The Ever Fonky Lowdown - I Know I Must Fight...

An in-depth analysis of the libretto and lyrics of Wynton Marsalis’s funky jazz parable

Wynton Marsalis has penned what he calls a funky jazz parable for 2020. The Ever Fonky Lowdown was written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, vocalists and narrator.  It premiered at a concert at Rose Theater in New York in June 2018.   A studio recording of the work was released in August 2020.  Even though it was written over two years ago, the themes are so prescient it seems as if Marsalis wrote this piece while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have know Marsalis for nearly 30 years. We are like brothers. I worked with him at Jazz at Lincoln Center for almost 7 years in the early 2000’s as the organization’s Director of Finance and Administration and then later as Vice President and Producer. I first met him after a show in my hometown, Louisville, KY in 1993 when my son, Wynton Kelly Stone Guess was just an infant. He was touring the ballet Griot New York with Garth Fagan Dance.

After the show we sat down to chat at a restaurant at his hotel. I couldn't believe that I was actually meeting and having a chance to chop it up with the Great Wynton Marsalis. I had to pinch myself. Things were going along swimmingly when out of the blue, Marsalis said something that I thought was really dumb. If he had been one of my friends or colleagues, I would have called him out on it. But, this was Wynton Marsalis. I couldn’t say anything, could I?

I knew I must fight.

The next thing I knew, I heard myself saying, “I know you’re a world-renowned musician and some even consider you a genius, but that is some of the dumbest s#it, I’ve ever heard.” Off to the races we went. After the back and forth, Wynton looked over to me, “I like you. Let’s keep in touch.”

That disagreement served as the foundation for a three decade relationship and is part of the reason that I am even able to write this piece. Wynton and I have a lot in common, but we also disagree. Like brothers, we argue and fight. As a matter of fact, we have almost come to blows on at least two different occasions, one on a basketball court in Brazil and another in his apartment at Lincoln Center.

We don’t always seen eye to eye. For example, I vehemently disagree with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s decision to use jazz.org as their URL and brand for the organization. Five years ago, I started a petition on change.org, calling the institution out for doing so. I told him at the time, that I hoped that my disagreement with his decision for his organization wouldn’t get in the way of our personal relationship.

It didn’t.

Because we both understand that life isn’t binary. It’s a continuum.

We can disagree and agree.

We can get on each other’s nerves and love each other.

It’s not always either/or, more times than not it’s both/and.

Unfortunately this isn’t the normal course of engagement for individuals, groups and tribes throughout the history of humanity. Mankind has a way of not being very kind.

This is the foundation of The Ever Fonky Lowdown and in true Marsalisian fashion, the piece is a major work that is rather lengthy.

It’s nearly two hours long.

In order to give the analysis of the work the proper attention and respect that it deserves, this analysis is also long - 6,000 words, so buckle up!

Many of the themes of the piece point to the problems that are plaguing our planet presently.  The libretto and lyrics are searing and satirical yet universal.  It is a painfully honest commentary on the human condition - the universality of man’s inhumanity to man.  Unfortunately that’s not only universal, it’s also timeless.  When someone listens to this piece 20, 50, 100 years from now - if humans haven’t destroyed the planet by then - it’s not too much of a stretch to say that they may also think that it is a contemporary piece.

Like Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes (1:9) - “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Later in the book (6:1-3), Solomon comes to the realization that even though he has everything that a man could ask for on earth - knowledge, understanding, money, power, fame, women - it still was not enough.  At the end of his life he was questioning whether or not all of it was even worth it.

“I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind:  God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.”

As he faced his mortality, Solomon had come full circle - from living the life of the richest, wisest and most powerful man on the planet to a deeply introspective and lowly man lamenting his own mortality.  

The narrator and host of The Ever Fonky Lowdown, Mr. Game is “a composite strongman, part evangelical preacher, lawyer, businessman, politician, street hustler, newsman, social worker, street corner prophet, and reality show celebrity.”  

Mr. Game has been running game for a very long time.  He may be a slick talker but he knows that his words and methods are extremely effective, “Lest you think I’m a happy rhyming fool, this is a game that took Solomon to school.”

Seems like Ol’ King Solomon was even duped by Mr. Game.

Mr. Game’s game - The Ever Fonky Lowdown - takes advantage of the three legged stool on which the human condition is precariously perched: survival, belonging and purpose. These three tenets are the foundation of mankind’s individual identities. And identity is at the center of human choices.

