Monday, July 02, 2007

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


On Sunday I went with my dad to a concert performance by Jean-Luc Ponty at Hartwood Acres, a county park. The free concerts at Hartwood are joyful occasions with picnicking, children and dogs. Along with friends we had good food and the weather was cool. What a great band too. Ponty's remarks about most the most recent album, The Acatama Experience:
The Acatama Experience was conceived as a musical journey starting with a Paris street ambiance (Intro) followed by 13 songs, taking us through different lands, through a variety of impressions and emotions, through the past and present. This is also the first album that I produced in such 'on and off' manner, between January 2006 and February 2007. During that time period I also traveled and performed with my band on different continents, from South America to Europe, from Russia to Venezuela, from the U.S.A. to India, returning to this album project each time with fresh ears and new insight.
The band : percussionist Moustapha Cisse, drummer Theierry Arpino, bassist Guy Nsangue Akwa, and keyboardist William Lecomte blend their conservatory training with West African rhythms into brilliant music.

It turns out there's a Summer of Love connection with Jean-Luc Ponty in that he was first introduced to American musical audiences at the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival. The Monterey Pop Festival, as can be seen by the image of Tom Wilkes memorable poster snatched from the Wikipedia article, was in June around the time of the Summer Solstice. The Monterey Jazz Festival was held on the same fairgrounds in September around the time of the Autumnal Solstice.

Time flies and it is hard to keep everything straight in mind. Thinking about music for my own Summer of Love anniversary party I decided to make a mix tape. Yes a cassette tape. Most of the little music I own is on cassette, at least music that dates back to the sixties. Mixing musical genres is an art, and also my collection of sixties music is predominately Soul anyway. That's appropriate because while in 1967 I did listen to The Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album, and The Mamas and Papas album, and Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme--all of them my brother's albums--mostly what I heard was Soul music on the car radio. It took me a while longer to discover the music of Monterey Pop and Monterey Jazz festivals.

I chatted with a young musician, FredAlfred online recently and when it came to my age he asked: "Were you a hippie?" By this account, The Death of Hippie occurred in October of 1967. But you only have to read the document to understand the reality isn't quite as neat as the report suggests. The old joke follows: "If you remember the sixties, you weren't there." No, I was too young to be a hippie in 1967, but I still think it was the beginning of something. If celebrating the Summer of Love is worth it, then that "something" that was beginning has to be fleshed out a bit.

An obstacle to fleshing this out from my personal experience is one way of looking at it is that it's the beginning of one blunder after another. I not alone in seeing my own blunders and those of a wide swath of my generation, but it seems there's a minority of us who rather not repudiate the zeitgeist of the time.

Darn it! I never can seem to get to the point of anything. The reason I started with this whole Summer of Love thread was as a way of explaining a long lapse in posting to Bazungu Bucks. The reasons, as best I can tell, have to do with an upwelling of despair about present events. The reality of my local and personal circumstances are quite pleasant. Oh that so many more of us were so blessed! The rub is that the systems which serve my comfort and well-being contribute substantially to the misery of many people around the world. And these systems eat the world's resources in ways that cannot sustain even my local conditions. That's something my generation figured out long ago when we were young, but rather fully put that "inconvenient truth" out of our minds as we "grew-up."

Al Gore, an elder voice of our generation, keeps reminding us that we ignore inconvenient truths at our peril. He gets a lot of laughs, but keeps--it seems quite patiently--to remind us of the point. He penned an Op-Ed in Sunday's New York Times, Moving Beyond Kyoto.

Back in April, I was working hard in my garden. I had also been wondering how to begin local conversations about the the state of things and what we could do about it. Oh and I see by this post at Hats For Health I've been thinking about the Summer of Love for a while. In April, most probably April 29th, shovel in hand, the enormity of the challenge which global climate change hit me like a 2 X 4 to the head. The previous evening I'd read Alex Steffen's review of paleontologist Peter Ward's book, Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future. Steffen quotes from the book:
In other words, despite what some conservative pundits have written, you might not want to vacation in an extreme greenhouse world, after all. Forget "breeding couples" camping out in the Arctic, we may not have flowering plants or any but the toughest insects left (the cockroaches from my first apartment will almost certainly make it).
And in my garden with multitudes of flowering plants around me, imagining a world without them filled me with grief.

Jim Kunstler minces few words about "the Castor-and-Pollux of Clusterfuck Nation, Global Warming and Peak Oil." The hue and cry "We want solutions! scares him. He makes the point:
let's stop talking about making better cars and start talking about occupying the landscape differently -- which we're going to have to do anyway.
What's really depressing to me is a famous observation ofUpton Sinclair :
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.
While I think Kunstler is exactly right that we really must begin talking about "occupying the land differently," I find the talk about solutions reassuring, at least so far as it seems an improvement over shear and utter denial. It's not at all easy to cast a cold eye upon what our livelihoods depend.

No, my generation is no longer young. Yes, looking back over my years so many things that seemed like good ideas at the time, certainly weren't very good. Maybe in a long line of foolishness, the idea of commemorating the Summer of Love provides a glimmer of hope. Because once my generation earnestly wanted to expand our minds to imagine a better way of being. We were hardly imaginative enough. But we took a step in the right direction.

Gore's editorial highlights LiveEarth twenty four hours of music in concert across seven continents on 7.7.07. No doubt the effort seems a bit besides the point to Kunstler and others with it's call "to be part of the solution." But we've all got to start some place if we are indeed going to begin to occupy the land differently.

Central to the idea of Bazungu Bucks is the idea that people outside Africa can be of service to African people. I don't believe we can be of much service unless we alter first our thinking about how we live and ultimately begin changing how we live. We, people around the world, are bound together by this existential challenge of energy descent and global warming. Much of what we in the Global North think we know is profoundly wrong. And in so many ways undertaking the the challenges of the poorest in the world provides the essential keys to our own survival.

4 comments:

The 27th Comrade said...

It seems Live* - LiveSomethingOrOther - is the flavour of the month.

I want the earth to outlive me, but I don't think I should stick to living in caves because of it. If development ruins the earth, hey, maybe it is the way things are supposed to be.

Or humans are just a greedy hog, eating the belly of their mum. :o(

John Powers said...

I love your blog Communist Socks and Boots! It makes me happy you're reading me and also a embarrassed to imagine anyone's following my rambling. Yeah I don't want to live in a cave either! So it matters that together we figure out ways of doing more with less. That goes more than a hundred times for energy pigs like me and my fellow Americans. My point is people like me aren't going to be of much use until we really expend some effort to change the way we do our lives.

Music events probably don't have the power they might have once had. But no mistaking "music is a weapon."

Pittsburgh is a small city but even here we've had a few Ugandan musicians in town. Maybe you can help spread the word by pointing to music that speaks a message to you; or not;-) Thanks the 27th comrade.

Chloe said...

I admit to being neglectful about environmental issues- albeit working from home and being relaxed about driving an old compact car. However, there only needed to be a couple rticles pointing out that cockroaches will be a sure survivor among us to encourage me to start recycling ASAP. And I have the empty wine bottles to do it. So, thanks for your effort to promote awareness!

And thank you for the compliment to me.

John Powers said...

Chloe, check out this cool way to recycle wine bottles!