Substitute: Richard Donald Milhouse John Nixon Trump

Previously posted, in somewhat different form, on The Daily Kos. The Who song “Substitute” always seemed to be a perfect description of how I lived my life, displacing or substituting easier or less anxiety-producing people, goals, and life perspectives for ones that I seemed unwilling or unable to cope with. Studying medieval literature and religion thus substituted for the Catholicism I was raised in, my mentor became a kind of substitute father who I felt it was at least possible to please, and alcohol replaced romantic relationships. Everybody does this to some degree, in part simply because circumstances or the inner drives of our personalities force us to.

This slideshow applies this playful early Who song to our current president, who of course displaced Obama (displacement being basically part of how our political system is structured), a change that I believe represents a yearning to return to an even earlier time and president when—at least in the cultural memory of certain segments of the electorate—“other” people knew their place and ethical behavior was neither practiced nor really expected as long as a superficial respectability and deniability was maintained, even in the face of considerable factual evidence.

On a personal level, you don’t usually actually marry your Mom, but you might marry someone who styles their hair in a remarkably similar way; when booze loses its ability to depress your anxiety or create a false sense of self-confidence, you find other substances or life strategies to substitute for it. In its extreme form, you end up living a kind of fake life, in which legitimacy is conferred by status symbols and your ability to get other people—and by a kind of feedback loop even yourself—to accept them as authentic. Oh well, before digging myself into a hole I can’t get out of by pretending to a knowledge of human psychology and motive that I don’t actually have, here’s the brief slideshow. This is the 2nd version of “Substitute” from The BBC Sessions album (a kind of substitute “Substitute”), which I liked for its crispness, concision, and the overt sarcasm in Roger Daltrey’s vocals, which is much more muted in some of the group’s more pop recordings of the song. I kept the count in, possibly as a symbol of inevitable repetitiveness of such behavior, but mostly because it sounds pretty cool.

By the way, that rather cryptic photograph I picked to illustrate the lyric, “the simple things you see are all complicated,” showing Woody Guthrie, Trump looming over an apartment block, and Trump’s father Frederick, refers to this story, which I hadn’t been aware of before. Speaking of things I had not been aware of, here is a possibly even more danceable, and even more depressing vision than the one above. Here is a song–not from half a century ago, but from “Now,” that I ran into about five minutes ago, and was apparently first posted to YouTube two (now three) days ago. Wow. This so nails me, or at least the me of a just a few months ago.  It doesn’t help that the “viewer” character who ages during the video really comes to look like a thinner me, the fear is certainly there in the eyes, giving way to a kind of tired, hungover stare. If the Townshend song focuses on how substitution works in personal relationships, the Moby song wants to illustrate its psychological cost in the most devastating way possible.  Anyway, although I had nothing to do with this video, it seems to be about me, and this is a personal blog, so I’m posting it here.

Apart from a considerable production budget, Moby’s singing, writing, arranging talent, and producing his song and the video attached to it, and his rather penetrating ability to express the depressive mind and how it reacts to the world around it, what’s his got that mine hasn’t?

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