Tag Archives: music

Forgotten what political reform looks like? See this reminder by Taylor Swift.

Summary: Reform movements in America have almost entirely burnt out, with Hope & Change Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama stamping out the embers. Yet the sparks remain and will catch fire again, sometime. Will we recognize harbingers of change after so many disappointments? See this new video by Taylor Swift; it shows what to look for. (2nd post of 2 today.)

Objects might be closer than they appear

Eagles might be closer than they appear

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The rash of police shootings has the Left hitting the streets again (like OWS but more vigorously), waving placards demanding things while delusionally marching along their road to irrelevancy —  as described in this typical twitter comment (name omitted):

Its all coming down. No amount of armor can stop that now. The Left is in the streets again, the only place that matters right now. The endgame is same whether the street explodes and burns it all down from the bottom or the top finally loses control of ridiculous maths experiment on Wall Street and burns down from there.  If the ‘white majority’ wish to be Fascists history shows what is in store for them.

As 2016 looms ahead the center-Left (i.e., liberals) prepare their bid for power by running long-serving, 67-year old, boring mediocrity Hillary Clinton. She’ll read her lines to generate support from the appropriate demographic and special interest groups. She’ll sing the Hope and Change, and the Democratic Party’s core will hum along with her. But nobody will believe. All but the core know she’s a creature of the banks, the war machine, and the mega-corps. Since the 1% don’t care about the proles mating habits and leisure pursuits, she’ll advocate a miscellany of social reforms (conflict about social policies creates a facade of conflict between the two parties).

Both Left and Liberals in their own way block meaningful efforts to reform America. They give us a choice of paths: boring or futile. Neither taps the public energy necessary to overcome the unassailable might of money. Obama did so in a slight way, showing the potential magnitude of the force available to us — but was limited by the insincerity of his campaign (obvious even in February 2008).

How can we identify a powerful political reform movement in its early stages? Here’s what it looks like:

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Writing a good slogan is a key to reforming America

Summary: Continuing our discussion of ways to reform America, today we look at slogans. Why they’re important, both in gaining support and forcing us to a deeper understanding of what we’re doing. It has the virtue of practicality, although it’s not as much fun as insulting our foes, imagining the Magic Law that Reforms America, or dreaming of the great day when we arise in revolt.

Victory Is The Goal

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Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The political slogan
  3. My recommendation
  4. Effective slogans from history
  5. For More Information

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(1)  Introduction

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A frequent complaint in the comments of the FM website (one of the most frequent complaints) is the lack of posts providing solutions to the political problems besetting America. Yet the dozens of posts about doing so (the mechanics) get little traffic and few comments. What few there are suggest that the described process is too long and difficult. We want the fast, easy. A simple program or magic law, then something happens, then REFORM!

Today we look at key part of the political process: creating the slogan.

(2)  The political slogan

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An effective political slogan conveys an idea in few word, ideally an idea that creates a strong intellectual and emotional resonance in its target audience. It acts as a lens focusing an often-complex political program into a simple construct upon which the entire group can agree.

The process also works in reverse. The process of boiling down a complex program into something easily communicated to a mass audience — culminating in slogans — forces deeper understanding of both goals and means (slogans describe both goals and means).

(3)  My nominee for a slogan about the reform of America

We will set fire to the rain.

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This is enigmatic, open-ended, provocative, and loaded with unseen meaning. It points to sunny days beyond the storms that loom over the horizon, but that we know will soon hit us. It describes neither the goals or the means, but directly confronts the magnitude of the task — since we do not yet know how to set fire to the rain. (The 2011 song “Set Fire to the Rain” is by Adele. See the lyrics here.  See a video here.)

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Back to the future in New America: our new class structure

Summary: One of the news media’s master narratives is that the dark evolution of America just happens, much like the myth of the “invisible hand”. Inevitable. Resistance is futile. All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. In fact most of the drivers of rising inequality are politics conducted by other means, invisible means. This is not new in America. We fought these battles before in the often-violent unionization struggles that accelerated after the Civil War (see section 5d here). Times differ, but we can win again.

“There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
— Warren Buffet, quoted in the New York Times, 26 November 2006

Unbalanced Wage Scales

Unbalanced Wage Scales

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Content

  1. The emerging class structure of New America
  2. New America is made for corporations, not workers
  3. Corporations make millions from art while artists starve
  4. Academia adopts corporate comp systems: elites and peons
  5. For More Information
  6. The 99% need a raise

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(1)  The emerging class structure of New America

Increasing inequality of wealth and income plus changes in the structure of employment combine to return America to the 19th century class structure:

  • the top few percent who own almost everything — the bourgeoisie
  • elites with secure professions, high stable incomes, modest wealth
  • the petite bourgeoisie — small business owners
  • the proles, mostly with little job security and little or no wage growth

The major developments since 1980 have been downwards mobility of workers, even those who think of themselves as professionals and highly skilled workers. These stories fill the news media, although usually disguised. Here are three. Understanding these changes is the key to stopping them.

