To the Voice of the Machine

Yo, Zack,*

Where you been? What’s up with you? I think your voice is needed. I know it is. If it was real, I mean. Was it real? All that rage? I was mad back in the early 90s, too. I didn’t know why, but I felt it, like it was turning me inside out. I was swept along on the alterna-tide with everyone else. There were so many voices of change and justice-seeking and anger and rage and introspection. It was a brand new day. It was a new age of reason, when you could be yourself and not try to to fit into the leather and latex costumes of the 80s. You could just express your point of view, even if it was a little sad and desperate, like Kurt’s. I channeled my own demons and aggression into my art, but you…man! You, Zack were the bomb! I’m not so outrageously angry anymore.

Well, I am today.

You know why I’m angry, Zack?

Because today, while I mowed my suburban lawn and took my suburban kids to an Easter egg hunt, I had some time to listen. I decided to put your first record on. Only it’s not a record, now. It’s just digitized ones and zeroes beamed to me from my optimally-Primed music account. It’s like you’re an angry ghost in the machine. But as I listened to your wrathful indignation, as I grooved along to the mechanized force of the soul-slicing roar of four fellows sonically assaulting the status quo, you know what I realized?

I realized that I’m everything you hated. (I’m probably everything I hated back then too, but that’s my own problem.) I was just like all the other white kids who came to your shows and shouted along to your socially-conscious shtick. I saw you once, during a Rock the Vote show. We probably disappointed you, even as we emulated your righteous rants and bought your records and your revolutionarily-appropriated images of Che Guevara and all your socialist propaganda. Yet, as I listened today, I also realized that your words of empowerment and revolution and straight up rage ring hollow, now. Those are still bone -crunchingly awesome songs. Tom and Tim and Brad were the tactical annihilation team that was the vehicle for your incendiary words. It was a communal effort. You gave voice to what you all felt, but you were the politically-aware, tornado of a mouthpiece that spoke truth to power. Yet, you’ve vanished. And while listening, while being aurally lacerated by your deft rhymes and cunning turns of phrase, I felt a little bit of what the tired, old revolutionary hippies of the 60s must have felt when they finally realized that all their big dreams were nothing but dust blowin’ in the wind.

Where have you been? Have you been paying attention?

Maybe it’s time for you to wake up!

Wake up, Zack!!

Engage, Zack.

Take your pick of topics from the last decade and a half: 9/11, war, financial implosion, politics as usual, fiscal corruption, moral ineptitude, more war, hate-for-hate’s-sake, terrorism, unbridled religiosity, Obama, boots marching, marginalization, police inaction, police over-reaction, civil liberties eroded, Arab Spring, real revolution, botched foreign policy, failed political discourse, immigration, Ferguson, New York, San Francisco, Ohio, Chicago, Phoenix, American nadir…

I know, I know, you’re still out there, lending your voice occasionally, but not like that. Not like you did when you had the international spotlight to do with as you pleased, when you were part of the most vibrant truth-bomb machine ever to blast out of a pair of speakers anywhere on Earth.

We are all marginalized now, Zack. It’s not just brown and red and black and yellow. It’s not just us versus them anymore. It’s unstoppable, unmatched, unmitigated, unchecked power versus the middle class, versus the poor, versus the voiceless, versus the small and little of means. We are more and more divided, even as we have the technology to really get together for the first time in human history, unimpeded by the power structure that seeks to control and cajole. We are up against the greatest, monolithic, far-reaching corporate-military-industrial iron fist that has ever ventured set its sites on humanity. In the face of this scourge we are hopeless.

Only we are not.

There are hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people out there right now marching, speaking out, standing up to the proverbial man. All over the world. There are people, rightthismintue, raging against the actual machine. They are looking for solutions. They seek justice and peace and equality and fairness for all. They want to be taken seriously. So, when stuff gets heavy, they shoulder into it like the determined fighters they are. They don’t skulk away and work on a solo album for so long that it is becoming the new Chinese Democracy. They don’t disappear, only to make rare appearances at Coachella. They stay the course. They actually “rally ’round the family.” They seek solutions.

C’mon, Zack. You spoke of historic injustice and modern-day injustice and Mandela and Black Power and Brown Power and fighting the power and taking the power back, but now where are you when this world is in desperate need of a voice that ignites and could unite?

Maybe it was all an act. Maybe you weren’t really that angry. Maybe you are just an entertainer. Maybe it was all a dream. When I listen to that bombastic record of yours, though, when I hear the words of “Township Rebellion” I wonder how long you can stand on a silent platform, ignoring the war? And what was it you said we should do to the norm?

“All of these are American dreams,” huh? Really? The hypocrisy continues, but you don’t seem to be railing against it, now. You’ve joined the club.

I know I’ve been harsh, perhaps a bit unfair, but dang, dude! There’s a riot going on and you’ve missed most of it! Get in the game, get involved. Mad Boy, grip that mic with your “fist full of steel” and end your silence!! Do it for the people. All people. I’m sure you’ll figure it out one of these days. Get the band back together, man. Make new, revolutionary music! Own your legacy. Good luck, Zack.

All the best,

*This is merely a humorous, imagined letter. It is not meant as an actual missive to an actual person. I would never willingly use my words to harm or cause pain and suffering to another living human being, even if that human has missed out on countless opportunities to use his voice to stand up and sing out against the very real inequities that have been perpetrated against all of humanity in the last dozen years. Who am I, anyway? I’m sure, if given the chance, he would graciously address me with a hearty, “(Expletive deleted) you! I won’t do what ya tell me!”


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