Friday, November 02, 2007

Confessions of a Pseudo e-Revolutionary

A few months ago, I was watching The Colbert Report when Stephen Colbert said something that struck a nerve. A couple of days after Andrew Meyer's imbecilic "Don't Tase Me, Bro" incident made headlines, Colbert brilliantly referred to the apathy of the students who bore witness to the spectacle as "solitarity" and skewered the current generation of conscientious objectors as slackers who equate blogging with authentic activism.

Try as I might, I still haven't managed to jettison Colbert's criticism from my thoughts. Frankly, I think this is because I mostly agree with him. These days, as I begin my gradual slide into Pater Familias complacency, I look back on the righteously angry youth that I was and ask myself, "What happened?"

There comes a time in a man's life when he must simply face the fact that, if he hasn't completely sold out, he has certainly bought in. For me that time is now. Sometime between Public Enemy's ascent and Soldier Boy's current domination of the airwaves, a defeated worker drone with a burgeoning pot belly replaced a molotov cocktail throwing Marxist. The 17-year-old version of myself wouldn't spit on the current me if I were on fire. So humor me if you will while I list a few of the reasons why I'm no longer eligible for membership in the Black Panther Party.

1) I like Elvis. I know, I know. He appropriated black musicality. He's alleged to have said, "The only thing black people can do for me is buy my music and shine my shoes." And while it is highly unlikely that he ever did utter that phrase, he is the predominant symbol of how black Rock and Roll was co-opted by greedy, soulless white record executives. Still, despite my best intentions, I like the dude's music. Always have. For sake of disclosure, I also like Elton John, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Cash. Wait. It gets worse..

2) I don't like The Roots. This one stings because I often lament the dearth of unsampled music and genuinely talented mcs in current hip hop. And, while I recognize Black Thought as a gifted lyricist and the Roots as a legitimate band, their albums just leave me cold. I've tried (believe me) to like each of their releases beginning with the oft-lauded Things Fall Apart. It hasn't worked. It probably wouldn't work if I listened to Game Theory in North Philly with a cheesesteak in my hand wearing a backpack and an okayplayer t-shirt. By and large I find this regrettable.

3) I have several relatively close friends who are white Republicans. Why is this you ask? Because they're decent, respectful people. As I've admitted before, I tend to prefer them over their liberal counterparts. When we first started hanging out, they would diligently describe to me the wonders of the conservative universe and I would unfailingly describe to them how full of shit they were. Now we occasionally get together to discuss sports and resume building over black Russians. To my compromised mind, this is progress.

4) I'm infinitely more exhausted than I am angry these days. I, like many people, am besieged from every angle by so many obligations that I can't imagine fighting any form of power anywhere. Whenever unrefined bigotry issues forth from the mouth of some random dummy I just feel like taking a nice nap. I do not see this changing any time in the near future.

5) Finally, and perhaps most tellingly, I like shopping. I enjoy buying a nice pair of slacks and the joy that I receive from finding a good deal must be akin to what a ragged, desperate prospector felt when he washed mud away from his first gold nugget. But that's not all. I also tend to think of myself as an extremely fashionable guy. I own a great number of shoes, Project Runway is one of my favorite television programs and I anxiously look forward to season four. The seed for this disgusting tendency toward consumerism was planted long ago when a pretty girl told me she liked my outfit one day. "Nice clothes," I thought, "must make the girls like you." Over the years, the seed has sprouted into a Redwood.

To those legitimate rabblerousers among you who assumed you were in good company, I offer my humblest apologies. Although my inner black panther has not been fully usurped by a corporate fat cat I fear that it is only a matter of time. Do yourselves a favor and make a clean break from me now. I do not share Michael Vick's optimism. It is unlikely that I will redeem myself.

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At 6:02 PM , Blogger Sara Rosell said...

I think that to a certain extent you are more pressured than conflicted, when it comes to what you like to do. I mean, even Frank Sinatra was often a mean guy--but I like his music too. I think there is a lot of pressure on ethnic people to have to adhere to what is socially considered 'their' kind of stuff.

It is like how Obama's own supporters say he needs to listen to hip hop to understand black people. I disagree, I don't think mainstream hip hop represents real black people, just what our society makes them out to be.

I know that I really don't dress what is expected of a "Latina." And even if I did, it shouldn't have to mean I'm more ethnic that way.

But yeah, where's the youthful outrage of the sixties? The conservative backlash of the 70's has a firm grip on us all today.

At 7:18 PM , Blogger Breez said...

