Commentary on the Documentary ‘Come and Worry With Us’ featuring the band ‘Thee Silver Mt. Zion’
Many times I used to say that ‘Music had saved my life,’ and I never questioned that much about the actual lives that musicians have. I probably was ‘happy’ to imagine that they made a good amount of money to be living well after having so many fans and so many shows but today I got to realize that that’s not the case and in a way it does give me yet another reason to implement a new way of living where no one should ever have to suffer, be existing in constant worry, fear and anxiety that comes from living in plain survival-mode when trying to ‘make it’ in this world in an honest manner, which is impossible in a system that is forged with the idea of success as the ultimate goal and neglecting how it currently is – most of the times – achieved only through the effective abuse and control imposed upon others, which means having to cheat, lie, deceive, be dishonest and selfish to be able to make it ‘that far’ without questioning why it is that not everyone can achieve such ‘high standards’ in the society? Why is there no real equal opportunity? why is this ‘successful living’ rather sold to us as this magnanimous lifestyle that is actually unsustainable if we all had the same ability to live in such a lavish modality – this means: it’s not meant to be part of what real life is meant to be in fact.
The documentary Come Worry With Us is an example of how one of my favorite bands actually live like in terms of ‘lifestyle’ and financial woes with the amount of money they earn, which is certainly a lot less than what I would have expected which my assumption of them being a ‘famous band’ therefore not ever having to worry about paying their bills – and here this should apply to Everyone – but this is specifically to debunk the ideas we also create around ‘the rich and the famous’ where not all ‘famous’ people really make ‘a lot of money’ as one could imagine.
Specifically here Godspeed You! Black Emperor and its offshoot Thee Silver Mount Zion are bands that I could have identified as the perfect soundtrack for everything that I could only probably only paint and try to ‘picture’ in frames: a desolate decadent world that is going down the drain, seeing nothing else but death and destruction and the perfect soundtrack for ‘the end of times,’ as well as being what can be defined as a ‘political band’ when it comes to denouncing warfare and the general deception in the political realm at the moment. But something changed in the life of the common member of both bands Efrim Menuck: he’s got a child now and so he realized that he had to ‘stop his own cynicism’ about life/the world and himself as now there is a person he’s brought into this world that should grow up to live in a better world than the one he is currently living in. I fully agree with this, and even if I don’t have children, every time I would see pregnant women or know of children being born I would create this inner fear almost sadness for them coming to this world that we are abusing and depleting faster than it could ever ‘replenish’ itself, while doing nothing to stop the ongoing destructive trend.
How many times do we say: ‘we require creating a better future for our kids’? It is saddening to see every single day news and articles of the kind of atrocities that are created toward children just because parents can’t afford taking good care of them – from dumping them on the garbage, abandoning them, giving them to adoption or having to make them work too and support with paying the basic needs at home. If there’s something I could worry about this life is precisely whether the little ones will have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, whether they will be able to run around the streets and riding bikes and going out to playgrounds… or if they are going to be genuinely supported to their utmost potential at schools, whether their parents will be stable enough to raise them – huge point of concern – whether they are going to be having healthier ways of entertaining themselves, healthier eating habits – which are taught at home/ and through culture – whether they can in fact stop copying the fears, the mentality of the parents, whether they can in any way escape the generational sins that we’ve created in absolute selfishness because we believed that ‘it wasn’t going to be us facing the consequences,’ well, here we are, look around you and within you.
I would certainly not want anyone to suffer in this world, yet it is all I could always notice around me, or maybe it’s because it is existent as me and in everyone else: abuse, ignorance to the reality of how we create this world based on our absence of care, of presence to direct ourselves in our lives and relate to each other in a supportive manner.
In my case, all I could ever paint was suffering and I didn’t even know why because I had a good life compared to many that really have no support in this world. I do remember a phase in my life when I was around 9-10 years old where my father had a big problem at work, someone bought a lot of merchandise from him and ran away with it using a bad check – and we were almost broke and hearing about the fact that our house, that patrimony that my father was so proud about as ‘our property’ could be lost – the sheer thought of that frightened me a lot at night, the worry, sadness and frustration from seeing my father so depressed, so down, so worried and so angry as that was the only way he could exert his inner frustration about the legal situation and never ever getting that money back. This affected us all at home and I endured what it was to conform with having the basics and learned how to not to ask for more than what I truly required.
