In reading an article in Wired Magazine about a man named Nathan Wolfe who has been predicting a pandemic like our current Covid situation for years, and his and other people’s efforts to bring that kind of thinking to the insurance/reinsurance business, I was struck by the realization that all of the thinking appeared to be about how to insure companies against these events, and no effort was being put into more life-affirming proactive efforts. Massive effort is being put into research about all kinds of negative fallout to companies in the event of natural catastrophes and how to protect them financially from those events, and NO effort is being put into changing the business models to insulate them from those events by changing the nature of their business and/or how they conduct those businesses.
Then I realized that this kind of thinking runs throughout our Western culture, seeing life in terms of financial repercussions, and how to protect against those damages, but very little relative effort being put into mitigating our “on the ground” exposure to them, and stopping them before they start. No changing practices at companies, no building publicly funded programs to insulate the public from consequences, no investment in technologies that would mitigate or eliminate the actual threats themselves, (think Global Warming as a primary example, something that we actually could literally prevent before it happens – more), literally almost all of our thinking is of the negative and reactive type, not the positive proactive type.
And of course thinking along these lines led me to the “why” of our societal non-response to this problem, which is rooted in the very simple dollar cost, which is itself rooted in our current culture’s conviction that the only measurement of value that society shall use is money, and that no other measure has any merit.
And of course now we see the fallout from that type of thinking, particularly and spectacularly in the case of the USA, where our level of commitment to money and profit and the rights associated with being able to continue to exercise our business and lives in pursuit OF money and profit, has led to the USA being the global leader in the Covid pandemic and deaths from it. And the reasons for those results can be traced directly to our culture’s obsession with money and the pursuit of it, while placing it equal to or above even HUMAN LIVES in terms of how we value it as a society.
I find this remarkable, that we have elevated a fictional made up tool to become equal to or more valuable than human lives and the experiences that make up those lives. But it appears to be true, at least in the USA, certainly our “leaders” and the “Shareholder Class” believe it to be true, and are willing to sacrifice sizable numbers of human lives and cause untold amounts of great suffering amongst those whom they feel are less deserving than they in order to continue the pursuit of money/profit.
Even more astonishing, those leaders and business owners/investors have managed to convince a very large segment of the American public to join them in this viewpoint, even while that stance puts them and their friends and families at risk of disease and even death as a result of that economic choice.
I often wonder if the obsession with money is why all businesses are fascinated only by financial responses to natural calamities, and how to lower risk by offloading it into insurance and C.Y.A.-style reactions, and NO effort is put into proactive efforts to stop or mitigate catastrophe before it happens. Well, in truth I don’t wonder, I’m fairly certain this is the basic truth of it.
I often wonder about the quality of human life we could have if we added human lives and our personal experiences of those lives to our system of measuring the “success” of those lives.
For example, how much better would the human experience be if the entire world decided that we were going to prioritize switching to free sustainable energy within say a decade, and we would leave fossil fuel/coal/gas/etc forever and energy would be generated by solar/thermal/wind/etc, and would be free to all who needed it. That kind of thing could actually be done, we’d just all have to agree to put aside “profit” for a moment and decide to save our planet/ourselves as a reasonable priority.
But we’re under the spell of the False Religion of Profit Above All Else, including our future, and the lives of our children and their’s and so on…and so nothing is done. And that spell is a created thing, a desired thing, a need created by the Very Rich to allow them to create and then control a system that allows them to order society along lines that benefit only them, and create a modern feudal society in which they are the Lords, and we the Vassals.
We live in Fear so much of the time, fear of losing our livelihood, our freedoms, our health, our lives, but because of our allegiance to the false Gawd Of Profit we are ensuring that we will indeed lose all of those things.
We are investing in our own Doom, the very thing we Fear.
When I was playing with Christopher Cross some years ago, there was a section of the show where Christopher would go out and do a few songs by himself solo, and then I would take an acoustic guitar out there with him and we’d do a few songs singing and playing together like that. It was quite a thing for me as a guy from Juneau, Alaska, who was very scruffy and often poorly mannered but happened to end up being pretty good at playing bass and singing while I did it, quite a thing to find myself singing and playing guitar with a guy like that.
