MY CHEESY GRADUATION

The following is an excerpt from Andy Nowicki's upcoming publication, tentatively titled Demon in the Rough

Like “the news,” which today is typically administered televisually or electronically to produce an immediate result in the brain of its targeted “consumer,” music is also notorious for being a mood-influencer, even to the point of altering one’s very consciousness. 


As a frequent cause of powerful psychic reverberations in collective hearts and minds, music can in fact pose a great danger to social harmony if it is harnessed by nefarious sources bent on bringing agitation and upset. 

For this reason, Socrates famously mandated that musical compositions be heavily censored in his “Republic,” in order to prevent dissonant and disharmonious strains from emerging in the culture of “the City.”

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In contrast with such Socratic/Platonic sternness, people in our day tend to regard maudlin musical fare with a measure of indulgence, if not outright approval. A song that everyone would admit to being “sappy” or “cheesy” is nevertheless praised for its evocation of emotion, as if provoking “feelings” were some great and worthy accomplishment in and of itself. 

Such a perspective displays a mindset which subordinates consequence to the immediacy of sensation. Yet, as with the sexual revolution, freedom is in fact NOT the ultimate goal, esoterically speaking; rather, the elevation of the maudlin, the sappy, and the “cheesy” results, seemingly not un-coincidentally, in a culture of ultimate psychic enmeshment and control. Indeed, such would appear to be the very goal of the promotion of such fare in the first place.
              

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At my elementary school in the early 1980s, it became standard practice that seventh grade graduation would, in addition to the inclusion of the traditional playing of “Pomp And Circumstance,” also involve the students singing two 70s pop ballads, “Do You Know?” by Diana Ross and “Starmaker” from the movie “Fame.”

Both of these are pervasively saccharine, mawkishly melancholic songs, meant to jerk tears from parents on the occasion of watching their kids receiving their grade school diplomas. They both evoke a tragic mood without much, if any, substance or context provided. Again, emotion trumps coherence. In the Ross song, the speaker high-pitchedly warbles:
Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?
Do you get what you’re hoping for, when you look behind you there’s no open door?
What are you hoping for, do you know?


It is never clear just why these questions are being asked, or who is asking them, or the conditions under which these inquiries are being made. Of course, questions of general orientation and self-awareness are perfectly normal, even healthy, for any thoughtful person. Here, however, they seem designed not to enhance needful introspection, but rather to create a mood of needlessly cloying sadness in the listener.

“Starmaker,” for its part, is still less coherent. There, the collective speaker (a different voice sings every line of the verses) expresses some vague species of regret, despair, and helplessness:
Here, as I watch the time go by
How I’d like to sail away, leaving all my past behind
But I know I’d only last for a couple of days
Here stands everything I thought I made
It’s the only life I know, and I can’t even call it my own
I’ve got no hope…

The chorus of the song, however, lavishes worshipful attention upon some kind of impersonal celestial force which it terms the “Starmaker.” The collective speakers in the chorus claim, paradoxically enough, that this “Starmaker” has brought them contentment, in spite of their previous stenuous protestations of discontent, and despite (or perhaps because of?) the slings and arrows they claim to have suffered at the hands of this apparently capricious being:
Starmaker!
Dream-breaker!
Soul-taker!
We’re happy now, we’re so happy now…
These lyrics have the trappings of a mind-control themed horror story, whereby one’s dreams are “broken,” one’s soul is “taken,” and one nevertheless afterwards forlornly experiences a kind of “happiness” that comes of having relinquished one’s hope under repeated tortures and torments, as with Winston Smith learning to “love Big Brother” at the conclusion of 1984

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Why such lyrics would be fitting for an elementary school graduation ceremony is frankly beyond me. How they were supposed to work as a tearjerking finale homage in the movie “Fame” is an even greater mystery.

Both “Do You Know” and “Starmaker” are immensely bleak anthems of intense but entirely unfocused grief. One might, hearing these songs, have reasonably wondered if the parents in attendance might be witnessing a funeral, rather than a graduation. Yet in truth, these tunes were much beloved, particularly by many of the girls in our class, who (like many women in our debased age) are drawn to what is now commonly called “drama”… for no particular reason except to luxuriate in unbounded emotion for sake of those intoxicating “feelz.”

Muh feelz!
I, by contrast, hated these songs immensely, and hated having to sing them even more. Yet at the insistence of our teachers, our administrators,  and of most of the graduating seventh grade girls, I, like the rest of my class, was forced to participate. 

My complaints were dismissed, and many of the boys—who in their hearts probably disliked the songs as much as I did—shamelessly white-knighted their female classmates, scapegoating me with utterly odious gallantry. To impress the girls, that is, they made fun of me for being a dork because I complained about the songs being lame and sappy. Even back then, gynocentrism reigned and masculine simp-ism was rife.

I ultimately gave in—what choice did I really have?—yet got a measure of revenge by rolling my eyes  while singing to such an extent that my grandmother afterwards teasingly inquired, “What were you looking at up on the ceiling, Andy?”

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Today, I wish I had simply declined to sing, and had instead stood there on the stage with pursed lips and an expression of scathing disdain, while classmates belted out those cheeseball ballads of emotional abuse and maudlin torment. 

I mean, what could they have done to me? I had earned by diploma, and my passing forth into 8th grade wasn’t incumbent upon my participation in any lame ceremony or singing on cue in front of an audience. But of course I didn’t have the guts to take such a stand; being age 13, I was particularly vulnerable to that insidious technique of manipulation which is today called “gaslighting,” whereby a person with a legitimate grievance is shamed into self-abnegation.

And it didn’t help that, at the time, I lacked the understanding to put my aversion to singing these songs into a larger context; to me, it just felt wrong, like an obscenity perpetrated against my spirit. Yet however deeply this intimation struck me then, I could not articulate its appalling outrageousness while still a mere child feeling my way through a world that had suddenly turned prickly, cold, and treacherous.

Unfortunately, things would only get worse.


Andy Nowicki, assistant editor of Affirmative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the NihilThe Columbine PilgrimConsidering Suicide, and Beauty and the Least. Visit his Soundcloud page and his YouTube channel. His author page is Alt Right Novelist. 

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