Monday, December 31, 2012

A Revolutionary Year

This year has almost quit and it has been one of various changes in my life, from the superficial to the fundamental.

Perhaps one of the most drastic changes is the fact that soon I will leave my plant job behind to start working as my brother's caretaker. Daniel is 41 years old and totally disabled. Of course his mind is still lazer sharp but his physical difficulties cause him to need help with everyday tasks such as dressing, eating and hygiene. Pending a T.B. test, SLED background check, C.P.R. training and a few other hoops I'll need to jump through, I should be working with Dan full time shortly after the new year.

It's the end of an era and I'm glad for the change. Make no mistake, I'm proud of the time I've spent (about 7 years) as a blue collar worker. In spite of the boredom and the bullshit that goes with working in a factory in South Carolina, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with putting food on your family's table with the work of your own hands. But the job was a dead end, partly because there's no hope of advancement within the company and partly due to the high probability that they will be out of business within a few months.

It's a change that will alter the quality of my life for the better in that I will trade boring, unchallenging work for a highly satisfying job. But it doesn't change me; it doesn't change who I am or what my core principles and the associated values are. Instead, it'll be a line of work that is more harmonious with those principles and values.

About 5 years ago I recognized a lump on my left arm. I almost immediately chose to view this unsightly mass as karma, an accumulation of the negative energy, conflict, anger and frustration I'd experienced. I imagined that I'd cut it away and be a changed person.

Well, I did have it cut out a couple of weeks ago. It turned out to be a lipoma, a harmless fatty tumor that some folks develop. I never let go of my karmic view of it, and although removing an accumulation of psychic negativity makes me feel better, I know that it doesn't change my habits; it doesn't change my core. It doesn't change me.

Late last year, I began planning all my musical activity for 2012. Mainly I set out to package all 6 of my old albums (songs I recorded between 2001-2011) and begin performing again. Of course there were many smaller goals that I didn't finish or even begin, but by and large I did what I set out to do.

Designing the artwork for these albums, making block prints or paintings for the covers, putting together collage inserts and reproducing limited editions of each was immensely satisfying. The 6 shows we played between July and November were a lot of fun too. But again, while these artistic reforms definitely improved my q.o.l., they don't represent any radical change. I've always been dedicated to songwriting and playing wild shows, so adding a bit of management and planning on top of that doesn't change who I am as a musician.

But this year I began to see many things differently. Four years ago I voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election still believing that it would make a difference. There were a million excuses as to why he couldn't pass a universal health care law on par with all the world's other industrial nations or shut down Guantanamo, among other things. Democratic apologists usually point to so-called GOP "roadblocking" but that doesn't account for the supermajority the Dems enjoyed his first 2 years in office. He could have passed damn near any legislation he wanted. But his allegiance to corporations and Wall Street and the unflinching jingoism of this Nobel Peace Prize winner made me dig much, much deeper. Having your beliefs disproved can do that to you. In fits and starts I started grasping at geopolitical consciousness. I want to know more about how the world works, especially the institutions that form our socio-political-economic infrastructure. Cornel West recently called the Prez a "Rockefeller Republican in blackface" and millions chuckled sadly.

Then last summer I saw this picture and everything changed instantly:

In that moment, tears came to my eyes. They flowed down my face. My children - like all children - are innocent. They know nothing of this world that we chose to bring them into and its myriad problems and catastrophes and violences. I silently apologized to my children for having done nothing to improve this world in which they were born. In that instant I vowed to them that I would change my life. I would arm myself with as much knowledge as my little brain could hold, I'd use my power and right to free speech to inform others and I'd get involved in activism. I've felt myself driven to tears nearly every day this past half year as I feel myself more and more awakening to the profound daily suffering of others, which far surpasses anything my family and I will probably ever endure.

With what I know and what I feel, with what I can do with words and with music, I recognize that now is the time for me to act. For the sake of my wife and children and others less fortunate than us I need to resist everything destructive in our society, all of the profiteering and senseless competition, the consumerism and the needless conflict, the onslaught of corporate advertising and the blindness of nationalism. I need to use the information I gain and all my skills to help others to do the same. I need to protest and help organize co-ops. I need to dedicate serious energy to strengthening whatever bonds I have.

This is a deep change. This is a fundamental change.

This is radical.