I remember when I first heard “Sailing” when it came out back then, driving along the highway in Juneau that connected downtown Juneau to what was called “out the road”, or “the Valley”, which is the part where the Mendenhall Glacier is if you’ve been there. Driving along and that song started, and out over the water there was a hole in the clouds that had lit up a part of the water out over the Gastineau Channel, a kind of “god-hole” that was really beautiful…..I was just slain by the sound, and I never forgot that moment. So finding myself on tour with him, doing that part of the show with him, I would often just be kinda shocked it was happening, and that kind of moment has happened to varying degrees with EVERY artist I’ve had the opportunity to work with,. Although I don’t like the way the term “grateful’ is just tossed around like it’s proof of caring, in this case it’s the right word, I’m grateful to have done the things I’ve been able to do.
Anyway I digress… so while Christopher was playing the first few songs by himself, I would always grab someone and say, “Do you know how good at THIS that guy is?!? If you saw that at like Genghis Cohen or Largo or really any venue that is known for singer/songwriters getting up and playing a song by themselves, your goddam HEAD WOULD EXPLODE! You’d be like ” who the HELL is this guy and why isn’t he huge?!?!?”. And of course in the end he was, and he IS. But the point is that as he sat there playing, everyone would kind of gather round in a way, their attention getting closer and the room would get smaller and more and more intimate, and everyone was there together in that room, sharing in that moment.
There’s almost nothing else that does that like music does, and it’s MAGIC, literal actual MAGIC.
What we musicians do does things to and for people that almost nothing else can. We help provide a release valve, we help define moments, we provide a soundtrack to someone’s life that will resonate and transport them like nothing else except smell can (science!), we provide a method of understanding, a sense of not being alone and that someone understands, a sense of comfort, feelings of urgency, a lifting of spirits, and balm for the soul.
That’s actual MAGIC. Or it is to me, literally Human Magic.
I say this a lot to my fellow musicians, to varying reactions ranging from vehement agreement to “Check Please!”. Mostly it depends on who you’re talking to, and mostly it’s related to whether they are a Touring Sideman (someone who is hired to go out on concert tours and support an artist who is playing live venues), or someone who is trying to write and perform their own music, and/or someone who is involved in the creation and recording of someone else’s music (sessions players, producers etc).
Those are typically different mindsets, (not always, but typically), with the Touring Sidemen often not very interested in those aspects, and the Session Types at least understanding that point of view and trying to create something special that will sound like MUSIC to them and the listener, and then the creators/ARTISTS being almost ONLY concerned with trying to create MAGIC at all times, even if the reason is only to generate income, because they know income tends to follow MAGIC around quite often.
But for me, I think that even in the Touring situation, it’s still MAGIC. We’re still helping that moment happen, that release, that communal moment, that healing and power, and in fact when you’re Touring, if you’re paying attention you can see it happening every night. Every night out there SOMEONE is having that moment of clarity, or that moment of release of a pent up anguish, or a memory has been jogged loose, or they finally understand something that didn’t make sense till that moment.
A guy I used to play with in Christopher’s band named Dave Beyer, who played drums with Christopher for most of the time I was with Christopher, said something to me once I appreciated and never forgot: “Every night at some point while Christopher is speaking in between songs, I try to look around for those 30 seconds or so at what I’m doing, really see how unique and special this is, and how amazing it is to be here now doing this.” And every show I’ve done after I’ve tried to remember to do that, because for all I know it could be the last time I ever have a chance to do this, and it may really matter that I was paying attention, not letting it just go by like it didn’t matter.
And that was the energy and focus I would put into it, like it mattered (*Past tense because it’s Covid times, and there’s none of all this happening at all right now!). Trying to actively PLAY every note, hit everything as right as I could, sing as in tune as I could, bring as MUCH game as I could to all parts of what I was doing, trying to make it MUSIC and MAGIC as much as I could. I’m sure I wasn’t always as successful as I would like, and there were/are many technical issues that can get in the way, but the more you push towards that, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed!
