ART AND POLITICS

Two weeks ago I wrote about the notion of leaning on music that you love, that pleases and moves you and lifts you up, and away, to deal momentarily with the nastiness that pervades the news these days. Not a solution but a salve, to carry on with a lighter heart, and, hopefully, renewed.

The week before that I expressed my disappointment that this unprecedented, very dangerous assault on our Constitutional government has not brought forth much of a creative response from the music community, likely because of “financial cowardice,” fear of alienating the audience that pays their bills and finances the next Bel Air mansion. There are, certainly, exceptions — thank God and Texas for Willie Nelson — but by and large the response has been thin.

But I’ve been finding more of what I‘ve been looking for lately around corners, in adjacent areas. Older songs, new plays, long gone comedians.

I’ll start with the latter. I stumbled across one of my favorite George Carlin bits, “Why Our Education Sucks,” a devastating routine probably truer now than it was then. He would likely say Betsy DeVos’ appointment as Secretary of Education, horrifying as it was, was no surprise, just part of the predictable regression based on the notion that “they” don’t really want “well educated people capable of critical thinking, they want obedient workers who are just smart  enough to run the machines and do the paperwork.”

YOUR OWNERS

And when I say “they,” I mean your owners. “You have OWNERS!” Caelin wails. “They OWN YOU. They own everything, they own all the important land… the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for… the politicians… judges… they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They own this place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it!  You, and I, are not in the big club. The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care!”

I’m always trying to figure out the big picture, and it seems Carlin was too. You can work on the “little problems,” like money in politics or homelessness or voting suppression — and we must! — but until you understand and solve the overarching mess, all that will have little effect. We must keep perspective: if you’re not trying to figure out the root cause, you’re just kissing the boo boo.

I’m not a socialist and I don’t think Carlin was either. He might have been a social democrat. I believe in the idealism of “Imagine,” but not ready to put it into law tomorrow. He was a cynic about human nature; I am not. But I think he got most of it right, and I think until we face that reality we are spinning our wheels.

THAT BEING SAID

I think we need a puncher from the Democratic Party, to bring down the bully and stop the accelerating march towards fascism. (BTW — when I write or speak this way it is not hyperbole nor even rhetoric, and it certainly does not come from hatred of Trump. I don’t.) If you don’t think so I believe you are ignoring the facts and the lessons of history. Stopping this destruction ASAP is Job Number One, ahead of healthcare, gun control, income inequality, immigration, women’s rights or anything else because none of those things will happen with Trump in the White House and McConnell controlling the Senate.

That puncher could be Bernie, or Kamala, maybe even Uncle Joe or conceivably a couple of the others. But let’s keep our eye on the ball. Job Number One.

And speaking of the furrowed Sanders…

BERNIE’S BACK IN TOWN!

In fact, back at Samohi, Friday, this time in the Greek Amphitheatre rather than the athletic field. Doors open at 4:30 and the speeches begin at 6 p.m., Bernie’s is expected to last about an hour. The organizers ask you to RSVP, but no tickets are required.

Love him or can’t stand him, you must concede few American politicians of this century or the last have been so lifelong consistent in their unswerving principles, and Bernie has always fought for social justice, not the corporations. He was arrested in 1963 protesting segregation. I think he might have invented the term income inequality, not sure, probably as a starving U of Chicago student.

FROM NORWAY TO SOUTH CAROLINA

Another timely work I found in the hillside woods of Topanga Canyon, with Theatricum Botanicum’s  adapted presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People.” (No, the Donald did not make that term up, though I’d bet you anything he hasn’t read a lot of Ibsen.) Sound timely? — government blocks fixing a contaminated water supply because it would cost too much, the people be damned.

TB Artistic Director Ellen Geer is a master of adaptation and she went out on a limb on this one, bumping it forward 100 years, taking it to South Carolina, and adding the game-changing element of a racially mixed family. The controversy over the good doctor’s whistle blowing winds up taking a back seat to his newfound vision of a corrupt society. The town, already having castigated him and thrown him out for his choice of a bride, erupts into a race war right there on the stage, as segregation and financial ruin combine explosively.

These are troubled and important times we live in, but we’ve seen it before, less than 100 years ago in Europe, which erupted into a world war, and 150 years ago here with our own brutal Civil War, still reverberating today and tearing us apart.

What will the history books say in 50 years? I probably won’t be here to read it, but I hope we still have books then, and a habitable planet.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.