I remember at times thinking that if I didn’t exist any longer they could save the money from my food, my healthcare, my school which was a great effort since it was a good private school, I knew they were doing the effort to secure my future, to give me the best – and I know that every single parent wants the best for their children – but most nowadays cannot afford it at all, no matter how self-willed they have: there is simply no structural support to make those at the bottom of the pyramid scheme to rise. This is structural violence and children are meant to somehow accept that they are born into poverty, that mom and dad have to work 12 hours a day considering the commuting times and so children are raised by daycare employees, by internet and television, by mass-norms at school that are designed to also make them obedient and complacent workers and get to be just like mom and dad: workaholics by necessity, not by choice – or else, there is no guaranteed survival – this is the current violence we are inherently accepting in our everyday living, threatening each other’s life – we have to also recognize we’ve done this to ourselves by leaving the system in the hands of a few.
Nowadays I see the direct consequences where I live of how poverty affects families in a very pervasive manner. To me this place is ‘temporary,’ but for many it is the place and environment they are born into, it is the people they will marry and have their children with and also die in until the last days knowing to do nothing else but to work, drink every weekend, have ‘parties’ and pretend that life is fine while going back every Monday to earn the bread with the sweat of their brow the rest of the week, hoping for something or someone like a president to finally change their lives.
The frustration that parents create at work which is based on the threat of losing their job/not making enough money becomes the constant experience that parents then in turn become toward their children, toward their partners and so toward the world: a survivalist mentality that cannot be stable, here, present, enjoying life because of always being tensed, worried and anxious about getting the next paycheck to pay all the bills.
Come Worry With Us (2013)
We are all currently required to break our illusions behind the usual question of ‘who would you like to be when you grow up?’ and then growing up and realizing that was just a dream, a fantasy, an ideal promoted to us to keep us completely separated from acknowledging the reality: this current world-system is designed to keep dreams on heavy rotation, to keep fueling the hope, the illusions, the wishing and desiring for the most hedonist lifestyle possible, a promised reality that never seems to just manifest into reality and it won’t for sure – nor do I personally consider it should ever, unless we actually work on creating such stability for all and make it sustainable for every other living being in this planet: environment, animals, humans, everyone.
Efrim explains in the documentary how he is part of the last generation that was promised a great future and from there on, we all got the opposite. It’s true, the first year in literature school we got told we were not there to ‘be writers’ and be creative, but to learn the hard-knocks of the science of analyzing literature and how we would barely make a buck with that – in art school we got told the most debasing facts about the poverty-lifestyle one usually goes through when trying to ‘make a living as an artist’ grounding us on how we could not just expect to just ‘be famous’ and earn millions like Hirst overnight. It might seem like a cruel thing to do crushing young adults’ dreams, however it is also the stark nature of the reality we have created for each other.
From there I started questioning a lot about myself, my decision to be an artist – would I make it? What would I have to do to be as ‘big’ as x artist that I admired at the time? And I bet this goes on in the mind of every other person that is taught to aim at the highest peak in a world where the peak is already occupied and not available for everyone else.
Does it make sense to live this way? To know we have all of this great potential as human beings and the way we could actually change the entire nature of ourselves and our relationships with one another if we were able to provide us the guaranteed right to live in dignity, to have money to live well if you’d like to dedicate yourself to a non-lucrative profession or arts which is also not a secured ‘job position’ but is dependent on several subjectivities like being liked, being ‘good’ at the eyes of others, being able to relate well to people to make business; getting to be known and published if you are a musician or a writer, or being part of a gallery and not even that guarantees good wages any longer.
There is also the point of having children and how that becomes a new primary responsibility for adults where one has to choose between being a parent or being a professional, especially if one is a woman. As an artist, for example, there’s not been such great possibilities to have a breathable life in a world where no more records are being sold, where art is sold only to a few elites and that is a minority of course, where movies and music are being downloaded for free, where people cannot afford to go watch a play, concert or sometimes even go to the movies – instead, all that is promoted is more greed and illusions of power in national TV/ media at home which is still the one point that seems to define what people conceive ‘life’ to be as this idea of ‘fame and fortune’, hence the belief that every person in showbiz should do as well as people on TV – but they don’t, at least not the ones that try and make honest business.
