Washington, D.C.’s Free Children of Earth singer/guitarist/lyricist Jason Yawn has a lot on his mind and much of what’s swimming around his cranial fluid pertains to the raw deal the entity of America has dealt the rest of the world, peaceful society, indigenous peoples, folks of colour, the planet, et al. His latest soapbox for the dissatisfaction of the direction his country has had on the way of the world is FCoE’s second album, Terminal Stasis (which is actually their first since changing their moniker from Beasts of No Nation). Featuring Mike Schleibaum, Andrew Black and Kevin Lamiell (names you might recognise from Darkest Hour, the Explosion, Trial by Fire and Majority Rule), Terminal Stasis is more than just a rowdy punk rock circle pit at the crossroads of the Jesus Lizard, MC5, Bad Brains and Minor Threat; the album is a no-holds barred, finger-pointing indictment of America and its social, economic, racial and environmental policies and the resulting unrest and corruption, all done with as much erudite depth as distortion pedal-fueled screeching. We wanted to give the band the opportunity to not only stream Terminal Stasis this week on the blog, but also give Yawn a forum to deliver a track-by-track explanation and analysis which, despite your opinion and position on the matters at hand, make for some excellent and thoughtful reading.
TERMINAL STASIS TRACK-BY-TRACK COMMENTARY
“No Broken Circles”
This song is about America. It’s about American exceptionalism. Not the story we were taught to have unquestioning blind pride in, but the reality at the root, beneath all the self-congratulation, and glory. It’s about the culture that committed the greatest genocide in human history. It’s one that claims the divine right to expand, to kill those it deems lesser to fulfill strategic objectives, and steal what it calls resources to perpetuate more of the same. The idea that this behemoth claims freedom, democracy and human rights as synonymous with this story, while not even counting the bodies it piles up to maintain and grow it’s hegemony, is a hell of an identity to take on for yourself. And that is what the prideful American is supposed to do. Ignore what it is, and substitute a narrative that erases this genocide, or recasts it as a feature in the march of progress. Exceptionalism dictates that this is all absolved by America’s inherent greatness. This is disgusting in the extreme. This identity internalized by the individual displaces peoples, and one’s own humanity in the process.
So this song sets the stage to liberate ourselves from the yoke of being “American,” while affirming our bonds with the Indigenous people of this land, whose lives are still under siege, whose lands are still being stolen by a Colonial force which views them as a savage infestation. And though as descendants of this construct, we cannot simply take off our privilege like a dirty shirt, we reject the story which demands we partner in that genocidal process. From this place of primary rebellion, we can get serious about finding something called freedom.
This song was spurred on by Troy Anthony Davis, his case, and the last hours of his life before being executed by the state of Georgia for a crime he did not commit. As appeals were exhausted, and protests swelled around the world, I watched as the functionaries of a system, that needed to kill a “guilty” man, whether guilty or not, filled out all the necessary paperwork to carry out a perverse ritualized murder. This was called “justice being done,” by those in official station. In this whole picture, it was Troy, the condemned man, who embodied the only semblance of human grace. In the death chamber, with his last words, he told his family he loved them. He consoled the families of the victims. He maintained his innocence, and was at peace that he would not die, but live on in the struggle of those working to abolish the barbarism of the death penalty. He was then injected with a cocktail of poisons until dead.
I needed to write about Troy, the man, not some one-dimensional symbol. That was best expressed in the strength he showed in his last moments. In this spirit, all money made from the sale of this song will be donated to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. There are innocent people on death row everywhere. More innocent people will die like Troy. We maintain that no person, innocent or guilty, should be murdered by the State, in the name of justice. We will not partner in such atrocities. Troy lives.
“Burning House Evacuee”
Martin Luther King wondered aloud, days before his assassination, whether black people were winning the right to integrate into a burning house. He was haunted about the prospect that America was already too corrupted by militarism and greed to be salvaged as a society.
Taking that notion of the burning house, and applying that lens to the question of whether a pathological devotion to electoral politics has any efficacy when every aspect of the system is corrupted, is vital at this moment in history. We do not live in a democracy. There can be no pretense of representative governance when the government is wholly owned by a ruling elite class of individuals, cartels, and criminal organizations (corporations). What candidate, chosen by these interests, by the two party dictatorship, will be allowed to dismantle the military industrial complex, the police state, the war on terror, NSA illegal spying, or capitalism’s theft of our future? These are essential pillars of the burning house that the ballot doesn’t budge.
So any participation in the national electoral charade while refusing to actually oppose the power structure, in revolt, simply lends a veneer of legitimacy to an illegitimate government. It’s irresponsible, morally reprehensible, and renders you an accomplice in your own neutralization, as well as this system’s greatest crimes. Real change begins in the street. Voting for fascism doesn’t topple fascism.
The title of the song/album is a nod to the MC5’s “American Ruse” and refers to the primary radical proclamation being made by peoples’ movements all over the world. That being, that we are drawing the line here. We will not be trampled on anymore without surrendering all that is essential about ourselves. We have an inherent right to self-defense, and are putting it into action against a dominant paradigm which isn’t fit for free people. We will be the authors of our destiny, and that cannot take place in the world being designed by inherently tyrannical economic and political regimes.
