ETIENNE de La BOETIE AND THE GODFATHER OF SMACK

Tyrants thrive on popular acceptance. It’s the fundamental insight of Boetie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. Elected or not, civil obedience is the rule of thumb. Think Nazi Germany.

I was reminded of this insight while reading R.J. Smith’s (2012) biography The One: The Life and Music of James Brown. When I got to the part about how he’d routinely beat women, blooding their dresses for example, I threw the book away.

Brown’s domestic violence was well known. Abhorred no doubt, but generally accepted too. A recent review of Smith’s book readily acknowledged that Brown was a terror, but nonetheless claimed that the book was a showstopper that sparkled.

A different adjective came to my mind, inferno. Just because something was tolerated back in the day doesn’t make it any less despicable now – no matter how many times James Brown begs on his knees: Please, Please, Please.

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