A Contribution to the Critique of John Mayer
John Mayer, currently:
John Mayer, when we take our teeth out of our pockets :
The continued existence of John Mayer is unthinkable.
Terribly and literally so. Because one must admit not just his perpetuity, not just acknowledge the knowing that he is still out there, somewhere, while we wash the dishes and look back over our shoulders at what has just passed us, at that streak behind the skull that means the dog is pursuing with joy and maliceless rage a small number of birds who found their way inside this heated house, and the two types, dog and birds, slur in speed together just like the two sides of the thaumatrope, with its dog side and its bird side, that when at rest and turned slow in the hand will ask Why is a pointer dog like a Highwayman? and even answer it too: Because he is in quest of prey.
But when the toy spins, becomes a movie with montage but no motion, then we can’t read the question anymore. There’s no joke or reason, just trauma on a rope, and the permanent gag of birds always almost caught by that robber’s rogue of a spotted dog, or perhaps it’s the birds ever puking forth from his mouth because, like a Highwaymen or treason, dogs too know how to give back to the community. And just as always is the fact that earthworms have yet to have unstrung the warbling chords of that stubbly Mayer throat, and the ocean has yet to swallow without cough or mutter the small collection of ashes that alone bear witness to the one thing that once sat shirtless with a guitar splayed across his middle like the stripped hull of a daughter.
No, through the lump in our voice that tastes of spring cancer, we must find the courage to say aloud that: John Mayer does not merely live. He also has not been executed.
Such a thing can barely be spoken, because to admit the non-occurrence of his execution casts doubt upon not just the basic antagonism of our species – or at least when on its proleing vibe, all torch and gut and the circle of Crown Vics stood on their heads below which, in anti-freeze cutting lime through the winter’s slush, is written merely HA! – but so too our fundamental enmity toward all that prolongs our ruination.
Yes, the fact that Mayer is surely, at this very moment – as in all moments across history, human and otherwise – slipping his fingers between the slats of the ribs of a “daughter” (whose existence is no longer historical but cut loose from time’s woof and affixed by this moment of Mayering to nothing but Mayer himself), and the additional fact that he has been done in by neither rabble nor decisionist assassin: all this, all this undermines the very foundation of history as the herky-jerky motion of social war in the durée, longue and short alike. It tells us that there is no importance to the winter dance of occupied jazz squares and box steps shoved aflame into the road with everything reeking of a) old piss, b) new bile, c) damp cardboard, d) the throaty cheers of nearby rats, e) sweat, which makes its own time, and f) diluted Maalox for eyes and none for spleens because that bile is no accident. It denies insurgence and quelling, that series of cuts between which slosh their echoes, their marrow, our froth or songs.
With him still out there somewhere, it’s almost like what we see when we glance back over these wastrel millennia, over shoulder or past the mount of the belly or crotch, is just the distended hacking apart of him into nothing but more of him, whole, immanent Mayer: forgetful, expansive, the hunks blurred together in sight, not by spinning but a horrific binding and constancy, at once goop and shard, tongues licking stamps made of tongues, or also a goop. An ocean of slight tremolo.
And we know this is not true, that it’s not the case, because we know it’s more like Jacques Camatte said, that,
History presents itself as a sequence of discontinuities caused by the intervention of classes. They are what cut the Gordian knots and solve the riddles. The intermediate continuities are nothing more than the spillage of a content affirmed in the moment of social eruptions.
Or, to say it simple, history is an outside agitator.
But we know also that, like Camatte wrote later, years after heading deep into the woods:
Seriously, fuck that guy. The human community [Gemeinswesen] must raise high on pikes [piquets] the vacant lantern skull of man that is John Mayer
because the fact that no one has gone all Aldo Moro on Mayer isn’t just a slight exception to the inexorable logic of getting hackles up to de-make this barbed world.
No, no. Mayer (He must be written in the singular, even when it is multiple, because there are so many of them, in dentist offices and on the back porches of parties, but they are just shades of the former, like Platonic shit stains.) must be destroyed, of course. Of that there’s no doubt. But still, still what matters is not the outflowing of the frozen yogurt of masculinity, or the pre-Franconian – James, that is – sensitivity, or the Jennifer Aniston of men who fucked the Jennifer Aniston of women, or the soulful tank top and infamous butcher, or the ruffian’s placebo, or even the nihil of cuddlefucking.
