Jun 112016
 
 June 11, 2016  Posted by at 3:24 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  

I was going to take a day off today, partly because a kind Automatic Earth reader in Athens insisted on taking me out to lunch, partly because I need a break, and partly because the Financial Times complained about their inclusion in my Debt Rattles, which makes me think about the whole thing. Nothing bad about that. Think is good.

But then of course my head doesn’t stop wandering, and so I wandered into music, and Muhammad Ali’s funeral and memory, and I was pondering that he must have loved the songs I post below. As much as I am turned off by a lot of things stateside these days, and he was too, the country, when history is written, will be known for as long as there are people to sing and play and act, for the incredible melting pot of musical styles and plays and movies it has produced.

America, if anything sums it up, is a country that has perfected the art of painting a portrait of itself in music, literature and film. Often a deceptively false portrait, as in the whole “John Wayne vs the Indians” theme, but that’s not the real story, and we all know it. America’s always been about making you believe it’s something it’s not. And in the process it’s produced, despite itself, magic.

Gospel and religion were always a large part of the music, along with the inherent contradiction in having both sides of the segregation lines and railroad tracks go to churches and pray -in different ways- to the same God. Ali found his own. But he knew all along that there is but one God for those who choose to believe in one. He just didn’t want everyone to know that, at least not 50 years ago.

In the music itself, the British and Irish and German and Russin and Jewish et al influences are plain for everyone to hear. But American music was of course shaped more than anything else by African slaves. The biggest miracle the continent has produced is the coming together, if only in music alone, of the oppressors and the oppressed.

That’s quite an achievement, when you get to think about it. At the same time, that’s the power of music; it doesn’t know borders or race. But that’s not nearly all either.

What’s missing in my view and knowledge is how the music that the earliest slaves, those who weren’t shipped to the US but much further south to Brazil and neighboring lands, we’re talking 17-18th century, influenced American music. That’s something I’d like to know a lot more about. Meanwhile, the Coen brothers tuned right down into all of this. And so did Bob Dylan. And Ali, who now wears the robe and crown.

 

 

 

 

Jun 042016
 
 June 4, 2016  Posted by at 8:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Ali escorted to jail April 28 1967

“Boxing legend dies”, is what most headlines say. And the news was first reported on sports pages, though it did soon move to frontpages, fast.

Muhammad Ali was so much more than a boxing legend. So much more that to mention boxing first doesn’t do him justice. Ali was first and foremost a very brave and intelligent man, who changed America for the better. Or should we say: changed Americans?

He grew up in an intensely racist, segregated and divided America, and in the arguably most divided part of that America. That shaped him. Boxing was merely his way out, his way to fight discrimination and racism.

But it didn’t come easy. His was a lonely fight, for most of it. But then, he wasn’t the greatest for nothing.

The only people who stood by him were the Nation of Islam, who made him say some crazy things and from whom he later split acrimoniously; Ali wanted peace, they, not so much. Ali found he was much closer to Martin Luther King at heart. But still.

I saw some numbers flash by earlier. America’s been at war in 223 of the 240 years of its existence since 1776.

Ali refused to go. No matter what the cost. He could easily have been killed for doing it, or locked away for the rest of his life, and he knew it. But he didn’t even flinch. He would not fight the fight of those who set their dogs on his people. He would instead fight against them.

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize… But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.

This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here.

I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow.

I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

(NOTE: Whether Ali ever actually said: “No Vietcong ever called me a nigger” is not entirely clear. But he did say this:)

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father… Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Whether Ali was the greatest American alive when he died a few hours ago is of course a personal view. That he was way up there is beyond dispute. And he had been there for 50 years, while he was still alive. Oh, yeah, and he was a good boxer too. And very pretty.