Make no mistake: Roger Waters The Wall, the Pink Floyd frontman’s deeply personal concert film that is getting a special daylong viewing Tuesday on 3,000 screens around the planet, has nothing in common with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
“The idea that you can stop people from traveling through this semipermeable membrane that’s an international border is as crazy now as when Europe [tried to do it],” the 72-year-old rock icon declared at a lunch for journalists and opinion-leaders Monday to promote the movie.
Roger Waters The Wall features footage of the stunningly mounted stage show Waters and his band crafted around Pink Floyd's famous 1979 album, which they performed in a series of concerts between 2010 to 2013.
The tall, wiry, silver-haired Waters—holding forth in a private dining room at Manhattan’s posh Le Bernardin restaurant as celebrity chef-owner Eric Ripert, in his kitchen-ready regalia, hung back and listened—added that Republican presidential frontrunner Trump’s proposal to erect a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States/Mexico border, as well as Wisconsin Gov. (and suspended candidate) Scott Walker’s plan to do with the same with Canada, “are equally ludicrous.”
“You can’t stop osmosis,” Waters said. “There will always be people flowing from areas of poverty to areas of wealth because they have no alternative.”
Waters, a British expatriate and New York resident who is reportedly worth around $230 million (more than enough, in any case, to self-finance a movie that cost well into seven figures), acknowledged the irony of discussing the down-and-outers before an audience composed largely (though, speaking for myself, not entirely) of one-percenters “eating in Eric’s restaurant.”
Although he remains a British subject and can’t vote in American elections, “I pay tax here,” Waters told The Daily Beast—which reasonably gives him free rein to comment on the current White House campaign and the manifest dysfunction of U.S. politics and the deceitful government that he’s doing his bit to pay for.
“The most bizarre charade anywhere on Earth, I would suggest, is this weird thing that goes on when you guys have a presidential election,” Waters said when I asked for his views.
“It’s a complete nonsense, particularly because of Citizens United,” he lectured, citing the 2010 Supreme Court decision that permits unlimited anonymous donations to super-PACS by billionaires and corporations, “and the fact that you have abrogated your responsibilities as citizens of a republic and given them to big business and to anybody who’s rich enough to buy somebody in Congress. And then your Supreme Court has ratified that junk decision.”
Waters went on: “To the rest of us, it was beyond belief that you would allow yourself to be enslaved in this way by a bureaucracy and by a corporate structure that encourages the buying and selling of political favor.”
Waters, who was occasionally cheered on with applause and whoops by the well-connected crowd, voiced two specific thoughts concerning the current crop of candidates.
“Bernie is one, and Sanders is another,” he declared (oddly mispronouncing the socialist Vermont senator’s surname as “Saunders”). “There is no other candidate that is making any sense at all of anything, in my view. Nothing. No one. But I do live on an extreme end of this, I have to say.”
Waters is no stranger to controversy; his harsh criticism of Israeli policies toward Palestinian Arabs, along with such loaded imagery in The Wall as animated Stars of David being dropped from B-52 bombers and his satirical portrayal of a leather-coated fascist firing a machine gun and oppressing Jews, has earned him no end of condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League and various pro-Israel and Jewish groups.
But Waters, during the lunch, seemed to soft-pedal his denunciations of the Israeli powers that be (or at least he spoke softly), though he called for the prompt establishment of a Palestinian state, and slammed the member countries of the United Nations Security Council, especially the U.S. and Britain, for vetoing an overwhelming 2012 General Assembly vote that would have accomplished that goal.
Comparing the walls separating Israel from Gaza and the West Bank to the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany until the Cold War ended, Waters said: “We have to hope that Palestine and Israel will have their 1989...We have to hope that from somewhere out of the rubble we may find a new Gorbachev to bring us to Perestroika.”
On another subject, the voluble rocker, an avowed atheist, said Pope Francis “seems a perfectly decent chap,” but added that the pontiff still leads “the most reactionary organization that has ever been—the Catholic Church. It is inevitable that they will eventually be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. [It is unclear] whether they actually develop a reasonable attitude toward pregnancy and birth control and pedophilia and all the things that they have been laggardly about addressing the last 2,000 years. Will they actually clean up their act? I haven’t seen much of evidence of it.”
Waters also slammed the mainstream American media for being “so devoted to not telling people what’s going on” and “an arm of propaganda for the Congress and the Senate and the executive branch of government.” He added: “You here in this country are very much living in George Orwell’s 1984 with the Ministry of Truth, whether you like it or not.”
Waters said he doubts his movie—which is both a stirring musical meditation on the senseless brutality of war and a tribute to his father and grandfather, who were killed in the Second and First World Wars, respectively—will have much of a positive impact on the wickedness of the world.
But, he added, “If even for an hour or two we can divert people from staring at Kim Kardashian’s bum and pay attention to the predicament of others, and develop a sense of empathy and develop a political awareness...and encourage our children to think about the way we organize our affairs of the world, we will have done a good thing.”
That noble sentiment prompted the loudest applause of the lunch.