My blogging cohort recently posted this in a burst review of Eugene McDaniels’ Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse:
Legend has it that Spiro Agnew called the label to have this album’s promotional efforts shut down. Which is a shame, because Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse is a beautifully apocalyptic work in the full sense of that word. Far from specious end-times fortunetelling, this is music with an iron conviction and musical power endemic to that era’s funk. That being the case, it also offers an explicit rebuke to those who think that dancing alone can start the revolution. Not to criticize too much, Janelle Monáe, but I think he’s talking to you.
Our own conversations have circled a bit around this swirl of ideas about revolution, pacifism, and art. McDaniels criticizes hippies and the like for merely dancing on the graves of the dead instead of invoking organized action. I ponder this while listening to Monáe’s work extensively.
Our mutual friend, a political science major, noted that the great leaders of pacifism upheld as noble role models – Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. – are people of color. Often the narrative presented to the oppressed is to follow these role models. Don’t take revolutionary action. Wait in peace. Justice will soon roll down.
Of course, this narrative disempowers the oppressed, in particular people of color, from taking revolutionary action. In the end, violence, whether for just ends or not, is a privilege of those in power. And it often takes a long time for justice to roll down.
Yesterday you said tomorrow.
Justice is never on time. But political action helps expedite the process. Now, the lengths to which can be written on the ethical implications of violence are voluminous. Suffice it to say, violence is never just, but sometimes it is necessary.
But art is necessary as well. If public action shapes politics, art shapes the soul. And both form the flexible membranes of society, not to mention that neither are mutually exclusive from each other.
Janelle Monáe repurposes the art of dance to end violence and oppression. In “Good Morning Midnight,” DJ Crash Crash lays it down:
The art of dancing is liberating, a textual act, with the power to be a subversive rejection of the hegemony, as I wrote earlier. But it’s not just art. Monáe finds that what is ultimately liberating is love. Love is power, to shape others and the self. It might sound trite, but I hold it to be true as well.
Love can revolutionize the world.