Wednesday, May 5, 2010

concerning cynicism

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.

Thanks, y’all.

38 comments:

Zac said...

This whole post is so full of win.

JSIN said...

Fuck 'Em Beex! You're doing good!

cwl157 said...

Dude, I wouldn't let them get to you. People will find ways to shoot down anything. Your doing it because its in your community and your supporting your community. Its in my community too, which i also support and therefore, will see you on the
19th.

boringdan said...

That last paragraph (in particular) is one of my favourite things I've ever read on here.

Way to do some good. Fuck whoever tries dismissing that.

Toto said...

FUCK THEM, fuck them up the ass.
that's the answer they deserve.fuck them.
you are doing the right thing,that's the only thing that matters, they are masturbating to star wars and cumming into cheetos packages.

by the way, when will i have a benefit show for my elbow surgery and for living in a third world country ????
just kidding!

Garfield Roscoe said...

This is the best post of the year. There is a philosophical theory that involves "re-interpreting motives" to prove that an action is selfish. Basically it boils down to "you did x, and so you must have wanted to do x. By doing x, you've merely done what gave you the most happiness, and so every action is done out of selfishness." (It's been a while since I was in school, cut me some slack.) Awesome post, my favorite, possibly ever.

Dan said...

Bravo!

Bridgett said...

My view on this is that the benefit is for those two girls, and the money is gonna be used for whatever they need it for. The chick from Ireland probably has no health insurance, and if they're in school they just missed out on a semester of school. Now if you wanted to help the people on the south side, that's also great, but who do you donate money to? The police? The National Guard? Hospitals? You can't just say, "hey we're having a benefit because we're sick of the shit going on on the south side, so this money can only be used on that!"

On a lighter note, Toby should set up a hugging booth, a dollar a hug, because I'd get in on that. I dunno, I see him on that show ya'll do on JBTV and he looks squeezable. Like a pack of Charmin. Anybody? How about a dunk booth, that'd be fun.

Some Young Guy said...

i think it's fucked up that you're doing a benefit show for publicity when you could have been adopting a kid from the south side.

sheila said...

if you opt out of naming your new kid candice sheila, i had a KILLER idea...

CHARLIE KELLY!!!

i've always loved boys names for girls, plus, there's that other reference...

Scott said...

you know, these are the same people that go to shows and only want to hear songs from the first album, or from the bands old band. They sit there and talk the whole time and wear glasses that don't have a prescription in them, they complain about the govt. but do not vote, they wear "vintage" clothes but then buy an iphone....

dustyfloors said...

There's always someone.
Great post!

bobbibowers said...

Cynics be damned. Fuck 'em. On with the show.

Well done.

Mark said...

You know I wasn't lyin' when I said I rode the jet skis in Cabo.

j said...

I thought you were doing the show so you can groom one (or both you big stud you) of the girls as Candice's replacement... you know, cause rockstars only care about getting girls... and gettin high on the crack cocaine... and lookin flashy in them music videos...

Moxie. said...

awwww dang. Time to throw down. Fuck people who talk smack about the genuinely good intentions of others. What's satisfying is that in the end, though their numbers are large, nothing is lonelier than being a self-involved, ignorant asswipe.

Jennifer said...

I think it is wonderful what you guys are doing, and besides, I don't see anyone else stepping up to the plate to help these girls? Fuck the naysayers, be proud of what you are doing to help some people who are in a really fucked up situation.

Candice said...

Sheila- love the name ideas! Particularly, the first one.

J- why the fuck would I need to be replaced?!? I'm in the prime of my life.

Dan- you spelled favorite wrong.

Jesus said...

Stick it to 'em man. Beat those bitches with baseball bats!

..Wait.

same old S.O.S. said...

Hey! I'm Salvadorian and my family fled those death squads...should I not have been drinking Pepsi? Oops.

But whatever, man. You keep your head up about the benefit. Those girls are in great need and it's honorable you're stepping up to do something. There will always be naysayers, they're about as certain as death and taxes.

p.s. name your kid after me. It's Silvia. You can spell it with a "y", I don't care.

Blake said...

Some Young Guy- You are exactly what he was talking about. Quit giving such lazy criticisms, you fukken asshole.

Drew said...

There's nothing wrong with a little healthy skepticism... especially in this world of ubiquitous convolution.

kylewagoner said...

For this, I clap.

Matt said...

The sad state of affairs in the country is that no matter what you do, people will shit on it. We will never get rid of these assholes, so you just have to learn how to live with them. I think having a benefit show for these girls is amazing. People bitching about you only stepping up to help these girls are missing the point that you are stepping up the help someone in need. I'm sure there are tons of people on the southside of Chicago that need help, but you can't help everyone in the world.

