Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
The more we learn about ourselves, sometimes, the less we actually know. As we dive in, work our way through the years, slug it out with the bitter brutes and grovel at the feet of the sweet beauties, we realize that we're nothing more than bit players who are handed revised lines to use every morning while we're getting our clothes on and we're having that first trip of the day to the toilet, as the first pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchen. While we can still be rich with personal knowledge, the amount that we know or understand about the world at-large and all the people breaking it or trying their hardest to fix it/slow down the breaking becomes incredibly flimsy and cautious. It becomes harder and harder to place any weight on what we think we know about any of it. We're fooled and deceived at every turn, only to remain vulnerable to it all going down the same way the next time. If there's been one busted trust, or a leak in wall, there have been thousands and they will keep coming.
The world that Billy Bragg has been bringing us into for a very long time is one that's been wounded and yet is built upon the belief in the possibility for overall human decency. He and his characters - these proud and hurt men and woman - must have something to still hope for or else they would have nothing at all. These are people who have been chased out of their homes. They feel ostracized. They feel neglected and disregarded, but they still cling to there being a greater good out there that they can get to if they continue to work hard and live virtuously.
Bragg sings about how gamblers become rich and the salt of the earth, blue-collar workers remain poor in this crazy world. The laborers have always believed that they're taking the right path, that working themselves to the bone will be rewarded in the end, when it usually just gets them abused. They still persevere with a hard jaw, thick skin, a scarred heart and a firm handshake. They keep a hopeful twinkle in their eyes, even as they have their faith fray slightly here and there. He sings:
"What if there's nothing
No pot of gold to find
Only the blind leading the blind
No one knows nothing anymore
Nobody really knows the score
Since nobody knows anything
Let's break it down and start again."