Thursday, October 29, 2015

One Nation Without a Groove

In 1978, George Clinton's band Funkadelic released what would become it's most successful album, One Nation Under a Groove. In fact, it is the only Funkadelic album to ever reach platinum status (meaning over one million in sales) and has been hailed as one of the greatest albums of all times by Rolling Stone and others. The album opens with it's title track, the seven and half minute R&B number one hit "One Nation Under a Groove." It also contains the very popular "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?!"

The album is a bit of a concept album, insofar as there is a common theme running throughout, consistent with the title of the album. Simply put, that theme might be stated as "everyone is happy, nonjudgmental, and dancing." And the force majeure responsible for this state of existence? Funk music, specifically the music of Funkadelic (and Parliament, to be sure).

It was an unusual motif in the moment (though somewhat shared by the disco genre), as compared to traditional blues music, the hard rock of the seventies, and the still-nascent socially aware music (rock and folk) of the late 60's and early 70's. And it also had a lot of weird elements to it, like extra-terrestrials, but it was an unquestionably effective one for both Parliament and Funkadelic.

And it contrasts sharply with what came before and after it, by and large.

I don't want to overstate all of this, of course. The entire nation was not jamming to Funkadelic in 1978. And that period was hardly one of sunshine and lollipops, in general.

Still, recent events have given me pause and caused me to consider what the fuck is so wrong with this country right now. And I'm not talking so much about events and incidents as I am about general attitudes. There seems to be, in my view, new levels of vitriol and obnoxiousness being reached every day. And for all the talk about partisanship in politics, it seems to me that there is more in our day to day interactions with each other.

To say patience is in short supply in our society would be the understatement of the year. Almost no one can wait for anything, not for a single damn second, without rolling their eyes, making a face, or audibly sighing. Don't believe me? Next time you're in line for anything, watch and listen. Of course to do that—to watch and listen to what's actually going on—one would have to actually stop looking at their goddamn cell phone for a few seconds.

Of course, that would mean not checking what is trending on Twitter, not mocking someone's status update on Facebook, or not checking Instagram to see how many likes one's latest selfie is getting from unknown people, most of whom are probably living in a small village in Upper Mongolia.

But I digress.

Again, no patience. With anything, for anyone. And then there is this constant self-promotion, spurred on by "reality" TV and fifth-tier celebrities who are collectively about as interesting as a cold cup of tomato soup. What has that given us? A potential presidential candidate whose hair looks like a tribble and who can't go ten seconds without bragging about how great he is. Thanks for that, people.

Things have been bad before, the nation has lost its way before to be sure, but I don't know if it's ever been like this. Worst of all, there's no calming influence, there's no one with any credibility to say "slow down," or at least to present a steady and respectable demeanor. There's no segment of society not enveloped in all of this mindless stupidity, no segment that can just look away, go about their business, and live their lives. Not even the Amish.

To prove my point, I give you the clusterfuck that was last night's Republican Debate on CNBC. The moderators were so dimwittedly and arrogantly (a helluva combo) obnoxious that they succeeded in making Trump look sympathetic. They got hardcore leftists to stand up and cheer Ted Cruz.

Why? What were they thinking?

Obviously, all of them—especially John Harwood—were not there to moderate a debate, they were there to get attention by reimagining themselves as pastiches of our self-involved, obnoxious, attention-obsessed society. Those morons are exactly what we have wrought. Like so many others, they mistook belligerence for intelligence, braggadocio for wit, and arrogance for professionalism.

And today, the morning after, the media as a whole is jumping on them for all of this, completely unaware that it is part of the problem. It created this moment of supreme stupidity and it did so by blindly reflecting back the worst aspects of our current culture as things that are important and need to be noted.

Where's the groove? Because this song sucks.

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