Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Can You Hear Me... Now

I grew up with lots of older brothers and sisters.  One of the side benefits of older siblings, besides the fact that I always knew my babysitters, was that I was exposed to a lot of older music.  For somebody who grew up in the middle of the disco era in the 70's, exposure to good music (aka - golden oldies and classic rock) was a good thing.  Although I can appreciate some BeeGees and "I Will Survive", all I can say about polyester, coke, and mirror balls is that they assisted in the creation of some truly awful music.

So as I am sitting here playing poker online, I am listening to some concept albums (not all are oldies - Green Day's "American Idiot" fits in very nicely with some Pink Floyd, Beatles, and The Who).  The Who's "Tommy" is playing, and I hear a song that has always bugged the crap out of me.  That song is "Christmas."  I like the music, but some of the words have bothered me since my pre-teen days.  ("Tommy" per Wikipedia)

"Christmas" has Tommy's "family" singing about the wonders of xmas and how excited children get about it.  But then they start singing about the poor kid who cannot be "saved" since he is unaware of his surroundings and everything around him, including the fact that "Tommy doesn't know what day it is... He doesn't know who jesus was or what praying is... How can he be saved, from the eternal grave?"

The pre-teen in me thought that was tremendously unfair to the poor kid.  I mean, he's never had a chance, he cannot even conceive of a god, and he will be damned for it?  That was totally unfair!

Now, though, that song takes on a different meaning to me - and still bugs the crap out of me.  Here is a group of adults who have gotten together purportedly to enjoy a holiday with each other and all their kids, and rather than doing whatever they can to make this poor kid's holiday as enjoyable as possible, they obsess about the impossibility of brainwashing this kid into worshiping some imaginary being.  During the adults' cries about their tribulations of "saving" a kid who can't even hear them, they effectively accept as fact the kid is sub-human ("Only if he's cured will his spirit future level ever heighten.").  Sadly, that pretty much reflects fundamentalists view of the world...

I suppose I should not obsess myself about this.  After all, the Tommy character does ultimately get to experience the classic religious experiences:
 - In "Do You Think It's Alright" and "Fiddle About", Tommy gets to live the Catholic Alter Boy experience, as Uncle Ernie "fiddles about" with him ("down with the bedclothes, up with your nightshirt.... fiddle about, fiddle about... You won't shout as I fiddle about...")
 - In "Cousin Kevin" he gets to experience an all powerful being who abuses and plays with him for sport.  Tommy's cousin Kevin is a sadistic, twisted torturer who plays with weaker beings for fun, abusing as he sees fit.  If that is not a godlike character straight out of the old testament, I don't know what is.
 - Tommy even gets to experience the delusion of knowing all the answers, and twisting other people into doing what he says just because he thinks that it what is needed to reach spiritual fulfillment.  Tommy tells his followers "If you want to follow me, you've got to play pinball.  Put in your earplugs, put on your eye shades, you know where to put the cork."   He even has his pederast Uncle Ernie act as a spiritual guide for the unsuspecting minions...

All is not lost though, as in the end there is a happy ending:  He is forsaken by his follows, who have wizened up to the fallacy of Tommy's religion.

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