Pete Townsend, Call the Oval Office

Four years ago I observed, I can’t remember to whom now, that we’d just elected Tommy Walker to be president. 

This article in Commentary makes the same point, but quite a bit more intelligently than I did.

Remember the last track of the opera, though, is “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  Tommy stands revealed as what he in fact was:  A talented (if by that you mean Very Good at Something Trivial, e.g. pinball) but essentially fraudulently sold quasi-messiah.

I don’t know what Pete Townsend’s politics were or are.  Most likely he’d pay at least lip service to Dear Leader, the way the rest of them do.  But he wrote the music for this presidency over 40 years ago.  And the music he wrote is profoundly disillusioned and disillusioning.  Isn’t it curious how the more insightful artists and others on what you’d assume would be the politico-cultural far left have a habit of saying things, either directly or in their art, which are difficult to reconcile with that universe of thought?  “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” will we now?  In fact we did.  “We’re Not Gonna Take It” anymore, except we just voted for four more years of exactly what’s got us to this point.  Question Authority, a principle laid out in very convincing detail, somehow translates to Embrace Authority . . . at least for the rest of us.  I can’t make up my mind whether they truly do not perceive any incompatibility between their politics and their art, or whether, their artistic success having insulated them from many of the consequences of their politics, they’re being hypocritical in espousing both at once, or whether they’re being entirely cynical about the whole thing, knowing that records (other than in country music) and movies about Your Granddaddy Actually Was Exactly Correct just don’t sell very well. 

I prefer the first of those explanations:  It just doesn’t strike them as dysharmonious to oppose waterboarding because it terrifies hardened killers into revealing the details of their terror networks without actually doing them any physical harm, and at the same time to support a particular president’s unilaterally setting up a “disposition matrix” under which anyone in any country can be liquidated remotely via drone strike.  I prefer that one because it requires me to make the fewest assumptions about what’s between someone else’s ears.  On the other hand every explanation of observable facts has to account for all observable facts.  After sufficient data points accumulate which test the assumption underlying my preferred explanation — that someone can see what happens when particular political measures are introduced and in good faith not perceive any causal relationship between the two — that underlying assumption becomes ever less plausible.  Back in the 1300s they thought that Jews caused the plague.  So they kicked them out, or burned them alive, or whatever.  Then someone noticed that even places that had no Jews still were decimated.  So it must be God’s anger with the world?  No matter how pious an area was, they still sickened and died.  “Bad air” from the swamps?  The plague struck into the high country as well.  What explanations will today’s artistic set cook up by 2016 to explain the world that will exist then? 

It’s still Bush’s fault begins to sound a bit shop-worn, one would think.  I may be wrong.  If one believes exit polling, something more than a third of the U.S. electorate still thinks it’s Bush’s fault for the fix we’re in, four years after Dear Leader was elected, nearly four years after he was inaugurated, and nearly six years after The Most Ethical Congress, Evah took office.  It appears that you can in fact keep beating a dead horse and convince folks that it’s the horse, and not the broken wagon turned the wrong way on the road, that is the problem.  For the future, the trauma of accepting that one has been had by someone may be so great as to bar perception of having been had.  I guess we’ll see.

I just wish that “Won’t Get Fooled Again” had not become the music for a car commercial.

Leave a Reply