1970

WHAT'S GOING ON * MARVIN GAYE * TAMLA MOTOWN 775 * UK

A landmark recording from a troubled superstar (who says life is a bed of roses at the top) this pensive and Platonic track was the first single taken from his album of the same name: What's Going On. It is a song, said to be, about the confusion of his brother [a brother] returning home from the madness and horrors of the Viet Nam war only to find confusion and madness in his native America. In the light of the control, abuse and prostitution of a people by their ruling elites from at least the last thousand years by royalty, the church and latterly the state, the question "What's going on" posed here by Marvin Gaye was as relevant then as it was in the 'Dark Ages' and as it is today. What was, is and will be 'going on' is exploitation, abuse and total disregard for the lives of the mass of  humans, animals and even for the fabric of the earth itself, by power structures and the elites who run them. The very subjects that Marvin Gaye asks about he answers simultaneously in his rhetorical questions, but as good as this general approach is, it can give an audience a sense of futility and despair. Throughout history many commentators have applied themselves to the task of analysing and mapping the way power works, its abuses and the gains it continuously makes for itself, so that others might act to resist or change its oppressive agency. Most recently the book by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello's The New Spirit Of Capitalism gives us a comprehensive critical analysis of the sociology of late capitalism and the apparatus of state that imposes it. But whether its Carl Marx's Capitol or George Orwell's 1984, or, indeed, any of the innumerable other books that supply us with our knowledge of the how and why of What's Going On we never seem to be able to change the basic structures of power. One glance at the shenanigans known as the G8 conferences held last week in The Constantine Palace - a palace that Peter the Great wanted to become a Russian Versailles - with the ruling elites of various nation states performing exactly as their royal and religious precursors did - with banquettes, flunkies and general all-round high living - in which the only things that have changed is the style of dress and the distance the people are kept away from actual events. Incidentally the whole raison d'Ítre of these G8 gatherings is, ostensibly, to sort out world problems the utter bollocks of which was so graphically illustrated by this particular event when in the absence of even a superficial resolution to the carnage in Lebanon (even if it was their will to do so, which I suspect it isn't) they have to resort to the most crass PR diversion of pretending to leave some microphone or other on, relaying 'inadvertently'  some non-pathetic conversation; something the state/corporate complicate media lapped up.

See also:

Can I Get A Witness Stubborn Kind Of Fellow When I Had Your Love Ainít That Peculiar
Youíre a Wonderful One Iíll Be Doggone Little Darling One More Heartache Inner City Blues

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