Man, the world is such a cynical crappy place. It’s enough to make me sick. There’s actually a (very, very small but vocal) backlash coming my way for this benefit show (for those of you not up to speed, Lawrence Arms, Dead to Me and Blind Staggers are doing a benefit for the girls that got beaten with bats while stumbling home from a bucktown bar last week) which, you know what? I knew would happen. Here’s the deal:
Cynicism is so much easier to cultivate than enthusiasm or genuine emotion. People my age and younger grew up (and are growing up) in a time where technology has made everyone a target market and where marketing people have figured out how to turn philanthropy into profits and food drops into advertisements and there’s a new duplicity to everything that just didn’t used to exist. It’s the result of the evolution of extremely savvy marketing teams, and it’s not a malicious deal, it’s just the way the world has progressed.
Think about how unusual corporate synergy used to be. Nike teaming up with Coke to do an event or co-sponsor each other’s products, for example, was a crazy notion when I was a kid, but now there are commercials for oh, I dunno, Ritz crackers and Netflix (“watch your favorite movie with your favorite cracker!” [this is made up, by the way. Hands off Nabisco!]) and people advertise that there will be free Axe body spray at the Palms in Vegas for two weeks which gets people into the Palms and gets people wearing Axe all at once.
Pepsi drops food in some crappy desert for some fly covered children and the main thrust of the entire operation is so people see the pepsi logos and think “wow, I’ll drink pepsi! What good people.” But most of us look at that and say, ‘wow. That sucks. Pepsi is exploiting western/white guilt and African/third world poverty just to make sure that they sell more pepsi and don’t have to pay taxes to boot. Fucked up.”
So yeah. It’s a crazy world. And there’s nothing worse than being excited about something (“I love pepsi for their philanthropy and general commitment to the increased quality of life for all people on the planet”) and then feeling the glee radiating off some smug dipshit who wants nothing more than to poke a hole in your little bubble. (“Oh! Pepsi! Good people? Wake up, bro! Ever hear of the Salvadorian death squads? That’s Pepsi. Ever hear of child onset diabetes? Pepsi. Ever hear of John Wayne Gacy? The dude that hit the girls with the bats? Global warming? Oil spils? Pepsi. Pepsi. Pepsi. Pepsi. Pepsi” [editorial note: pepsi is a big, bad company that markets and feeds a very dangerous product to unsuspecting children and fat folk and they’re probably involved in some shady global dealings and all that. I’m sure they are. However, I don’t know if they have any connection to el Salvador, per se…just an off the cuff example of some asshole bursting some naïve young dork’s bubble. So relax.])
So it’s no surprise that when we announced this benefit a few folks piped in with shit like “um, there’s lots and lots of people getting mugged and beaten in Chicago every day. Most of them black, most of the crimes unreported, and most of them on the south side. How come the Lawrence Arms is picking these particular victims? Because the girls are white? Why don’t you do benefits for other victims, maybe ones who need it more? This is bullshit!”
Okay, so I expected that. Sadly, yes. I did. There’s no way to do something nice in this world anymore without people either searching for the ulterior motive or pointing out the ways in which what you’re doing (and being praised for doing) is actually not all that good, and everyone ‘should all stop sucking your balls because you made one dumb, inconsequential probably racist and certainly ignorant little magnanimous gesture, because really, it’s actually totally fucked up.’
And it’s hard to know how to respond. Because it’s not these people’s fault that they’re so cynical. That’s the way we all are. BUT this is still the argument of an asshole, and as such, it’s not really worth addressing, BUT this cynicism is so toxic that to let it completely go just breeds more cynicism vis a vis the dildos around this loudmouth who think “wow, brent is right! These assholes ARE self serving peckerheads who have no fucking idea about their own town until one of their precious little white friends gets beaten up. Hey Lawrence Arms! Welcome to Chicago! (chugs $6 PBR from a can and high fives)”.
