In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Music for Politics

I don't think it's easy to put a song together and I have a real respect for those who can. In thinking about the process just now, I realized how much is involved in putting something worthwhile together: formulating the idea, working through the lyrics and weighing this word against that, only to then be faced with the challenge of making it all sound good with an instrument (and voice)--particularly when you're talking about syncing up a whole band. Yeah, that's some work alright. Even more than that though, some actually do the work of making it into a music video. That all ads up to my admiration for those that can make this happen.

I'm going on about all this because I just listened to a kickin' song a buddy of mine from back in the day in high school put together. I just stumbled on the band Noah Ramsey-Smith is a part of called "Lady Disaster" through Facebook, and found a money music video they put together called "Oh, Obama" (video below). It's nicely unassuming, honest and irreverent, with a great female voice on vocals. It starts out like this:

"Listen here said a wise man, we're living in a troubled time. We need a man to lead all of us, and lead us to the other side. I believe in the power, of a people that can shine as one."

The chorus is great too: "What we need is change, what we need is courage, what we need is more ideas and less drama. Who can bring us love, who can bring us vision, who can help us rise up together? Obama." Bravo Lady Disaster, a welcome blow to the cynicism that is more of a threat than many realize.

Check out the full music video below though, it's well worth it:

While I'm at it here, I thought I'd include a few other songs related to the candidates. I love me some music of all (or most) stripes, so it feels appropriate personally to connect to the gravity of the election through music. The one many have likely heard is by of the Black Eyed Peas, which was composed earlier this year to capture the spirit of Obama's campaign (it now has over 5 million total views on YouTube):

There's the one country singer John Rich put together for McCain, called "Raising McCain" (though his partner, Kenny "Big Kenny" Alphin, apparently contributed $2,300 to the Obama campaign last year). I tried to get that off of McCain's website, but apparently they won't give it out unless you give them your name and email:

You can actually watch a video of the song on YouTube though:

There are some other songs I've been listening to recently that get at the importance of politics to real life, and I'll try to load some of the up here and/or link to them at some point. As a last thought though, as I've said before, feelings like those pulled at in these songs can undoubtedly be misleading; however, I think one can evaluate emotions and discern whether there is something healthy and worthwhile behind them or not. Also, I have to agree with the commenter on my last post who pointed out that issues have to trump feelings when it really comes down to your vote.

Update: I should've mentioned, if anyone knows some other good "music for politics" drop a comment here, would love to hear it.

Update 2: Here's something my aunt sent my way--not bad, and representative of the creativity and positive involvement that Obama draws out in younger folks:

Update 3: This piece from Bill Moyers on music was way good, with some rich, long clips of hearty music, check it out:

Update 4: I love this song by David Wilcox (one of my all-time favorite musicians) called "Falling for It"--check the lyrics and listen to the song here.


Anonymous said...

I would like to get your take on the quote below, and your take on Obama's social programs. What is the role of the government (constitutionally)? In a capitalistic economy, if I succeed should I owe 50% of my success to the governement?

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.

None of you can read that quote and tell me that the above is not true. Today, the voters have discovered that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury in the form of social programs. They vote only for the candidates that promise them the most stuff (Democrats, and to an extent, Republicans). There's a reason why poor people vote Democratic, and it's because the Democrats promise to take more money from the prosperous in the form of taxes and then use that money for social programs. The same thing holds true for the Republicans, who only promise money to a different set of people."

Brendan said...

Hola anonymous,

Meant to write back earlier, but fair question, for sure; i agree with the aim of it, as i think it's most helpful when deciding whether to go conservative or liberal to first look at the fundamental principles like you're bringing up. While the role of the govt constitutionally is not one i have a thorough understanding of, admittedly, i'd say that some of the way our country works was undoubtedly based on the ideas of John Locke.

Particularly, in my understanding, the idea was that one's role in a society is closely tied to the question of freedoms. That is, one is completely free to go massacre anyone we want, take their property, etc., if we were living somewhere that had no laws or enforced restrictions. However, for the larger good of an ordered society, we have to give up certain freedoms; some obvious ones freedoms we have to give up are the right to steal (hence laws against stealing), the right to treat people however we want (hence laws against assault, murder, etc.), and so on. Therefore, i think government as we know it becomes a question of what freedoms we think need to be given up for the sake of a "successful" or "healthy" society. I think the way we determine the answer to that dictates our view of how much the government should be able to do, though i'd be interested in your answer to what the role of the govt is constitutionally.

That said, i have to run to jury duty now, somewhat ironically, but had wanted to drop a quick line since i'd lagged; will right more tonight though, and to the other comment that looks like it might've also been from you on taxes on small businesses. Thanks again for the question, and definitely have more on want to say.

Brendan said...

