Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will we ever learn wisdom?

On Titus One Nine for the USA's Memorial Day, Kendall Harmon has posted the video below (along with some others). The video features Peter, Paul and Mary, and Pete Seagar singing Where have all the flowers gone?, one of the most poignant songs about war ever composed, highlighting the folly and stupidity of war (and all the more poignant as North Korea tells the world it does not object to waging war by nuclear means). Below the video I post two comments made on Titus One Nine, and Kendall Harmon's response ... and then make a note myself!

"4. recchip wrote:
What would possess anyone (especially someone as intelligent as Dr. Harmon) to consider a song by 4 anti-war hippie traitors as appropriate for Memorial Day. Why not just have a video of Jane Fonda next time!!

I am VERY disappointed in this being labeled as Music for Memorial Day. SHAME!!!

May 25, 9:47 pm | [comment link]

5. Sarah wrote:
Well, it is a beautiful song, and it does express the sorrow of losing young people in war. That’s how I listen to it anyway. Heck, I think John Lennon’s song Imagine is beautiful even though i have no desire for his expressed wishes to actually come true! ; > )

May 25, 11:42 pm | [comment link]
7. Kendall Harmon wrote:
#5 has the reason for the song correct, and #4 is a good exemplar of American identity politics on display. Since I do not like or agree with x or y about the messenger, there goes the message. But surely in a world where everyone is bent, then soon nothing gets heard.

It is a good song."

I am grateful for Kendall's wisdom; and floored by comment No 4. If we cannot get beyond 'identity politics' can we ever be a united church offering a model of human unity for the world to see? In a world trapped in identity politics war is inevitable!!!!!!!!


Janice said...

Years ago I read Russell Braddon's "Thursday Island". I believe it's the story of his life as a POW under the Japanese during WWII. Some time later I heard (something like) that he had refused to be seated next to a Japanese person on plane flight. Should he have been accused of indulging in 'identity politics'? I ask because his reaction seems to me to be analogous to that of the person who objected to Kendall Harmon's use of the PP & M music video in the context of Memorial Day in the US.

When Scott Rennie talks about 'homophobic' bullying is he indulging in 'identity politics'?

I presume my questions will appear provocative but I'm just trying to understand why the upset of some people who have suffered in one way should be viewed more kindly than the upset of other people who have suffered in another. Or maybe that's not what you're doing at all. I can't tell.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
Tough questions. I think I see your point!

Russell Braddon was indulging in identity politics to the extent that he identified one Japanese person with another group of Japanese and invested the guilt of the latter on the former. (However his reaction was an understandable one given the horrors of POW life, and I hope he got a seat somewhere else).

I do not see that Scott Rennie is indulging in identity politics when he names and describes a specific group of perpetrators of morally wrong (if not criminal) actions. (Just as Russell Braddon was not indulging in identity politics when he wrote an indictment of a specific group of Japanese war criminals).

What I am ignorant of is what PP&M might have done analogous to Japanese war criminals? They didn't murder any songs, did they? -:)

Janice said...

What I am ignorant of is what PP&M might have done analogous to Japanese war criminals? They didn't murder any songs, did they? -:)

I believe they are regarded as having provided aid and comfort to an enemy during wartime. The political turmoil that they, and others, fostered in the US, Australia, NZ and elsewhere encouraged the North Vietnamese to continue the war in the hope of achieving a political victory since they could not achieve a military victory. That, of course, meant that more soldiers and civilians were wounded, killed or imprisoned than might have been the case otherwise. Songs can be very effective propaganda.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice
Yes, I can understand that analysis of PP&M's 'contribution', and consequently why the commenter on Titus One Nine was not happy with their rendition of the song being posted by Kendall Harmon.

What would not then be clear to me is whether all protestors against the Vietnam war should be (in some manner or another) blacklisted from a continuing contribution to our Western life and culture? Nor is it clear to me that the war in Vietnam was an unambiguously wise war which ought not to have been questioned (whether or not that questioning gave comfort to the North Vietnamese).

But in any case, the song is directed at the folly of war full-stop and not at American adventurism and thus I support PP&M continuing to sing it! There is still a spirit of war abroad in our world which needs undermining and destroying by one means or another.

Anonymous said...

Oh, where has the young Mary Travers gone???

At least their voices have survived - and as England's Susan Boyle reminded those silly judges, a fine voice has no relation to somebody's looks.

A point that might be lost on some is that Pete Seager was a lifelong communist and even apologist for Stalin. A cheerful folk demeanor and a guitar can't cover up such willfull ignorance of the conduct of the greatest murderer in history.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for the heads up about Pete Seager. Sadly he is in good company these days, as apparently the rehabilitation of Stalin is going well in Putin's Russia.