Some of the artists I enjoy and admire in a way have been able to ‘stay true’ to themselves in a world-system where arts are also another industry and the same abusive policies apply as everywhere else. In this case, music is something that inspired me to begin questioning the system. I began painting while listening to Radiohead’s OK Computer on repeat mode and all their discography became a way to also understand the underlying suffering that I could perceive in everything and everyone but somehow wasn’t that evident to me until 11 years ago when I first began painting. Now it’s very clear to me how this change has to be implemented and I have a clarity to it, to the point where I’ve stopped painting the death and destruction on this world and instead started to investigate, educate myself and begin actively working to promote and establish solutions that not only will benefit artists of course, but that will be a living guarantee for every person that is currently unable to fend for themselves and as such have are unable to develop themselves to become the person they know they all can be. We cannot also continue having honest and principled individuals to ‘adjust’ and ‘align’ to the current skewed mentality of a dog-eat-dog world where worry, fear, stress and paranoia have become everyone’s daily chronic sickness, this is the abuse we are dictating upon each other and it makes no sense at all.
This is not the world I want to live in, this is not The Good Life that our parents were once able to have – and some of you younger than me reading this not that for sure – but we have to question why every year that goes by things get worse, wages don’t go up while inflation keeps going up and the majority of the wealth is stacked in the hands of the minority: this is a suicidal machine we are operating here, and we have to stop it before we all sink together in it.
I want the children of this world to be able to have parents that can be satisfied with what they do with their lives, that can have sufficient time at home or simply available to be with them without the stress, without the fears, without the depression, without the constant every day nagging thought of what if there is no money tomorrow that I can get today to keep feeding my family? This is the most stressful situation anyone can face: being broke, being homeless, being with exorbitant debts that are usually now even transferred from parents onto children to ensure that one can ‘own’ something in this world, yet this world as the Earth itself didn’t come with such instructions of ‘how to use it’: we created them but so we also live the problem, so we have to understand it and be able to create and propose solutions, which is what we should all focus on if we really want to keep having our joys in life, such as music for example in my case.
So, the least I can do to honor myself and those human beings that also see the necessity for change, that collaborate with creating awareness in their own ways such as with art and music and genuinely consider that we can all work together and make things work for everyone, is to dedicate myself and my life to promote the consideration and necessity that we have toward each other, the good life that I would like to give to those that have nurtured me either physically or as a living being in my ability to be inspired and influenced by people that were able to tell me through their words, their musical expression about everything that was wrong in this world, so that I could grow up to take the staff and be that person that they can also get inspiration from: becoming an individual that can promote and present solutions, because we’re all just too fed up to hear about the same problems and complains instead of realizing that through understanding the problem, we can and become aware of how we can make things work for everyone.
And for artists who I see are quite a lot within the realm of social-change and activism, thank you for your inspiration as well because sometimes one can get ‘lost’ in a sea of carelessness and hopelessness about being able to genuinely do any meaningful change in this world, but through our very own words, through the way we live and create, how we interact with others we can become the point of change that many others can then refer to as the proof of how we can direct our lives to a best for all outcome, which also determines how we live and interact with one another.
This principle of giving to others as I would like to receive begins within us, so let’s give the best we would want for ourselves to each other and through doing that, learning how to honor and truly appreciate our lives, instead of living as enemies in a chronic state of war.
Time to ‘be the change we want to see in this world’ for sure, but this will also only be fully possible when people are no longer strapped to their working chairs and fearing not having money the next day, therefore support the Living Income Guaranteed, to provide a guaranteed access to living needs when having no means to get an income, get higher wages in your current job/occupation and never again be ashamed of having to take this support as it is and will be our sheer right to life, to stop the paranoia, the fear and the self-abuse that comes when living in survival mode – we can do much better than this.
We are yet to discover who we all can be and become once that we step outside of the current divide and conquered set-up world-system we have (negligibly) created. It’s about time we join our creative efforts upon that which will ensure each other’s ability to create without worrying about money again, which tampers our creative potential.
Happiness does not exist yet, we have to construct it.
Suggested read for an in-depth review of the documentary:
- COME WORRY WITH US: THE ANXIETIES OF PARENTING AND EARNING A LIVING WITH THEE SILVER MOUNT ZION ORCHESTRA
- Read the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal to find out more on How it can be financed
- Read the Equal Life Foundation’s Bill of Rights: Our right to life can only be assured with money, and our Bill of Rights has a direct way to be financed with the provision of a Living Income.
- Watch our Equal Life’s Fundamental Human Rights presentation and share it around!
- Watch our weekly Live Google Hangouts on Living Income Guaranteed
- Living Income Guaranteed and Raising Children
- Parents Need a Living Income Now
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