Our narrator takes us by the hand and gives us a masterclass in man’s inhumanity to man. He gives us a closeup look at the game pieces that have been used to manipulate the human condition and individual identity to help perpetuate disdain, disgust and indifference for one another.

In the 1995 essay, Racism and Fascism from Toni Morrison’s book The Source of Self Regard, Ms. Morrison wrote of how humans are manipulated in a game towards a similar destructive end.

“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another. Something, perhaps, like this:”

She goes on to outline 10 steps that show how we get to that final solution.

Below is my take on the inventory of game pieces that I found when I opened the game box of The Ever Fonky Lowdown found alongside the corresponding songs from the work.  Since there is nothing truly new under the sun, I also found echoes of Ms. Morrison’s 10 steps inside that box. 

I will point those out along the way as well.

This is a very old game indeed.

The Game Pieces

Winning (Mr. Game Speaks: I Am a Winner)

“Did I tell you that my number one hustle is winning? I am a winner, and everyone loves a winner. Even the losers of a very bitterly fought war will try to join the winners. And y’all are all winners. You are the greatest people in the world. And we, together, are the best ever.”

In Mr. Game’s opening monologue he introduces the construct of winning. In order for there to be a winner there must be a loser.  Winning lays the groundwork for superiority, dominance and control.

The Royal We (We are the Greatest

The royal we is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person, usually a monarch.  This is introduced in the lyrics to the song We are the Greatest.

“I, me, mine myself

Me, I, mine, myself

Mine, me, myself, I mean

We are the greatest in the world”

Even in moments of supposed solidarity, the individual reigns supreme.

Success (Mr. Game: Success is My Middle Name)

Mr. Game proclaims, “Yes, you have to believe in yourself to be successful. I see you have accepted that concept quite well.”

What is success?

Who determines whether something or someone is successful?

Success is a fleeting construct that usually pits humans against one another.   The opposite of success is failure.  If you’re not successful, then you must be a failure.  According to Mr. Game, in order to be a success you have to believe in yourself.  

If you’re a failure, then you must not believe in yourself.  And since that is a hard pill for the human psyche to swallow, it will usually look for another explanation or cause for failure - The Other.

The Other (They/Let’s Call Them This, Mr. Game” Beware! They’re Going to Cause Problems)

Similarities and differences are what we should appreciate about one another as humans.  Unfortunately differences tend to rule the day, but in a negative sense.  When humans observe something that is different in another human, this can either be an opportunity for celebration and appreciation or an opportunity for suspicion and separation. 

Too often in life, we humans choose the latter.

Name calling and labeling is essential to identifying and keeping track of The Other.

“Let’s call them this

Let’s call them that

Or something funny

Maybe this and that”

Ms. Morrison knew this all too well as evidenced in the first of her ten steps.

1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. 

Once The Other has been properly identified and labeled, it becomes easy to assign a potential damaging or dangerous outcome to them and their actions.

“They’re going to cause problems,” declares Mr. Game.

Justification (Talk is a Waste of Time, I Don’t Like Nobody but Myself)

“We can’t have them competing with us, because competition is an act of aggression,” says Mr. Game.  

Because The Other is bound to cause problems, the so called inevitability of their actions is justification for proactive action against them.

“Believe me, O Glorious People! I think I heard they have been committing nefarious crimes, and they don’t believe in God.  We must hold them accountable,” blames Mr. Game.

Mr. Game is pulling from Ms. Morrison’s second step.

2. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy. 

The  so called “fact” that The Other doesn’t believe in God is even more justification for action against them, particularly from an Old Testament perspective.

“I don’t like black people

I don’t like fat people

I don’t like white people

I don’t like short people

I don’t like old people

I don’t like

I don’t like

I don’t like

I don’t like nobody but myself.”

The self is again at the center and everyone else is the enemy.

Declaration of War (Mr. Game: We Must Strike First! - The Drums of War)

In his declaration of war on The Other, Mr Game declares, “Since they don’t believe in God we must liberate them from themselves before they destroy us.”

But there is a subtext for the “war” - plunder!

3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power, and because it works. 

Profit and power are part and parcel, if not the primary purpose of the plunder of The Other. 

