Devo has now reissued a few of their classic albums, with bonus material included. And because of some masterful publicity work by their label and management, Devo is now enjoying something of a nostalgia boom out there amongst the citizens. They are also selling a ton of concert tickets, t-shirts, and brightly colored plastic "Devo hats." Heady stuff.
But before they became world renowned rock stars, Devo was just a little art band out of Akron, Ohio. Part of an independent music boomlet at the time, one that sought to apply somewhat outre' political viewpoints and social criticism to the issues of that era, all to the jagged beat of what was then known as "art rock." And through the masterful use of music video and surrealist stage performances, they became the heralds of a satirical philosophical viewpoint that they called "de-evolution." Which is, of course, how Devo got their name. Here is how de-evolution is defined on their Wikipedia page:
The name "Devo" comes "from their concept of 'de-evolution' - the idea that instead of evolving, mankind has actually regressed, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society."
So now it is around 35 years since Devo cooked all that up, and if they were right in their diagnosis of what has happened to this country, then we are now deeply into the "de-evolutionary era." And a fine example of that having taken place would be the recent City Council elections here in Sierra Madre. After all, when issues such as "decorum," private lifestyles, and a cooked up pseudo-panic over "outsourcing the volunteer fire department to save money" become messages that seize the attention of the voting populace, thereby causing them to vote against their own interests, then we are hardly anybody's "City of Enlightenment."
One of the finest examples of de-evolutionary politics in action here emerged just as our recent election had wrapped up. Quoted in a Sierra Madre Weekly article written by a noted local collector of fireman photos, fire department Battalion Chief Michael Bamberger went off on then Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray over something he claimed happened after an earthquake occurring 19 years earlier. His assertion being that MaryAnn had deserted the City during that time of extreme peril. Of course Bamberger's attack was an utter fabrication, and many were justifiably outraged. Was this the kind of thing our fire department had been telling people on the sly during the election? Is the honor this organization enjoys here misplaced?
This patently false accusation would never have been printed in anything daring to call itself a newspaper in more responsible times, but the de-evolutionary and apparently shameless Sierra Madre Weekly never bothered to check the claim, rather just printed this fallacious statement as fact because they believed it suited the political needs of people they hoped to please.
Nor did they ever bother to issue a real retraction of the claim, even after the Sierra Madre Fire Department Chief at that time, Ed Tracy, delivered the following statement regarding Bamberger's journey into sour fanatasy:
In reading the article in the Sierra Madre Weekly, I was surprised by the comments made almost 19 years later by Michael Bamberger regarding the "fire department's hands were tied with limited resources on hand." The fire department had adequate personnel; throughout the incident and responded well to the event, as noted above. At the time of the incident, and due to his position in the fire department, Michael Bamberger was not involved in the command operations of the strategy and tactics associated with the incident and the updates provided to the City Council and the City Administrator. Therefore, his statements referenced in the Sierra Madre Weekly article are unfortunately not factual. Additionally, the statement that he and many others "lost respect for MacGillivray" is unfounded and did not exist in the fire department during my administration as you were always supportive of the fire department and appreciative of the services provided by its members.
In addition, the Sierra Madre Fire Department used to be viewed as an apolitical entity and its By-Laws prohibited a firefighter from getting involved with the politics of the City. As evidenced by the Sierra Madre Weekly, and its reference to Michael Bamberger being a "long-time Sierra Madre firefighter," perhaps this By-Law no longer exists in the Sierra Madre Fire Department, or maybe it is just not enforced by the leadership of the Sierra Madre Fire Department and the Sierra Madre Firefighter's Association.
Of course, the By-Law cited by Chief Tracy does still exist, and Bamberger's whopper became an object of much conversation in town. There were rumors of anger within the department itself, and some expected that disciplinary action would be taken against the loose-lipped Battalion Chief. The SMFD had been given an ethical blackeye by one if its senior (and salaried) members, and consequences were to be expected.
It is now a mere six weeks later and the current Fire Chief, Stephen Heydorff, has headed off on a vacation. So who do you think will be one of those running the SMFD in Heydorff's absence?
Judging by what we're seeing now, Sierra Madre's Fire Department became a politicized organization during our recent elections, and those currently running the City apparently see no reason to enforce the SMFD's By-Laws against any such involvement. Nor has there been any indication whatsoever from City Hall that this isn't the case. Rather, and based upon what we're seeing this week, it would appear that this is how they actually want our Fire Department to operate.
Welcome to de-evolutionary Sierra Madre.