As Occupy Wall Street (OWS) rages on, we marvel at the young people standing up for what they believe in. This kind of dedication hasn’t been seen since the late ‘60’s when our parents fought against the imperialistic forces that sought to ruin the middle class, the lower class and those on the fringes of societal norms. And so, on they rage against Wall Street, the symbol of everything that has crippled this country for decades.
In all this anger, resentment and desperation, inspiration comes easy. It happened in Egypt, Syria, Libya and now we’re fighting as well. On “60 Minutes” last week they told the story of a young musician in Egypt who dared to write a song denouncing Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian leader. Later, when Mubarak was deposed, he wrote a song against the Army that now occupies Egypt and he was severely beaten, but on he sang. We did that once. That happened in this country at one time.
Where did our protest songs go? Tom Morello was down at OWS singing ‘60’s protests songs. His former band Rage Against the Machine protested things like Tibet, Korean dictatorship, Cuba, but rarely, if ever, about our own government. It’s been ten years since 9/11 and it was such an event of capitalization by so many artists, but when we invaded other countries not a word was sung in deterrence. Now, as we still occupy countries we don’t belong in, we sit in a worldwide recession, and no one in Washington can agree on the color of paint they want in their offices, let alone what direction the country should go, we wonder where our protest songs are? Who do we look to?
Who is our Bob Dylan? When is our Woodstock? When do we get out there and sing about how we have an unemployment rate of 9.1% and politics come before helping people? This is our time. These are the days when we should be standing up, with our lungs full of air and screaming songs of anger with pride. Has a 24 hour news cycle weakened our resolve? We have become complacent in contentment. We’ve become happy in our little homes, with our High-Def television, listening to our i-Pods, surfing the internet, playing our Playstation, doing whatever it is people do with i-Pads do, etc.
We write on our Facebook walls how brave those people at OWS are as we gnaw down another energy bar before we go on our jogs to stay fit so we can get laid and live forever. It isn’t about living for the right reasons anymore; it’s about staying alive to suck more space without contributing anything. Jack London once said:
I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.
And yet here we are doing everything we can to not mess up the order of things. We spew good government bullshit to the masses and watch our specialized stations geared towards our thoughts and the message gets distorted by all. MSNBC loves OWS, FOX hates it and CNN just kind of sits there and tells you it’s happening. They take songs like Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” and make them their own, but there’s no original content. No one wants to upset people in a divided country. If we get out and say something people will hate us, like they did with the Dixie Chicks (forgive the reference).
Perhaps, the reason was that people railed against Vietnam and then put Nixon in office and it all got worse. It got crazy for a long time. Then we buried ourselves in mountains of cocaine and mentally dropped out. Even the ‘80’s had their causes, though, the protests songs came at a less frequent pace, but they came. U2 tried to distance “Sunday Bloody Sunday” as a protest song and that was the first time I remember an artist denouncing the protest. It wasn’t “cool” anymore to protest. It was just a story, but we, as the band, are not taking a side either way. We’re just reporting it.
Fuck that! I want my artists to take sides. If it isn’t my side then so be it. Hank Williams Jr. wrote a horrific protest song last week that goes against everything I stand for and really is based in utter stupidity, but he stands for something (mainly that a black president is the equivalent to a self-hating murderous fascist that murdered 6 million Jews, though he was one by heritage and that an over tanned cry baby is the same as the Prime Minister of Israel, but still…). Do we really have to turn to country music to find our protests songs? I can tell you how that’s going to work out…not well.
There has to be someone out there that will get on their soapbox and speak to the horrors that our own government perpetrates. There has to be someone that can write like Dylan did against war, against hatred, against class divisiveness that is intent on keeping people in abject poverty and the planet on a downward spiral. The technology is there, the know how is there, the ingenuity to create a better planet, a vibrant society where we don’t go out of our way to colonize countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya is there. The knowledge to put these people back to work building bridges like our grandfathers did.
Woody Guthrie sang in the Depression, Dylan sang during Vietnam. Who will we turn to now that we need a voice to break through to speak to the disenfranchised? Who will we look to as our voice of reason that reminds us to keep fighting like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young did with “Ohio”? The NYPD is pepper spraying peaceful protesters who want the change we were promised. Where is that change? Who is singing about the change we deserve? Who is getting out there and reminding the “establishment” that we’re here and we’re not going to get fucked with anymore. Do we have to get brow beaten like they did at the ’68 Democratic Convention in Chicago? Do we have to go through a Watergate again?
What will it take until people are moved enough to leave their happy homes, their comfort zones and say “enough is enough”. To quote the movie Network when will we say, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.”? Remember what Kerouac said in his masterpiece, “On the Road”:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
Be the ones that are desirous to live. Be the ones that get out there and fight the fight and look back on a better world someday and realize that you were a part of the reason that we are in a better place. It isn’t all about money, it’s about conscience. It’s about singing to the skies to the apathetic and letting them know that they can spray us, beat us, martyr us, but we’re not going away. This is our time, make it count.