This Jefferson Airplane/Starship album was released in 1970. The album was bold in it’s title but the countercultural revolution portrayed in the album was merely for the counterculturists to escape the empire on an actual starship in order to restart a new humankind elsewhere. Jefferson Starship was still claiming something revolutionary ( namely inner transformation and societal transformation via the influx of “eastern” religious thought) would happen when several years later on “Dragonfly” they sang
Look to the summer of ’75
All the world is going to come alive
(from the song “Ride the Tiger“)
Well the summer of ’75 came and went and if egocentricity is a form of the “world coming alive” then I suppose that with the narcissistic blooming of the “Me generation” the world came alive! It is fitting that the Starship’s huge hit “Miracles” in which the transformation of such world changing magnitude that the Starship had sought earlier had basically become reduced to personal sexual satisfaction. The lyric speaks of “moving heaven and earth” in order to achieve this “love.” This seems to betray the transaction that occurred for most of us – we traded world changing hopes for private and personal satisfaction. And most all of us have been complacently living in this age of personal “Miracles” ever since! (Please pardon my cynicism regarding such a tame and tempting revolution with all its damaging consequences!) Don’t get me wrong – I believe that love and personal fulfillment regarding the good things in life are important, but for America the scale was more fully tipped to confirm the unbridled culture of narcissism that had begun with the automobile and television culture materialism that followed WW2. In short, the revolution could not overcome the consumer materialism of the empire but instead succumbed to it.
Therefore it is ironically fitting that a form of privatized escape had actually become the answer as early as 1970, seeing that the counterculture did not really have any true “Blows against the Empire.” Literal escape on Jefferson Airplane’s “Starship” was merely a metaphor for the private escape of the masses from empire. We voluntarily succumbed to what Aldous Huxley portrayed in “Brave New World” in which the masses are kept effectively complacent through the totalitarian governmental technological provisions of sexual satisfaction, hallucinogenic escapes, and sensual entertainment. Does it make any real difference if our complacency before a dehumanizing empire is voluntary or enforced?
A recent song by Emmylou Harris provides a lyric that narrates the history of this failure:
We came from apple pie and mom
Thru Civil Rights and Ban the Bomb
To Watergate and Vietnam
Hard times in Babylon
Rallied ’round the megaphone
Gave it up, just got stoned
Now it’s Prada, Gucci and Perron
Doin’ time in Babylon
(“Time in Babylon” written by Jill Cunnliff, Daryl Hall, Emmylou Harris)
Nevertheless, I always especially liked the song “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight” on the album. It is a beautiful song that in spite of its naivete expresses worthy aspirations for freedom from the dehumanizing tendencies of Empire.
A few questions:
- What happened to the Empire?
- What happened to the revolution?
- Did the counterculturists “just get stoned” and then become more fashionably dressed for dinner in Babylon?
- Is there any way to overcome the Empire?
Questions, comments, critiques, are always welcomed! Thank you,
Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.