Friday, December 16, 2005

"I Can't Decide": An Ode to Our Commercial Society

A couple of years ago I thought I might want to be a songwriter. I love music, but I have little aptitude for it, a fact which is frustrated by the musical genius of my twin brother. Armed with my love of music, and my ideas about what a good pop song (as opposed to the crap I hear on the radio) should sound like, I penned some words and told my brother roughly what I wanted the music to sound like ("this is a quarter-time, bluesy feeling tune"; "this one's in six, kind of a rip off of a Sixpence tune," etc). He, of course, mostly disregarded my musical advice and crafted a few songs which felt rather than sounded like what I wanted. We hastily recorded them so that we wouldn't forget them, and haven't really done anything with them since.

This morning, while I was reading Jonathan Sacks' The Dignity of Difference, I thought of one of those ill fated, stillborn songs. In this book Sacks, a Jewish rabbi (is there any other kind of rabbi?), deals with the difficulties of globalization in an attempt to avoid the "clash of civilizations." Here is a passage that I read this morning, which reminded me of my stillborn song:

The great metaphors of our time - the supermarket, cable and satellite television and the Internet - put before us a seemingly endless range of options, each offering the great deal, the best buy, the highest specification, the lowest price. But consumption is a poor candidate for salvation. The very happiness we are promised by buying these designer jeans, that watch or this car, is what the next product assures us we do not yet have until we have bought something else. A consumer society is kept going by an endless process of stimulating, satisfying, and re-stimulating desire. It is more like an addiction than a quest for fulfillment.

My last post - my Christmas list - ought to tell you that, like Sacks, I am observing a trend rather than necessarily condemning it. Or, if I am condemning it then I am also condemning myself, because I certainly crave the endless supply of superficial material goods that our society mistakes for the "good life." Struggling to be an authentic person in this society of contrived goods and services, I wrote a song called "I Can't Decide." It ain't poetry. It's just a pop song, with some blues and some funk mixed in courtesy of my musician brother. But it's the best I could do. Here are the words:

I Can't Decide

I've got 10,000 cell phone plans
But none of them I understand
Too many choices on my hands
I can't decide

Which greaseburger should I eat?
'Want fries with that? How 'bout a drink?
These choices all seal my defeat
I can't decide

No, I can't decide

I pig out at a buffet line
While the starving masses bide their time
I can't see them - I'm doing fine
and I can't decide

Which gas-guzzler should I drive?
As SUVs go nationwide
Wildlife should run and hide
I can't decide

No, I can't decide

As I go through these TV plans
With the satellite and cable man
All my choices seem so bland
and I can't decide

The things that matter are ignored
As I keep choosing more and more
From shiny junk that I can horde
and I can't decide

No, I can't decide (ad nauseum)

Not quite as powerful without the music, but I'm not techno-savvy enough to put music on here, and even if I were I'd have to know you a lot better before I let you hear me sing!


Amy said...

That has a heck of alot more content than any pop songs I hear on the radio... It's a throwback to the great radicals of radio like Pete Seeger. How much fun!

Sandalstraps said...

You can't say stuff like that on the radio because the advertisers would object. What a sad world when commercial entities control even our art. Everything is a commodity.

Tom said...

Don Henley could say it and get somebody to want to use it in a fast food or SUV commercial.

Brian Cubbage said...

Advertisers and multimedia conglomerates will flock to anything that will get people to listen to advertising-- never mind the cognitive dissonance involved in the segue from an anti-consumerist manifesto to an ad for the Lexus "December to Remember" Sales Event (or some such crap). You vastly underestimate the corporate world's ability to co-opt virtually any message. Much as I love punk rock, I realize that much of it exists in order to get kids to pay "the system" for the privilege of fighting it.

Sandalstraps said...

Out on the road today
I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadilac
A voice inside my head said
"Don't look back. You can never look back."

-Don Henley (back when he was cool, and could write)