Henry Rollins to make his Louisiana stop on the Capitalism tour
By Jake ClappPosted Oct 10, 2012
When Henry Rollins announced he would embark on a two-month tour entitled Capitalism, hitting all 50 state capitals on the eve of the presidential election, a million questions arose about what type of material the artist would present on tour. He started Sept. 6 in Honolulu and will end in Washington, D.C.
Rollins will make his Louisiana capital stop at the Manship Theatre on Oct. 15 for a 7 p.m. show.
The musician, writer, and actor – known for his music with Black Flag and the Rollins Band and a lengthy career performing spoken word – has been an outspoken social and political figure throughout the years, and when Dig was offered the opportunity to pick his brain for a few minutes about capitalism and his take on American politics, we jumped at the chance.
The interview quickly broke away from any planned questions and into an impassioned, fervent speech from Rollins.
Pleasantly, we got more than we bargained for.
DIG: What was the idea behind embarking on the Capitalism tour?
Henry Rollins: I want to get to the capital city of each state. As far as content, the only thing that would make these shows different from other shows I’ve done in America this year would be that we’re ramping up ever closer to the presidential election, which is a pretty big damn deal. I don’t go on stage to tell you who to vote for; I wouldn’t have the required gall to do that to anybody. I just hope that anyone who’s eligible will vote. Who they vote for isn’t any of my damn business, honestly. But I want to remind Americans that a lot more unites us than divides us. I would like to remind Americans of where they come from. Perhaps you come from Louisiana, but what I’m saying is go a little past that to see that you also come from the Constitution, you come from the Civil War, you come from Abraham Lincoln catching a bullet upside the head for no good reason. There were 630,000 Americans killed in the Civil War to change the way people see this country. I think sometimes, in the last several years, certain events have polarized America, which I think is just awful. We need to really remember the truth: that our similarities are more prevalent than our dissimilarities, that we do come from these great documents and these amazing people who came before us who gave life and intellect so that you and I can have the ease of movement.
For me, that says people who are gay and want to get married should be able to. We should really educate our fellow Americans. We’ve got to make the school system in this country better. I read a lot where people are saying that education is a privilege. If you want to turn education into a privilege, that sounds like 1860-something America to me. Literacy isn’t just for the landed gentry. You’re really not going to like the America that’s produced from that. That’s a dangerous place to live.
You might think that you’re a rugged individualist. I’m willing to wager that you’re not remotely as unique or rugged an individual as you think you are. I tell that to anyone who tells me they’re a rugged individualist. I don’t care if you’re a Navy SEAL, ex-special forces, or a Marine, you’re still using taxpayer highways and still turning on your facet, unless you’re digging your own water well in your back yard. If someone was to turn off the water, you’re not so rugged all of a sudden. We are united for better or worse. I like people, not so much when I’m in line at the DMV or in traffic, but they’re my fellow Americans. I just want to remind Americans of that, not influence them in any way. I think that’s getting lost more and more every day.
DIG: What do you think makes people so polarized and divided?
HR: It’s easy to do to any populace when you under-educate them, terrify the living hell out of them, and you give them financial insecurity and uncertainty. It was Mitt Romney who said, “Hey let the foreclosures happen, let the dust settle, and let the people become renters.” I didn’t say that, he did. What happens with 10 years of that? You get like eight people owning homes and everyone else is a renter. What does that lead to? That leads to one guy owning every home in a square mile. That means they can put a gate around that bit of real estate, they get to put in their own cops. You have the landed gentry and elite who have a lot of people by the tail. If that’s the America you want to live in, that’s what’s going to happen. There are some people who are financially blessed with enough money that when a man or woman governs it isn’t that consequential. The financial world has a downturn and these people are still liquid. There aren’t many Americans like that as far as the great pie chart of America is concerned, but they exist. Their America is vastly different than the one who works at Subway 45 hours of week.
DIG: You’ve come out in support of many issues, like gay marriage and regulation, do you mind if I ask which way you lean on the political spectrum?
HR: Unfortunately, same sex marriage has to be characterized left-leaning, which indeed it is. It seems to me the subject of gay marriage has been dealt with in the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments: freedom of expression, right to privacy, and equal protection under the law. I don’t think it’s up for discussion. If you want small government, get out of the vaginal canal, get out of the bedroom, and if Bill and Todd want to get married, why don’t you shut up and have a nice day about it and get on with your life? That’s my attitude. I don’t know if that’s left, right, center or something else. It seems to me that it’s common sense. They’re not having your honeymoon in your bedroom.