Removing Doubt in the Name of Democracy and Rallying The Troops -  (Mr. Game: The Mandates of Our Democracy, Consideration Blues / I Know I Must Fight / The Drums of War Return

In an effort to assuage anxieties and remove doubt from the people, Mr. Game offers the following. “To fulfill the mandates or our democracy, O. Glorious People, we’ve set aside a specific time and space for you to voice your uncertainties and to consult with your leaders. These are very serious actions we have taken.”

The ability to voice uncertainties doesn’t mean that those uncertainties and doubts will change the course of action already decided, even in a democracy.  This is up to the leadership. The leadership that was elected by The Glorious People and in many cases also by The Others.  

“I really don’t

Well they must have

I guess we should

Help me to

Did our Lord say

I just don’t

Ye, I think

I guess so

Well, I don’t

I guess it’s too

Here we go

There’s no choice”

The voicing of uncertainties sometimes is just a process whereby The Glorious People are allowed to come to grips with the inevitable - “There’s no choice.”

In the Rallying of the Troops, all roads lead to war.  Anything that allows for sympathy with the plight of The Other must be removed in order to help usher The Glorious People into the interior of the inevitable.

Ms. Morrison explains this in her fourth step.

4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit, or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification. 

Since there is no choice, the final answer is - “I Know We Must Fight.”

But who is We?

The Royal We Becomes Us (Mr. Game Who is We?

“This is your will, O Glorious People,” says Mr. Game. 

Once the war has been executed and the ravages and carnage become apparent there may be a tendency for some of The Glorious People to try to separate themselves from the slaughter.  

This was the leadership’s idea, right?

Were the spoils of war worth the carnage?

Mr. Game doesn’t allow for such wavering of thought.  He issues a veiled threat to The Glorious People wrapped in an invitation.  “We is participants.”

All of US are involved. US all are complicit.  If you’re not with US, you’re against US. If you’re not US, you’re The Other.

This threat and invitation can be found in Ms. Morrison’s fifth step.

5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy. 

Contemplation and Remorse? (What Would the Savior Think?)

“What would our Lord have done?

See the world anew. 

Create the right 

Instead of avenging the wrong. 

Love each other.

What would the Savior think?”

As humans when we address and begin to better understand our purpose - the third leg of the stool that holds up our identity inside the human condition - we come to a realization that our purpose can only by fully recognized and realized by developing a relationship with The Creator.

The recognition and welcoming of the presence of The Creator in our lives gives us an absolute anchor from which we can navigate through life.

The Removal of The Absolute (Mr. Game: Winners Don’t Reflect, We Celebrate)  

“Too much thinking and praying will give you a headache.  Winners don’t reflect, we celebrate....You see, trust me, you are thinking about right and wrong and all that Savior nonsense. Everything is relative,” preaches Mr. Game.

By announcing that everything is relative, Mr. Game has removed the construct of The Absolute in favor of The Relative.

If everything is relative then it is hard, if not impossible, to anchor yourself into anything.  The North Star has been an absolute guiding force for mankind for millennia.  

An absolute is essential for navigating through life.

The Splitting of the War Booty (Some for Me, None for You

In a spiritual slight of hand, Mr. Game pivots from  the dismissal of The Absolute to a splitting of the war booty.  A celebration of the spoils of war.  After all, that’s what winners do, right?

“Some for me, some for you, Some for you, some for me, none for you, some for me, some for me, some for me, none for you, none for you, none for you.”

It’s starts off as a split, but eventually the individual becomes yet another casualty of the war.  They get nothing!

The Victory Parade, The Symbolic Victory (Mr. Game: We’re Number One!

 To justify the regressive allocation of the war booty, Mr. Game has an explanation. 

“Now you, O, Glorious People, may not get any of the spoils of this war, but you’re winners. A winner shouldn’t let the vicissitudes of money dampen their euphoria. You don’t get any Super Bowl money when your team wins, but it still feels damned good to wear their jersey you bought. It just feels so right: We won! We won! We won. And.... we’re number one!!!”

To the victor goes the spoils.

Even if it just a celebration. 

Everybody loves a parade!

The problem is that The Glorious People don’t realize that they have just enjoyed a pyrrhic victory the, ramifications of which have not fully set in yet.  It’s like a slow growing undetectable cancer growing in the body politic. 

