Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peace dreams shot down by war schemes - RIP Gil Scott-Heron

Sad to hear of the death yesterday of Gil Scott-Heron. Among many other things, he was a consistent critic of the Space-Military-Industrial Complex, something dear to my heart as a former Autonomous Astronaut. His best known poem on the subject was Whitey on the Moon, written in the aftermath of the 1969 moon landing:

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man just upped my rent last night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's upping me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I was already paying him fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes taking my whole damn check,
Junkies making me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is going up,
And as if all that shit wasn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made last year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I just 'bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll send these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

Less known is his track Space Shuttle, released in 1990.

Space Shuttle – raising hell down on the ground
Space Shuttle - they're turning seasons upside down.
Space Shuttle - and all the hungry people know
all change sho' 'nuff ain't progress when you're poor.

Space was the place
Where at least we thought our dreams were safe
Ideas of innocence and grace
Floating above the planet’s face
Ah, but the distance has been erased
'cause Uncle Sam is on the case
ET has joined the Arms Race!
Helping with a military base.

Rocketing through the atmosphere
Slding into second gear
While miles below the people cheer
The New Invaders on the New Frontier
But there are also those who do not cheer
The gravity of their lives appears
And in their eyes flash frozen fears
rocket sounds are what they hear

Practice looks of great surprize
You’re the Captain Kirk, this is Free Enterprise
Wall Street says ‘Let’s play Defense!’
And ‘Dollar Bills make damn good sense!
Hail to the Protectionism!
Let us bring on the new age of Humanism.
We can put the cap on Capitalism!
What have we got here – Ray-gunism!

No matter what man goes looking for
He always seems to find a war
As soon as dreams of peace are felt
The war is raging somewhere else

…we’ve got peace dreams
shot down by war schemes
a hole shot through the ozone layer
put the fear back in the atmosphere

1 comment:

StefanSzczelkun said...

Good to be reminded of this bit of his work and the Autonomous Astronauts Association. (I still have two hoodies in my wardrobe.)