I had a MAGIC moment that I always refer to in talk about this subject…. I was playing in a Borders Bookstore Cafe (remember those?!?!), on the road supporting my 2 CD releases I’ve made on my own (another whole world of stories for another time), and I was playing a song called “The Lady’s Song” which for me is about my Grandmother dying, and how bad I was at handling that. In the audience that evening was a guy with what I guess was his wife and 2 children, and during that song the guy’s wheels just suddenly came off, seemingly all at once. Full on sobbing crying family gathering around him, utterly emotional and without caring about being in public. At the end of the show he came up while I was signing and selling my CD’s, bought both of my CD’s for each of his family members, and told me that he had not grieved yet for his mother who had died some fair amount of time before, and that something about that song and that moment had gotten him thinking about it, and suddenly it all opened up on him, and he had started the real grieving process in that moment. I gave him a hug and told him that that was what I was there for, and thanked him for what I thought was a wonderful thing to share with me, and that in a way he had given me the best kind of compliment he could give me.
For ME, that was MAGIC as well.
To be able to help like that, to be able to bring that to someone, THAT is what we do.
I would just like to put it out there, what we do is MAGIC. Remembering that and understanding the human power of that, respecting it and giving it to our audiences, sharing that with them, that’s a really wonderful thing we can do, not everyone gets that opportunity.
I’ve just seen the Christchurch terrorist’s video.
First of all, let’s be sure we understand what he himself says he is up to and call it what it is, terrorism.
He’s a terrorist, and should always be called that.
As well as a Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, etc etc, he’s every kind of evil scum that humanity produces rolled into one shit ball.
Let’s also talk about something that I think needs to be understood, and that is that there is a CLEAR difference between semi autos, and assault weapons, tho they are often the same weapon, they have different meanings and VERY different results.
I have written a thing about what I think about the Gun Issue (http://www.stillmusic.com/?p=1706), and watching this video confirms it again to me, and that boils to we need WAY more regulation/training/education/limits on any weapon that is designed as an assault weapon/rifle, because these calibers and designs of weapons are VERY CLEARLY not the same animal as what is used for recreational shooting. They are exponentially more destructive than regular cartridges/loads, and are MEANT TO BE.
Another thing that occurs to me, and that is that of the many many supporters of unregulated gun ownership out there, how many of them understand what happens, in reality, when shit stains like this actually DO what they DO?
What’s kind of shocking in this video and others like it is how weirdly NORMAL everything seems, cars going by, it’s kinda post-rainy, the sounds of a street and people around, how those sounds mostly continue even after the shooting starts…but what doesn’t fit is what it must have been like for that sound to happen at the front door, and then he appears in the room shooting. Very deliberately, aiming, reloading, going around making sure people are dead, coming back in several times to be sure, making “kill shots” to take away any chance of survival, going outside, coming back in……traffic still going by, people still in the street, (tho that clears up by the time he leaves and heads to the next place)….it’s utterly mundane out in the world, and in that mosque it’s a horrific outlandish nightmare of massacre and bodies.
I don’t think even the shooter really gets what it is he’s doing, he’s not attached to it…..like it’s a video game or something, something without humanity or suffering, just pull a trigger and people fall down and your score goes up, *WINNING*, so to speak.
I don’t think gun ownership/NRA types really get what these scenes are about, probably don’t even want to know, because then it becomes real, not some philosophical or theoretical discussion about rights and Constitution and Founding Fathers motives etc., it’s really simple what’s happening here, and it’s fucking Demonic and Hellish and pure RAW EVIL.
I think people NEED to see this.
If you’re an NRA type you need to know what your actions enable, and if you’re against assault weapon ownership you need to remember why you fight against this class of weapons, really get animated about it.
This is fiercely convincing.
For more of my thoughts about what should be done about gun ownership please read what I’ve linked to, I’m not trying to write that over again….I’m kinda more saying that people NEED to understand what these scenes and actions actually ARE, and how much they need to be stopped, and that the best way to do that is the same way the American Public got so animated about the Vietnam War that it was finally stopped (which BTW is why you NEVER see War on TV anymore, the people who make money from it can’t have that kind of pushback against their cash cow profit stream of War, so they got rid of it) which is they need to SEE IT. In that same way as the Vietnam War, people need to go against this kind of thing, and believe me, if everyone saw this, there would be MUCH more energy and agreement about stopping this kind of event. Much much more.
As for this guy…..well….he’s provided all the evidence we need for conviction, he def wasn’t trying to avoid it. For him and those like him, we need a new type and intensity of punishment, a kind that would deter like no other, a level of torture and long lasting agony that goes on for years, keeping them alive, letting them rest and regain their health and stability, then going in for more, for years and years….no suicide, no death, no pain pills, only keeping them alive, cycles of torture that never stops till they die of old age.
