Issue #38, 2011
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Das Man / Class Struggle / Middle Class:
 Complaints Choirs and their Lyrics
Alexandru Polgar

 

Complaints choirs are video clips improvised upon a do-it-yourself algorithm imagined by a Finish-German artistic duo. Music professionals and/or amateur choristers transform into music and lyrics complaints gathered from a more or less anonymous public. The artistic material obtained in this way goes through a few dress rehearsals, thereafter being performed in various public settings, where it is also filmed. The resulting video clips can be found on YouTube,but many of them are also collected on a website created especially for this (www.complaintschoir.org). If one examines these recordings, a number of basic features come to the fore: 1) the shows are mostly spontaneous; 2) each complaint choir has its own film and choreography, as well as its own way of versifying complaints; 3) the choristers seem to be usual people, similar to those one can see on the streets; 4) their social origin is uncertain, but most of them seem to belong to the middle class (some of the lyrics even mention the latter explicitly); 5) the complaints are somewhere between joke and gravity; 6) combined, the lyrics of complaints choirs seem to hold a single discourse and to constitute a single plural voice.

What interests me here is what this voice says. This is the reason why I decided to place next to each other in an explicit manner, too the lyrics of some complaints choirs chosen more or less randomly. However, I effaced their lyrics character, deleting refrains and repetitions in such a way that the complaints themselves come more to light. I did this because my primary concern boils down to two questions: who or what expresses itself in the complaints choirs and what is the actual content of the complaints? There are three types of answer to the first question: 1) Heidegger’s Das Man; 2) Marx’s class struggle; 3) and the common middle class (as defined by dictionaries). Together, these three concepts offer a reading grid for the second question as well. We must examine to which extent complaints choirs are pure idle talk and to which extent they express, beyond the original intentions of their authors, an objective situation or condition. This requires a minimal explanation.

Let us begin with Das Man, which would translate into natural language as “everybody” or as “anybody”. Complaints choirs are open to anybody, everybody can participate and, in principle, they speak to anybody who wants to listen. But who is this anybody that appears in the double role of artist and public? As the video clips demonstrate, the volunteers answering the call of complaints choir organizers look neither as poors, nor as rich. They seem to be part of something located between these two categories. Hence the notion that it must be the middle class. Only that the idea of middle class remains an essentially obscure one as long as the main criterion distinguishing its members is the extent of their income and its sources. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines themiddle class as “the socioeconomic class between the working class and the upper class, usually including professionals, highly skilled laborers, and lower and middle management”. According to this definition, the middle class does not work (the working class seems to be a different socioeconomic region). Which is, of course, false. This is why we need a more solid concept of class than the one based on the extent of revenues and their sources. For Marx, whose modeling of classes relies in a historically projective fashion on their position in the class struggle, there are only two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Everything else – because there are also remainders – tends toward one of these two fundamental poles and will subsequently be absorbed by one of them: the petty bourgeoisie of all sorts by the proletariat, the great landowners by the class of capitalists (see the last subchapter of Capital).The middle class would be, according to Marx, the class of a historical “not yet”, of an indecision that raises some of the proletarians in categories of income similar to the petty bourgeoisie, while it also makes possible the apparent paradox that there are capitalists with smaller incomes than some of the proletarians (some of the highly educated, for instance, but also some athletes, some celebrities, some functionaries, etc.). The middle class is the class of a class ambiguity, a mixed class that, precisely because of this, has no common interests, although it believes it has. What are these interests? If we find this out, we will know more also about what the single plural voice of complaints choirs has to say. Let us consider, for instance, what these choirs say about nature, politicians, our cities and humans in general. It is my impression that we can find in the lyrics of complaints choirs a general suspicion regarding politicians and humans, as well as a quite generalized concern regarding the destruction of nature and the discomforts of urban life. The atmosphere, however, is far from revolutionary in a Proletarian sense, which – to remind and translate – is also the point of view of a future in which:

– we stop destroying nature;

– we do not pay women less (because shall be no salaries whatsoever);

– ‑we put an end to the current car industry and invent a system of free public transport that satisfies the same complex goals as the personal motorcar;

– we stop the increasing deterioration of affordable everyday commodities;

– we do away with the rule of bosses and politicians.

