Today is the day of reckoning for the USA Presidential Election. Roo said to me last night that she’s not sure that she can take any more disappointment. In the last four years we have had Trump as President, Johnson as Prime Minister, BREXIT and the pandemic. It’s clear that many millions of people in the USA take Trump very seriously, including his invocation to drink bleach to cure coronavirus. The Washington Post reckons that Trump has made over 22 247 lies in 1316 days which is about 17 lies every day. However, in the last few weeks this has increased to 50 lies a day. There is a whole Wikipedia page about the lies he has told. After he won the 2016 election, he promised an investigation into “massive voter fraud”, stating that five million illegal votes had been cast for Hillary Clinton. He offered no proof and he didn’t instigate the investigation. He said this because he gained three million fewer votes than Clinton in the election, thus proving he is a bad winner. Heaven help us all if he loses today’s election. There is serious concern about civil war.
Boris Johnson is not in the same league as Donald Trump – he is much saner, less of a narcissist and more concerned with the good of the country. However, it’s not a very high bar to beat. As Bob Dylan said, it’s like “if you’ve got a cold, take a shot of malaria”. If this second lockdown had been introduced a few weeks ago as the scientists were recommending, many thousands of lives could have been saved.
Listen carefully and you can hear the sighs of the silent, good hearted, majority of people in the UK and the USA. Can these days really be happening? Can things possibly get worse? Are there any positive signs that all the things we enjoy doing can return? A million died to make this sound.
About 44 million citizens of the USA owe a total of $1.5 trillion in student loans. Katie Hyland teaches reading and writing to Eighth Graders in the Bronx and she explained her story to Michael Lewis in one of his brilliant podcasts called “Against The Rules”. She got a degree in English and a Masters in Secondary Education. She had to take out student loans totalling $77 000 in 2007 to pay for her tuition. The loans came from the US Department of Education but they farmed out the management of its loans to an organisation called NAVIENT in the private sector. In 2007, a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programme was passed in law which allowed anyone in the public sector, who made 120 consecutive student loan repayments to write off their loans. NAVIENT didn’t tell Katie about this payment but she heard about this programme from a friend and called them in 2012 to arrange this. When she called them in 2017 to confirm that her repayments should stop, they said she had never asked for her repayments to cease. NAVIENT services $300 billion in student loans. If any loans are written off, they make less money. NAVIENT encouraged their call centre operators to use a seven minute rule – anyone whose calls to public service workers lasted for more than seven minutes was told that their performance wasn’t good enough. In this way, the calls that Katie made to NAVIENT were cut short, she was asked to re submit paperwork, she wasn’t given the full information and her formal request was not properly registered. Katie’s loan increased, with interest, to $120 000.
Is it any wonder that “ordinary” people feel disenchanted with the status quo when the capitalist machinery works to maximise profits for big business at the expense of the individual? Is it any wonder that given a choice of voting for someone who is (purporting to) advocate radical changes in “the system”, people like Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage garner so much support. The truth is that governments have let ordinary people like Katie Hyland down and we shouldn’t assume that anyone who votes for these extreme political figures is an idiot. They can’t see a way out of their predicament and think that anything is better than what they have now. It’s all very well for self-righteous so called liberals (like me) to say that anyone voting for Johnson/Trump/Farage/BREXIT is blind blind blind to the truth but the reality of other people’s lives is not anything we can truly understand.
“13 Blues For Thirteen Moons” consists of sixteen tracks but the first twelve of these are five second blasts of high pitched tones. So there are really only four tracks, the shortest of which is thirteen minutes long. A Silver Mt Zion (they keep modifying their name) have released seven albums and this was their fifth. Efrim Menuck is one of the guitarists in a musical collective from Montreal called Godspeed You Black Emperor and he formed A Silver Mt Zion in 1999 as an offshoot.
“1 000 000 Died To Make This Sound” starts with the title being sung over and over against an accompaniment of plucked violin strings before, after four minutes (five minutes on the video) a full band of guitar, bass, drums, cello and violins kicks in to increase the intensity. As with many of their songs a riff is repeated insistently but unlike, Godspeed You Black Emperor, there are comprehensible vocals. The words contain a litany of disasters: starvation, debt, prison, environmental disaster, drugs and death. This is post-rock at its most exciting and entrancing. At one point, the lyrics consist entirely of acronyms: “ISP, NSA, CCTV, DOD, DOJ, DOC, IDF, AOL, AIPAC, IED, SUV, MP3” before the title is screamed out again, over and over against what can only be described as a magnificent racket. On the day that the most important election in the history of the human race takes place, this is the sound I want to hear. By the way, I hope this is not the most important election in the history of the human race because I hope everything passes off smoothly but I have a genuine fear that if Trump loses, he will refuse to accept defeat, civil war will break out and the human race could disappear forever. The last words of the song include “Yeah, our dreams deserve it. One million died to make this sound.” Please, no.
“13 Blues For Thirteen Moons” starts with crashing drums and violins before Efrim Menuck starts singing about the reality of war against a background of indifference. Hell is breaking out, apathy and descent into the abyss is imminent. It’s a noise of despair which suddenly reduces to nothing after five minutes before building and building back to another crescendo. Another quiet section follows and words such as “The hangman’s got a hard-on. The pretty minstrels sway. The pundit reeks of coffin. The banker rapes a maid” ring out in the silence until the tempo increases and a third climax is reached with a final cry of “we will not sing in your damn parade.” It’s a stunning piece of post-rock.
Wikipedia defines post-rock as “a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs.” That’s a pretty perfect description of this song.
“Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues” starts with a cacophony of free form noise before more changes of tempo and intensity.
“Blindblindblind” starts with a lovely electric guitar piece and strings giving an optimistic feel to lyrics such as “and the terrified dreams of our wanderings that once lit our way are now hid.” After eight minutes of beauty, the band kicks in again and more intensity and tempo changes lead us to a noisy pinnacle of optimism with the final words of “Some hearts are true!” repeated over and over.
Some hearts are indeed true. I have my fingers crossed that these true hearts are glad within the next day or two.