A discussion of "The Joker"

(“The Joker” is found on The Blackbird: The Definitive Collection: Vol. 1: The Early Years.)

So, if you are like me, sometimes you wonder things like: “What would happen id Batman and Bob Dylan got together to write a song?” The Joker is the result of such musings.

As I look at the modern world, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a deception going on, but how do we identify the root of this grand deception? Alan Moore, the mad Scottish genius of graphic novel fame, has in more than one place suggested that the best analogy for western civilization may actually be a “Joke”, and that we are living inside a joke which we cannot see because it is so massive, so large.

This song was written in the George W. Bush years, for the fabric of the Joke was already becoming threadbare, and we could begin to see through it. Now as we nauseously stumbling through the Trump era, where we are drowning in black comedy, I find the song still speaks to me.


how many roads must the joker walk,

before ridicule replaces talk completely


and how many clowns can walk a land,

before we suspect some strange kind of plan is unfolding


his painted face and his twisted smile, his cartoon evil entertains the child

we like it simple or we feel betrayed, this is the house that the Joker made


These lines from the first verse ring relevant to me. “Ridicule” is the language this president is most fluent in, and his followers adore it, having little talent in communication, they fall back on ridicule as an ersatz for communication in general. This president does keep it simple, and because of this his endless betrayals do not disturb his followers.


Turning on the television or any other source of traditional information will open the “Clown-gate” (a flood gate of clowns) and we are asked to care or participate in clown politics, clown entertainment, and to fill our mind with clown fluff and clown drama. It is of course possible to bypass some of it, but that comes at a cost of disengaging from the society we long to be part of, which is no solution to the situation we find ourselves in.


tell me how big must one joke be,

before there's no one left who can even see

it's just a joke


and tell me how old a joke can get,

before we're too ashamed to admit

that we missed it


But we should feel no shame once we begin to make out the form of the Joke in which we are living. Many powerful entities enforce the Joke, some quite ancient, some quite modern, and these enforcers are shapeshifters by nature, so we should not be too hard on ourselves when we begin to catch the shape and shadows of the Joke and it's enforcers. In reality we, ourselves, are the antidote, we are the cure, we are the solution to the puzzle ourselves. So feel welcome in that role, you are invaluable.


an old black man sitting on a wheel says,

the niggers of the house war with niggers of the field- you see it comin?


The joke is that they seem to think they're free,

and that a nigger that he gotta be black like me, they missed the joke


in the middle of the farm sits the company store,

but we can never work off our debts no more, now can we?


Disguised in nothing nut a business suit,

the Joker waves sitting on his loot


In the middle verse of the song I try to draw your attention to what I consider to be a major ingredient of the Joke: our debt-based monetary structure, and how it seems to be perfectly modeled on Southern plantation Indentured Servitude. (What's a good folk song without a reference to debt-based money?) Indentured servitude was not anything more that a way to guarantee a cheap labor force for a wealthy minority of the population. Living in the Joke, banks have taken over this function, and they are rewarded with the power to create money out of nothing other than your promise to work and repay the loans they grant us. So the reality of our society is your promise to work (to repay mortages, car loans, student loans) is the absolute basis of wealth for the wealthy minority, and now by extension for western civilization in general. Should we all decide to refrain from working, the wealthy minority would be in a terrible position, and they would call in the military on us, for never doubt that they are fully aware of the machinery of the Joke.


So if your job sometimes makes you feel like a slave, it is no coincidence- it's just that the conditions of our slavery are greatly improved since the civil war. For this we should be grateful, of course. In fact for many years the “deal” was quite acceptable. My parents grew up in a world where they were able to believe that my world would be even better than their world was, there was a future the entire country could believe in and, we see, they were fully willing to work for, if not for themselves, for their children. Is this still the case? Few believe so. The deal has been broken. There is no common vision of any future America at the moment, Trump and his followers want to regress backwards in time, and the Democrats try to sell that holding onto what we have now is the best we can hope for. The system is bound for chaos without the attractor of a common vision of a future in which our children have more opportunities and peace than we have today.


and the Riddler riddles and he twiddles and rhymes, til we're entranced by the art of his crimes

the paperboy dutifully delivers his verse, but the riddler relieved him of his purse


The art of his crimes. LIBOR. Credit Default Swaps. Sub-prime mortgages. The financial market is based on immoral, unethical, criminal behavior (even by the lax standards of the Joke's rules).We are indeed entranced by the art of the crimes here. If we were not, I shudder to think what might happen.


I apologize for use of the horrible racist terms, but to understand how and why the middle class was built, one can still refer to the Southern Plantations and their skillful use of “house” servants and “field” servants. House servants were used to keep order for the owners, they were tasked with keeping order among the field servants, and for this they were treated better. This better treatment had many functions, firstly effectively binding the house servant's welfare directly to his master's success, and secondly creating the illusion that a field servant could eventually rise to in status as the house servant did. We still have the echoes of this in the language of “Job Creators” and “Trickle Down Economics” . Same principle, different generation.


The reference to the company store directs us to central banking, in America that would be the Federal Reserve system, and not so much personal debt but the debt attached to the creation of each dollar. For each dollar which exists there exists $1.10 in debt, and this has been so for a hundred years. It is not even theoretically possible to repay this debt, because the money has never been created. There is more debt than there is dollars, and it was always so. We will never be free of debt in our system, and that it designed to bind us to work for our entire lives. In very simple terms, our debt is always someone else's wealth. A minus in one column must be a plus in another.


The closing verse attempts to draw our attention to the idea that normal people, who believe they are part of a fair system will always be the the ones yoked to the system.


Here are the complete lyric to the song. I welcome any thoughts, as always.


The Joker

tell me how big must one joke be, before there's no one left who can even see, it's just a joke
and tell me how old a joke can get, before we're too ashamed to admit that we missed it


how many roads must the joker walk, before ridicule replaces talk completely
and how many clowns can walk a land, before we suspect some strange kind of plan is unfolding


his painted face and his twisted smile, his cartoon evil entertains the child

we like it simple or we feel betrayed, this is the house that the Joker made


an old black man sitting on a wheel says, the niggers of the house war with niggers of the field- you see it comin?
The joke is that they seem to think they're free, and that a nigger that he gotta be black like me, they missed the joke


in the middle of the farm sits the company store, but we can never work off our debts no more, now can we?

Disguised in nothing nut a business suit, the Joker waves sitting on his loot

and the Riddler riddles and he twiddles and rhymes, til we're entranced by the art of his crimes

the paperboy dutifully delivers his verse, but the riddler relieved him of his purse


Tell me just how mean that a joke can be, before we're forced to call it cruelty, methinks pretty mean

the simple will be made to suffer the most, on their knees they accept the host on their tongues


the sacrifices of everyday, will not be acknowledged in any way, shamefully
but let it be known they are not in vain, there must be many strikes before the beast is slain, shine on


and the Joker's comes in all preaching-up Christ, a beautiful diamond, an elaborate heist,

and all he takes will need to be relearned, just another trick that the joker turned

“The Joker” is found on The Blackbird: The Definitive Collection: Vol. 1: The Early Years.

(Physical CD) Vol 1: The Early Years
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