One must think if something like this could be achieved without doing away with the current forms of our fundamental social institutions: State, Religion, Army, Police, School, Art, Health, Science, Administration, Law, Justice, Ecology, Politics, etc. One must think if it is possible to change any of these without changing all of them. One must think about the form of the Whole and this meditation must be kept on the main front of the class struggle, of the struggle for the Whole, which is first and foremost a gigantomachy, where the conflicting forces are something essentially inhuman: historical possibilities of collective existence. These possibilities are fulfilled by the concrete form of our current fundamental social institutions in such a way that the latter cannot change if the principle generating them all stays the same.

I do not see what else one must answer to the united voice that seems to address us from the assembled lyrics of complaints choirs. But perhaps there is no need for an answer.

 

Complaints Choir of Maribor

 

The extremely slow construction of the annoying Lackova roundabout!

The town center post office is open ’til seven? After then, there’s nowt!

The 24-hour post office is at the back of beyond.

The rubbish is collected only once a week,

Before it was twice, for much less cash.

Shooting at the target, Slovene sex is friction,

We like to grumble endlessly, and make our lives a misery!

We are not the correspondence page,

We are not in endless rage,

We are more a vintage wine store,

We are the Complaints Choir of Maribor!

Moaning, moaning, moaning...

The beer dispenser swallowed my cash,

For this injustice it deserves a bash,

The dispenser gets bashed in the face,

This will make it fair.

If only I was not outside, but the beer is still in there.

Endless handbills are chucked in my mail,

Healthy trees get chopped for this farce,

Let these clever chaps get the bills up their arse.

How come the smoking law brought life back to the streets?

Directly in front of my entrance,

Each hour, the whole day long,

The bus is shifting to second gear,

Its smoke shifts me to the coffin, I fear.

This is where the shoe pinches, aye there’s the rub!

On Pop TV and local channels the offensive is quite yellow,

The viewer left and thought of, never!

We like to grumble endlessly,

And make our lives a misery!

This is not the church choral,

Nor is parliament political,

We are more a vintage wine store,

We are the Complaints Choir of Maribor!

New rows of houses all the while,

Profit is there in seed-bed style,

All these trees and every leaf,

I’d like to fell, says planning chief.

The neighbor leaves the dog out daily

On the balcony, from seven it barks hysterically.

Wardens and police walk through the park,

Why youths fuck in the ditch, it’s not even dark?

People wander around places, no smile on their faces.

Why don’t they read perhaps a book, why don’t they go around on foot?

Why does your friend become a loss, when fortune turns him to the boss?

Why are the good guys married still?

Why off-road cars are now in town used more than simple bicycles?

I do not want a new skyscraper, but need Pekarna cultural center!

We must complain so very loud, we need to shake the mayoral crowd!

Why is the price tag on the beer glued exactly where you drink it?

On Friday caught rotavirus in some dive,

Spent the weekend on the toilet, felt barely alive,

All this shit moves me to higher spiritual spheres,

I feel quite shitty as the tragic hero appears:

Theatre into politics, politics into theatre, now,

Since the politician becomes the master critic, how?

And me, the poet of this rhyme,

Not even a ticket for my time.

Poor one, not worth a damn, me

No ticket do I get for free.

I’m complaining because no one on earth will pay a regard to any of these complaints.

Amen!

 

 

Complaints Choir of Saint Petersburg

 

We, citizens of the city of Peter are assembled here before you.

We are ready to file our complaints to you, respected audience.

Thank you for your attention. We hope you understand.

Petersburg – I am not ready to die yet, to drown in the waves of your river Neva.

Advertisement is filling all the streets, but there is no space for me.

Yesterday the waitress was so rude to me.

When will I get enough sleep?

Who invented deadlines?

And the nightmare of the C++ language?

I’ve got no time to plan my life,

No more money for acne cream.

Bus no. 9 goes every 5 minutes to Vasilievsky... but it never comes back.

There are traffic jams all over.

