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Roger Waters’ Us + Them

[1]1,670 words

I gotta admit that I’m a little bit confused.
Sometimes it seems to me as if I’m just being used.

–“Dogs,” Animals, Pink Floyd (1977)

In this documentary, Roger Waters constantly struts about the stage like an aged and anorexic Richard Gere, his spindly arms held defiantly aloft in a clichéd clenched-fist salute of solidarity with the people. He seems to be acting out in a manner somewhat reminiscent of an Alzheimer’s-suffering, old-school Marxist, modeling himself on a second-rate beret-sporting Che Guevara impersonator. The truth, of course, is that Waters – who describes himself as the “creative force behind Pink Floyd” and who once asked “Which one’s Pink?” in order to undercut the other members of the band after an acrimonious split – is a rather self-indulgent multi-millionaire, jealously guarding both his fortune and his artistic legacy by employing an army of well-paid corporate lawyers.

His erstwhile lead guitarist on the Us + Them project, Dave Kilminster – a conscious or unconscious replica of Dave Gilmour à la Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii film – performs crescendos of well-executed guitar solos on classics like “Money” and “Time” from 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, while Waters’ gaunt face and drooling grey jowls drip bile into the minds of his impressionable audience. This extravaganza of a stage show cost $4 million to put on and grossed $25 million in box office receipts, warping the minds of hundreds of thousands of concertgoers around the globe.

In October 2016, Waters arrogantly announced:

We are going to take a new show on the road. The content is very secret. It’ll be a mixture of stuff from my long career, stuff from my years with Pink Floyd, some new things. Probably 75% of it will be old material and 25% will be new, but it will be all connected by a general theme. It will be a cool show, I promise you. It’ll be spectacular, like all my shows have been.

In terms of live performance, Waters delivers, wisely mixing it with a nostalgic light show using imagery from Animals and The Wall. Kilminster’s Gilmour-like vocals on key tracks massage the fond memories of his long-time fans, filling in the gaps from his illustrious back catalogue for new fans and covering up his own dry, crackling voice – which may still spit venom, but nowadays sounds more like a blow-torch sputtering to the end of its shelf-life than a finely-crafted delivery mechanism to land his missile-like lyrical barbs.

And what lines they are. The closing lyrics of “Dogs” encapsulates the atomistic nature and mind-numbing malaise of modernity perfectly:

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending
That everyone’s expendable and no-one has a real friend.
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner
And everything’s done under the sun,
And you believe at heart, everyone’s a killer.

Who was born in a house full of pain
Who was trained not to spit in the fan
Who was told what to do by the man
Who was broken by trained personnel
Who was fitted with collar and chain
Who was given a pat on the back
Who was breaking away from the pack
Who was only a stranger at home
Who was ground down in the end
Who was found dead on the phone
Who was dragged down by the stone.

That being said, with the exception of Waters’ support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli state and his well-publicized comments about the Netanyahu regime’s apartheid-style treatment of the Palestinians, that is where the insightful poetic political commentary ends. This is because despite organizations like The Jewish Relations Council of Greater Washington producing videos criticizing Waters for his alleged anti-Semitism, and various lawmakers trying to ban his performances across the United States, the self-identifying “man of the people” finds far easier targets for his vitriol. This is exemplified by the American President’s more controversial quotes about “grabbing pussies” and denying global warming flashing up alongside unflattering images of Trump and Putin on the eponymous wall behind him, as he bursts into “Pigs”:

Big man, pig man, ha ha charade you are.
You well heeled big wheel, ha ha charade you are.
And when your hand is on your heart,
You’re nearly a good laugh,
Almost a joker,
With your head down in the pig bin,
Saying “Keep on digging.”
Pig stain on your fat chin.
What do you hope to find.
When you’re down in the pig mine.
You’re nearly a laugh,
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry.

