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Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011

Henry Rollins' World Tour

The Singer and his Camera

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Henry Rollins has been the muscular, testosterone-powered voice of personal responsibility and bull-headed clarity since Black Flag in the '80s. With its fey, dilettantish implications, “dabbled” is a word one dare not use with him; instead, let's say he's worked in many media since Black Flag. Occupants (Chicago Review Press) is Rollins' coffee table photography book with pictures from his rambles through Africa and Asia and the U.S. and the U.K., but as he bluntly states, he didn't want to publish “just a collection of some amateur's travel images.” The color photos provide a platform for little essays inspired by their subjects and when taken together, the subject is the rotten state of the world.

Rollins' jeremiads spare no one less than those bloated, delusional Americans who refuse to see that the dream is turning to nightmare. “Nations that have suffered malnutrition, the ravages of climate change, and globalization's rough hand” will become our models as the U.S. slides into the same garbage heap. Rollins' point: the world is too small to avoid our neighbors' problems and the contagion of disaster is in the air. Rollins mocks the “self-sufficient, rugged individualists” with “those mythic bootstraps.” Soon, they “shall learn to eat rats.”


Bumping into the consequences of Bush-Cheney's foreign policy everywhere he traveled, Rollins found himself having to explain he never voted for them. He puzzled over the sometimes bizarre spread of American pop culture after coming across Black Flag t-shirts in Indonesia, where the vendors and the wearers had no idea of what those shirts represented. In the most fascinating essays, Rollins steps into the mindset of others, including an efficient U.S. commander in Iraq, who advises his men to “shut down certain parts of your rational mind and focus on the objective… there are many things you need to ignore,” and the taunting Afghan warrior, who reminds his American adversaries: “You are soft men who need to be trained to fight. We are born to fight.”