When my cat eats Whiskas, it withers away.

Men are always vague and hesitant

And never make the first step.

There are only two loos for the whole institute.

I can’t travel without a visa!

The white nights don’t let you see the fireworks.

And life is a permanent artistic crisis.

Why did you, Peter, miraculous builder

Built our city in such a pestilent climate amidst mosquitoes?

Why do we keep on loving when love is so painful?

Why are we always dissatisfied with something?

My heart is so full but my wallet is empty,

And she anyway wouldn’t love a poet like me.

I’d send her a rose in a vine glass like Blok,

But you don’t get cheap vine anymore.

Lenenergo is rising the electricity bills again.

T-shirts always shrink after the first wash.

Only jerks propose marriage to me, but never the man I would marry.

Shoe shops never sell size 35.

Plumbers drink all the time.

There’s a letter “R” in the name of this city –

A letter I cannot pronounce.

Your salary won’t buy you beer, nor cheese.

The opera is so expensive – can’t go there!

Why doesn’t my darling visit me at night?

Because the bridges of Neva are open every night.

From Neva to Moika the architecture is fine –

But from my window I see only garbage piles.

At times I gain weight and my skirts won’t fit

Or I lose the weight and become so light

That the elevator does not move when I am inside alone.

Oh, do I love singing!

But have no ear for it!

Why am I music-blind?

A bear stepped on my ear!

The quiet city center gets more and more noisy,

Everybody cuts short the traffic jams through my yard!

Female programmers are not taken serious!

They lie there are no jobs for them.

Every day I lose my lighter

And you can’t light your cigarette from the Eternal Fire!

Men are gigolos these days,

And we have to pay for all the needs of those bastards.

Modern art needs no education,

I can paint the square of Malevich even when I’m drunk.

There is no use of my three degrees.

I hate getting up early half of my life,

And mess around with my car when it’s still dark.

Why is this painfully familiar city

Causing only migraine and boredom?

The escalator broke my high heels.

And on the TV they play shit... like you know.

The customs on the Finish border are so impolite.

My ceiling is always leaking!

And Russian language is getting spoiled!

So what shall we do and who is to blame?

Why am I losing my hair at 25?

Why don’t the Rolling Stones come to play here?

 

 

Complaints Choir of Tokyo

 

I did that job, don’t make it yours!

The cat that lives near my house ignores me.

The child care centers are too full

and I don’t have a place to take my children.

I don’t know how to use my iPhone.

I got the flu when waiting in the waiting room at the hospital.

My boss made his mistakes mine.

Don’t make a fool of a freshman at work.

Unwanted hair is growing fast, but the hair on my head doesn’t grow at all.

I am scared every three months, because I am a 3-month contracted worker.

Win-lose, win-lose, win-lose – rat race society.

My pension record was deleted and disappeared without notification.

It’s frustrating!

I cannot say “No” to work on holidays.

My grandmother thinks she’s American.

The men in the dating party were all over 50.

I get presents and there is always shrimp in it!

The Oedo-line escalators are too long.

My laundry isn’t clean from the dry cleaners.

Don’t clip your nails next to me during work.

My wallet is full of discount cards rather than cash.

I can’t own a dog.

Why is it raining today?

Don’t try to get on trains that are already too full. I’m gonna be crushed!

This is my way, I want to live my life. Go for it!

Nice guys are all married.

I cannot prepare any winter clothes, because it’s getting cold too quickly.

My mosquito bites heal slower than before.

Give all student job-seekers jobs!

I don’t like smoking in the park.

Pay me the fee you promised. Why did we make a contract?

I’m sleepy in the morning, during the day, and at the night! Let me sleep more!

Musicians can’t make a living!

TV programs make fun of people.

Don’t send your season’s greetings via e-mail.

Girls who do their make up on the train – I wish they would make a mistake.

I was going to break up with my boyfriend – but he broke with me first.

Politicians should not go to clubs using our tax.

Please don’t grill Kusaya next to my apartment.

I wish I could go to Michael Jackson’s concert one more time.

My bag is heavy.

Black crows are so scary.

