written by Davis Fleetwood
Shakespeare and Jesus sit atop the heap of historical figures about which the most has been written. Add to that list, like it or not, the woman who has captured the zeitgeist of the moment: Lady Gaga.
Not only are every one of her growing legion of pubescent twitter and facebook little monsters taking to typepad and blogspot to deconstruct her latest video, but a growing legion of pundits, pop critics and philosophers are laboring to see both the forest and the trees and connect Gaga to this historical moment.
While many of us of a certain age see this particular moment in history as one where the United States has risked, and in some cases lost our moral, military, and economic superiority all in the name of fighting a war based on lies, Gaga and her little monsters have grown up with war as an inevitable and, according to the lame-stream media, often un newsworthy fact of life.
Before Gaga lit her g-string on fire or doused her see through dresses in blood like liquid in an effort to complicate what are otherwise conventionally sexualized performances, before she channeled Duchamp and discovered Dada (she recently inscribed a functionless white urinal “I’m not fucking Duchamp but I love pissing with you,”) Gaga was a teenager in New York; a West Side Girl going to an East Side private school when the towers came down.
Since that day, the U.S. has come together to, in the words of Alternet writer Sara Jaffe and
“We have made monsters out of others in order to kill them without fear. Gaga makes herself a monster to try to show us ourselves.”
Like Archie Bunker, Gaga so fully embodies what she wants us to think what she is satirizing (post feminism, post Madonna, post Pop and Imperial America that it matters not whether one in on the joke, if indeed there is one. Her reach is so obtuse and indiscriminate, like the current U.S. foreign policy that James Parker of the Atlantic argues that she is eviscerating pop, that she is in fact the last pop star.
And Tom Ewing at Pitchfork wrote of Gaga entering her “imperial phase”, noting:
“It holds a mix of world-conquering swagger and inevitable obsolescence. What do we know about emperors? That they end up naked: The phase always ends.”
And Tom Englehart of Tom Dispatch, connects Gaga to the current zeitgeist moment for weaponry, writing:
“If there are zeitgeist moments for products, movie stars, and even politicians, then such moments can exist for weaponry as well. The robotic drone is the Lady Gaga of this Pentagon moment.”
Funny thing about those drones. With production costs for Unmanned Ariel vehicles in the millions, it would take Billions of dollars to pay for these and fund the Obama escalation in Afghanistan. To achieve this, Obama needed congressional support to approve of the 59 billion needed to fund his war escalation effort. And before Congress recessed for summer vacation, not nearly enough of them stood on the house floor and said something like what Dennis Kucinich uttered when he said:
“Wake up America. There is unlimited money for war. Money for a corrupt government in Afghanistan. When U.S. money is not going to the Karzai mob’s personal use it goes to help the Taliban kill our troops. There is money for a corrupt government in Pakistan which helps the Taliban in Afghanistan kill our troops…. (Our) governments out of money…. Wake up America. How can we solve the worlds problems, when we can’t solve our problems here at home.”
With 1 out of every two tax dollars funding war, certainly some of the “problems here at home” could have been addressed with an emergency piece of legislation that was focused on domestic issues.
As a report from the Majority Staff of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives makes clear, the largest income stream for the Taliban is the U.S. taxpayer. The report documents payoffs to the Taliban for safe passage of U.S. goods, payoffs very likely greater than the Taliban’s profits from opium, its other big money maker. And this is neither new nor unknown to top U.S. officials. But it must be unknown to Americans supporting the war. You can’t support a war where you’re funding both sides unless you want both sides to lose. We lock people away for giving a pair of socks to the enemy, while our own government serves as chief financial sponsor.
And yet, that is what Congress just authorized.
This was declared a big win for the white house. Looking at the forest and the trees, some Orwellian optimists point to one narrative that posits that Obama wants to withdraw from Afghanistan but does not think he can get congressional support for such an action before he escalates the war. If we buy into this narrative, Obama is like Lady Gaga: playing the part of a Hawkish war monster to show us ourselves and achieve peace.
And, as the saying goes, if you buy that, I’ve got a beautiful bridge in Brooklyn to show you.
If Lady Gaga is, as Sara Jaffe contends, is in fact a Pop Star for a Country and an Empire in Decline, than how do we reconcile that with the following facts
1. Empires end. Maps change. This happens through violence and coercion. And;
2. The United States is the first post-nuclear Empire. In other words, the endgame strategy for all military conflicts involving the end of our empire does not involve pickaxes, but rather nuclear weapons. And;
3. The mythmaking machine holds up soldiers as heroes and relegates peace activists to the fringes of society. And;
4. War is still more profitable than peace. And;
5. We live in an era where Lady Gaga has more facebook followers than Barack Obama.
The answer to the current catch 22 cluster jam of biblical proportions that is this historical moment in time is for the U.S. to stop playing a global version of the boys game known as king of the hill, climb down peacefully before the maintenance bill on the Empire breaks us financially and backs our once great nation into a corner, alone with our manifest destiny and our nuclear arsenal to play out what George Bush refereed to as the last chapter of history.
What kind of pop star would capture the zeitgeist of the peaceful decline of an empire?
I’m not sure, but we better find her quick.
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This work by Davis Fleetwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
A freelance writer, Davis Fleetwood has worked as a writer/ media consultant for Dennis Kucinich’s 2008 presidential campaign and served as a contributing editorial commentator for The Uptake. His videos have been seen by over 14 million viewers. He has been called (among many other things) “one of the most prominent voices in YouTube politics.” (-You Tube News & Politics chief, Steve Grove) He was a “Best of YouTube, 2007” nomination. His book DROPPIN’ KNOWLEDGE LIKE A CLUMSY LIBRARIAN, is now available from No Cure For That Press, and his first full length feature documentary, MANIFEST DESTINY’S CHILD, is due out on DVD this June.
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