Love All the People

Well, the other night I was reading the compilation of Bill Hicks’ letters, lyrics and routines that comprises the title of this post, and though I might share some of “the shapeless anxieties which beset us in the small hours of the night when the flame of life burns low” [context coming up!]

William Melvin Hicks (1961-1994)

First things first: if you don’t know who Bill Hicks was, watch this – immediately! You could sort of describe Bill as a sane man in an insane world, although he wouldn’t necessarily come across that way on stage – to the uninitiated! Often he would rail against what he saw as an American culture celebrating puerility. Bill would have been Donnie Darko in this scene.

But I think the frequent rants, seemingly directed against the stupidity of people, masked a kind of deeper and all encompassing love for humanity; the title of the book and this post is meant sincerely rather than ironically.

Bill could be angry of course, but at his best came across more as a loving parent, mediating the wayward child of the human race, a comic delivering the cliched parental rebuke, “I’m not angry, just disappointed” to his audience. For example, one finds little off hand comments like this buried in the midst of rants against the crassness of popular culture:

“We have on our fingertips the greatest mind of all time, the knowledge and history of the greatest thinkers OF ALL FUCKING TIME , but no, what’s that little white girl sayin’? Let’s put Debbie Gibson’s thoughts on a fucking compact disk so they’ll never be destroyed. Is it just me? I mean, goddam it, I remember I think – and maybe I’m romanticizing the past – but I remember when music had conscience, and music had soul, and music had balls, man. Does anybody remember that at all?”

Or alternatively this rant about musicians selling out:

“Rock stars hawing Diet Cokes! What real rock star would do something like that, you know? . . . You don’t see the imminent danger, do you? You’re staring at me like, “Bill, they’re just musicians, and they’re, you know, and they’re just doing their thing, and – NO! They are DEMONS SET LOOSE ON THE EARTH TO LOWER THE STANDARDS FOR THE PERFECT AND HOLY CHILDREN OF GOD!”

Bill really hated advertising, since this represented the cynical manipulation and subversion of human desires by the powers-that-be; he hated to see “the perfect and holy children of God” squandering their potential and their inheritance.

We live on a beautiful planet, one that we are, with frenetic industry, setting about destroying for future generations. And what’s so absurd about this is that the overwork, the stress, the “culture” associated with “achieving” this planet-wide mass-suicide as quickly as possible, is debasing our bodies and our minds. Increasingly we self-medicate, to cope with the chronic side-effects of living with all of our bullshit. I feel like the human race is literally suffocating in its own excrement.

I guess this quote from Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, from his book In The Shadow of Tomorrow, pretty much sums up the mess we’ve got ourselves into:

“We are living in a demented world. And we know it.  …  Everywhere there are doubts as to the solidity of our social structure, vague fears of the imminent future, a feeling that our civilization is on the way to ruin. They are not merely the shapeless anxieties which beset us in the small hours of the night when the flame of life burns low. They are considered expectations founded on observation and judgment of an overwhelming multitude of facts. How to avoid the recognition that almost all things which once seemed sacred and immutable have now become unsettled, truth and humanity, justice and reason? We see forms of government no longer capable of functioning, production systems on the verge of collapse, social forces gone wild with power. The roaring engine of this tremendous time seems to be heading for a breakdown…”

To the idea that comedy is merely an escape from the above reality, Bill would respond that “comedy is an escape from illusions”. Bill saw the role of mainstream media as that of keeping people trapped in ignorance and atomised, by manufacturing their faked standards of “normality”:

“You can’t put out puerile crap twenty-five hours [a day] ‘cos eventually there’s gonna be chaos in the streets, which there already is, because people are frustrated not having their voice of reason confirmed. And everyone has that voice of reason that goes, “This is bull man. What I’m watching is bull”. And yet the media does not confirm it, so after a while people get… they begin to think they’re insane. And that’s the bummer about it, but that’s why I love non-mainstream stuff, because you actually hear honest emotions, and that’s what you won’t hear on mainstream TV ever, is honest emotions.”

The nice thing about blogging is that you have the possibility to create little viruses of dissent that can make it through the firewall of mainstream media control. These “viruses” – ideas – can suggest alternative realities to people. Why adjust to an oppressive reality when we can make a far superior reality, one that conforms to our most precious innate desires? One of Bill’s letters expresses it like this:

“A long time ago a lawyer friend of mine told me something I found very enticing. He told me the word enthusiasm comes from the latin words  En Theos which means the God Within. “In other words’, I thought to myself, ‘do what excites you, for that excitement is God telling you – “we’re on the right path, and we are together and isn’t it fun!” And it has been fun for me these last few years and it’s getting more fun everyday.”

Or, as he expressed it more directly once:

“I believe everyone has this fuckin’ poem in his heart”

Most of us (and I very much include myself here) are cowards. We spend our lives denying the poem in our hearts. We persuade ourselves instead to merely adapt to an oppressive reality. The professional intelligentsia – academics, journalists and the like – exist largely, in my opinion, to manufacture the excuses that allow us to go on living lives (lies?)  in tacit support of institutions which we know, in our heart-of-hearts, to be fundamentally corrosive of the human spirit. This is why so many of us can summon little genuine enthusiasm for life. Bill was one of those rare people that didn’t listen to the excuses and lived to try and persuade others not to listen to them either. That is why he is very much missed today.

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~ by freedomthistime on December 28, 2011.

4 Responses to “Love All the People”

  1. Thanks for the post. RIP Bill Hicks. I loved his painfully honest observations, and his ability to be all at once caustic, chastising and genuinely funny.

  2. Well said.

  3. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my subscribers would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

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