What’s the issue besides your homophobia? That’s all it is. If you are a homophobe, the first amendment guarantees that to be okay. I can go out and yell anything from my roof. My neighbors might not dig it all that much, but I can go do that because of my first amendment. And, in my opinion, that same first amendment allows Bill and Todd to get married. Why is that a left-leaning point of view? I just think that’s just an understanding of the Constitution. In my understanding of the Constitution, there’s no God or Bible. A lot of these topics to me are easily dealt with. I’ll be voting for Barack Obama in November. Whom I vote for isn’t important to anyone but me, but that fact that I do vote is important to democracy.
DIG: It’s a fundamental constitutional following, then?
HR: That and the laws of the street. I try to avoid hypocrisy whenever I can – some days good, some days not so good.
What seems to be a big topic in America is the idea of the rugged individualist and that Mr. Obama is making me buy healthcare.
Let’s call this man Bubba. Here’s what Bubba does all the time, much to my dismay: Bubba treats himself horribly, which is his right to do so. Then Bubba goes out and has a big fat coronary and then he goes to the emergency room. If he were following Ayn Rand rugged individualism, he would just die at home and not burden the ER with his chronic injury. So, he’s bleeding out whatever, they’re going to patch him up and send him on his way. Me, being the guy with health insurance, my rates go up. I’m paying for this asshole to tell me that I’m a Socialist. Bubba could just die in the parking lot. Bubba doesn’t want to use a motorcycle helmet? Go ahead. When you fly off your helmet and crack your head open and are breathing out the side of your mouth on the sidewalk, you don’t need me to rescue you because you’re a rugged individualist. We can use your copy of Atlas Shrugged as your pillow as you bleed out and die. You don’t need any stinking healthcare because your Kenyan president isn’t going to tell you what to do.
The chips should fall where they may. If you don’t want to get everyone on board with the healthcare, great, let’s do that. There will be a whole lot of people in your state who will die this year without people like me looking at America as one landmass where every American is my neighbor. I’ve got your back. I’ve got Dick Cheney’s back. I’ve got Rush Limbaugh’s back, because he’s a fellow American. That’s my version of patriotism. But if you want to go the Ayn Rand route, Bubba, you fat white bastard, then go ahead.
The misconception is that it’s just black people on welfare taking government subsidies, when the statistics don’t tell that to be true. I don’t understand why people have such contempt for the government. It’s a representative democracy. If you say government sucks, then you suck pal. Government needs work; it’s a high maintenance organization.
I don’t know where these points I just expressed – where that puts me politically. Does that make me a libertarian? I don’t think so. Ron Paul doesn’t like the idea of the EPA regulating DOW Chemicals’ right to fill rivers with crap and toxify the people living around the water. I like government regulation that doesn’t allow Monsanto to give future generations leukemia. That’s good government. Let’s see what your melon-headed children look like when they pop out of momma. That’s what deregulation will bring you. Education is the way out of this. Again, I don’t know what side of the fence that puts me on.
DIG: You’ve come out in strong support of capitalism. How does that affect you when someone tries to label you a Socialist?
HR: I love capitalism. It rewards me for being the bold, iconic individual I am. It’s just a talking point given to ignorant people. People like Rush Limbaugh give it to them. You know what socialism is? It’s the American military. Take that off the board. See what a marine says to that. I don’t think you’ll get out intact. The VHA is an institution that’s quite good. These men and women need anything they ask for when they come back from putting their lives on the line.
America isn’t a Socialist country. It’ll never be a Socialist country. You’ll never get anyone to give up their television for the good of the people. I’ve been in Socialist countries. It’s some of the most fucked, crazy, aggravating environments you’ll ever be in. You hang out in Cuba, it’s beautiful, the people are wonderful, and the food is great. Their way of doing things is just so screwed. I couldn’t survive.
When someone says, “Oh, this safety net is making America into a nanny state” – then again, if you think you’re such a rugged individualist, then you won’t be using my road, a public road. You better know how to get to work. That’s a taxpayer road. I use the same street you do to get to the venue. That’s a community. I’m going to stop at the red light. I think we all agree on red means stop, green means go, orange means accelerate dangerously. If we all agree on that, that makes us a community. I don’t like the idea of the United States being 50 angry little countries. The Civil War was fought to really bring us together. It took a lot of dead bodies to do and we’re together now.