I'm 25 years old, and have grown up in NYC tri-state area my entire life, and have my fare share on interaction with the homeless. Anytime I can afford it, I'll try and help someone out by buying them a sandwich or something to drink, because hey, some people just need a little help in life. I've never given a homeless person money because chances are someone who refuses food and takes money wants booze or drugs, things I'm not willing to pay for. But if you are a hungry guy on the streets, I'll get you something to eat and a cup of coffee, and hopefully make your day a little easier.

It never hurts to help a little.

Drew said...

If the man wants booze or drugs, get him some booze or drugs!

balls yo said...

I'm coming to the show! Can't fucking wait! Last night Megan gave the ring back :( she said its all on her, she's being selfish and is conflicted and doesn't know why she feels this way.
So, look for me at the show...I will be the guy shaking in the middle of the room, crying and throwing up on myself.
Last night I took my 1st rape shower.

Can't wait to get outta phoenix and into a tour of chicago. I'm not afraid of chicago...we got sherriff joe in AZ.

Owner Operator said...

i used to have a dilema that went along the lines of: "if you're doing something good for the wrong reasons is it still good?" because a friend of mine was vegan purely because her boyfriend was...

and then another friend of mine put it this way... "is she eating less animals?"
my answer "yes"
him "is it good to eat less animals?"
me "yes"
him "so whats your fucknig problem for fucks sake stop being an fucknig superior arsehole!"
me "ok... ig et it... no need for the bad language, there's kids around"

of course this is all paraphrased and poorly spelt but you get the drift. doing good for the wrong reasons is still doing good. fucking hippy-crite (see what i did there?)

much love. fuck the haters.

wv: renta
...it's what the italian man pays the land lorda

Bridgett said...

@Balls yo That's harsh, man. But I definitely think a good Larry Arms show will cheer you up. Maybe you'll see some tits. Not mine though, I don't think too many people are into that. But you know.

@Beex So I've only seen y'all play in concert twice, once of those being that sweet, sweet 10th anniversary show, and I would like to make a song request. I would like to hear "Devil's Takin' Names" and I don't have a good story as to why you should, but I'll take a shot. I can't drink, so I'll be going to this show sober. So if there's one song y'all can stumble your way though, I'd appreciate it! Thanks!

Joshua said...

hilarious. i even liked the co-opting of the daniel tosh jet ski stand-up routine.

finchdert said...

Hey Brendan,
Definitely agree with your statements regarding the cynical views about your benifit show.
However a healthy dose of cynicism and criticism can be quite constructive in analysing the underlying structural causes of many issues we in the world face today. For example I'm sure employees of the IMF and World Bank can point to examples of successful development projects that have benefited certain communities. Does that mean we simply stop questioning the motives and workings of the institutions these well meaning individuals may work for? Are Angelina Jolie and Madonna, the means they accrued their wealth and the marketing of third world poverty exempt from criticism simply because they adopted children? This may not apply in the case of Angelina and Madonna but in my country (Australia) many Indigenous people were removed and adopted to white families by well meaning nurses, religious officials and social workers in the hope that they may have a better life. The ramifications of these actions have been greatly negative and resulted in displaced stolen generations with loss of identity and culture.
I understand your point about how easy and lazy it is to be cynical and become armchair critics - we all do it at times. I just wanted to stress that healthy cynicism and criticism is necessary if we as individuals and a community are to evolve and move forward towards a more egalitarian and equitable world.
Good luck with the show man and most importantly your baby. Each of your albums have been a soundtrack to some stage of my life.
Cheers!!
Ryan

limited nobility said...

Dude drew,'world of ubiquitous convolution' is totally my fave system of a down jam!

Karen Kitten Cupcake Sweet said...

i would like to hear more about ball sucking.
you still do that advice column right beeks? right?
ahem..
check your email?

Sean said...

wait... did someone post in yesterday's drawer saying some douchey stuff or something? I didn't see anything (maybe I missed it...)

or was this posted somewhere else? I'd like to read these comments and witness this douchebaggery for myself...

And balls yo: I'll show you MY tits if you want.... I mean, I'm no CANDICE, but I think I'm somewhere around an A cup?

FranklinStein said...

instead of Ayyyyyyyyyymen, I say Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow.

Candice said...

karen- i know a lot about ball sucking.

Karen Kitten Cupcake Sweet said...

candice.. really? cause i sent beeks an email about what techniques to use ( or what the fuck you are supposed to do with em in your mouth!) but i think hes pretty busy with his baby momma..
any advice?

Moxie. said...

i think cynicism has its place but at others it's acceptable to just acknowledge that people are doing good things just to do them, not with any ulterior motive or benefit to them.

Candice said...

karen- i started writing this really long description of what i do and then reread it and thought it was a bit too graphic. i know, even for me. i can email you a guide to what works for me if you'd like!