Singularly, loving Elvis or hating The Roots I could forgive; it is the tandem that has rendered me speechless. I feel compelled to wave ?uestlove's afro pick over you or something.

At 7:29 PM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace Sara,

Mostly, this post was written with tongue placed firmly in cheek but I know exactly what you mean. Mainstream hip hop represents coonery and corporate interests much more accurately than it represents black people in general.

Peace Breez,

I "like" Elvis. But I imagine the combination of big upping him and dismissing The Roots might be somewhat alarming. Feel free to disassociate yourself.

At 8:25 PM , Blogger Breez said...

I'm considering it. . .but you did say you liked Elton John. Uh...say something insulting about Toby Keith and I guess we can call it even. Say that you like Neneh Cherry and I might even genuflect.

Emphasis on MIGHT.

At 12:08 AM , Blogger Sara Rosell said...

Ha, yeah did get the tongue in cheek. I knew exactly what you were talking about, like, I am so embarrassed that I used to like Celine Dion. Don't like her now, but the embarrassment takes place on many levels. And of course I love commodities.

Thank you for your posts as well, they really are thought-provoking. Your post on the nooses was definitely a good point, and that's what inspired mine. I love the insights and humor...the laughs catalyze your messages.

Thanks, and look forward to more!

At 11:33 AM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Neneh Cherry should have been one of the greats. She was just a little too unfocused. Toby Keith is a knuckle-dragger....How's that?

I'm tuning into you every week. Thanks again.

At 8:53 AM , Anonymous jali said...

I've changed quite a bit myself and I found myself shaking my head in understanding while reading your post.

My name (at 15 and enrolled in Catholic school) was Ebony Malika -Black Queen. I was a member of a militant group that sponsered a Black Youth Conference financed by the City of New York. I took Swahiili and self defense lessons. I had a gorgeous afro.

Today I'm comfortable being jali (which is short for Jalilah - the Muslim name I took when studying) and I still feel rage at circumstances and individuals but not at a group as a whole.

I too have developed friendships with people whos political views are alien to me, but have found common ground in so many other areas that we pretty much agree to disagree.

I have a long list of white musical artists that are part of my treasured collection. Good music is good music and I won't apologize for my musical tastes which run from Faith Hill and Johnny Cash to Toto and Joe Jackson (the British guy) to Mozart.

I marched across the Brooklyn Bridge with thousands protesting the murder of Amadou Diallo - I didn't go to Jena.

I've supported Mr. Obama from the beginning based on his stance against the illegal war.

Sorry for the long story - handing back the mic.

At 12:04 PM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

"There comes a time in a man's life when he must simply face the fact that, if he hasn't completely sold out, he has certainly bought in."

I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciated this extremely well-written and to me hilarious (obviously tongue in cheek, by the way) post. As one of the rabid "freaks" (wild-eyed radical politicos as opposed to anything resembling a "hippie") during the 1970's who is now old by many people's standards, I cast my now often jaundiced eye over the terrain of all-that's-f**ked-up with a great sense of what seems remarkably to be hopelessness most of the time. The only thing that keeps me hanging in there is that I still believe I'm right and just in case there is the tiniest chance the human race will survive, I'm going to keep my hand in. I pace myself WAY differently now. And I like my creature comforts more than I like to admit. Not to mention REALLY good cologne. But I am WAY, WAY, WAY more effective now in what I'm trying to do. And I suspect I'm going to be good for another couple of decades like this. Anyway, thanks for the laugh. I increasingly value the energy in humor.

At 2:01 PM , Blogger BLESSD1 said...

Man...when I tell you I feel you on the slacks. You gotta find the right ones with just the right cut and "flowabilty" so that when you're moving they aren't too stiff but not just laying on you like a wrap skirt on a thick gal. That being said, again, I'm with you on some points, but could anyone not like the Roots? Granted, I don't like EVERYTHING they do...but they still are one of the best hip hop acts doing it. Excellent post, ACT. I aint ready to disassociate myself from you just yet.

At 8:31 PM , Blogger Clifton said...

This post reminds me of two events. The first one is when I was standing in line at Virgin Music store buying a Billy Joel collection. I picked up a No Limit CD just to create some balance.
The second is the day I went to a bar with my co-workers and sang Duran Duran on Karaoke night. The seventeen year old Cliff would have kicked my ass and burned those Billy Joel records. I'm still trying to figure out why I like Allentown so much.

At 8:33 PM , Blogger Clifton said...

I had to come back to this post and make a follow up comment. Since you don't like the Roots I get a pass for liking Lil Wayne.


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