Monday Morning Quarterback (Mr. Game: They Deserved Everything They Got)

Just in case there is any lingering doubt or remorse from The Glorious People, Mr. Game has a word for them.

“If they believed in God, and if God was on their side, they wouldn’t have lost. O, Glorious People! Our people were heroic in battle, as always. Let me find the right words, so the official records and textbooks will show that the good are celebrated and the bad are rightly punished.”

In an ironic hypocritical twist, Mr. Game brings back The Absolute in a way to disassociate The Other from The Glorious People.  They don’t believe in God and as a result, they got what they deserved.

In a post war analysis, a new narrative is written and told. The good, the bad, the ugly and the indifferent are rehashed to be just the good through the lens and the language of The Glorious People.

The Justification of Corruption as a Necessary Evil of Individual Consumption (Night Trader

The ravages and carnage of war were necessary to feed the internal beast of the individual appetite for consumption.  The plunder of war feeds the machine that nourishes The Glorious People’s survival, sense of belonging and purpose through commercial consumption. 

To keep up with the demand(s) of The Glorious People, the game requires that those who are feeding that beast must cheat from time to time.  But don’t worry, says Mr. Game. It’s just a necessary evil to make sure that he is serving The Glorious Peoples’s needs.

“The speed of consumption far outruns the pace of corruption.  I have to stay ahead of your appetite.”

Corruption when uncovered is usually justified in some way.  What better way to justify corruption than to be up front about it as a means to serve The Glorious People’s end.

“Sign a bill, don’t even read a bill

Enforce the law, I never studied law

Who cates if they committed the crime

There’s money to make, give em some time”

Introduction of The False Binary Narrative (Mr. Game: They, Too Want to Be Winners

Mr. Game introduces the construct of the False Binary Narrative to The Glorious People,

“Whether subservient or resistant, each will adjust their philosophy to accommodate defeat. That’s the illusion of choice.  Haha, the old binary hustle. Tutsi vs. Hutu, God fearing vs. heathens, Democrats vs. Republicans Yes there are two sides to every doing, but it’s still the same coin.” 

This false binary narrative wreaks havoc on the treatment of The Other at the hands of The Glorious People as well as on the psyche of The Other.  After all they are the losers, right?

Mr. Game breaks it down.

“Losers have two choices: entertain us by playing out our vision of them as meek, emasculated jesters... or excite us, playing out our vision of them as dangerous captured savages. Well, it’s natural to the defeated, all of that bowing and scraping, but it’s also okay to let a little pressure out of the system and listen to the most aggressive ones roar and shout insults about what they think we’ve done to them...and so on. I love the anguished fiery testimonials, I love them owning the bad names we called them. I just can’t figure out why they think all of that noise and blaming inspires guilt or shame—it’s actually therapeutic for me. Tell us again. What did we do to you?”

The Self Fulfilling Prophecy of Inferiority (Mr. Good Time Man

All of this leads to the Self Fulfilling Prophecy of Inferiority of The Other, causing some of The Other to denigrate themselves willfully or unwittingly.  Thus, perpetuating the supremacy of The Glorious People through cultural self-immolation. 

Some of it even for personal profit.

“Oh come and play

Mister Good Time Man

Make us feel everything’s all right

Oh, let me smile you blues away

I’m ready

Yet there’s another type of fellow

And he turns my legs to Jello

When he brags about the violent

String of crimes he has committed 

He is such a dashing fellow

All bedecked in golden chains

And though the years have passed

His story is the same

Oh, can I buy a ghetto song

So I can dance and sing along

We’ll share a rhyme

While you do time

I’m ready.”

Ms. Morrison knew this as she points out in her sixth step.

6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process. 

The Loss of Shame (Mr. Game: Shame is for Losers)

“Shame is for losers or for those who have done something wrong. We only did to them what they would have done to us, if they could. Don’t think about it, just follow the stories in all the books, movies, and everything else. We are number one. If you’re not us, you’re them. They will complain, but don’t look back, don’t look around, history is now. 

Can you accept this? 

I knew you would. It’s the Ever Fonky Lowdown.”

Shame is a very effective tool for dealing with human behavior.  Shame enters into the equation when the human psyche realizes that it has done something wrong or has fallen short of what is expected from someone that they respect.  Shame is an indication that The Absolute is still present. It is through shame that humans seek to make honest and sustainable change.