(2)  New America is made for corporations, not workers

Wages Stagnate as US Manufacturers Reap Record Profits“, Bloomberg, 21 November 2013 — Excerpt:

Boeing’s quest for concessions and employees’ opposition exposed a fault line in U.S. industry’s post-recession comeback: Even with hiring and output robust enough to be dubbed a manufacturing renaissance by President Barack Obama, workers are falling behind. Factory pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation and has fallen 3% on that basis since May 2009, while average pay for all wage earners slid only about 1%.

“We need to focus on how many jobs there are that give an adult a chance to earn a decent living,” said Gordon Lafer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center in Eugene. “Too much of the discussion has been about the number of jobs, and that’s obviously important, but there’s also a crisis in the quality of jobs.”

Boeing said it needed labor givebacks to keep the Seattle area as the home of the 777X jet, a new model with more than $95 billion in orders since September. Union workers said Boeing needed to share more of the wealth they help create. “This is really a symbol of what’s going on in this whole country,” said Machinist Thomas Campbell, 40. “We’re losing middle-class jobs.”

… The average hourly wage in U.S. manufacturing was $24.56 in October, 1.9% more than the $24.10 for all wage earners. In May 2009, the premium for factory jobs was 3.9% . Weighing on wages are two-tier compensation systems under which employees starting out earn less than their more experienced peers did, and factory-job growth in the South.

Since the U.S. recession ended in June 2009, for example, Tennessee has added more than 18,000 manufacturing jobs, while New Jersey lost 17,000. Factory workers in Tennessee earned an average of $54,758 annually in 2012, almost 10% less than national levels and trailing the $76,038 of their New Jersey counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(3)  Corporations make millions from art while artists starve

The new media created by Silicon Valley benefits corporations and consumers, the standard New America system. Workers have low wages and insecure incomes. The Huffington Post takes this to an extreme, paying its writers nothing.

My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89, Less Than What I Make From a Single T-Shirt Sale!“, David Lowery (lead singer of Cracker), The Trichordist, 24 June 2013 — Opening:

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The third step to reforming America, with music

Summary: Listen to our music for evidence that the steam has gone from America’s engines of reform. The Sixties were the last great age of reform. It two major themes, the civil rights movement (a historic success) and the anti-war movement (a partial success), were partially powered by popular and vital music. What do we have today? How can we conjure up citizen energy when our artists remain bystanders? Or is it our apathy which leads to artists’ disinterest? These things are beyond my ken, so we consult an expert to explain the political power of music.

“Was there a time when you could say that music could change the world and be serious?”

Comment by Cathryn Mataga, who posted this video:

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“If I Had A Hammer” by Peter, Paul, and Mary as broadcast on 6 April 1963 at ABC’s “Hootenanny”. See the lyrics.

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Reply by Coises

It was perhaps better understood in the sixties that our social institutions derive most of their power from shared beliefs. Change what you believe, and you experience the world differently; change what a critical mass of people believe, and surely the world itself must change. Much of the counterculture was a grand experiment to see what would happen if a large number of people simply stopped believing in some things and began believing in others.

I think the results of that experiment are in, and they indicate that in practice just trying to change beliefs is usually a failing strategy—the critical mass is a much larger fraction than one might imagine. Social systems (and the beliefs that allow them to exist) are incredibly resilient: half a century after the victory of the civil rights movement, it still sucks to be black in America.

… Music can help to change the world, but it has never been enough all by itself.

I believe that reform of America will only come by breaking the box around our thinking, and offering a new way to see America and our politics. For reasons explained below, we’ll know we have hit the mother lode, the foundational love of liberty on which America was founded, when we get musical accompaniment. It can be sought, but not forced (as the Soviet Union attempted with “socialist realism” art).

Recommendation: work to recruit artists to the movement. There is more politics than “interests”, facts, and logic.

The power of music

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
—  William Shakespeare by Victor Hugo (1864), Part I, Book II, Chapter IV

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To better understand the power of music, we turn to one of the great sources of insight about modern America:  The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (1987). This is an excerpt from Part One, chapter 3. Red emphasis added on the vitally important section at the end.

Though students do not have books {as an active force in their lives}, they most emphatically do have music. Nothing is more singular about this generation than its addiction to music. This is the age of music and the states of soul that accompany it. To find a rival to this enthusiasm, one would have to go back at least a century to Germany and the passion for Wagner’s operas. They had the religious sense that Wagner was creating the meaning of life and that they were not merely listening to his works but experiencing that meaning.