My room is small and the rent is expensive.

Whales and dolphins are delicious!

Please understand Japanese culture,

Don’t put blame on us.

Don’t pick noses and then hold the sling on the train.

Don’t email me on Friday evening.

My wife hardly understands me.

I am around 40, but I’m still attractive.

I don’t want to take care of my boss when we go out drinking.

Thank you for listening to our complaints.

 

 

Complaints Choir of Chicago

 

Chicagoland, Chicagoland

Sounds like we live in an amusement park

Always under surveillance

I can’t stop thinking about sex

Everything loses its glamour when you get too close

Busses bunch up worse than granny panties.

Why are all the single men insane?

My ex-husband still lives in Chicago.

Window washers appear outside my bathroom.

People brag about knowing famous people.

My damn boss outsourced my job but he gets to keep his.

Teachers get nothing, entertainers millions.

Everybody is a moron.

Airport security took my mouthwash.

Everybody thinks they are a good kisser.

Only tourists like deep dish pizza.

The customer is always right.

They always mess up my order.

The customer is not always right.

Drivers are only good at honking.

“When someone rides free we all pay!”

Chicago has no mountains.

My roommate is chewing outrageously loud.

Childless people tell me how to raise my child.

Everyone cares but only enough to buy a sticker.

My dead grandma always votes for the wrong candidate.

Cabs speed up when I cross the street.

I hate drunken Cubs fans.

Even cops don’t stop at stop signs.

I hate drunken Cardinal fans more.

My boss prints his spam and hands it to me.

People are so mean on the Internet.

A high-pitched whistler is sitting next to me on the ball game.

Nobody ever throws the ball to me.

I live in the city and I can’t see the stars.

I was born and remain a Cubs fan.

School makes me want to yawn.

The Amateur Jethro Tull cover band

practicing around the block will never rock.

People text, eat and do their make up while driving in the bike lane.

The more efficient I am the more work they pile on me.

I am drowning in student loans.

And my gums are receding.

The most creative minds work for the advertising industry.

Obese urban monster squirrels decimate my backyard tomato crop.

Men wrap around the pole on the L-train like strippers.

Restaurant servers ask “are you still working on that”?

All of America looks like the same strip mall.

Garbage the size of Texas is floating in the Atlantic.

Is war our only export?

I have nothing to wear.

I am out of food.

I hate my condo association.

Women need too much attention.

Portions are too big.

I am always hungry.

The toast is cold.

Quit spreading germs! Take the bus!

Too many people believe in the rapture to do anything about global warming.

Why don’t boy bands play any instruments?

We have a cowboy for president.

I am too smart for the men I date.

My side-ways kitchen bakes lopsided cakes.

Clothes I can afford are made in sweatshops.

We don’t want the Olympics here.

 

 

Complaints Choir of Hamburg

 

The most absurd bicycle road of the town

Leads directly into Wilhelmsburg

Through dark tunnels, 1,000 road holes,

And across some stairs at the Argentinienbrücke.

The mascara gets always smudgy,

The tax declaration is too complicated!

My flatemate sleeps with my ex-girlfriend,

Not a single Politician keeps his promises.

My mother always worries too much,

Ole von Beust just has the Halfencity project in his mind.

My favorite underpants are out of stock – unfortunately,

The old ones already fell apart.

My lawn doesn’t grow – the days are too short,

The best movies are running much too late!

The Hamburgers firmly believe

That Wilhelmsburg is a prison colony,

So much water but you can’t get close to it,

At this island we don’t want a new motorway.

Why the customs fence is not dismantled yet?

Why is talk show host Christiansen bashing the unemployed?

Poor people getting poorer – rich ones getting richer,

There is plenty of debate but nothing gets done.

Reduction of bureaucracy, awesome public parks,

Small classes, new cinema, school and canal renovated,

Language courses, modern integration policies,

Committed citizens will be heard.

Everything just hot air!!!

Suffrage must not be a privilege of the majority.

I have too much time!

I have too little time!

Germany’s export rolls on motor trucks

Past my bedroom window.