Whether the establishment media or the priests of this order wish to recognize the significance of these movements or not, they are demanding a dignity which this collapsing edifice of dead ways has no means to offer. Moreover, they are stating clearly that no authority which thrives off the dirty energy of terror, slavery, and exploitation held in place by a monopoly on force, can be allowed to stand. This song is a statement about the necessity that these movements converge in each other’s interest to constitute a global challenge for which the old paradigm has no answer. What must be asserted is that the right to revolution is sacred, and reserved for times like these.
I wanted to clearly articulate the nature of top down class war in America, by embodying the naked ego of the kind of sociopath the prevailing economic ideology rewards. The latest salvo in that war beginning with Reagan’s trickle down, up from your bootstraps, garbage of gutting labor, the social safety net, exploding homelessness, and greed is good America. Leading to its logical conclusion in 2008 with the big banks collapsing the economy to seize it, and hold it for ransom against any challenge to its victory over the rest of us. This ideology sees people as simply numbers, resources, mouths to feed, beggars, free loaders, useless eaters. It’s absolutely psychotic, and nakedly cannibalistic. This is the nature of these monstrous elites. It isn’t pretty, but it is instructive. The American dream, in this light, was their’s to steal back from those who believed in it all along.
I wanted to write about our lesser nature. That it is fed by all the inducements of a society which rewards us to the extent we are willing to become savage, and cutthroat. It’s used against us at every turn. The part of us which divides us from one another, and leads us to betray the prospect of greater possibilities. The part that advertisers love, management counts on, and politicians manipulate. Egotism. The space where the muck from the paved rode, or a chemical plant seeps into the good soil. I think a keen smell of our own shit, and an awareness of this place in ourselves, gives us a fighting chance to recognize the extent to which it fucks up our experience on planet Earth.
“Scars Of Oblivion”
This is kind of dark comedy. Lamenting living in the contradictions of the “Age of Information” that offers also a sea of non-reality, and infinite escapes from real information, and the means of empowering oneself against a cacophony of bullshit. This creation of a digital “Plato’s Cave” of mass communication was born in the Defense Department initially, and so now as it is realized, takes on the cast of a giant psychological operation against our consciousness. Mass media is not meant to inform, but to offer a series of acceptable narratives for the viewer, or consumer to assume as their own perspective. It is a feedback loop as much as it is a delivery system for official propaganda, mindless spectacle, soothing entertainment, and subtle programming, which obscures the truth that you are the product in this equation. Now, as six corporations own the media, by and large, this construct has succeeded in separating the public mind from an essential coherence, leaving us largely susceptible to whatever fantasy we are meant to buy into.
The prison industrial complex, the racism inherent in the nature of police forces, and the “criminal justice system” from their inception, renders our brothers and sisters of color targets for criminalization, arrest, imprisonment and arbitrary murder. The total picture, as Michelle Alexander tells us, is a new version of “Jim Crow” where slavery is still legal, in the sense that black folks are rendered property of the system by designed predation. This creates chronic unemployability, chronically economically depressed communities, and internally displaced populations which leave a well of misery, families destroyed, and ills on which the private prison industry can feed as a parasite. White indifference to this is a marker of supremacist attitudes which still prevail, that say our black relatives are uniquely criminal, and therefore no crisis exists. This isn’t often overtly stated, but manifests in the apathy to this catastrophe as long as “law and order” exists, white lives are protected, and investor portfolios grow.
Enter the re-emergence of the Black Liberation Struggle, the uncompromising integrity of Black Lives Matter and organizations like the Blackout Collective. We support their struggle wholeheartedly. As this song resolves, “Justice can’t claim our brothers as property. Nothing can remain as it is.” In this we speak for no one. This is an expression of our own revulsion, and commitment to seeing this reality undone.
“All Tomorrow’s Plunder”
Beyond the tongue-in-cheek, Velvet Underground reference in the title, the song illustrates an insane economic system colliding with an ecological reality with which it cannot coexist. Any economic model which requires infinite growth on a finite planet is destined to collapse and destroy the living systems upon which our lives actually depend. The daily cycle requires production, production which turns living things into dead things, to fulfill manufactured market “demand” by processes which destroy our air, soil, and water; processes which require fuel, which cooks the planet. This system, called Capitalism is blind to all of this destruction. It’s not on the books. These are externalities. We can’t afford this blindness. We actually see what it’s doing to the paradise that birthed us to maintain an economy that can’t exist if we’re all dead. We have to ask, how many tomorrows will it claim before we come to our senses. We somehow think our lives depend on it, when our lives really depend on leaving it behind. It’s not a pretty picture. Kids growing up with the consequences of this monstrous way of being will not understand how we could have abided this.
States don’t institute total surveillance to protect freedom. They do so to fundamentally foreclose on it, in an effort to institute a culture of fear, and complete behavioral control. For it is the one power despotic regimes seize, so that their power may become absolute. It attacks all who dissent, who question, as “traitors.” It has nothing to do with your safety. After all, in a society of total suspicion, we are all suspects. We are the ultimate targets. What makes human life worth living is in the constant ubiquitous crosshairs of the panopticon. Those who have been brave enough to blow the whistle about the fundamental transformation of America into a “turnkey dictatorship” are owed medals and our thanks. Those officials who preside over it, are owed charges and fair trials.
Terminal Stasis due out November 20th via Cricket Cemetery Records. Preorder: http://cricketcemetery.storenvy.com/collections/536128-cemetery-12-s/products/14820789-free-children-of-earth-terminal-stasis-lp-pre-order