Last year, Latin America’s best known painter released a series of tremendously powerful paintings. “This conduct by the Americans was a total shock for me,” Botero told a Colombian magazine, “I am increasingly sensitive to injustice, which makes my blood boil, and these paintings were born from the anger provoked by this horror.

“I had no commercial intention in painting these works. I produced them purely to say something about the horror. And since all art is communication, it’s more important that they are seen in museums and big public exhibitions than that they are hidden away in the house of a private collector.”

abu-ghraib-1.jpgabu-ghraib-3.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

At a recent show, De La Rocha – of Rage Against the Machine – said “and this current administration is no exception. They should be hung, and tried, and shot.” Conservatives like Hannity and Coulter are having a shit fit, pretending that his comments are a culmination of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi’s anti-Bush sentiment.

De La Rocha is a rare and powerful voice in the American mainstream. His message is at times reactionary, but his prowess as a singer and songwriter give him the unique ability to popularize a leftist, anti-government message. As such, I have posted my two favorite Rage Against the Machine videos:

Testify

Sleep Now in the Fire

Whitey on the Moon

May 1, 2007

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.

Her face and arms began to swell and Whitey’s on the moon.

I can’t pay no doctor bills but Whitey’s on the moon.

Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still while Whitey’s on the moon.

 

The man just upped my rent last night cuz Whitey’s on the moon.

No hot water, no toilets, no lights but Whitey’s on the moon.

I wonder why he’s uppin me. Cuz Whitey’s on the moon?

I was already givin’ him fifty a week but now Whitey’s on the moon.

 

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,

The junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,

The price of food is goin’ up,

And as if all that shit wasn’t enough:

 

A rat done bit my sister Nell with Whitey on the moon.

Her face and arms began to swell but Whitey’s on the moon.

Was all that money I made last year for Whitey on the moon?

How come there ain’t no money here? Hmm! Whitey’s on the moon.

 

Ya know, I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon.

I think I’ll send these doctor bills

airmail special….

to Whitey on the moon.

 

– Gil Scott Heron

 

 

Heron does a wonderful job here. I think ‘Whitey on the Moon’ refers to both the American obsession with space exploration (which is contrasted with very personal, Early troubles) and the clueless state of white-Americans living in the suburbs. This racial double entente is what gives the work an acerbic edge.

 

Conservative America is always decrying the constant stream of sex and violence which is part and parcel of American media. And they are on to something. The major media corporations in this country control and manufacture American culture. Now, this isn’t new and has been critiqued since the founding of the Frankfurt school, but as the scale and power of the American Culture Machine is currently unprecedented in our history it deserves continued attention.

What the recent Don Imus affair illustrated was how integral major media corporations are to the dissemination and propagation of American culture. Most black-Americans didn’t know who Don Imus was before his scandal and indeed many still don’t. This is because bigots like Imus, Hannity and O’Reilly are never speaking to or heard by most of black America. That population, especially black youth, are targeted by an entirely different sector of the corporate media-entertainment complex: hip-hop.

In this country life imitates art. Corporate manufactured popular culture is the single strongest influence in this society and hip-hop is one of its mainstays. Every child I know can sing the lyrics to a whole host of songs which promote misogyny, racial pigeonholing and violent machismo. But where are these songs coming from? Leaders in the industry like Russell Simmons continue to claim that this trend is a reaction to real conditions on the street and in the American ghetto. If so, then where is the legitimate social commentary, the outrage? If this music is a product of the black American ghetto – an environment created by 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow – why is this never explicitly dealt with in mainstream rap? It is on the tip of everyone’s tong in black communities across America, but receives no attention from those who are supposedly reflecting the black-American condition.

Last year, on the eve of Louis Farrakhan’s “Million More March,” South East Washington, DC – a highly segregated, all black area – was littered with signs calling for the payment of reparations to black-Americans. Why isn’t this reflected in the popular hip-hop which dominates our airwaves? Before we answer this question, it is important to note that this is not the fault of the artistic community. There are voices which reflect a wide variety of sentiments, but only a sliver of the spectrum is picked up by major American media. For obvious reasons, corporations are interested in signing and promoting artists who appeal to suburban white teenagers, something which authentic voices addressing conditions in the American ghetto would be unable to offer.

What are we to do then? Should the government regulate misogynistic, racist or violent material? US regulation of music and culture is the last thing we need. But we do need more diverse voices. The only way we will see more female, revolutionary or angry voices, however, is if we vote with our dollars. The music industry is in the midst of a radical transformation, but will there be space in the new, internet era of music for voices which champion justice and peace? Yes, but only if we stop worshiping and buying the albums of those who – while claiming to address what is “real” – only pollute our culture with homophobia, chauvinism and violence.