AND it’s important to nip this kind of cynicism in the bud BUT it’s very easy to argue from a cynical perspective (that’s why it’s such a popular perspective and why lazy people are so often the biggest cynics. It’s also a cultural salve for the lazy. If you’re personally doing nothing, it’s easier to take a cynical perspective and point out the flaws in what someone is doing than to examine why you’d rather just criticize than get involved. AND, yeah there’s problems with everything. There’s no way to just fix the world wholesale, and as a last resort cynics tend to throw out this hail mary argument and it’s pretty unbeatable. “well, yeah. Now there’s free healthcare in this country but we’ve still got a crumbling infrastructure” even though those are not the same problems, it sounds good and voila! There’s outrage, cynics feel like they won, and here’s the best part: cynics, by definition don’t have to listen to your counter arguments or give them any weight, because they’re [wink-wink] more cynical, smarter and more tuned into what’s actually going on than you, random dumbass.)
SOOOOOOO, what to do? What to say? How bout this:
“Thanks for telling me how it is in Chicago you fucking asshole. I had no idea. In my decades of living in this city it never occurred to me that there was anyone else in it but the blueblood uppercrust that I grew up going to cotillions and caviar tastings with. So thanks for that.
Black people? I’ve heard of em. Sounds like they’re a wonderful people and I’m sorry that their city-state seems to be in a perpetual state of muggings and civil war. Know what they could probably use? Some jet skis, because man, NO ONE is pissed off if they’re riding a jet ski. That’s a promise. SO, tell em to buy themselves some jet skis, and I’d say that’s pretty much solved.
“As for these girls: I’ve said before, I don’t know anything about these girls. They could be rich, they could be poor. I don’t know a god damn thing about them except that one’s from Ireland, and they’ve got some connection to UIC grad school. Oh, and this too: They’re in my community getting beaten very severely and they obviously need help and I’m doing what very little I can to provide it for them and show some folks a good time in the process. What a fucked up thing.”
(On a kind of a tangentially related side note):
You know, it’s like the fucking crazy backlash that these celebrities get when they adopt these kids from third world countries (not that I’m attempting to compare playing a show and adopting and caring for a child for 18 years. They’re both just plagued by a similar brand of cynicism). People actually get snide and shitty and shit talk these celebrities. Now, I’ve got no special love for Madonna or Angelina Jolie-Pitt, or anything, and I’m not here to defend my fave celebs blindly, but um…I can’t think of something more selfless and awesome than taking a child out of a terribly disadvantaged situation and providing them with a new, good life.
People say things in response like “Well, it’s not like they’re taking care of the kids. They’re celebs and they’ve got nannies and shit.” To that I say so fucking what? Where would you rather be raised? Mansion in Malibu by some of the most experienced caregivers in the world or in an orphanage in the desert of Kenya? Kind of a no brainer there.
Then they say “well, they’re just doing it for the publicity” and again the response is so what? These people are VASTLY improving the quality of life of a human being and that’s a laudable thing to do, regardless of what you (a stranger, by the way) thinks their motives may or may not be.
Next, the notion that ‘hey, that money could be spread around and they could help the whole community’ is pretty funny too, since you just KNOW that the Kenyan bureaucracy that distributes wealth to the destitute is a right on and praiseworthy, corruption-free organization. I’m sure that all the money would be well spent and accounted for. And anyway, leaving that aside, it’s not as though the notion that you could maybe build a school or something makes the fact that you adopted a child any less of an incredibly wonderful thing to do.
Finally, there’s the last notion: that ‘hey Madonna! There’s plenty of poor kids right here in America! Why you gotta go to Africa to get one? What about your community?” to this, I’d say, ‘um, hey asshole. Kids is kids. Helping in your community is great (we’re playing a benefit show in our community (at Subterranean) for some people who got mugged right in our community on May 19th. , but know what? It’s cool to do shit for people that live outside your community too. Like if, for example I’d ever heard of the southside before yesterday and had known that there were people getting hurt over there before they all got their jet skis. I could have done something for them, and you’d approve of that, right? Sure you would.
In closing, can we just please be less complete assholes, just for a minute? That would be cool. I’ve got this new person showing up here soon and I’d like her to think that this place isn’t just all snide dicks motherfucking each other for every reason under the sun, at least at first.