Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 31 December 2020

THE SHIP OF FOOLS - Fear infects the once-proud West.

 These are the lyrics to John Cale's "Ship of Fools". It was 1974, the album was titled "Fear", just as John Lennon was composing "Scared" in "Walls and Bridges". It has taken this long for us to get there, but finally, inevitably, we did. This was always the destination of the capitalist West - its destiny (Geschicht), its history (Geschichte), its "present" (Geschenkt), its "gift". The destruction of the environment that capitalist overpopulation and overconsumption engender as necessary tendencies of its social relations of production lead gradually but inexorably to a turning of the tables. It used to be the case that the advanced industrial capitalist societies dictated terms to "the Third World", which it used as a dumping ground for its imperialist failed and aspiring leaders whom it dispatched far and wide to the remotest corners of the world, as a breeding ground of cheap labour, as a quarry for its prime materials, and as a rubbish heap for its refuse. Now the tables have turned: the Third World takes its revenge across the biosphere. Those diseases, viruses, illnesses that could be confined comfortably "over there" travel seamlessly like Shakespearean "sightless couriers of the air" to punish the hubris of this senseless Zivilisation that long ago defiled and relinquished its Kultur. The tables have turned: the ship of fools is in port, has docked. It carries with it Dracula and his rats infected with bubonic plague - just in time for Christmas...and the new year...

Ship of Fools

The Ship of Fools is coming in
Take me off I've got to eat
Same old stories same old thing
Letting out and pulling in
Mister, there's a caravan parked out back
Restless hoping for a Christian rider
The black book, a grappling hook
A hangman's noose on a burnt out tree
Guess we must be getting close to Tombstone
The last time we had eaten
Was when the flies were going for free
You could count the hardships by the open doors
But sandwiched in between
Were the fishermen who still
Wished they could sail from Tenessee to Arizona
So hold on, won't be long
The call is on the line
Hold on, Sister's gone
South to give the sign
We picked up Dracula in Memphis
It was just about the break of day
And then hastily prayed for out souls to be saved
There was something in the air that made us kind of weary
By the time we got to Swansea it was getting dark
Tumble, jungles, bugles and the prize
The tides turned west at Amerforth
As if they didn't know what to do
But Garnant stood its ground and asked for more
All the people seemed quite glad to see us
Shaking hands and smiling like the clock
Well we gave them all the message then
That the Ship of Fools was in
Make sure they get home for Christmas
So hold on, won't be long
The call is on the line
So hold on, Sister's gone
South to give the sign

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