When shame is lost, it is the beginning of the end.

Mr. Game dismisses shame by once again returning to justification.  He points out the pathologies of The Other.

Ms. Morrison points out this old trick in her seventh step.

7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology. 

Acceptance of the False Binary by the People (Because I Want to, Because I Like to, Because I Can)

“My sister

My brother

Why? Why? Why?

Why? Why? Why?

Why? Why? Why?

Oh, why do you treat me so bad?”

Because I want to

Because I like to

Because I can”

When shame is gone, The False Binary can be easily accepted by The Glorious People, which leads them down the path of a very dangerous progression.

The Glorious People answer the question posed by the Other - “Why do you treat me so bad?” with:

Because I want to - desire begins in the mind. Selfish, dangerous and evil desires are best kept there.  We all have those thoughts all the time.

Because I like to - pleasure is derived from actually doing something. The selfish, dangerous and evil has left the mind and entered the mouth, the hands and the feet - it has been put into action.

Because I can  - when shame has gone, consent usually follows. The only thing worse than doing the selfish, dangerous and evil is feeling that you are entitled to do it and even worse - getting away with it.

It’s All About Me (I Wants My Ice Cream)

Once shame has left the building there’s nothing standing in the way of the individual acting out their innermost selfish desires.

Individuals are now given justification and cover for their actions.

It’s about me, not about you.

“I wants my ice cream 

So good to me

I loves my ice cream

Oh, can’t you see

Oh, yes I see you

Sleeping I these streets

Got me to thinking

What a poor man eats

I likes my ice cream

Would you like a lick?

Ah-ah I’m playin’

Just a dirty trick”

Ain’t got no money

Even if I could

I wants my ice cream

Don’t think I would”

All of the game pieces are now in place and The People are firmly ensconced into the Game - The Ever Fonky Lowdown.

Where do we go from here?

Spiritual Reflection (What Would the Savior Think?)

Now that The Glorious People and The Other are fully enmeshed in The Game,

Are there any left who have some semblance of shame left?

Are there any left who are anchored in The Absolute?

Are there any left who don’t think it is all about the individual?

“What would the Savior think?

The word is the will of God,

Not the will of the people.

Hmmmmmm.....”

The Prizes 

Whether or not The Glorious People and The Others, the participants in The Game realize that they are stuck inside the matrix of The Game or not, there are some prizes, some benefits, some residuals that accrue to those who participated, whether they want them or not.

Mr. Game hands out these prizes with an elucidation of how they came to be, lest there be any misunderstanding as to how these prizes came to be in the first place.

First he gives out some local history.  It’s important to know your history. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been or more importantly what has been told to you about how you got to where you are.

Secondly,  he gives an explanation of exactly what happened. “How OUR choices worked out over time.  That’s the breakdown.”

And finally he gets to the skinny, the bottom line, the truth of the matter, “we look underneath the sheets, where the big dog eats. That’s the lowdown.”

First Prize

The History Lesson - The Other were separated from The Glorious People because they were no good and beyond rehabilitation.

The Breakdown - Separation of The Other is for the comfort and safety of The Glorious People

The Lowdown - Keep the separation in place by any means necessary 

The Prize  - Segregation, Segmentation and Homogenization

“Everywhere you look, you will only see yourself. Congratulations!” proclaims Mr. Game to the winners.

The elixir that fueled the fabrication of the first prize is good old fashioned phobias and tribalism - Isms, Schisms.

“I got isms, schisms

Isms, schisms

Isms, schisms

All for me

We don’t want the aggravation

Does not matter what they know

If I see one anywhere around my place

Our police may shoot them dead

And win the case”

Second Prize

The History Lesson - The families of The Other were destroyed even though they were productive workers, stock and property.  Central to that was the breaking of the bond between man and woman, bringing about a devaluation of family in general.  Which is a good thing because families are expensive. And, “nothing is more important than money.”

The Breakdown -  “A winner buys the life he or she wants to live! Everyone else will fall in line based on their payout.” In other words, it’s all about money ain’t a damn thing funny. You gotta have a job (or a hustle) in the land of milk and honey.

The Lowdown - The personal benefits once found in family and traditional companionship vis a vis romance, can now be acquired and purchased outright. “If you get lonely, just swipe a picture on your app or buy a robot.

