Thursday, January 12, 2006


Music, Politics, and Sarah Records

It's kind of an adage that music and politics don't mix...not very well at least. It's true that it's pretty rare to find political themed music that isn't overly heavy-handed. It's still hard to fault a band like Green Day or Rage Against The Machine for taking a stand and trying to reach people with a progressive message. I'll never figure out why it is though that people get all up-in-arms complaining about musicians and actors talking about political or social issues or even being active in these sectors. It's generally the right that complains (i.e. "what does Billie Joe or Sean Penn know about anything?). Of course, we have a President who basically prides himself on his lack of curiosity about the world (and whom we're supposed to take seriously when he gives a speech about...anything really, that requires contemplation or background knowledge). We had a President who WAS an actor and a Governor of California who is an action hero! Why is an entertainer only fit to comment on politics or enter its realm when said entertainer is right-of-center? The fact that Sean Penn knows more about the issues he speaks of than most politicians do...that just isn't relevant!

When you get down to it, there's nothing that makes a politician more qualified to have opinions than anyone else. If anything, a politician's opinions are less valid, as he or she is generally most interested in attracting campaign contributions and getting elected. When one thinks of a "politician", it generally conjures up an unflattering mental picture, and for good reason! Perhaps the only people as untrustworthy as politicians might be the talking heads like Limbaugh and especially Bill O'Reilly who have absolutely no qualifications of any kind and who have clear agendas to protect and promote those on the right. Just because someone is on TV (for example Tim Russert) does not make that person fair, balanced or even a real journalist. I certainly think that these days it makes them far LESS of journalists as they have to answer to advertisers and they want to remain cozy with the sources in the circles of power who throw them their scraps. The real journalists are the ones who don't suck up to Rove and Libby just to get their carefully crafted talking points. Is there anyone LESS credible than a Bob Novak or now Bob Woodward who just seem to think they're cool for getting to hang out with these powerful White House folks? I'd prefer to listen to reporters who might actually do some real investigative reporting...

But back to is possible to be political without being overt. For example, the Sarah Records roster came off as left-of-center based on the brilliant polemics of Clare and Matt who ran the label and based on the way they ran it. They remained FIERCELY independent (perhaps our press could learn something from Sarah's example!). They kept an intense feeling of freedom and possibility alive during the whole of their label's existence, and the bands on the label benefitted from this. The music was often tender and without prickly defenses, but it still seemed like (and ultimately was) part of a revolution. The Field Mice managed to be TOUGH by refusing to be tough. The Orchids sounded like they might break down in tears at any moment but they had the guts to show it unlike some big macho posers. That seems like what's missing in our public discourse if not our whole society. Everyone is unwilling to step back and show any vulnerabilities of any kind. This is understandable because someone else will immediately step in and take whatever they can whenever possible, whether it be your lunch money or natural resources. Nonetheless, there stands a much better chance of people getting along in this world without killing each other if people were a bit more empathetic and less vicious, self-serving, and greedy.

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