Litany of How the World Sucks

I’ve recently been hooked on an artist called Janelle Monáe.  You may have heard of her: she’s a fantastic singer and dancer currently working on a four-part series of albums about her android character, Cindi Mayweather, being persecuted and then leading the androids of Metropolis to freedom.  It’s a pretty neat sci-fi theme, but is certainly rooted in real-world problems in black and other marginalized communities.  Anyway, one of her more fantastic music videos is the short film “Many Moons”.  It stars Cindi Mayweather as the prototype of the Alpha Platinum 9000 line of androids, auctioned off at a high-stakes high-class gathering of some of the bigger names in the Metropolitan community.  At 3:39, though, things go awry in her “programming”, and she sees what living in the world can really be like.

The fast-paced lyrics for this part of the song:

Civil rights, civil war
Hood rat, crack whore
Carefree, nightclub
Closet drunk, bathtub
Outcast, weirdo
Stepchild, freak show
Black girl, bad hair
Broad nose, cold stare

Tap shoes, Broadway
Tuxedo, holiday
Creative block, love song
Stupid words, erased song
Gun shots, orange house
Dead man walking with a dirty mouth
Spoiled milk, stale bread
Welfare, bubonic plague

Record deal, light bulb
Keep-back kid, now corporate thug
Breast cancer, common cold
HIV, lost hope
Overweight, self esteem
Misfit, broken dream
Fish tank, small bowl
Closed minded, dark hold

Cybergirl, droid control
Get away now they trying to steal your soul
Microphone, one stage
Tomboy, outrage
Street fight, bloody war
Instigators, third floor
Promiscuous child, broken heart
STD, quarantine

Heroin needle, coke head
Final chapter, death bed
Plastic sweat, metal skin
Metallic tears, mannequin
Carefree, night club
Closet drunk, bathtub
White House, Jim Crow
Dirty lies, my regards

In no time, in each line, Janelle Monáe describes whole scenes of day-to-day life for people in all walks of life, from the blissful and high-brow to the most vulgar and depraved.  Bringing up plights of the poor, the sick, the misguided, and the trapped, she drives home what is driving Cindi Mayweather onto freeing people from their own plights and leading them to a better world.  More often than not, it’s their own trappings that keep them trapped (“you’re free, but in your mind your freedom’s in a bind”), their own upbringing causing vicious cycles passed down onto the next generation, and the one after that, ad infinitum.

This is the crucial part of the song, I think, that really answers one of the central questions of the whole Archandroid project: why is she doing this?  Because the world sucks.  The world hurts, the world is unfair, and most importantly, the world is our creation.  The world is not the same as the Earth (the material realm we live in) or the Cosmos (the sum of all experiences, all places, all thoughts, all of which consist in the All).  The world, quoth Margaret Case in the comic series “Promethea”, is “our systems, our politics, our economies, our ideas of the world…it’s our flags and our banknotes and our border wars”.  The world is how we’ve decided to make use of the places we work in and the resources and people we work with.  And, frankly, we’re not doing a very good job of it.  When companies put profit of their CEOs before well-being of their clients, when countries fight in other countries instead of helping them build, when institutions degrade human beings based on superficial attributes like color or creed or orientation, when people fight or struggle against each other for anything but the common and shared good of themselves, we’re doing it wrong.  It leads to starvation, discrimination, murder, sorrow, grief, and despair.

We need to remember humanity, both that of ourselves and the others around us.  We need to remember that, no matter how much we may dislike someone, they have a mother who gave birth to them, dreams and aspirations that lead them, fears and worries that tie them down.  We need to remember our race, heritage, and value, and we need to reclaim these things.  That’s the entire goal, according to Plotinus, because once we do that we remember who we are, and we remember to work with each other instead of against each other.  Once we awaken to what the world outside our little bubbles can be like, once we get our freedom out of the bind we’ve put it in, only then can we really be free to start working in and on the world, making ours better, and thereby making the shared world we all have better.

I’m adopting that set of lyrics above as a personal litany, a reminder that the world is not perfect and this shows how.  This is a display of the symptoms, not the causes; it’s up to me to figure out what causes underlie why the world sucks and how I can fix the ones I can tackle.  That’s not just my job: that’s the role of any magician.  Hell, that’s the role of any human being.  This is our Job.

Get to Work.

One response

  1. Pingback: Get Off Your Ass and Work: Magic and Politics | The Digital Ambler

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