Embattled Leaders via The Drones

Soundtrack for this post:

Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots !!!! ‘Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!’ by The Drones.

Disclaimer: The Drones are my all time favourite band and I don’t know that I can write about them without gushing pathetically.  To try and focus myself, I’m going to concentrate on just one song for this post (their songs are long and dense, so one is enough for the purposes for post accompaniment anyway).  Given this admirable restraint, I reserve the right to post about them again.

My good, bad and ugly of world politics this weeks concerns leaders in trouble: two are recently unemployed and one is facing the fact of his political mortality for the first time (even if the inevitable death is still a while away).  ‘Another Rousing Chorus You Idiots!!!‘ has the desperate melancholy of a powerful man losing his grip.  The worldiness and world-weariness of the lyric brings to mind Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer’s character in Blade Runner) and the anguish of memories’ extinction he represents.  Some illustrative lyrics below, and also see THE GOOD.

I have seen mountains stop short of the sky

I’ve seen continents reach the oceans and shy

I have had beauties and charred fire breathers

I have drunk whiskey and your methylated spirits

I have seen harder men shrivel and flake

A common theme in Drones’ songs is how hard it is to make rent.  In this song financial indiscretions are more dire and dramatic: “I have spent thousands, most of it loaned”.  In these economically depressed times this brings to mind structural rather than individual difficulties: ie. the sub-prime crisis and, by extension, Europe’s current economic travails.  See THE BAD below.

I particularly like the line “We were shat from a wormhole, to revere your face” and the refrain, “you were not easy to break”.  Without wanting to over-analyse, to me, the subject in this song is unstable.  Sometimes the subject and object seem to coincide, sometimes they don’t.  The idea fits well with the final line of the chorus “admit you were only two inches away from zero control, again”.  See THE UGLY below.

The title of the song is, as anything that seems so directly aimed at its audience, provocative.  Who is he calling idiot???  And what chorus is he even talking about?  Is he being ironic and referencing that anemic wailing?  (Incidentally, the counterpoint that wailing makes with the hard-man bravado of the verses is another instance of the instability of the song’s subject).  Or is this straight-forward self-deprecation; a reference to the easy emotiveness of exaggerated dynamics The Drones use a lot, particularly on this album?

Taking a political slant, the song’s title could be read as a reference to the group-think that props up music idols and fascists alike.  At a Soundgarden concert I attended in Melbourne in 1997 Chris Cornell yelled something like “you’re all fucking idiots”, provoking cheers of adulation.  While I was bemused, Cornell was amused: he clearly knew he would get such a reaction.  He’s now mellowed, but The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard has been known to utter similarly misanthropic asides on stage.  I could imagine our mindless devotion could be scary when seen from the other side.  Or mildly embarrassing, anyway.

For the first time ever Vladimir Putin is looking slightly less than inviolable.  He is a long way from staring down any kind of barrel, but for a man who officially received 72 per cent of the vote last time he ran for president in 2004, developments since mass street protests were first seen after last December’s parliamentary elections are surely cause for reflection.

There’s always been opposition in Putin’s Russia (bets are any Russian journalist who died in mysterious circumstances over the last decade was a voice for such forces).  This sort of mass mobilisation is however new.  The most recent protest was reportedly attended by around 100,000 frozen Muscovites.

Despite these refreshing digs at Putin’s entitlement to rule Russia indefinitely, his victory in the March 4 presidential election is all but assured due to a lack of a credible opposition figure.  At best, he may be forced to contest a run-off election (required should he receive less than 50 per cent of the vote).  A very optimistic view is that all bets would be off should a run off indeed be necessary.  In that scenario, given a plausible shot at the top job, presumed second placed candidate, billionaire businessman Mikhail Prokhorov – regardless of whether or not he is a Kremlin puppet (no one is entirely sure) – would take off the gloves,  throw caution to the wind and have a real tilt.

Emil Boc resigned as Prime Minister of Romania this week.  He is being depicted as the latest casulty of Europe’s economic woes.  Romania is a member of the European Union, but not the Eurozone (it does not use the euro currency).

Boc increased taxes and cut government wages in line with requirements accompanying an IMF bailout package agreed in 2009 after the country fell into a deep recession.  These moves appear to have set Romania on a positive fiscal track but, as is pretty much always the case with austerity measures, they are deeply unpopular.  Along with now-shelved health sector reforms, they led to mass demonstrations in Bucharest and other cities calling for Boc’s resignation.

Analysts say Romanians are in a deep malaise about all politicians, not just Boc or the current government.  President Traian Basescu is at least as unpopular as Boc.  The role of President in Romania is substantive, sharing executive functions with the government.  The country’s chief spy Mihai Razvan Ungureanu took over the Prime Ministership yesterday.  Elections are due later this year.

Mohamed Nasheed stepped down from his post as President of the Maldives on Tuesday.  In a televised resignation address, Nasheed stated he was removing himself in response to sustained protests.  He said to remain in power he would have to use force; something he did not wish to do.  Nasheed has since said he did not go willingly but was actually forced at gunpoint to relinquish his democratically elected position.  He claims a military-backed coup is what actually occurred.  An army spokesman denies a coup took place.

The current crisis has its origins in Nasheed’s call for the country’s chief justice to be arrested for favouring previous ruler and opposition leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.  Gayoom is strongly allied with Islamist groups who oppose Nasheed’s liberalism.  No matter the reason though, the military detention of a judicial figure is never a good look and the justice was released pretty quickly.

Nasheed came to power in 2008 following the Maldive’s first democratic elections.  His ascension marked the end of Gayoom’s thirty-year reign.  Nasheed, then a pro-democracy activist, was repeatedly imprisoned during Gayoom’s rule.

Fellow former activist and Vice-President Mohammed Waheed Hassan has stepped into the Presidential role and maintains Nasheed’s resignation was voluntary.  An arrest warrant for Nasheed was issued yesterday.  It is not clear what charge he faces – it has been speculated it may be alcohol consumption – and he is yet to be arrested.  One of the key groups involved in the protests that led to Nasheed’s ouster was the police.

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