Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Don't give peace a chants

If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.
--Emma Goldman

Looking at the joy in the celebrants in Chile after they ousted Pinochet in 1988 by a plebescite vote they worked so hard for, I think of the steely-eyed, stern-jawed humorless ultraleftist/anarchist activists who frown on anything other than angry chanting. I laugh to myself. The suffering of the Chilean people was tremendous and they won their freedom after so many years of brutal repression in a struggle that refused to continue with the paradigm of meeting violence with violence, hate with hate, militarism with militarism. Those Chileans had every right to demand that everyone be angry at the massive injustice inflicted on them by the Pinochet regime, made possible by US arms and training. Instead, they leapt, they hugged the police who had been so brutal, they sang joyously, and yet they did not forget.

The U2 concert in Santiago in 1998 featured a less joyous, profoundly moving version of their song Mothers of the Disappeared, about a group of women who exhibited enormous courage in Chile, based on the radically brave women of the Madres de la Plaza del Mayo in Argentina.

Music is moving, music is upbeat, music captures a collective creativity missing in chanting "One, two, three, four! We don't like your effing war!" ad nauseam. Other chants are even less informative, and even grossly inaccurate. "The whole world is watching!" is usually chanted when almost no one is watching, though "Almost no one is watching!" probably wouldn't catch on. Please give me some funky drumming, some basic three-chord guitar any day over "Ain't no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don't stop! Right on!" Please! No more! Yes, those are my own tooth marks on my own forearm. Stop, please! Sing!

Even when a song is sung just to give each other strength it means so much more than a taunt at the cops. The Civil Rights refrain, "I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my freedom, I want my freedom, I want my feedom. I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my freedom. I want my freedom now," evokes images of brave black kids singing away their fear in the teeth of oppression that earnest young whites in modern northern towns just can't fathom.

Bring back the music. Bring it on and sing it on!



photo of Madres in Buenos Aires:

1 comment:

Terri said...

We should offer Freedom Songs 101 some night at Whitefeather - a night of drumming and singing.