Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why We Need Political Music

This may be a tad embarrassing, but after thinking doing some additional thinking, I have decided to issue a retraction of my recent post titled "No More Political Music."

(Retracting a post is a first for this blog. For the sake of contrast, I have left the post up, but I have deleted some parts I really didn't like).

That is not to say I will start writing much political music anytime soon, but in order to give a reason for this changed, I had spoken too broadly.  In reality, I do not need any grand philosophical reason, other than that just I feel like focusing on other kinds of music for the time being.  After doing some thinking, I decided the previous post is based on a faulty premise.  If we draw too bright a line between politics and the emotions that go into them, we risk losing perspective and compassion.  Here is an excerpt from the post in question:
So why no more political music?  It is because music is a vehicle for emotion, and politics should not be about emotion.  As a lawyer, I believe victories should be won on argument, not emotion.  If you take a position, be prepared to argue it, otherwise, you have no right to hold it.  It is not enough for something to feel right.  It is better to be able to say why something is right when all the noise and all the emotion is stripped away.
But of course, this is nonsense.  It is impossible to separate politics and emotions. This is because our emotions, and not just our arguments, inform our sense of justice.  It is sometimes too easy to shut down into apathy.  Caring is hard work.  I still believe it is important to ready every side to every story, and give every contrarian his or her fair hearing, but at some point we we run the risk of becoming too neutral.  We cannot stand by as passive observers while the world takes on important problems.  Political issues are real and they affect people's lives, and therefore political discussions must take the human element into account.  Our national conversation is not simply "an intellectual feast" (a phrase used by the late Judge Bork) or just one grand thought experiment.  It is instead an application of our values to the very serious problems that face us.  Because politics itself is a discussion about humanity, then music is fully equipped to handle it.

Admittedly, I have been a little bit discouraged by the political conversation in this country.  Even when "my side" wins, I still fee a nagging sense of frustration with the dialogue.  Just because emotion and politics do intersect, that does not mean it is impossible to have an over-saturation of emotion.  One need look no further than cable news to see a saturation of opinion with no basis in fact, and an abundance of those who make the case for fear instead of justice.  Listeners no longer need to be challenged because they now have the power to seek out whatever media is in line with their pre-formed opinions.  It is no longer considered virtuous to seek out opposing views.

This has spilled over into our government.  Partisanship is at a peak, and the dysfunction of our media is mirrored in our elected representatives.  But look one step further.  Our representatives may fail us, but we have also failed them. We the people have failed to get the government we want because we have failed to listen to each other.  We all need to turn off cable news.  Go read a book, or a newspaper, or the blog of a person you disagree with.  This is the only way our national conversation will become healthy again.  Become informed.  There is a place for logic and reason, however cold and dispassionate it may seem.

However, there is also a place for action.  Against the backdrop of today's noisy media, I do feel overwhelmed. Apathy always starts with a claim of "I don't know" which usually turns into "I cannot know."  The noisy partisans who think they are geniuses may be driving us down, but so are all those who would like to form reasoned opinions, but don't put in the effort.

And today's circumstances require more than the apathy we give them.  Our education system is nowhere close to equal.  We are still killing civilians with drone attacks.  We don't have equality in LGBT rights.  We are nowhere near to solving climate change.  Hopefully the rational arguments for justice can get us where we need to go.  But to say that human emotions play no part is ridiculous because these are human problems.  Everyone deserves the joys many of us take for granted. 

And music is perhaps better than anything at speaking to adversity.  If adversity is political, so be it, but you cannot take emotion and detach if from the search for justice.  Otherwise, we make ourselves heartless.  So I was clearly incorrect when I suggested that music and politics cannot mingle.  Who am I to say that the victims of oppression should not voice to that through their music?  What kind of hypocrisy would I preach if I were to say that expression is great, except when you're expressing thoughts about things that actually matter?

And now I'm done writing about politics (for now).

No comments:

Post a Comment