Waters holds up placards with slogans like “Fuck the Pigs!” scrawled childishly across them, while his backing band don rubber pig masks and guzzle champagne – no doubt meant to conjure scenes from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

This is rather a cop-out when you consider the amount of money and influence the pro-Israel lobby exert across much of the Western world. Dan Auble, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics, has said, “I haven’t observed many other countries that have a comparable level of activity and spends so heavily to influence US policy.” The American Foreign Agents Registration Act, which lists official lobby groups that support Jewish interests, records that these consistently contribute up to £50 million to parties and individuals that they wish to bend to their interest. They subsidize 269 Congressmen and 57 Senatorial campaigns. Eliot Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, himself received over $1 million from the pro-Israel lobby; leading Democratic Party mandarin Nancy Pelosi received $500,000; and the Hebrew billionaire Sheldon Adelson is well-known for being the largest overall donor to the Republican Party’s Jewish Victory Fund.

Demonstrating a complete lack of imagination – or perhaps simply a lazily obsessive and massively misplaced fixation on supposed white malfeasance – Waters uses the same faces, alongside Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, to illustrate his message when the band breaks into the much-vaunted “Money”:

Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay
Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I’ll buy me a football team

Money, get back
I’m all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack
Money, it’s a hit
Don’t give me that do goody good bullshit
I’m in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
And I think I need a Lear jet

This is rather ironic given the fact that the Credit Agricole, Credit Mutuel, Societe Generale, and BNP Paribas banks have deliberately intervened in the French democratic process by refusing to deal with Marine Le Pen’s National Front, yet nevertheless openly supported former Rothschild employee Emmanuel Macron, while Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom was until relatively recently receiving large cash injections from The David Horowitz Freedom Center in order to further Horowitz’s anti-Islamic agenda.

The hypocrisy and ignorance of Waters’ show is multiplied when you consider that nothing is said about kleptomaniacs like the former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma; the licentious liberator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe; or Hillary Clinton, who has been investigated by the FBI since 2016 in order to determine whether or not “there was evidence of financial crimes or influence peddling” within the Clinton Foundation.

The tour’s accompanying documentary conveniently overlooks these facts, while gratuitously and unapologetically pulling on the audience’s heartstrings by exploiting the tropes of drowning refugee children floating face-down in the sea; attractive young women performing traditional dances in bombed-out cellars; attack helicopters strafing ethnic villages; images of middle-class Germans applauding columns of refugee families as they arrive at Munich station; and white policemen armed with batons patrolling the streets of major cities.

The truth is that very few children are found amongst the millions of predominantly young male economic migrants who are coming to live and feed at our expense. Likewise, the footage of attack helicopters and soldiers wearing body armor is actually evidence of Israeli Defense Force aggression on the West Bank, and the naïve, virtue-signaling Germans are now reeling under an epidemic of crime.

Waters doesn’t care to comment upon these realities as he directs the mood music from center stage. All we get is the visage of the former Floyd bassist stooping over the microphone, his fanatical eyes sending laser-beams of self-righteous light out into the electrostatic night, his black t-shirt pulled tight across his bony chest as he mockingly raises his right arm in the Roman salute. Clearly, this is meant to link Trump, Putin and the rest to Hitler and Mussolini by means of the well-worn technique that decades of brainwashing prepared gullible minds to accept.

This is what is so insidious about the whole experience. A once original and groundbreaking musician is cynically resuscitating and recycling his earlier work in order to apply its messages to the present, shamelessly trying to squeeze a few extra dollars from a loyal older generation and a few more cents from a desperate younger generation – all of whom have been starved of decent music for decades, feeding instead the pap pop of synthetic groups like One Direction.

In this hardened Floyd admirer, the whole thing produced a feeling of “quiet desperation” for the sheer brilliance and beauty of albums like Wish You Were Here (1975) and the soaring magnificence of songs like “Comfortably Numb”:

Relax
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?

Waters himself is rapidly becoming that “distant ship smoke on the horizon,” a tool of those who would use him for their own ends and a sharpshooter who is losing sight of the true target. He has become a purveyor of clichéd platitudes about equality and the brotherhood of man, a traitor to his own people, and a man whose words and actions seem to indicate his willing complicity in a genocidal crime.

Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
. . .

Black (black, black, black)
And blue (blue, blue)
And who knows which is which and who is who
. . .