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The State of Things

Ed.’s note: The following talk was given at “Writers of the American Resistance,” an event held on January 19th at Mo Pitkin’s on Avenue A. The event’s organizer, Jason Flores-Williams, asked Hamm to address the “state of things.”

I’d like to say a few words about the fucked-up state of things. And I may also ruminate about the things of state—you know, the lies, the money, and all the rest. Figuring out where to begin is almost as much of a problem as where it ends.

Unlike your average pundit, I don’t think the tributary of shit flows directly from Washington, DC. Which is not to say that the place don’t stink. Or that a bunch of crooks are not in charge. Matter of fact, the Bush gang has played the oldest card in the outlaw’s book: If you want to rob the bank, start a brush fire on the outskirts. Still, the less said about the place, the better. Because as the great Redd Foxx once said, “My idea of capital punishment is a week in DC.”

Unlike your average Northeastern armchair philosopher, I don’t blame the Red States for botching everything. “Just most things,” you’re saying in your own smug, plate of brie and glass of chardonnay Blue State way. Well, the last time I checked, under that great liberal, William Jefferson Clinton, the prison population of this here country grew exponentially, and the use of the death penalty was much greater than during the Bush years. And now one Hillary Rodham Clinton likes the war in Iraq and doesn’t support national health care. If the House of Representatives is a plantation, then is the Senate, with its one black member, some sort of integrationist utopia? The Clintons’ great contribution to American politics is this: If you want to win over the liberals, hire good publicists. Forgive me for preaching, but the plain truth is that the problem ain’t just on the plains.

Unlike your average city slicker, I don’t think the country would be better off if it were just a bit more like New York. Granted, paying a lot for nothing is better here than in Akron. But pretty soon this whole damn city will become just like Whole Foods: high prices, non-union labor, with long lines full of either pretty rich or rich and pretty people. Our mayor, fresh after doling out a cool $84 mil to buy another election, then helps try to take away pensions and health care from the people who make the city go. Mayor Mike’s rule of thumb is this: Make the people think you’re on their side, then ignore them when they make unreasonable demands, like about not wanting to live next to a stadium or a Wal-Mart. But hey, if you live here, you gotta pay the price—part of which is realizing that New York City ain’t really that much better than anywhere else.

Unlike your average pseudo intellectual jerkoff, I don’t like standing up here trying to wow you with my insights about how depressing the world situation is. You know that. Telling you that most of the Democrats and nearly all the Republicans are lame is redundant—it’s like saying that you shouldn’t order the fish sandwich at the end of a holiday weekend. But you know that. And no third party has had a real chance since the Populist People’s Party got bought off by the Democrats in the 1890s. You know that, too.

So what are we going to do about the fucked-up state of things? Wait until the pro-war, and increasingly less pro-choice Democrats take back the Congress, then the Presidency—when everything will be better because at least we will have smart people in office? Well, that may, or may not, happen, and if it does, things may, or may not, get better.

Me, I’m tired of waiting, and of sitting around hating. As a more modern Marx might have said, “The pundits only interpret the world. The point, however, is to change it.” So get off your asses and start emailing somebody. Join a club, create an event, launch a movement. End the war inside of you. Rectify the inequality you face every day. Hold politicians’ feet to the fire and bring some gasoline. Do something. Anything. Now.


Theodore Hamm


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2006

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