The Prize - The isolation of the individual. “Freedom from the rigamarole of romance and escalation of the domestic war in the court of transaction.”

The destruction of the families of The Other is one of the first steps in the perpetuation of their criminalization.  An unstable or nonexistent familial structure makes it easy to imprison the men and separate them from their children.

Ms. Morrison speaks of this in her eighth step.   

8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for, and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy—especially its males and absolutely its children. 

The byproduct of the second prize is an ongoing feud between the sexes and the beginning of the end of romance.

“Yes No Yes No

Yes No Yes No

Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes

No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No

No No No No

Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes”

“Where has the love gone?” 

Third Prize

Mr. Game works concentrically out from the family and parenting to the community. “Now, consider the impossibility of accounting for members of your community. It’s all so involved. If we just strip away needless complexity, we can sell more of our ideas. What are we selling? Well... participation. The new community accepts everyone that can buy in.”

The Breakdown - “Give the people what they want. Shake your money maker. Don’t sit on it sell it...Everything is for sale - even a community.”

The Lowdown - “Don’t let other people exploit you.  Own your own identity. We all have something worth selling.”

The Prize - Prime time pornography and the commodification of culture.

“Consider this bout the filth we love

Consider this from a view above

We like it

We love it

We buy it

We sell it

We believe it 

We achieved it

We live it”

This can be a dangerous progression similar to that of  “Because I want to, Because I like to, Because I can,” if used for the wrong thing.

We like it - admiration often starts from afar.

We love it - the closer we get the more we like it and like eventually turns to love.

We buy it - our love turns to acquisition. We bring it home.

We sell it - we love it so much we start to make it for ourselves and decide to sell it to others

We believe it - belief is not an intellectual exercise. It’s about action.

We achieved it - that action turns into results.

We live it - those results turn into a lifestyle for others to see and emulate so that they can start the process at the top for themselves.

This commodification of culture fits right into Ms. Morrison’s ninth step.

9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions: a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press; a little pseudo-success; the illusion of power and influence; a little fun, a little style, a little consequence. 

Fourth Prize

The History Lesson - When The Other were owned they were issued papers that identified them as property or free. “We really kept track of those people because you couldn’t’ have them out spreading public mischief and mayhem.”

The Breakdown  - Fear! “You are the only one you can trust.  Anyone could be doing anything at anytime. Be afraid. Be prepared.”

The Hand Me Down - Surveillance equipment is improving and will eventually be ubiquitous. “Be the first to participate.” 

The Lowdown - “Privacy is the enemy of freedom”

The Prize - Freedom through constant surveillance and relentless security.

Once you’ve instilled fear into The Glorious People by using The Other, a surveillance state is a natural progression for protection and convenience.

The Wildcard 

The History Lesson - Freedom fighters challenge the prevailing thought about freedom. “Real freedom fighters come from a long way off. They bring a lot of history with them.  From the annals of The Other have come some that have “applied our sacred learning [from the Bible] to their wretched affairs.”

The Breakdown -  To discourage The Other’s freedom efforts, particularly through song, they were encouraged and rewarded to self-deprecate and “the popularity of their music began to appreciate.” Hopefully watering down their message of freedom.

The Lowdown - Nonetheless The Other understood the construct of freedom that they somehow got from “a book they couldn’t even read. And they filled the air with this noise as they worked.”

Mr. Game exhorts The Glorious People to resist the words and actions of The Freedom Fighter.  “If you can survive exposure to this freedom fighter by maintaining your defense of the freedmen we have secured for ourselves across time, you will receive the final and greatest prize.  If you waver, however, you could lose everything.”

Mr. Game understands the power and the potential of The Freedom Fighter and thus, knows how important it is that they, their message and their mythology not be allowed to become a part of the pantheon of The Glorious People.

It is of the upmost importance that The Freedom Fighter not even make it in as a footnote in the historical mythological record.  

The Freedom Fighter

Using Fannie Lou Hamer as a representative Freedom Fighting Figure of The Other, who has either sunken into the deepest recesses of The Glorious People’s Minds, was never know in the first place or has been forgotten altogether; Mr. Game declares the ultimate victory on behalf of The Glorious People and has agreed to award the fifth and greatest prize.

The Breakdown - It doesn’t matter if the most pertinent information in the world is readily available as long as apathy appears and appeals to The Glorious People, it won’t matter. “You almost never have to kill freedom fighters, just let memories of them die.  There’s no need to bury information no one cares about.”

