate is a thing. This is a dark moment, and a unique one. We had better find some unique strategies to get back on track. Let's start with neutralizing hate, with love, one day at a time. Forgive the other; forgive your enemies. And most of all, forgive yourself. And before every important decision, ask yourself: am I angry right now?
Bardo Stars - Aum Namah Shivaya IV: Alan's Tune (lyric video)
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to connect with a life that validates you. The reason I mention anger, and kindness as its opposite, is that anger stands in the way. Always. Temporary anger can be useful; permanent anger will cripple you. I hope I'm not alone when I mention the relationship I had with the TV series The Simpsons, if there is one character that shaped my opinion of American-style socioeconomics and political commentary, it is Homer Simpson. I didn't identify with him so much as I saw a sort of existential wisdom in the role that he plays. I could go on and on about the touch points I have with certain Homer-isms; the list is long and detailed. But here I want to mention just one thing: there was an episode long ago where the house across the street is up for sale, and president Gerald Ford moves in. At the beginning of the episode is this exchange:
Homer: Hey! I never noticed this place. Bart: Dad, it's right across the street from us! That fancy house'll never sell. Nobody who could afford it would want to live in this neighborhood. Homer: Hey, what's wrong with this neighborhood? [at the house] Big shot! Too good to buy a house here, snobby? Bart: Who are you talking to, Homer? Homer: The guy who doesn't live there.
So the concept of the guy who doesn't live there is actually really important to me. I think about that a lot; sometimes we have anger that is directed at something utterly fictitious, something symbolic and devoid of substance. You could imagine Homer in that moment, physically attacking somebody who just happened to be walking by, wearing a nice suit, for example: the epitome of shallow symbolism. And that is what I see right now in this country: A bunch of people waving their fists at the guy who doesn't live there; a lot of anger just running around in circles. So, all you need is two words: get happy. And if you're angry, stop blaming other people. The only bad guy in the room is money itself, and the concept of wealth as social rank. Everything else fixes itself if we can walk that one back. Just stop being angry, and stop spreading lies; lead with love, forgive your enemies, and stay positive. And then stand up for what you believe in. That is all any of us can do. May the best belief-system win.
This next song comes from an Iowa band that I'm a big fan of; like my friend Brian Joseph said, I played this song right after I made the lyric video for him because I happened to be in Eau Claire at the time, sometimes the best songs come from bands you've never heard of. The truth can hide in the most unlikely of places; and this message of using mortality as a source of inspiration resonates with me quite strongly. The clock is ticking, and our bones do indeed get old. So you had better love the life that you're living - this is not a rehearsal.
The Ruralists - Your Bones Get Old (lyric video)
So we are wrapping up this season. And if you are listening to this podcast on Spotify, or PodBean, or BluBerry, or Google Play - this show is going to disappear by the end of the year. I have always said that the only way to be a successful gardener is to pull the plants that don't grow. As much as I have enjoyed making this podcast, it has not created the kind of activity that I need to continue on the full range of streaming platforms. As a content creator in the space, I need to go where the activity is, and I have had more success in the last 3 weeks creating videos for my Vimeo channel, just in terms of raw numbers than I have all year making this podcast. So I will gladly move on with no regrets; I have said what I needed to say and I hope that if you are still here listening that you enjoyed it and perhaps connected with something useful. Indie Music on Tap will live on as a vodcast that you can connect with on Roku TV and Vimeo, and now that I have finished talking about depression I will get back to just music (mostly). So I'm going to take a break for October and I'll be back in November with season 3, which will be lyric video countdowns and probably some limited commentary but nothing like what you have had for season 2. I've had so much success making lyric videos that it seems clear that needs to be the focus. I will no longer be publishing to anything other than Vimeo and Roku TV (use code 6DLJ5Z6 to add the channel).
Aside from the fact that the podcast was slow to gain listeners, what's more important for me is that I have been writing a lot of music lately and that needs to be a focus for me. After two years of writing blog posts about Roots, electronic, and other flavors of indie rock, although I've always been writing and playing off and on, I'm starting to feel that there is a lot more for me to do - so I'm going to go there. I'd like to close out with a sneak preview of my new song, produced by Shane Leonard, with the help of talented musicians like Courtney Hartman, J.E. Sunde, Ben (Zen) Lester, and Jeremy Boettcher. Just two months ago I flew out to Eau Claire for a session and this is the result. For the first time in my life I did nothing but sing, and left the rest to a very capable team of professionals. This song won't release to streaming for another two weeks, so if it resonates with you, please follow me on either Spotify or Apple Music so that you can be notified when the song is live. I wrote this song for my daughter, at the time she was just barely two years old. Now she is 6, and I just love her to pieces. This song is called Weightless Heart, from Krister Axel.
The winner of our book giveaway is Nicole, in Van Nuys, California. She'll be receiving a singed copy of More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk, from Hachette Books. Be well, and remember that kindness is the glue. See you next month!