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In Defense of 80s Bubblegum Pop

May 16, 2018

…and propaganda.

The song: “Say You, Say Me,” Lionel Richie.

From the movie White Nights, 1985.

Probably two of the more over-produced, cheesy, hokey, mediocre pieces of music and film ever made by Hollywood.

And yet something bleeds through. What is it?

Let’s start from the beginning. It opens with the chorus. Regardless of language and whether or not you know someone’s name, “You and Me” works. “Hey, you” works, even when you don’t know or cannot recall the person’s name on the receiving end of the greeting, warning, or the “I’m about to waste a lot of your time asking for something you don’t want to give” precursor.

Next, some lyrics:

I had a dream,

I had an awesome dream

Impossible to miss the MLK reference here. And yet the film is an over-fictionalized version of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s defection to Canada in 1974 and fears that he could be forced back into the USSR from which he fled.

What’s the dream here? Let’s see.

People in the park

Playing games in the dark

That somehow, the covert action, not-so “Great Game,” The Cold War, was really just a game. Not real, not serious.

And what they played

Was a masquerade

Underlined here. They’re all just wearing masks. They’re hiding their true, human, selves.

And from behind the walls of doubt

A voice was crying out

In the official music video, they added, I assume, Isabella Rossellini crying “Help me!” She is one enchanting actress. Her voice, interestingly, sounds a bit like a young man’s in the video there. What does that have to do with anything?

Well, sometimes the world, for fleeting moments, is merely comprised of two people. How you view the world, because no matter how goddam rational and objective you think you are, it’s still colored by how you feel. It’s unavoidable. A human foible, but true nonetheless.

And it’s a reminder that holding on to anger, which I do, but hope to one day be able to set aside, eats you up inside. It’s hubris, for which none of us are worthy of utilizing since we’re all assholes when it comes down to it. We can be wronged, we can be unjustly punished or even imprisoned, and there is no excuse for that, particularly when it comes from organized criminals who hide behind titles, organizations, and the overarching codeword for Anything Goes/ends-justify-the-means buzzword NATSEC…but that doesn’t mean the victims are altogether innocent of making the world a worse place. Just not being punished properly because a broken, corrupt system has no moral high ground upon which to judge and stand.

But letting some go, because we aren’t perfect and cannot ever really forgive and forget completely, probably not even under hypnosis or mind control, is a better way to live. Just because this and many other pieces of wisdom come from a 2,000 year old guidebook for shepherds does not make it automatically bad advice.

It’s suffering, unfortunately, that makes you remember what is important and what is just so much business-as-usual cockroach scurrying signifying nada. There are no atheists in a sinking boat, it’s said. What does that mean, exactly? It means when you don’t have enough information and are helpless to avoid whatever impending fate seems to be on the horizon, you need to believe in something, even if it’s fictional, or another imperfect person who will at some point, even if only in a small way, let you down. Maybe not the day you really, really need them, but some other day when you’ve forgotten again what’s really important.

So cue the invasion of Normandy here. Or any other ‘humanitarian’ effort the West has done since. The belief that they are helping, even though we all know–even when we bury it–that power has its own agenda that has little to do with the stated reasons. The 17 words. The fact that it often seems oil and things like poppy {or arable land in the case of current/future Africa ventures} “happen” to be available whenever we go to war.

Doesn’t mean some of us aren’t sincere, don’t believe in “the cause,” even though we also know we are going to f*** things up royally in the execution. People are going to die and suffer loss, ensuring that we are going to have to do it again and again. Maybe Sting is right: history will teach us nothing.

Maybe you can’t save the world. But maybe you can save your world. And, because this crazy zen thing is trending in my head…maybe that somehow, eventually equates to the same thing. Kinda sorta.

What next?

As we go down

Life’s lonesome highway

Seems the hardest thing to do

Is to find a friend or two

Never truer when you’re a pariah. But then, I think everyone is a pariah somewhere, sometimes. Fear will do that.

That helping hand

Someone who understands

That when you feel you lost your way

You’ve got someone there to say,

I’ll show you

Isn’t that the point? Yeah, I know the C-word pops up here. “Gee, we know so much better than you noble savage, cuz we got skyscrapers and Starbucks.” We don’t. Not sure anyone else does either, though.

No one gets it just right. And yes, that’s a duble entendre.

Think for a moment about another film: The Lives of Others. Did the surveillance dude lose himself in the daily drama of the family he was watching? Yes.

Why isn’t it also possible for the one being watched to lose his s***, too, then? Why not both? Some things transcend politics, philosophy, law, and even covert action and mind control.

Because that’s the real punchline. Had it not been him, it wouldn’t have worked. I may wait my entire life to see if the reciprocal is true. Who better to understand each other than the Comedian and Moloch, Night Owl 2 and Rorschach, Batman and the Joker, peanut butter and jelly? They complement each other. Two become one.

Wait, we were talking about international and internal politics, economics, etc. All those very serious topics that matter more than two people. Hill of beans like Bogey said. Though I’m tempted to call Congress a Hill of Mr. Beans.

Next!

They break the song up here with an upbeat portion.

So you think you know the answers, oh no

Well the whole world’s got you dancing

That’s right, I’m telling you

Imagine NSA for a moment. All that data. Even with computers–and very, very fast and advanced ones at that–there are shadows behind every corner. We are literally dancing by listening to the entire world. But in that tiresome way that leads to exhaustion and depression when you dare try to take a break.

It’s pretty much the same for any of us when we over-Twitter. We are dancing to the news we see.

More still:

It’s time to start believing, oh yes

Believing who you are, you are a shining star

The big cliche. Believe in who you are. You are a shining star. Just so I don’t lose it, a tweet from yesterday, that seems appropriate:

Confucius says: “We are all like snowflakes. We shall all melt in Hell.”

And yet how can we ever make the world a better place if we don’t believe that we are doing so? If we don’t believe that what we do matters?

It’s perplexing. We dance to power’s tune, fulfilling their dark agendas. But we want to help others. You can believe that about your average American. And Canadian. European. Everyone wants to do right as long as they aren’t completely buried in fear and despair.

Maybe it’s the childlike wonder that goes missing. Danger and pain tend to make us behave in strange ways. From being ferocious and deadly like the Punisher to a wisecracking prankster and yet trying his best like Hawkeye Pierce, we have a wide range of reactions.

I just hope whatshisname remembers whatever it is he needs to. But I’m diverging again.

Humility toward our own greatness, maybe? Is that how we avoid the trap that everyone from Bill Cosby to Bill O’Reilly has fallen into? Power and corruption. Rare that the former does not result in the other. Lord Acton chose those words pretty carefully I think.

And he/they hit the chorus again. I dunno. Maybe it’s brainwashing.

Or maybe it was and still is propaganda. But I can’t help thinking that it’s the falling-apart empires that it’s always about. Not directions on a compass. Not even political and economic philosophy or policy. Just fear of losing it all.

Hard to say. Feel like I lost it all and I feel like I have everything I need at the same time. Makes no goddam sense.

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