Kudos to Erik and Brad for being willing to step up and speak on this. This post began as a comment on Erik’s post (which was a response to Brad’s posts), but the words kept coming and it seemed better to add to the conversation separately.
I am probably the least informed of all of you with respect to the cutting edge of current Prog. I haven’t had a chance to listen to either album in question, so I shan’t speak to those specifically. I will say, that I’ve come to realize that a lot of the music that I enjoyed when I was younger was filled with political posturing that mostly sailed right over my head. But now, years later, when I listen to much of it I find the perspectives to be quite vacuous and it does spoil my experience of the music. Political criticisms can be powerfully done, but they typically work better when written in prose by people who have been gifted with insights for such things. Poetry can work to that end, but it takes an extremely deft hand (Shakespeare & Eliot come to mind) to really make it art.
Our cultural problems are plentiful and easy targets for simplistic fist-pumping and shallow art. Yet most of us live in countries which are vastly wealthier and more materially comfortable than any era in the history of humanity. And we have more freedom than ever to create art. Surprisingly, I rarely hear the fist-pumpers and bad artists say things like, “You know I’ve really been spending time in self-reflection and have come to the conclusion that if I would show more kindness, generosity and charity to those in my immediate circle, the world would be a better place and I would be a better person. That’s the solution! And it wouldn’t take a politician or a government program or a supreme court appointment to make it happen. I mean I should be sharing more of my abundance with others right now instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me.” It’s a lot easier just to throw rocks at your chosen enemy and complain that they aren’t saving the world like you would if you had supreme power.
Real change happens in obscurity. Last week I played a gig in a rural area on a stormy evening in central Texas. After the gig I found myself stranded between two low-water crossings and had to pull into a gravel driveway to ride out the storm. In the morning the owner of the place found me camped out in my car on his property. When he realized that the waters were still too high to pass he didn’t miss a beat: “Well you better come in and get warm.” This kind couple treated me as their guest until things cleared ten hours later.
That is the way to really change things for the better—one act of kindness at a time.
It’s not to say that we don’t need to politics to work on some big things, but most of the bigger problems we have begin with our small choices. For the time being, we still live in free countries with opportunities to give freely and to engage in art we believe in. We shouldn’t pass up the chance to do either.