Produced by Roger Waters, Animals (1977) sounds like dry ice. There’s no place or space in this mix for a psychedelic communion of instruments. Instead, voices are constantly modulating toward machines, and the guitar delivers its message in biting, often atonal shards. This revolution is serious business. Translating capitalism into the terms of the animal fable, Roger Waters discovers three relevant categories: pigs (the one percent), dogs (aspirants, or those aggressively playing the “game”), and sheep (perfect victims). Religion, invented by the system in order to produce quiescent meat, is skewered; Waters rewrites Psalm 23 as preparation for the abattoir, and proposes, in its place, a rather unlikely but decidedly low-tech alternative: karate training. Karate, however, is deeply intertwined with the history of buddhisms. It is in no sense a secular practice, and its spiritual dimensions have provided platforms for both state rule and capitalist accumulation. (Indeed, Žižek says that if Max Weber were alive today, he’d likely write a book on the “buddhist ethic and the spirit of global capitalism”). Meanwhile, the sheep, who have become martial arts masters, achieve a Pyrrhic victory: “the dogs are dead,” but the pigs are still overhead, ready to carpet bomb. Even if your kicks are fast as lightning, you can’t defeat aerial bombardment by those who preside over the garrison state, with their cloven hooves on the triggers. So how do we read the sign “karate”? As hope from the East? As a weapon of the weak? As always already defeated and coopted? Whatever karate brings to the table, it still cannot execute a pork chop.
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