The Hamburg public transport organization – HVV,

Doesn’t get their buses and trains coordinated.

Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!

Everything just too loud!

Wherever I look: advertisement!

I am a slave of my habits!

I cannot be man and woman!

I have no ideas, that’s normal for me!

Parent money starts in 2007,

Our child was born too early and we don’t receive anything!

In Wilhelmsburg there are too few cafes where you can have breakfast!

I miss the discussion with my Turkish neighbor!

The weather doesn’t suit the seasons!

People complain too much!

The Reiherstieg Housing Coop enjoys terrorizing tenants!

Whenever I listen to music on the radio I get sick!

I am more embarrassed to fart in the subway

Than to throw batteries into the household waste!

I always step into spittle!

I have too little money!

I am completely chaotic!

The dog shit is disturbing.

Lidl, Penny, Aldi everywhere,

The other shops moved far away.

I would like to speak more languages,

The air in Wilhelmsburg is bad.

Nobody truly loves me,

Too much trash is in the park.

Why don’t they sell buttermilk at every commuter train station?

 

 

Complaints Choir of Helsinki

 

You can’t get rich by working,

And love doesn’t last forever.

In the public sauna they never ask if it’s ok to throw water on the stove.

Old forests are cut and turned into toilet paper. And still all the toilets are always   out of paper.

Why products on sale drive the people crazy?

In the middle of Helsinki they built another shopping hell.

My neighbor spies on me through the peephole whenever I come home with guests

And he always arrives too early for his sauna turn.

We always loose to Sweden in hockey and Eurovision.

Christmas season starts earlier every year.

Why do people never agree with me?

Jobs go to China,

Tramline 3 smells of pee.

It’s not fair!

Why is the “Meter Pizza” only half a meter long?

And why is the cord of vacuum cleaner too short?

Just like summer.

Going to work every morning, then home at night eventually you lose your mind.

The battery on my mobile is always going flat and all ring tones are just as irritating.

Ring tones are all irritating.

Sorry, I’m in a bad spot. Call me later.

When you buy furniture all you get is a pile of boards.

Tissues are too rough and I can never find them when I need to sneeze.

My tights slip when I’m walking.

There is always a tall man in front of me.

At work they pat me on the shoulder then stab me in the back.

My dreams are boring.

Reference numbers are too long.

Women are still paid less than men.

Bulshitters get on too well in life.

The daily paper is too thick.

Why always me?

It’s not fair!

The queue for the dentist is over six months long.

After waiting for so long

The whole tooth must be pulled out.

Nice shirts get discolored in the wash

But ugly shirts never do.

People have no time for Fair Trade goods, but still rush to where they grow.

I can’t escape the headlines of the tabloids.

The weather’s always foul.

I don’t get laid enough...

My flat is tiny, yet it eats all my money, so I’m left with nothing to save the world with.

People only take a stand in sms-forums.

Idiots don’t know which side to stand on the escalator.

My husband snores too loud

And he walks too slowly

And only washes his hockey-shirts.

And my wife always complains!

It’s not fair!

Evenings wasted hiding from the TV license inspector,

Because I don’t want to pay for sports and reality TV.

The employment agency only needs Java programmers.

Old people are fed with tranquilizers so they won’t complain.

My friend likes his mobile phone more than he likes me.

Our ancestors could have picked a sunnier place to be.

 

 

Complaints Choirs of Budapest

 

All roads dug up, all bridges closed,

Public transport is too expensive, we travel cursing.

The conductor never comes when my pass is on me,

I hate Combino trams, life is a journey –

Gloomy Sunday.

Mondays are always longer than Sundays,

Why is “pörkölt” called goulash abroad?

Krishna people give me books, but never stickers.

Why don’t they wash MY son’s stuff in washing-powder ads?

I have no time studying, because I must attend classes.

A salesman calls: he got my number from a friend.

I’m singing the Complaint Song, while deadlines are killing me.

Fields marked with an asterisk must be filled out.

More and more homeless, and leaflet-throwers.

I have to pay gratuity, but my doctor is a prick.

It’s a pessimistic country and it’s made me pessimistic

Candy paper rattling in the theater beside me.

