January 10, 2008

A False False Dichotomy

I'd read about the video for "Testify" long before I had seen it. I was living in Chile at the time; we didn't have a TV let alone cable. The article explained that the Michael Moore-directed video juxtaposed George Bush quotes and video clips with Al Gore quotes and video clips. The novelty was that there was no juxtaposition at all. Bush and Gore said and did exactly the same thing. They were the same poison, the same corporate-run evil.

The video's conclusions were not unique. Articles from the National Review to the The Nation from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times echoed the similarity sentiment lulling us into a false sense of resigned outrage. When I would call my parents in the States, they confirmed and agreed with the conventional wisdom. Clearly, our vote doesn't matter. America's presidential candidates are the same.

The chilling eventuality of our collective cynicism was clear: Bush was going to be elected.

The Chilean papers had a different view of the American election. Perhaps it was their history of political dualism. They characterized Bush as a foolish scion of a powerful family, a puppet of the conservative right and a dangerous force. On our refrigerator hung a political cartoon with three identical W caricatures. The caption: "Clan, Clown or Clone?" Gore was a soft green party wannabe whose election would surely sink the American economy and send the continent reeling financially. The two weren't alike at all.

I adopted the viewpoint of my South American home and filled myself with outrage at the forgone electoral conclusion. My anger was mostly directed at the myth-makers, the Bush-Gore equators. Whether it be the papers, Ralph Nader, or the corporate broadcasters they were my true villains, my personal scapegoat. Of course the most compelling of these false false dichotomies was a video by Rage Against the Machine. And I hated them for it.

Perhaps they hated themselves for it as well. One month before election day the band broke up citing personal, artistic, and political differences. They've reunited this year officially making one our generation's fieriest, smartest, and most politically necessary bands AWOL for the entire Bush presidency.

I got over my anger a few weeks ago, bought The Battle of Los Angeles, and put it on my mp3 player. It's been there ever since and I hope it doesn't go away. It's a conscience from a conscience-less time, it's a probing intelligence and protest from a Backstreet Boys-Britney Spears era, it's the son of Woody Guthrie that we weren't supposed to have. Zach de la Rocha really is Bob Dylan in 1963, Chuck D in 1988. In 1999 he was just as clever and just as smart.

The backing tracks are even better. It's the perfect live-instrumentation hip-hop album; a holy grail that wasn't supposed to exist. It's pure energy and a non-stop fast-paced thrill ride that doesn't just preach but also inspires one to action.

But after my pounding heart slows down and my adrenalin rush subsides the The Battle of Los Angeles moves me towards melancholy. Why did it lead to nothing, why did it pair with a slow reactionary like Michael Moore, and why did it disappear from our memory?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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