I’m good with that.
Yes I’m energized about this, I just watched this thing…but I think my response is the correct one, utter shock/outrage/horror/fear/repulsion/resolve….we NEED that energy to stop this shit, and that energy comes from understanding the actual REALITY of these events, because they cannot be allowed, and I think at this point we’ve come to the conclusion in this country that we’re going to allow them, and I think that’s unconscionable and core evil.
For the profits of some already rich assholes, or the delusional revolutionary fantasies of some half or fully crazy incel Internet Masturbaters, we’re gonna allow this to continue?
That video can be found, and you should see it. It will shake you up, it will revolt you, but it will also force you to have an opinion on this, and you will participate, guaranteed, and we need your participation.
I had a conversation with a younger person the other day, we were talking about the concept of Wage Slavery, and how most people don’t really conceptualize their lives in that context, but that it does apply to many, (and in recent years more and more) of us.
He had an interesting take on it, a difference in how he saw it that I hadn’t ever really seen, and that was that we are SELLING our lives to someone when we go to work for them. He saw that more in the case where someone joins a long term type of job, like a corporation or a law firm, any kind of job that is a long term, possibly even life long commitment.
The point for him was that if most people saw the work that they do to earn money in this light, they would immediately begin to question whether or not they were getting fair value for essentially selling your life to someone else, and whether that is a good use of your life.
Now obviously most people aren’t thinking of it in those terms, and as obviously there’s a clear need to have money in our society in order to function within it, as without money you’re going to have a pretty rough time eating and keeping a roof over your head, tho alternatively you could go live in the woods somewhere scrounging for food like Davy Crockett and wrestling bears if you’d rather.
So thinking about your career in THOSE terms, that you’re selling your life, essentially so that someone else can become even richer, that’s a really clear way to look at the value you derive from working in that way, and I think it’s pretty good discussion to have with yourself.
Money, being the man-made fiction that it is, has no ACTUAL value, only the percieved value society has assigned to it, and we all sort of “agree” to assign it that value and operate under that agreement.
But what happens to the other values that make up the experience of being human? Like, what’s the money value of watching your child being born, or the “value” in dollars of a sunset, or hearing your child’s honest clear laughter, or any number of feelings and experiences that are the essence of being a human? While society has a tendency to rate ALL of our lives in terms of dollars, I don’t think any of us would say that there’s a money number that makes sense in those contexts.
So why are we only valuing what we do as work in that way? Are we only experiencing our lives in one way by using that metric as the main way to measure our lives? What about all the things that we can’t attach a dollar figure to?
I think it’s a good point to consider when we go to work for someone else and sell them our lives…
Somewhere out there in America right now, he’s watching. He’s watching the Facebook groups, and the reddit threads, and the private newsletters, and the small town Middle America newspaper editorials. He’s watching the political process as it responds to the pressures from the Alt-Right and Nazis and Nationalists and Hillary haters, the embittered and cheated left, the Bernie Bros, and the Jill Stein fans, and the Green Party and Antifa, and all the others who flipped to Trump as a repercussion administered to the DNC and Hillary for their bald-faced ripoff of an ACTUAL left wing movement within the “Democratic” party….he’s watching the media frenzy about the acknowledged outright CRAZINESS of the things that Trump is saying and doing, (all the while no one acts, there are NO repercussions), the apparent disregard for ANY common sense at all, as long as what he does results in the tearing down of something that Obama built up, as if the ONLY reason he is there in the White House is to personally damage Obama….he’s watching the Congress essentially hand the keys of government over to the very rich (what I like to call the #TyrantClass), and throw most of the entire US population under the bus in the mad rush to please those masters, and he thinks he understands what the next move is.
He’s always been very smart, he’s always been charismatic and motivated to the purpose of each day, and charming with strangers, even persuasive in that way that some people just seem to be born with, able to connect with people within a few words and a smile, a shake of the hand….people like him right away, feel like he’d be someone they’d like to know.
But he’s also a sociopath, possibly even a psychopath, who has only lacked a focal point, a sense of his true calling, in order to give shape to what he knows is a greater purpose, the thing he’s been waiting for but didn’t know what it was….and now he thinks he may know……and he doesn’t care what the cost, he wants it.
