Monday, August 29, 2011


Song Title: "American Gladware"
Artist: Divtech
Search Term: "Gladware"

I honestly try not to be a cynical person, but I have absolutely zero hope for the future of our nation. It's terrifying to me, but when I try to envision a future for the United States 20 years down the line, I cannot realistically come up with anything that doesn't look apocalyptic. I can't imagine circumstances under which our elected officials will ever make even a minor effort to slow down the rapid consolidation of all our nation's wealth into the hands of six guys at the expense of a functional society. Nor can I imagine realistic circumstances under which we Americans will be able to actually elect conscience-driven leaders, since I think such an opportunity would require a complete overhaul of our electoral system that would include massive campaign finance reform, a reversal of the Citizens United vs. FEC decision, instant-runoff voting, etc., all of which would require the corrupt elected beneficiaries of our current system to willingly rejigger everything in a way that would likely oust them from their cushy positions.

In the past few years, the public mood has become angrier and angrier as we cope with continuing economic and unemployment crises that resulted from the unchecked--and thus far unpunished--greed of corporate America and its government enablers. Yet those who caused the collapse and who suffered the least as a result have, through various media mouthpieces, successfully convinced a significant chunk of the victims that this anger should not be directed at the amoral plutocrats in charge but at their fellow citizens: Public workers who receive retirement benefits, those unable to find jobs who require a monthly pittance from the government to feed themselves and their families, and basically any of us who would prefer to live in a nation that functions as a large community with the benefits that come from certain judicious shared expenditures rather than in a nation of isolated, mistrustful hoarders who live by a strict code of "every man for himself."

Two of the three current frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination are dominionists who are constantly trumpeting their supposed Christian bona fides but who are essentially running on a platform of increasing taxes on the poor while scuttling every social program and service that might help the neediest among us so that enormous corporations and the obscenely wealthy can continue sopping up all the country's wealth. (The other frontrunner is a dog torturer who recently flat-out remarked, "Corporations are people, my friend.") In a sane society, any political party presenting a nominee whose core principles were so brazenly selfish and callous would be a distant also-ran in every single election. In our America, however, one of these clowns will be waging a viable, potentially victorious campaign against a spineless dud of a incumbent whose famous promises of "CHANGE" were quickly contravened by a laughably fastidious continuation of his predecessor's policies, and who has spent the past two and a half years selling out his onetime supporters by capitulating to the Republicans in pretty much every battle, invariably defending the desires of the richest 1% against the inconvenient needs of the other 99%. (And still the Republicans howl that he's a liberal socialist.) These are our two choices.

As my friend Devan eloquently said, "The lions have convinced the gazelles to be their defenders. The gazelles believe it's in their best interest to protect the lions and ensure that they are fed well with the meat of their brethren. The gazelles are happy to do it because they've been told that one day they could become lions themselves. They will never be lions, but they don't know how to live without the fantasy anymore."

I say all this not just to get it all off my chest--though it did feel nice--but to emphasize that when I say, "The comedy of Bill Hicks is useless," I'm not saying that because I find his aggressively pessimistic take on American life too dark or unreasonably sour. In fact, his messages about Americans' depressing eagerness to lap up mediocrity from pandering politicians, entertainers, and corporations have sadly become no less relevant since his death in 1994. So philosophically, I'm not on an entirely different page from Hicks. My problem with Bill Hicks is he delivered those messages in the form of condescending, misanthropic truisms that never struck me as going any deeper than a high school kid drawing "anarchy" symbols all over his textbooks. (Advertisers use sex to sell sugary drinks! The media distorts the facts! The dangers of recreational drug use are sometimes overstated!) Worse still, I've just never found anything funny about his "I'm the only one in the world with a brain" take-downs of authority figure straw men. I would be a fool not to acknowledge his vast influence on modern comedy, but the only instance in which I've ever laughed out loud at any of his material was his immediate response to Yul Brenner's posthumous anti-smoking PSA (the first 20 seconds here).

The reason I've bothered to launch into a random rant about Bill Hicks today is because this song, by breakcore artist Divtech, offers very little to discuss except for a lengthy sample of Hicks castigating the public for self-medicating with American Gladiators while ignoring their government's ongoing deceit. As with all his routines, Hicks never evinces any honed linguistic skill or interest in pushing his conceits to imaginative lengths; he trafficks in explosive, superficial attacks delivered with a blunt sledgehammer no smaller than Gallagher's. (At one point, Hicks refers to the Gladiators as "pituitary retards" but pronounces it "pit-choo-ary." It's tough to drive home an insult about someone else's intelligence when you egregiously mispronounce a crucial word in your verbal assault.) When Hicks sums up the government's attitude as, "You are free to do as we tell you!" it's the sort of tiresomely sophomoric barb that John S. Hall might toss into a King Missile song to parody antiestablishment blowhards.

I will give Divtech himself a milliliter of credit for recognizing that this sample had become timely again with NBC's ill-fated 2008 American Gladiators remake, but he gets no credit for anything musically. It's generic hard techno through and through.

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