Living in Cycles - Twinkle '07 = Network '76

A friend of mine recently posted a YouTube link on my facebook profile of the movie Zeitgeist and it reminded of this post (which I started in March but never published) about how apropos Erykah Badu's most recent release was to this year, 2008. But more specifically the track Twinkle. I'm sure it was at least in part a consequence of the political fervor at the time. Late February to mid March was exciting, energizing even. Then I found myself trying to keep a tab of all of my favorite blak-politico artists and the dope tracks that they kept pouring out. Lupe and Erykah were at the top of the list. But Erykah has been and probably always will be in my mind "the quintessential artist." Her work is somehow always on time and seemingly effortless. When I first bought Nu Amerykah, I couldn't get it out of my car stereo. Each song was like a little slice of blak-politico heaven. She never ceases to amaze me. Even though I don't have it on as constant of rotation, I might have to revive the practice even if only to inspire myself to action . But I digress... The track "Twinkle" (07), contains an interlude in it that is too pertinent and real to ignore - CHECK THE SONG and LYRICS BELOW

Twinkle - Erykah Badu

I don’t have to tell you things aren’t good.
Everybodyknows things aren’t good
We know the air is unfit to breathe,
and our foods unfit to eat.
Young punks are running the street
No one knows just what to do, and there’s no end to it
The dollar buys a penny’s worth and banks are going under
Cobbler’s keeping a gun under the counter
We sit watching our idiot boxes
While some local anchorman tells us that today we’ve had 18 murders and 80 violent crimes
As if that were the way things are supposed to be
We know times are bad, worse than bad
People are crazy!
It’s like everything everywhere is going utterly mad
So we never leave our homes
We sit in our comfy abodes while the world is getting smaller
And we say,
"Come on! At least leave us alone in our family rooms.
Let me have my microwave and flat screen and my 20" wheels and I won’t say anything.
Just leave us alone!"

But I’m not going to leave you alone!
I want you to get angry!
I don’t want you to riot.
I don’t want you to protest.
I don’t want you to write your Senator, because I won’t know what to tell you to tell him.
I don’t know what to do about the recession and the inflation and the crime in the street.
All I know is that you’ve got to get mad.
You’ve got to say, "I’m a human being, dammit!
My life has value!

There is no doubt that those words are pertinent today as they were when spoken by Howard Beal in Network (1976) over three decades ago. Of course, with a few small, yet powerful, alterations.

Apart from what are the more superficial adjustments, to account for a passing of time, it is precise in the way it appears to speak to a different audience. In Network, Beals speaks to what is portrayed as a primarily, if not exclusively, white middle aged middle class audience. I read the subtext in "microwave and flat screen and my 20" wheels and I won’t say anything" to insinuate a presumably black significantly younger and somewhat less well off audience. Twenty inch wheels are a popular phenomenon - self soothing symbols of wealth some folk adopt as a way of keeping up with the Jones'.
Further the piece about "and I won't say anything," speaks to the kind of invisibility that people, and in my experience - especially black people, think they have to engage in order to have a good life, "to be lef[t] alone in [their] family rooms."

A little reflection.


  1. Thanks for posting that YouTube clip - I hadn't seen it before.

  2. Because the imeem player sometimes only plays 30 second clips. I'm working on the other post :)

  3. Hello, for the record I've moved my blog from www.sleepysatelltie.blogspot.com to http://sleepysatellite.podbean.com as it's easier to podcast from there. Do drop by every now and then, I'll be putting lots of stuff up on the site over the next few months.
    On a side note I see you're both interested in affordable housing, I actually work in that field over here in London providing guidance for social housing associations on how they can work towards breaking the cycle of poverty/unemployment of their tenants. All the issues of sustainability, social mobility, progressive social initiatives etc are very interesting to me. I'm also gay, and my girlfriend is about to come out to her very religious, very traditional Jamaican parents so lots of this blog is interesting for us to read!



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