Weirdly, America thinks it’s somehow beyond the bounds of human experience, the lessons of history don’t apply to us, we’re somehow above that mundane kind of “human” predictability, we’re “different”, a special case. So when we see the Will to Power begin to lift up the kinds of people we are currently putting into powerful places in our society, (and I don’t ONLY mean government), we’re relatively unconcerned, we think it will pass, or that someone in the right spot to fix it, WILL fix it, but definitely the fundamental specialness of US will hold, and we will not suffer the consequences of true and rapid change. Not like all those other “places” out there, places we’ve dehumanized and pushed away in our minds as places where things like “that” happen, we’re certain that “that” could never happen here.
He knows that’s an opportunity, a weakness, and he knows he has strengths.
He knows he can count on help from those who can be manipulated into helping him, those who can be shaped into a political spear aimed at the heart of our system, our society. Those angry, scared, racist, nationalist, forgotten, unheard, and dismissed objects of popular contempt that make up a HUGE number of the people in this country, and NOT just in the South and center of the country…..he knows they’re everywhere in our society, just as we all know or have met some of them no matter where we are, and those are just the ones you know about. He knows because the Trump election proved it, and from what he sees watching all these different movements burbling away just beneath the surface, and he knows he could consolidate that group into a much more focused movement that would truly be huge…..
He also knows the money machine is ready for him, is looking for him, wants to get behind him. It’s used Trump to get to this place, but it needs someone like him; smart, dedicated, charming, capable, and most of all, filled with the will to power, filled with a desire for change, truly drastic change that will change the course of this country for what he knows will be a better future….especially for him.
I think he exists, and I think he’s right.
Trump had a good bead on what it would take to get himself elected, a kind of weird reality TV construct of how to manipulate his targets into doing what they did, but the truth is he’s not smart enough to have thought about what to do with it once he succeeded, he may even have been surprised himself that it worked so well. All he REALLY wanted was to tear down the House Obama Built, every last stick of it, possibly for the simple small reason of the public dressing down Obama gave him at a press dinner several years ago, that filled him with hate and anger and a need for revenge that was so powerful it took him to the White House.
In any case, once he got there and began the destruction, it quickly became clear to everyone far and wide that he has no skills, no ability to lead a functional government, and may even be literally unhinged and losing his faculties. He’s becoming a liability, a danger to the safety of the Nation and even the World, and he’s likely to be taken down once the Congress has used him and his base to serve the country up on a platter to the #TyrantClass they serve.
That will be the moment for the man observing to rise, to pull the Mantle of Power onto his shoulders, to gather the movement that has taken shape into his arms and tell them he will bring them with him, if only they will catapult him high, high enough to be their instrument of change, even as they will be his spear of retribution and destruction.
It seems bizarre even to me writing this, that this kind of thing could happen here. But I’m very pragmatic in some ways, and one of them is that I’ve never felt that any of us are that “Special”. We’re all living in the constraints of our humanity, and we share all that with every other human on the planet so……we’re NOT special, and we WON’T escape the bonds of history nor the punishment that is ALWAYS exacted upon those who think they will, because they’re “special”.
Why do we think Fascism and Authoritarianism can’t happen here, that history can’t smash us the same as hundreds of past societies were smashed by the Will To Power? How can we be so arrogant and tunnel-visioned as to think our “specialness” will protect us, will automatically keep us “safe”? Do you REALLY think it can’t happen here, REALLY?!?! And if so, did you think 5 years ago that we could be in the spot we’re in right now? Think back and be honest, I’d guess you never truly thought this kind of current situation was remotely in the cards, yet here we are, and bad as it is, it can get a whole SHIT-TON worse, and it likely will, especially if we keep thinking we’re above it.
I saw this post earlier today, and it really got me thinking again about what’s coming, what has already come to pass, and how scary it is to me, especially when I think of my daughter growing up in the place that our country is already becoming, much less what it will be if that someone really DOES get power.
I think it’s time we get very serious about this. I wonder if we’ve already missed our chance, and how we will look back on these times and wonder how we could have let it happen, and how badly we will wish we had seen the obvious signs, had done something, had committed, had become serious.
I’m scared about this, I wish I could make more people scared too.