Said the Presidential Skeleton
I won’t sign the bill
Said the Speaker skeleton
Yes you will

Said the Representative Skeleton
I object
Said the Supreme Court skeleton
Whaddya expect

Said the Miltary skeleton
Buy Star Bombs
Said the Upperclass Skeleton
Starve unmarried moms

Said the Yahoo Skeleton
Stop dirty art
Said the Right Wing skeleton
Forget about yr heart

Said the Gnostic Skeleton
The Human Form’s divine
Said the Moral Majority skeleton
No it’s not it’s mine

Said the Buddha Skeleton
Compassion is wealth
Said the Corporate skeleton
It’s bad for your health

Said the Old Christ skeleton
Care for the Poor
Said the Son of God skeleton
AIDS needs cure

Said the Homophobe skeleton
Gay folk suck
Said the Heritage Policy skeleton
Blacks’re outa luck

Said the Macho skeleton
Women in their place
Said the Fundamentalist skeleton
Increase human race

Said the Right-to-Life skeleton
Foetus has a soul
Said Pro Choice skeleton
Shove it up your hole

Said the Downsized skeleton
Robots got my job
Said the Tough-on-Crime skeleton
Tear gas the mob

Said the Governor skeleton
Cut school lunch
Said the Mayor skeleton
Eat the budget crunch

Said the Neo Conservative skeleton
Homeless off the street!
Said the Free Market skeleton
Use ’em up for meat

Said the Think Tank skeleton
Free Market’s the way
Said the Saving & Loan skeleton
Make the State pay

Said the Chrysler skeleton
Pay for you & me
Said the Nuke Power skeleton
& me & me & me

Said the Ecologic skeleton
Keep Skies blue
Said the Multinational skeleton
What’s it worth to you?

Said the NAFTA skeleton
Get rich, Free Trade,
Said the Maquiladora skeleton
Sweat shops, low paid

Said the rich GATT skeleton
One world, high tech
Said the Underclass skeleton
Get it in the neck

Said the World Bank skeleton
Cut down your trees
Said the I.M.F. skeleton
Buy American cheese

Said the Underdeveloped skeleton
We want rice
Said Developed Nations’ skeleton
Sell your bones for dice

Said the Ayatollah skeleton
Die writer die
Said Joe Stalin’s skeleton
That’s no lie

Said the Middle Kingdom skeleton
We swallowed Tibet
Said the Dalai Lama skeleton
Indigestion’s whatcha get

Said the World Chorus skeleton
That’s their fate
Said the U.S.A. skeleton
Gotta save Kuwait

Said the Petrochemical skeleton
Roar Bombers roar!
Said the Psychedelic skeleton
Smoke a dinosaur

Said Nancy’s skeleton
Just say No
Said the Rasta skeleton
Blow Nancy Blow

Said Demagogue skeleton
Don’t smoke Pot
Said Alcoholic skeleton
Let your liver rot

Said the Junkie skeleton
Can’t we get a fix?
Said the Big Brother skeleton
Jail the dirty pricks

Said the Mirror skeleton
Hey good looking
Said the Electric Chair skeleton
Hey what’s cooking?

Said the Talkshow skeleton
Fuck you in the face
Said the Family Values skeleton
My family values mace

Said the NY Times skeleton
That’s not fit to print
Said the CIA skeleton
Cantcha take a hint?

Said the Network skeleton
Believe my lies
Said the Advertising skeleton
Don’t get wise!

Said the Media skeleton
Believe you me
Said the Couch-potato skeleton
What me worry?

Said the TV skeleton
Eat sound bites
Said the Newscast skeleton
That’s all Goodnight

– Allen Ginsberg

For No Reason

April 24, 2007

I

Emerging from a stormy sea of anguish

Fog of voiceless hallucinations ill our streets

Men stumble with glacial laziness

Salt oblivion

Rain falls for no reason and we too

With docile inflections

Coins jingle and

Neckties enumerate the almosts of destiny

Running with their deaths

Children in their heads

But youth has been worn out and will not wake again

Corporate syrup fills quivering nostrils instead

Nocturnal peace without leprosy is rare

Carnage

Rusting teeth

 

II

Dark winter

Blighted fruits

Quantum numbers

Have dug under the foundations

Gypsies huddle beneath bridges

The cold night has carved long scars into our muscles

Anatomy of interrupted moments

Proclaimed by an unadvertised god

Strewn by the furnace of our sun

Cordless temples

Breathless dew

Painful nonchalance

Dance

Shout

Smash

 

III

In muffled absence

Rippled songs turn

Rapture

The spasm of jaws

Uncured in bitter pharmacies

The rain falls for no reason and we too

A desert of phantom casualties

Blood sand wax

Disemboweled purity

From the backs of crystal elephants

Visions of a decomposing façade

BANG BANG

Victims of zinc and petrol vertigo

Midwives of freedom lost in cotton forests

Padlocked fingers remember the ambitions of morning

The rain falls for no reason and we too

The spasm of grief

Told in unknown friendships

Hidden in viscous wrinkles

Embroidered by cannon fire

Spoken in alcoholic tongues

A horizon of

The end of history

 

 

Haditha

April 23, 2007

Men drive down
A silent road
Their hides are brown
Their wives to be widowed

A marine corporal is dead
From a road side bomb
In the wake of his bloodshed
Will rage a new type of pogrom

The car rolls to a halt
Meal soars through the air
Blood covers the asphalt
Contrary to the laws of warfare

The order is given
“These sand niggers will pay”
All present must have doubted
But pressed on to obey

First was a young daughter
Who fought to survive
Here began the slaughter
Of Haditha, 2005

From their it spread
Throughout the town
24 innocent dead
Before sundown

But who is at fault
When a man trained to unflinchingly kill
Must suddenly halt
Of his own free will

With a good friend dead
In plain sight
Murder one normally dreads
Begins to seem light

Too much was asked
Of men too young
Powerful criminals are masked
Still praised and sung

But in this tragedy
What America must see
Is that our occupation kills not just in Haditha
But civilians daily