Wednesday, November 12, 2003

More wacky stuff from this week's Culture section in the Vanguardia. This is by one Ignacio Julia, who manages to get off some lefty-old-Europe rhetoric and some name-dropping of famous gringos at the same time.

Note: The European left refers to the free-market or capitalist system using several code words. "Liberal" means free-marketeer and normally social liberal as well. "Neoliberal" is worse; it means conservative and capitalist, and implies a rejection of Marxism. "Pensamiento unico" (the only thinking), more or less means free-market ideas; it implies a suppression of other economic ideas, specifically Marxist ones. "Salvaje" is literally "wild" or "savage", and could maybe best be translated as "unrestrained" or "unbridled". It implies a total laisser-faire system: for example, "capitalismo salvaje". The United States is always a "hyperpower", implying that we're dangerously powerful, and together with other English speakers we are "Anglo-Saxons", even if our parents came from Cambodia or Iran or Poland. So: "The hyperpower's policy, and that of its Anglo-Saxon satellites, is to enforce "the only thinking"; neoliberalism and unrestrained capitalism are imposing themselves and other ideas are to be invalidated."

The Anglo-Saxon rock community has maintained silence while coalition forces carried off the second Gulf War as they had planned. 9-11 had silenced questioning voices and paved the way toward government "only-thinking"; like the rest of the population, musicians limited themselves to mourning for the dead without digging deeper into the reasons of the catastrophe. Let us compare the answer of today's musicians to the invasion of Iraq to that of their predecessors in the '60s...

...The attack had not only anguished the nation, it isolated it even more from world reality, incapacitating even its artists from reacting. Where were the critical voices? Not even in popular music.

"It's difficult when you're in an environment dominated by political propaganda," the radical folkie Michelle Shocked told me several months ago. "That distorts your artistic instincts. I had to come to Europe to hear other opinions for the first time and to have a certain perspective."

...Jackson Browne admitted during his stay in Barcelona to promote a new record, "Now we're debating whether it is even possible to criticize the actions of our government..."

"What hurts me most is that the democratic doctrine has been one of our most exported products," confesses Michelle Shocked. "I could lie and say that the Americans have understood the impact of 9-11, but unfortunately, because of the Bush Administration's economic policies, which is so embedded in his general policies, you don't hear other opinions in the media, controlled by the big corporations."

Another attitude, less impacting, is that of the rock poet Patti Smith, who is finishing a new album that will deal with these questions certainly from a more humanistic than political perspective. "You can't stop terrorism, it's impossible; we're dealing with human beings who have decided to give up their lives and there will be an interminable parade of them," she said to me on the telephone a year ago. "Those who think we can get rid of terrorism like that is wrong." That doesn't seem to be the conviction of the world leaders who operated on Iraq for cancer and left it gutted. Those who now hold up their guitars in their fists to stop this unsustainable progression toward barbarism will arrive late, but their voices will be welcome in a country that needs them like never before in its history.

Brilliance. Sheer brilliance.

In case you don't believe these quotes are legit, it's La Vanguardia, November 12, 2003, Culture supplement, page 25.

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