The other day in the shower, don't ask me why, "The Banana Boat Song" popped into my head and I started singing it for my own entertainment. As I did, it struck me as it never had before how strange the cultural role this worker's lament ("Daylight come and me wan go home") has taken on, at least in U.S. society, is. It seems to me anyway that it's now part of that horrible "vacation" genre where you can find my two least favorite songs of all time, "Margaritaville" and "The Piña Colada Song" and a number of other abominations, simply (as far as I can tell) because it's "tropical." The horrifically solipsistic "Worst vacation ever?" at the end of the intro to this article, which at no point mentions that the island we bombed to shit just for fun had people who considered it home, is another example of this revolting habit. All this is, of course, what the Situationists and the Sex Pistols were describing when they talked about cheap holidays in other people's misery.
This tropical = vacation equation is just one example of a larger phenomenon by which our imperial consumer society transforms and absorbs contrary or potentially harmful data. It happens on every level, too; one of my favorite examples of it on a smaller scale is "Imagine" by John Lennon*, which plays frequently on Lite Rock format radio in spite of its lyrical content, which stands in firm opposition to everything Lite Rock radio exists to prop up. Most people's mouths know every word to the song, but very few allow it to reach their minds.
I experience it frequently in conversation, especially at work; people in general (and I'm sure I'm included in this at times as well despite my awareness of the mechanism) are very good at automatically agreeing with everything they hear--and not just mechanical agreement, I mean agreeing and actually discussing back--and then immediately disregarding it. I've talked endlessly with people at work about the nature of wage slavery, and even gotten good responses, but then five minutes later people who a moment ago were totally with me will be right back to identifying with the company rather than with one another.
I don't say this to be like, oh, people are so stupid; I say it to emphasize how good the system has gotten at insulating itself from shocks. It's even convinced us to do the work for it!
This is the background of one of the more common criticisms of Wikileaks I've been seeing from people who are coming from a position outside of the mainstream--people, in other words, whose criticism of Wikileaks does not arise out of loyalty to the State.
That criticism is, of course, that Wikileaks isn't so much bad as useless. Any damaging information released through them will simply be chewed up and swallowed by the system, just as easily as "Imagine no possessions" or the existence of human beings on atolls. And it's true, at least for now. I wish we wouldn't help it to be true so much by saying, over and over again, "This is pointless," "Everyone knows this stuff already," and so on (this is the role we play in the machinery, though we prefer to call it cynicism), but it's true anyway.
Luckily, however, that criticism is irrelevant. I'll be discussing why tomorrow. And no, I'm not being coy, I'm just tired of typing right now. If you want to know the perspective I'm going to be approaching it from, it's described in Aaron's famous post at zunguzungu, which you've probably already read.
*Or, to be more seasonally relevant, "Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)," which functions similarly.