The Hand Me Down - Amnesia is sometimes required to honor true sacrifice. “You overcame Fannie Lou’s overtures,” says Mr. Game. “To the point of forgetting her very name. This is a great moment for our way of life. We should reflect in honor of her sacrifice.”

Forgetting about the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom sometimes causes you to willfully, and maybe unwittingly return to  the place where you came from.

“Why do we pick slavery over freedom?

Forgetting is tantamount to silence.  Which is where Ms. Morrison lands on her tenth and final step.

10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.

The Fifth Prize

The game was never about The Other, or The GloriousPeople, it was about the individual who was duped into falling into and even buying into a system or a game whereby that individual acts against their own interest because of their reliance on the fake construct of a binary narrative.  When you are duped into believing that there are only two choices it becomes easy to institute the golden rule of the fake binary narrative - Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!

The History Lesson - The casualties of real war are much more dire than we think, especially when you’re actually involved, but didn’t know that you were. “Did you know that over 700,000 people died in the American Civil War...Us and Them?”

The Breakdown - While you fight among yourselves just leave everything up to us. “We’ll make sure you move have to do anything except pay. Who is us?” We are who you aspire to be one day, which is why you won’t rebel.”

The Hand Me Down - “The Savior and all of these freedom fighters continue to get it wrong. You don’t actually want to grapple with more than two choices. You don’t want to sacrifice anything meaningful for your fellow citizens.”  Apathy, lethargy and indolence are the natural byproducts of playing the game.

The Lowdown - “Wasting time is the greatest drug in the world.”

The Prize - “Freedom from thought and constructive engagement. You don’t ever have to do a single damned thing about anything going on out here that DOES NOT DIRECTLY BENEFIT YOU! Survival of the fittest...that’s as fonky as it gets, baby.”

Conclusion

Mr. Game has taken the contestants around the board and has returned them right back to where they stared, the only difference is that they did not pas Go! and they did not collect $200, on the contrary the game has cost them some multiple of that, plus something that they may not be able to recover very easily...

Their true identity vis a vis the tenets held up by that three legged stool:

Survival, Belonging and Purpose.

Ms. Morrison concludes her essay Racism and Fascism with an equally grim outlook for mankind.

“When our fears have all been serialized, our creativity censured, our ideas ‘marketplaced,’ our rights sold, our intelligence sloganized, our strength downsized, our privacy auctioned; when the theatricality, the entertainment value, the marketing of life is complete, we will find ourselves living not in a nation but in a consortium of industries, and wholly unintelligible to ourselves except for what we see as through a screen darkly.”

The social, political and cultural messaging in Mr. Marsalis’ The Ever Fonky Lowdown speaks directly to the plight of humanity in the year of our Lord, 2020 - a year that has already proven itself to be one that will stick out in the history books.  

It is a timeless message offered for such a time as this in a timely manner when most of the world has nothing but time on its hands, just as it seems that time might be running out on humanity.

The question for us all now is the same that Dr. King asked at the Eleventh Annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference  Convention in 1967  "Where Do We Go From Here?”

Whereas, Mr. Marsalis in the person of Mr. Game doesn’t offer any solutions to that question and the problems perpetuated by the game - The Ever Fonky Lowdown Mr. Coltrane outlined a solution for us 12 years before Dr. King’s question in the four movements of his work A Love Supreme: Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm.

In closing I’d like to offer a proposed solution for dealing with The Ever Fonky Lowdown through the lens of Mr. Coltrane’s four movements of A Love Supreme.

1. Acknowledgement - recognize that we are in the matrix as outlined above and realize that we are powerless to fight it physically if we don’t first free ourselves from it spiritually.

2. Resolution - once we’ve acknowledged it, resolve and plan to make a change starting with ourselves 

3. Pursuance - pursue and persevere with the plan as outlined above working concentrically  - self, family, friends, colleagues, community, etc. even in the face of insurmountable odds or certain evidence that points to failure 

4. Psalm - place a song in our heart that will keep us, whose purpose and praise is the same no matter what our altitude - mountain high or valley low.

In other words, just like the last words of The Ever Fonky Lowdown:

“I Know I Must Fight”

I Know I Must Fight!

But, the difference is, the fight begins with me - against me!

How about you?


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