Today, a very large proportion of young people live for music. It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does … The enthusiasm for Wagner was limited to a small class. The music of the new votaries knows neither class nor nation.

… The power of music in the soul — described to Jessica marvelously by Lorenzo in the Merchant of Venice — has been recovered after a long period of desuetude. And it is rock music alone that has effected this restoration. Classical music is dead among the young. … Classical music is now a special taste, like Greek language or pre-Columbian archeology, not a common culture of reciprocal communication and psychological shorthand.

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Listen to hear the state of America (and its cure) explained in song

Somehow, sometime, we fell asleep. Not physically. America still fights wars for no visible reason in distant lands. We still invent Ipads, boy bands, and pop tarts.  We (businesses, households, and governments) fecklessly borrow trillions. We root for our favorite sports teams.

20130208-sparks

But somehow the vital spark has died out, the spark that should animate the political engines of the Republic.  We doze through elections, aimlessly listening to politicians lie to us — voting for the one that tells the most interesting story with the greatest skill.  Worst of all, our critical faculties lie dormant and our basest emotions rule — with fear (for us, now) the strongest, now matter how illusory.

This weakness appeared in the 1980s — Alar in apples, Satanists abducting children, nuclear winter, AIDS destroying the human race — and has become a critical weakness today.  Our rulers have observed this, and so American politics has become clashing visions of fear.  The now bipartisan War on Terror features an endless series of inflated threats (and government-manufactured local terrorists), plus exaggerations of Chinese and Iranian power that make the mad fantasies of the Team B about the Soviet Union seem reasonable.

On the Right, they terrify us with visions of a bankrupt government, hyperinflation, and ever-growing totalitarian government — perhaps leading to UN takeover, rule under Sharia, and FEMA-run concentration camps.  On the Left are fantastic visions of climate doom, unrelated to anything grounded in the work of the IPCC or other professional science organizations.

So long as we are led by nightmares there can be no reform in America. It’s a bleak vision, but one with the possibility of change. We need only awaken. We are falling hard in the dark from a great height (where we were after WW2).  We’ll probably land on the concrete, hopefully on our feet and clearly seeing that things are not what they seemed to be.

If you listen you can hear the thunder of storms coming and our castle crumbling.  Time is no longer our friend, and a sense of urgency becomes an antidote to our lethargy.  We can be strong again, but only if we awaken.

Here’s someone who says these things much better than I (at the end are links to other posts about songs to inspire America’s reform):

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Music to accompany a Revolution

Summary: Music can motivate individuals to join a political movement, and build support for it among the people. Here we look at music that might spark not specific policy change (eg, about the environment), but broad reform of our political system.

Contents

  1. The role of music
  2. “Sleep Now in the Fire” by Rage Against the Machine
  3. “Testify” by Rage Against the Machine
  4. Why music has power
  5. It’s about choice
  6. The futility of protest without vision of a new order
  7. For More Information

(1) The role of music

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Profound political reform at some point becomes a revolution, if society resists change — and sufficient people will pay the price.  It’s a small “r” revolution, if the society eventually adapts to the new forces unleashed.  If the society resists and the conflict escalates it might become a large “R” revolution, but the price paid becomes very high. What music can motivate that kind of change?

(2)  “Sleep Now in the Fire” by Rage Against the Machine (1999, lyrics here)

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(3) “Testify” by Rage Against the Machine (2000, lyrics here)

For our conservative readers, here’s an endorsement of Rage Against the Machine: it’s Paul Ryan’s favorite band!

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The New America needs a new national anthem! Here’s my nomination.

Summary: We have become a new nation, and so need a new national Anthem.  Just as the old anthem reflected the spirit and needs of the Republic, so should our new anthem. Here’s my nomination. Post yours in the comments!

The “Star Spangled Banner” fit The-America-That-Once-Was, a defiant song of a free people, often fighting to defend their Republic.  It ill-suits a somnolent and obese people, whose armies fight to maintain a foreign empire that benefits only the 1%.

Here is a suggestion from the past about a national anthem for The New America. It has lyrics suitable for a plutocracy, reflecting the attitude of our ruling elites.  The sing of their stark realism, which belies a popular delusion today that our ruling elites are fools.  In fact they are, as they have always been, cool considerate men. Don’t count on them making large mistakes, or many of them.

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Lyrics to the new nation anthem for The New America

Come ye cool cool conservative men
The likes of which may never be seen again
We have land, cash in hand
Self-command, future planned
Fortune flies, society survives
In neatly ordered lives with well-endowered wives

We sing hosanna, hosanna
To our breeding and our banner
We are cool

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