NB. I’ve had some previously unpublished blogs from the US tour this summer that I’ve decided to release into the wild. They’ll be appearing here over the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy!
I watched Dylan’s “No Direction Home” with Chris & Liz in Brooklyn the other night. It was extremely entertaining, even just for the barefaced lies and fabrications that Dylan would routinely come out with. I admired the creativity of it all greatly.
The political end of things really got me thinking… I’ve often wondered if there’s much of a place for political songs nowadays. Do people notice? Do people care enough? In times past there seemed to be an appetite for it… Writers would be tapping in to the general mood, rather than trying to whip up an apathetic mass from nothing.
The nearest thing to political songs that I’ve come across recently has been Travis’ “The Beautiful Occupation”. Some of Radiohead’s songs could be construed at a stretch as protest songs, but they’re hardly anthemic. Fran from Travis is a writer that I’ve really admired. But what did the song itself achieve? Probably nothing, except to reassure a few of us who feel the same way about the world. Yet I still feel compelled myself to say something about what’s going on in the world. The oil companies and nations engineering coups to maintain oil supplies in Africa, the Middle East, and South America. (And I’m not just implicating the US here. France, Britain, you name them. Essentially every prominent member of Nato or the UN.) And I hate doing it… ’cause the obvious cynical response goes, “oh no, here’s another bleeding-heart-lefty-liberal banging on about the planet and the wars being waged”. Yet I feel so few people are talking about it, or even acknowledging that there’s a problem… and that frightens me.
It was interesting to see Joan Baez complain in an interview in about ’64 that people are too passive and just letting things be. Surely it’s worse now?! Far worse. Twitter may not be the almighty saviour that the press have hailed it to be in the past few months. Yes, it is another tool in the arsenal of protestors, but it’s still no match for government might, nor oil company money. What good has TV and newspaper coverage done for the Palestinians? Not just the people, but their farmland? Lately, the settlers in illegal settlements have been riding on horseback through farms and setting the olive trees alight. Olive oil is Palestine’s 2nd biggest export, and it’s just being destroyed. They call it a “penalty” for the settlers being evicted from the illegal settlers by their own Israeli army, the IDF. Let’s put that in perspective. These “settlers” as they’re benignly called, are even more hawkish than the IDF, who continue to rack up war crimes without suffering any sanctions whatsoever… (These olive trees, by the way, can date back as far as 1600-3000 years, so replacing groves is not a case of merely replanting them.)
How any of the ruling countries of the UN or NATO can hold their heads up high, I don’t know. But maybe that’s the point. They don’t have to. Maybe there’s no moral high ground anymore. Just terrorists and anti-terrorists on the world stage… and apart from the uniforms (or lack thereof), you’d be hard pushed to tell them apart. And we’re all implicated, because despite the exclamations after every bloody and tragic war or atrocity of “never again”, we just can’t wait to get knee deep into another futile conflict.
Dylan armed the political activists with some of their strongest, fiercest, most eloquent songs, but he never joined the picket line himself. He wasn’t that person. He wasn’t a political leader, nor an activist, and he knew it, but he still did what he could. According to the film, there are ways you can spot a Communist… “he sometimes carries a guitar”. I liked that. The fact that the government was victimising them from the very start must have made every musician feel quite subversive at the time. It’s not quite the same now, is it? Blair & Berlusconi hanging out with Bono, etc… Politicians can’t get enough of the musicians these days. It’s a weird turn of events though. The politicians want to be rock stars, and the rock stars want to be politicians. And who’s to say the world wouldn’t be a better place?