A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
-Jorge Luis Borges, from the essay, A Note On (Toward) Bernard Shaw, as found in Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings
When I posted African Music Is Great I got pushback that I was promulgating stereotypes and colonialism towards Africa. That wasn’t my intention, but am well aware that intentions often map to reality badly. It’s complex.
I was prompted to post after reading Ethan Zuckerman’s wonderful blog post Melodia Music: stepping back in time in downtown Nairobi. Zuckerman is a masterful blogger, and this post deals with cultural engagement, the production of culture and the means of reproduction. Complex topics told in an accessible and engaging way.
"Songs won’t save the planet, but then neither will books or speeches. Songs are sneaky things; they can slip across borders."
Pete Seeger said that. I think I encountered the quote in the liner notes to the tribute album Where Have All the Flowers Gone. I just did a search to see if I could find a proper reference for the quote and high in my results an old blog post by me pops up. I always cringe when that happens because it’s a reminder of how the Internet is permanent record of the stupid things I’ve said.
Anyhow, songs like stories may appear simple, but they deal with complexity, “an axis of innumerable relationships.”
"Really? He needed to grow up? This is one version of the wishful thinking that pervades much of our society and the political rhetoric associated with social problems. It is all too prevalent when it comes to an agonizingly difficult problem: how to explain and cope with violent men. This is a problem that drains society, and results in intolerable deaths and destruction. Nevertheless, telling traumatized men that they shouldn’t do something, or expressing in hash tags, speeches and books that men just have to get with society’s program, is rarely effective. It may make us feel good, but such false moralizing doesn’t move us an inch closer to addressing the major problem of male violence and gun violence."
Alternet. 8 Things You May Not Know About Elliot Rodger’s Killing Spree
The tragedy is a looking glass if we ask the right questions.
"So what is our responsibility now, those of us still crazy after all these years to make the world a better place, and those of succeeding generations who never got the chance to blow an entire civilizational reboot, as we thought we did? What are we wounded surgeons to do? I have written a lot lately about four modest actions: (1) relearning essential skills, (2) learning to create and build community, (3) living an exemplary, self-aware, purposeful, joyful life as a model for others, and (4) healing ourselves and helping to heal others. And, I should add, supporting those activists driven to do more, those driven to fight the system without expectation of significant success, even as it crumbles. Surely this is enough to do?"
"Myths, according to the philosopher Sallust, are things that never happened but always are. With a few modifications, the same rule applies to the enduring narratives of every culture, the stories that find a new audience in every generation as long as their parent cultures last."
"The facts are that in the long run, reality always rules. However, what we must contend with is the unfortunate truth that perception dominates human discourse more than reality. In the minds of humans, myth is more important that truth. How we perceive reality will determine what we do, far more often than reality itself."
"It’s anybody’s guess why pathologizing culture is a cottage industry in the U.S., as nowhere else. A strong possibility is that art and culture are believed to cut into productivity. In a nation preoccupied with cradle-to-grave work and metastatic economic growth, productivity is naturally imagined to be perfect synonym for health."
"People who take a strict binary view of culture (“culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail”) are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll “middle-class values” to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and “Shorty, can I see your bike?” in the afternoon. It’s very nice to talk about “middle-class values” when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one hood and your coworkers live another, you generally need something more than “middle-class values.” You need to be bilingual."