What matters is not even that he’s the slurry of continuity, because he’s more than that: he’s a project, a theory of time, one wh0se sole aim is to blur together meanwhile (history as what happens around, beside, below, astride us) and before (history as what was not but has become alien to us). John Mayer is nothing but the fleshly declaration that: there is no difference between meanwhile and before because everything that ever exists does so for, or gauged by proximity to, this moment. And by “this moment,” John Mayer means: having sex with John Mayer.
The lyrics of his popular ballad “Daughters” make this unmistakeable, bare the fangs of the whole operation. (And the fact that it isn’t “current” doesn’t matter one iota, because any one who walks around the world without headphones is aware that the song can pounce at any moment, in any restaurant, at any bus stop. It was never timely, and, for this reason, it does not go away.) The first verse goes as follows:
I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
To gloss: John Mayer likes a “girl,” but he has a difficult time understanding her: this is because she changes across time (a “maze / where all of the walls all continually change”), rather than remaining constant and navigable (presumably, a one-way street, or a non-mutable maze). Hoping to change this, John Mayer has done all he can: not for her but in order to tear his heart from his chest and stand on her steps – she may be not a maze, but also a house – holding that heart. He does so to show her that he is vulnerable, that she can do what she wishes with his heart because “she puts the color”, etc, but also that it is possible to be eternal, to refuse decay and transformation, to remove the body’s motor and know that the walls will not rearrange such that the heart can never go back home again.
In short, he is telling her: listen, you can stop being you and also be Mayer.
However, despite his best efforts to be heartless, he’s come to the hard realization that it isn’t his fault. Because he’s a gentleman and because he refuses the possibility that perhaps her world already has color without him, he insists that it also isn’t her fault that she doesn’t open to him like a flower or a maze broken open wide. No, something must have happened, beyond her control, to make this the case. And so, the answer is given:
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too
Which means that:
1) the shift from his situation to general categories (“fathers,” “daughters,” “lovers,” mothers”) means that the advice becomes universal: not her father but all fathers, all mothers, all daughters should “be good.”
2) the chain “girls -> lovers -> mothers” both cannot be broken or deviated from: mothers should be good to their daughters not because they are humans who deserve decent treatment but because they will become lovers and, eventually, mothers as well.
3) “lovers” means those “those who Mayer decides to try and love”
In short, fathers and mothers should be good to their daughters because, if you don’t, they might not be adequately available for Mayering. Or, in other words, the entire general ethics of being kind, not abusive, and loving toward those around us, an instruction to the species as a whole, casting fore and aft into the depths, between meanwhile and before, then and now, is all predicated on the possibility that John Mayer may, at some point in history, plan to fuck that daughter.
The past and present and future are sutured, not by the history of struggle against oppression or the attempt to lead lives not based on the violent domination of others, but by that one act: being bedded by John Mayer.
So it is that Mayer stands, lit in the dark, before inhuman vistas and canyons, calling out to Roman slaveholders, Ethiopian farmers, Inuits, Malaysians, populations wiped from the face of the earth like a grin, everyone, insisting: be good to daughters because the mutability or non-fuckability of anything cannot be tolerated.
And so it is that the project of Mayer stands in direct and utter opposition to everything we stand for: for the singularity of things, for daughters to not have to be lovers of Mayer or mothers of lovers of Mayer, for the insistence that the appearance of the eternal is just the gut casing of a sausage, holding in particular shape what urges toward obscure forms of its own, what starts not from the heart but from the guts, the pit of the stomach where rage pools and conspires.
And were this a film, we would open onto “a grayscale video of Mayer playing the guitar and singing the song in a dark studio, intercut between scenes of a girl (i.e., a “daughter”)” having removed the intercut scenes of a daughter and trimmed away the studio too, until it is just Mayer, mewling soulful in the dark. We would replace them with nothing but the line of a cut, a clean axe’s sweep, to alternate back and forth: Mayer, the cut, Mayer, the cut. And were this a film, we would pull it from the projector and cut from the film just two frames, one of Mayer, one of that cut, and we would stick them to each other, back to front, with our own spit, to make a new thaumatrope to be hung in the street.
There it wafts in the air, wound up and spinning. It’s not a blur but a clear image of Mayer and the cut, superimposed, inseparable, the head made discrete from the body but just a moment ago, still in place. And at some point the thaumatrope stops, we’ve left it behind to go do other things, the dogs are out tonight and so are the birds. But were this a film, the camera would have stuck around and would hold close on the stuck frames as they turn slow, slower, dead still until the question written over Mayer can be read (Why does Mayer get the axe?) and so too the answer etched just below the thin red line
Because of the daughters, because of the daughters