Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Apocalypse Remixed: The Revelation Will Not Be Televised

Every once in a while the song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by the late great Gil Scott-Heron sneaks into the queue on my iTunes, and I'm taken immediately back to my American history class with Dr. Weiss, where I first heard it alongside "Street-Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones as an example of late-sixties ennui. But along with the nostalgia is something of an apocalyptic vision of the future. I think of this song as the kind of vibe we out to assign to the end of this world and the inauguration of the next--not the "nah nah--enjoy hell" scorn of the Left Behind set, not the disaster-addiction of the Mayan-calendar Schwartzenerds, not the often tragically wonkish numerology of the cultists. The Revelation (and the "everything new" it heralds) is the sort of thing that offers hope even as it rages against the status quo. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that Jesus judges us even as he saves us, and such an audacious event as the end of the world ought to inspire us to a similar work in the songs we sing and prophetic words we utter. So, with apologies and respect to Gil Scott-Heron, here's a twenty-first-century spiritualized remix of a classic song with an eye toward the future.

***

You will not be able to stay home, sister.
You will not be able to boot up, download or log in or log out.
You will not be able to brush your teeth with crack or meth,
Soda pop or beer during commercials,
Because the Revelation will not be televised.

The Revelation will not be televised.
The Revelation will not be offered through NetFlix
In four parts without previews or special features.
The Revelation will not show you pictures of Ronald McReagan
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by Bill Clinton,
Barack Obama and George Double-You to eat
chorizo sausage confiscated from a South Texas gap in the fence.
The Revelation will not be televised.

The Revelation will not be brought to you by the
Hallmark Tearjerk Theatre and will not star Hillary Duff
Or Timberlake or Timbaland or Gaga.
The Revelation will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The Revelation will not clear up your zits.
The Revelation will not make you look five pounds thinner,
Because the Revelation will not be televised, sister.

There will be no pictures of you and Harold and Kumar
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
Drudge will not be able to report the winner at 8:32 or offer sound bites from 29 districts.
The Revelation will not be televised.

There will be no viral videos of bros tazing schmoes.
There will be no viral videos of bros tazing schmoes.
There will be no pictures of Mel Gibson being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Al Sharpton
Strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and Green liberation jumpsuit
That he had been saving for just the proper occasion--Just Like Us.

Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, and CSI New Jersey
will no longer be so damned relevant, and
no one will care if Chloe and Lamar can keep it together
Because people in darkness will take to the street
Looking for a brighter day.
The Revelation will not be televised.

There will be no tweets or Google plus ones or status updates
No streaming video of hairy armed liberationists
And J-Lo blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Ke$ha or Katy Perry,
Nor sung by Toby Keith, Keb Mo, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, or the Killers.
The Revelation will not be televised.

The Revelation will not return to your video shortly
After a message about whiter teeth, whiter sheets, or whiter people.
You will not have to worry about performing in your bedroom,
drying your eyes, or mastering your thighs.
The Revelation will not go better with Coke.
The Revelation will not save you fifteen percent or more on your car insurance.
The Revelation will, however, get you off your high horse.

The Revelation will not be televised, will not be digitized,
will not be sanitized, will not be compromised.
The Revelation will be no ho-hum re-run, sisters;
The Revelation will be live.

1 comment:

MaRk NiElSeN said...

Holy Resurrection of the Visionary Addict, Batman! This is a true tour de force. I loves me some Gil, heard him live in the early Nineties.

Just brilliant work! (or play...) I'm going to be calling on you to deliver this work live, at some future poetry slam/coffeehouse. Or if you don't, then I will. Know any good, funky flute players to work the background with us?