008 :: IGNORANCEListen to "008 :: IGNORANCE" on Spreaker.
A folk singer is a singer with something to say. And although this singer hasn't yet spoken a word, the music is already saying so much. We can hear it in the halting rhythm of the drums, the aimless harmony of the saxophone, the punctuated melody of the strings, and the occasional accompaniment of the piano. It's the sound of hesitancy, of tentative exploration, a fitting soundtrack for what's to come — for this song, and indeed this entire record, is a folk singer confronting how little they know, how little we all know, and how difficult it is to communicate anything to anyone.
Not that any of this is obvious on a first listen. The song's refrain – "I never believed in the robber" — is an enigmatic phrase, which might be heard as defensive or boastful or insistent or exculpatory. Yet as the song goes on, it becomes clear that the singer is in fact recapitulating their own past ignorance, documenting how they were able to delude themselves and deny what was always in front of their eyes. And as the song goes on further, it becomes clear that the singer is recounting not just their past ignorance but ours too, which is why in the second verse they switch from the first to the second person, the refrain now becoming "You never believed in the robber".
But the point of this song is not to chronicle some cheery epistemic conversion and to celebrate how we all know better now. Rather, the song persists in its retrospective mode, only ever looking back on the past, only ever reporting what wasn't believed, and why and how it wasn't believed. The song holds us here because it wants us to see ignorance not simply as an absence of knowledge but as a refusal of it, an active state of resistance to the truth which requires the construction and maintenance of an entire mental and social edifice to buttress our false beliefs. This is how ignorance works, how it perpetuates itself, and how it becomes the default and the norm.
At this point you might be wondering, So who is this "robber", anyway? It is, admittedly, a capacious metaphor, which might be taken to refer to the rapacious forces of settler colonialism or late-stage capitalism or hegemonic masculinity or environmental extractivism. But at bottom, the robber is a stand-in for all the oppressive forces in our world, which as part of their oppression hide themselves from view and give us ways to not see their effects or believe in their very existence. To never believe in the robber is precisely what the robber wants us to do.
This, at any rate, is what I hear in the singer's words. But it is to the singer's credit that they never actually say any of this. They are not here to tell us the truth about the robber; after all, if they did, how could they ever expect to be believed? The singer knows how the robber gets in your head and distorts your beliefs and makes you refuse all evidence to the contrary. The singer knows that if you don't already believe in the robber, then this song is not going to be what changes your mind. The singer knows that just because you have something to say doesn't mean that anyone else will hear it. Because that is the robber's ultimate theft: to make the ignorant deaf and the soothsayers unintelligible and the truth a glancing melody drowned out amidst a sea of noise.