As an artist, I take it as read that traditional forms of art presuppose reactionary ideas and most easily transmit them. Poetry with traditional structures (rhyme, meter, fixed forms) is included here. It is not impossible for revolutionary forms to be bootstrapped in, but it is always with difficulty and feels forced. Lyricists who move beyond the Ke$ha level of rhythmic innuendo spiced with imperfect rhyme will run into the essential problem that revolutionary ideas sound silly, trite, or ironic if presented in ballad form. A proper tragedy however almost begs for verse, even a highly structured and stylized verse. The amusing part about a musician such as Mozart or Beethoven is that inasmuch as they were trying to push revolutionary ideas, their art form worked against them; despite their feeling for revolutionary ideas (consider The Marriage of Figaro or The Magic Flute) their works have become inextricably conservative, existing in a tension between the reactionary harshness inherent in the formal style and the liberalism of their intellectual ideals.
There was a tragedy recently. There is really no other word for it from my perspective; a host of factors contributed to the loss of a handful of lives in a very sudden, violent and seemingly preventable fashion. For posterity’s sake, I’m referring to the case of Elliot Rodger. Now as a background, these sorts of tragedies are by no means strange to America; the Columbine shootings which are in our time considered a watershed event are nothing but an inflection point on a graph going upwards, a graph which contains many points prior to that one, cases of young men running amok, taking lives and often their own with weapons or explosives because they could no longer cope with reality in another way.
The strange irony of the song above (“Hand to Mouth”) is the first stanza of its lyrics:
Jimmy got nothing made himself a name
With a gun that he polished for a rainy day
A smile and a quote from a vigilante movie
Our boy Jimmy just blew them all away
He said it made him crazy
Twenty five years living hand to mouth
Hand to mouth, hand to mouth, hand to mouth
Far from being prophetic, George Michael’s tragic ballad of people worshiping at the feet of America hoping hopelessly for salvation is simply historic. And the first verse is a kind of witness stone, letting us know that we already knew this was a problem in 1987, the year Faith hit the stands. In 25 years did we solve the problem?
The second link shows part of the bizarre show Western anglophone society’s sexual relations have become; facts that men like Elliot Rodger would have seen as compounding their feelings of alienation; the men who have, have in abundance, but those who do not have, what they have is taken away from them. There could be some argument from a ‘Game’ perspective that this shows that traditional sexual mores are outmoded and all men need to treat a woman like they would a man (in this case, everyone around should apply what they did to the male attacker to the female attacker) but this is beside the point — Rodger, like a lot of men, considers ‘Game’ to be a kind of cheating and despite their lack of traditional sensibility recognize its acidic effect on society and reject it. It almost takes a traditional sensibility to grok the state of society and believe that it needs to be dissolved instead of preserved.
Rodger may or may not have been mentally ill; my bets are that he wasn’t, but may have been a personality more predisposed to it than others. It is clear he was out of his mind at the end, as all men who are Amok are. After all, the wrongs that he had felt during his life were not going to be rectified by injuring and killing a few random people; and if somehow they were, he would never know it, not believing in an afterlife (as far as I know) and unlikely to live through such an event.
This however doesn’t mean that he was not wronged, just that he had, like men who are Amok, constructed in his mind a way that doing something violent and cathartic and self destructive would in fact rectify those wrongs. I speak as a person who knows this feeling, the feeling of wanting to lash out in anger at an injustice, but recalling that the productivity of such an action towards my desired end is basically nil.
The fact that he had been in therapy for a long time has been given as evidence of his mental illness, but the level of mental illness necessary to receive treatment in our society is so minor as to be equivalent to ‘bad nerves’ in a prior era. It’s evident that whatever his therapy and treatment did, it didn’t correct his tendency to nurse grievances, to forgive the uncountable microaggressions against his person he had perceived for so many years.
This is an emotional truth, one which Rodger shares with feminists and other post modern grievance groups, this feeling of “Twenty five years living hand to mouth” (check out the #yesallwomen hashtag for this emotional flavor.) His manifesto bleeds with it like a Romantic journal leaks with desire to be free of the strictures of dispassion. America may or may not be ‘no country for old men’ (originally this was said of Byzantium) but it certainly is no country for weak men. The emotionally weak have all in turn discovered this, and run to the arms of America.
Does one suppose the gods of America will see and help them?