I probably will lose all credibility after this posting because I am going to make a shocking revelation. Despite an excellent musical education ranging from some fine old jazzers to Martin Imbach to some guys I play drums with every now and then, I still love english progressive rock music from the 70’s. While my kids think I am making trendy downloads I sneak in old dinosaurs. I even bought a cd on ebay to copy one song. Shocking I know, but we all have our secrets.
You may wonder when there are riots and lootings and mass punishments to blather about, why am I mentioning decrepit old rockers. It’s mainly because I spent a week this summer in a field in the Shropshire Hills gazing at the countryside. Shropshire is the least populated county in England and full of beautiful hills of farmland and wild rocky terrain like the Long Mynd. The countryside changes as the light changes and over the week, no two vistas were the same.
After a while, with the right imagination and musical background, you can see how people created these reverb laden, Hammond C3 driven soundscapes filled with weird lyrics sung by little pixie like men with Kevin Keegan perms. You can see how the land might inspire them to sing about caves and fairy kingdoms and strange conflicts between strange people. The landscape of England produces English culture. Tolkien could not have written Lord of the Rings without the English countryside (even if it was all filmed in New Zealand). It’s believed that he used the Black Country (the heavy industrial wasteland that takes in Walsall, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich to name a few towns) as his model for Mordor. It’s no coincidence that Back Sabbath and Judas Priest came from there as well as Robert Plant (who was once described as a genius as writing lyrics that mixed Tolkien with lots of sex).
We are where we come from. When you look at England’s pastures green (as Blake put it) you can hear the music it has inspired from Vaughn Williams to Yes. With my headphones on I could make the connection between the music and the landscape around me which was quite pleasing. In fact, it is always pleasing when things come together like they are part of some greater whole.
Too often, we see the components of our lives and our wider society as closed, independent entities which bump into each other randomly as if they have no relation to each other. In the recent riots/lootings/world as we know it coming to an end, all the talk in the aftermath was about them and us as if we have no connection. But, like or not, we do. We are all created and are part of a greater creation intended to serve God’s pleasure rather than itself. When we are falsely separated, we owe each other nothing and that’s when everything goes pear shaped.
In the Old Testament, in Leviticus, God is pretty open about his view of wealth and poverty. The wealthy are seen as instruments of prosperity for the whole community and may enjoy the fruits of that wealth as long as they acknowledge it is from God and as long as the rest of the community have what they need for a meaningful life. God tells them expressly that in his new community, made from those who escaped slavery in Egypt, there was to be no poor among them. Everyone had a stake in everyone else. Everyone had responsibilities and obligations to each other. In that society, no one has the right to tell others to fend for themselves and no one has the right to say they are owed anything.
What fractures society is when we see it as something to take from rather than a place to participate with each other. If we analyse the riots/looting from that point, we begin to see that we have all failed to have a stake in each other and that analysis will be far more fruitful than if we just do a bunch of scapegoating. However, seeing that no one in charge is doing that, brace yourself for tedious moral campaigns, rhetoric about getting tough on crime and criminals and counterblasts about the poor and vulnerable and social exclusion. We will be far apart and continue to grow apart.
We are created to be connected. When things connect, they bear fruit.