Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bastards of Jung

It's Sunday, so I'm thinking theopolitics again. (I'll keep using that term until someone notices.) The photo over there is another I took, altered, etc., and it was taken in The Bronx, NYC, NY, and not in The South. I have not seen an actual minstrel show lawn jockey in the south since 1968. Never mind that. The fact is, I'm thinking theopolitics, which means that I'm writing it, which means it's on a little spiral bound 6" notebook, and that means that I'll put it up here when there is some evidence that someone has read this particular post, which I thought up two days ago, wrote yesterday at the Huddle House, and didn't want to post until my reader saw the not-bad essay on bumperstickers. (It's not as good as the one on prophecy, but it's not bad.) Therefore, you might see my thoughts on Christian Education (and please stop e-mailing me wanting to see them...I cannot answer more than 400 e-mails an hour) some time RSN. It should be before Windows Longhorn is released, anyway.

"Bastards of Jung"
The Archytypical Nostalgia Trip (part one)
I got a "best" of The Replacements. It's a failure as a collection, as it had to be. It is like the best of John Donne in one respect (only), that fans of the early "Mats" and puke-covered Keds are not fans of the late, arch, Johnny "Rude Boy" Mercer style of Westerberg. You're better off getting "Pleased to Meet Me" or "Tim" -- your choice. ("Tim" is great.) Anyway, the record collected the milestone tunes, including one of my favorites, "Bastards of Young." (Hey, I have to have an obvious title at some point.)

I have no idea what the song's title means, but I sing along boisterously, pounding a new moon roof in my Gran Dam and shouting something between "It's yours" and "Detroit" at the end. I glare at cops and old people. I spit on the sidewalk and get a self-conscious haircut. I dream of Kim Gordon with Exene's haircut. In short, I feel it, and more than "Freebird" or "Blowin' in the Wind." It's my song, man.

For you poor narcoleptics who don't know the song, it managed the impossible: it was an anthem for an unmarked, dissolute generation even more alienated than its ancestors by being unpraised and uncondemned, a generation without a cause, a generation sorely pressed by forces that stoutly refused to have a face. We had the mascot of Ronald Reagan, but even the most ardent savages in our midst knew that he had not gotten himself elected nor formulated any policy. He was the first mask president we knew of, the first corporate spokesman president (not the first corporate shill, of course, but the first paid celebrity endorser as president). You could hate him all you wanted, but he wouldn't understand, and he was infinitely not responsible for whatever evil he committed. We couldn't point a finger at a George Pullman of our day or Hard Hats, either, and yet we were dangled empty slogans, silently told in what ways we were cool, and gulped down by the consumer management Combine. We were, in short, an ignored generation, and ignoring a child is the worst thing you can do to it.

Things are no better for today's txt msg PMme gnrtn, although the Combine has offered them better illusions of community than we ever got, but how do you have an anthem for the uncooperating, unclubbable, unacknowledged generation? If you managed it, would they sing along? Paul Westerberg managed it: "Income tax deduction/ One hell of a function!/ It beats picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten." Cool. "Willingness to claim us/ We've got no war to name us": hell yeah! "The ones who love us best.../ We'll visit their graves on holidays at best" is absolutely chilling. He did it by explaining, in a concise form, that we were meaningless, a "blank generation," because everything that would have stuck to us and given us importance had been evacuated. We didn't get enemies. We didn't get friends. We didn't get musical idols of our own generation. We pulled the wool over mass culture's eyes by making ourselves into punk heroes and realized that our parents didn't get the joke and that the result, in the end, was depressing. After all, when you shout out that there is no meaning to be had in fame, the only person you really enlighten is yourself. After you pogo with Sex Pistols, you hang with Joy Division.

To write your generation's song, you have to start with what bothers you and then figure out what about that is actually new. Every generation is constrained, psychologically and corporeally, by parents, and every generation wants to make more love than war, so you have to think about what keeps you from it. Westerberg is right that it is easier for The Vietnam War and McCarthy era generations to clue in. He was also right that the lack of an enemy willing to speak and show himself is infuriating, as bad as having self-involved or resentful parents would be (and heaven help the generation approaching 30 now -- talk about your self-involved parents!), but talking about how your only uniform badge is lack of focus brings to mind the real genius and victory of those who made war on us by fighting FDR and Joseph Stalin with our money and our bodies. Because the spokesmen kept talking about false history (the Fonzie Family that never was) and historical irrelevancies (the march of Communism from Nicaragua to Brownsville over the 9 hour highway Reagan speculated) and outsized lies (racial equality, which, having arrived, obviated the need for any program with "equal" in its name), and because those behind them would never speak of their goals, we never met each other, never managed to do anything.

We met only in opposition. We met to battle, and battle was joined, but often enough we were fighting for fame we derided and attention we explicitly devalued. Those of us cursed with enough self-awareness to agree with Westerberg were simultaneously ennervated. We were singing boldly of our lack of purpose, celebrating the forces that had neutered us by denying us even a target to aim our rage toward. Our daring was confined to sentiments like Cracker's: "Think I'll go find some place to be surly." Our demonstrations were not in the streets but in restaurants and diners the nation-over and were of bad manners and ill humor.

The fact is that our anthem is a pitying moan. Psychotic depression always follows revolution, in music as all else. 1966 is revolution, and 1972 is dead girlfriend songs. (You want proof? Ok. "Honey," "Wildfire," "DOA," "Patches," "Wishing Well," "Billy Don't Be a Hero," "Seasons in the Sun," "Time in a Bottle," "Indiana Wants Me," "Morning After," and "One Tin Soldier" to name just a few dead person songs. There was a couplet of years where everything had dead people in it, from "Love Story" to the evening news. The culture was littered with lachrymose corpses singing or being sung to.) 1977 is revolution (well, sort of...1976 maybe, 1980 maybe) and 1980 (sort of...1985 maybe, etc.) is "Bastards of Young." In this, at least, we follow the archetype. We find out that we hate ourselves only slightly less than we hate those around us, and then we get bummed out about it, and the fact that we were repeating a gesture of disillusion and inertia as old as the species, but without the satisfying gullibility of a Replacement, is really depressing.

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