Whoops, didn't get back to this as soon as i wanted to (and went fairly quick with the last one, realizing some of it wasn't completely clear (or spelled correctly)); but picking up with my last comment, and your question on our constitutional role, i thought i'd look up that first line/preamble to the Constitution, and finish responding to you w/that in mind:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (this and rest of C-tution are available here:

What particularly sticks out for this conversation, in my view, are the ideas of "promot[ing] the general welfare" and "establish[ing] justice." Others might of course emphasize other parts, but for me that makes me think that some of the constitutional role of the govt. is to look at ways the general welfare can be promoted--which i interpret to mean promoting, in ways, the overall wellness of all citizens; similarly, the idea of a just society incorporates a lot, but i believe it can include the idea of promoting a society where the rising tide lifts all boats, as i believe JFK said.

So i'd wonder what you think about those ideas of our constitutional role? If you agree in the abstract that we're to promote the general welfare and justice, it then seems to bring up the question of, drawing from my 1st comment, how much personal freedom we should give up (in taxes or otherwise) in order to achieve greater welfare and justice.

I think we should not ask for all of people's earnings, but that we should ask for some (in taxes that is). I think a free society such as ours allows individuals to earn what they earn, and that individuals therefore have an obligation to give back to society--how much is the question of course. I think that's an involved question, but that the answer lies in questions like: how are we promoting the general welfare of the poor when we are not even taking steps needed to make health care affordable? how are we promoting justice when Warren Buffet is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary? how are we promoting welfare or justice if we are not taking steps to regulate the markets so unethical lending doesn't happen? etc., etc. I believe we have to set up the goals for what, in this case, promoting welfare and justice mean, and then work forward from there as we ask what it costs to meet those goals.

But as a last thought, i'd say that i thoroughly disagree w/the idea that a democracy cannot

exist permanently (at least not for the reason you posit in that quote). I think your quote

could predict the future demise of democracy, but that there is a better way it could turn out too. The better way, in my view, would be to flip that idea around and ask if there are ways we can have voters go to the polls without solely their self-interest in mind, but also with the interest of others in mind. The moment they ask not if they can finagle more money (or programs) for themselves through a vote, but whether they can promote the greater welfare and justice of all people, then i believe that theory you quote will be disproven--and i think that's happened many times, and that many people do vote w/others in mind; but that overall picture, i believe, paints an alternative scenario to your quote that i believe is possible and even represented in ideas of Obama's (amont MANY others), where he talks about being your "brother's or sister's keeper," and having empathy for others.

Thoughts? By the way, if you're still out there anonymous, who's that quote from in your comment?

Lady Disaster said...

Amen, brother! Cynicism is the deadliest flaw of our generation. We believe we can make this country great again - that's why we wrote the song! Change! Courage! More Ideas and Less Drama! People shouldn't blame everything on Bush - they should take responsibility and start thinking positively. A nation of cynics won't be able to drag itself off the ground where it now lies. Great site by the way.

Brendan said...

Noah my friend, i can't say what encouraging words yours are to read--it's just not talked about enough, so muchas gracias, die cynicism die. I'd also say that the cynical view of things just doesn't seem accurate, as it grabs for the lowest bar, acting like that's as high as we can reach. It can also be an easier way out for us i think; some things can't change, and there's a healthy level of accepting reality at times, BUT, i think that often times the cynical view doesn't analytically look at serious problems and ask if things actually can change. So i think it's not intellectually honest often times, though i say that as one who has plenty of cynicism that i often don't even realize. I feel like we have to start at the ideal situation, ask whether it's possible, and work our way back, whereas it seems we often start w/where we are and lowball the possibilities...

But yeah man, love those words in your song, it's like this article i just threw up a post about recently, where this Rep. voting for Obama says:

"We have never needed inspiration more. And we have never needed a president to inspire the rest of the world more. Every international opinion poll shows that Obama is not only the most popular American leader, perhaps ever, but more popular than any other world leader today.

Obama offers civility. Obama speaks in complete sentences, well-turned paragraphs, offers thoughts with intellectual depth, nuance, humility and compassion. Obama does not play on our fears. Electing Obama will also tell the world--and most importantly ourselves--that we can grow, learn and move on when it comes to race. We can heal our wounds. We can set an example again.

Obama is worth fighting for. He is worth losing old friends for. History has given us an unlikely lifeline. Do we have the decency and sense to open our hearts? What a great moment this is!"

As a last thought, i do have to say that there's a lot of crap that should fall on Bush's shoulders, but that i agree that a lot falls on our own too--we voted him in, putting the thought that we could imagine having a beer w/him above the more critical examination of what he brought (or ah, didn't bring) to the table. Thanks again for the comments though man, keep rocking w/the band there, love it, and maybe i'll catch you out in the east here at some point!