Sunday, September 12, 2004

Will music save us?

The other day as I was driving to work, quite depressed over the failure of most Americans to perceive the dangerous direction in which Bush is leading this country, I wondered if it might have something to do with the music. There was a time when the music of youth was closely identified with an emerging new counter culture. It began with rock and roll of the fifties and its sense of rebelliousness, but it was really the folk music and then the folk rock music of the sixties that delivered a new message of hope and idealism, of fighting for social justice and peace.

The music evolved to disco, then punk rock and its variants, which is mostly where it is now. And the problem with this music is that it doesn't seem to present that same spirit, the impetus for young people to become involved in various movements to change society in a positive way. Most of the performers touring in support of John Kerry, for example, are people like Bruce Springsteen or John Mellenkamp whose music belongs to the baby boomer generation.

On the other side is country western music. Every form of music can be beautiful to listen to, and that is certainly true of country and western music. But the heartland "red state" culture it conveys shows little tolerance for people of different values, religions, cultures or nations. And this is the music that has become the driving force in our society with our cowboy president. Unfortunately it is a music and culture that now underlies the ignorant direction in which we are heading under President Bush -- building up record deficits in order to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our society, openingup the environment to be exploited without restrictions by lumber, mining and other interests, inventing a new policy of preemptive foreign invasion, and so on. The costs to future generations of such misguided and thoughtless policies will be heavy indeed.

Later in the day, as I was walking through Sproul Plaze of UC Berkeley where I work, there was a Dixieland band playing away cheerfully. About six old men, in their 70s and 80s I would guess, but the music was quite good and uplifting. They call themselves the "Spirit of 29", which I guess is where our country is now. Something about this group of old men playing to the students though.


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