I wax every month, but no one ever notices,

Pigeons shit on me, we hardly ever smile,

Tourists always think we soften meat under the saddle.

Why are the few bicycle roads cobblestone?

I will never get rid of the clinking ice-cream truck,

And anyway, we all want one more day off!

All the stuff I order gets lost at the post office,

Why does CapsLock get stuck at the worst possible moment?

Every summer it’s raining when I go on holiday,

Why doesn’t the Hungarian National team ever win?

My neighbor holds folk dance classes right above my place.

The untalented become stars, but nobody discovers me.

Yoghurts are small, beer is lukewarm, milk’s never seen a cow.

I need a nap after a bite and a bite after a nap.

No love-letter, no letter of recommendation, no letter of credit,

Not even a letter bomb.

Only bills, only bills, only bills...

One person in each car, me in the slowest queue.

Keep off the grass; my grandma is racist.

It’s smelly, it’s loud and dirty,

Bras are difficult to unfasten.

My PC has died, the server is down, my inbox is full of funny mail.

Not even a double on the lottery, the prince on the white horse never comes.

The lift is always out of order when my shopping bag bursts.

Hungary won’t organize the UEFA cup and there’ll never be free beer.

Why are there so many corrupt policemen?

Weed’s is expensive and they give less and less.

Corruption is the cake I never get a piece of.

My husband hasn’t slept with me for two years.

And I didn’t have a girlfriend for 4 years.

All the better for the chicks.

Bio cereal is inedible, and I don’t even lose weight.

Cab drivers talk too much, shop assistants are rude.

My dog jumps on me when it’s muddy outside.

There’s competition in the kindergarten, and nowhere a kind word,

Why isn’t subway line 4 completed yet?

They rant about mother-in-laws, but father-in-laws are worse,

Free education is expensive, and there’s dogshit everywhere.

Why do they confuse Budapest with Bucharest?

Dubbing is crap and the title has nothing to do with the film.

We’re not the bee’s knees and we haven’t got a moon base.

It was better last year, everything is so expensive,

Why don’t we pay a little attention to each other?

My clothes look better on others.

It’s winter in summer, and summer in winter,

And Vonnegut is dead.

 

 

Complaints Choir of Ljubljana

 

In the last year I had three bikes stolen.

Why doesn’t public transport work at night?

People who do not live in the hills should not drive 4 ´ 4s.

My boyfriend is complaining that I don’t pay him enough attention.

My feet are always cold and I sleep with my socks on.

Why isn’t this sexy?

I have a nice flat, but it is in the wrong city.

In Ljubljana flats are too expensive, rents are too high!

I can’t understand people who throw garbage through their windows!

Why do I have to join my parents for Easter breakfast?

I hate that I can’t buy nails in the city center.

My neighbor wants me to chop down my fir tree,

Because it throws a shadow upon his garden.

Winters are not what they used to be!

I always fall in love with a man and realize too late he is semi-inteligent.

Watching Slovene TV series you wish they wouldn’t continue.

My boss pisses me off and he pays me poorly.

I have to do everything by myself!

Opinion polls lie!

The nursery school is too expensive, playrooms too small.

The middle class is paying taxes for the rich.

I am worse off than I was a year ago.

Why are the days too short for all the nice things?

How come all the Miss’ didn’t achieve world peace yet?

Why are chocolate bunnies hollow and yet they fatten?

Why do they use the same scooper to give you different flavored scoops?

Drivers are egomaniacs!

Oh no! What will become of me?

Flexible labor market is a scam!

I am constantly under stress!

The rhythm of life is killing me!

Why don’t kids listen?

I can’t carry a tune!

It drives me nuts when I find a box reserving a parking spot!

Our neighbor is a voyeur and now we live behind curtains!

Even beer isn’t what it used to be!

As an artist may I please enjoy myself also as a mother?

Bajuk’s tax legislation reduced my income by 450 euros.

Why doesn’t anybody laugh at my stories?

I cannot afford a babysitter.

I haven’t been out with my boyfriend for a year.

Who is stealing our time?