Thursday, July 07, 2005

a season of hope

i have been obsessed by the live 8 concert in the past few weeks. i had even hoped to win tickets to the london show and meet so many of the artists that i have admired since live aid. ever since that epic concert in 1985 coalesced my ideas of what art could accomplish i have had a passion for music with meaning. it helped to shape the way i look at the world: to see the misery and darkness with open, yet hopeful, eyes. the possibility of positive change fueled my activism over lo these many years.

i didn't win tickets to see live 8. instead, i had to suffer through the many disappointments of trying to watch the concert at home. i couldn't listen online for some reason; and the televised broadcasts on vh1 and mtv were rife with problems*.

since saturday i have been able to watch this presentation at my convenience with my dvr, and it's easier to take. i've also been able to watch streaming, uninterrupted footage from five of the concerts on aol and it has made me feel much better.

and worse. i sheepishly compared my frustrations with the life and death struggle of the african masses and saw my own hypocracy. i had the audacity to complain about the coverage of an event whose intent was to bring awareness of extreme suffering. i see now that my sense of entitlement to experience this concert was a distraction from the spirit of the event.

in fact, the choppy televised presentation served to encourage such distraction. distraction keeps them in business. it also keeps us coming back for more and it keeps us from seeing the nuance and the devilish details.

distraction is a state of mind that follows from years of systematic overstimulation in our quickening times; yet it is also a natural coping mechanism. we like to get lost in the flashy fireworks and not think about real bombs bursting. it is easier to get caught up in the celebrity trials than to think about the contradictions in our society. it's too much of a downer.

it's also work. you have to really look to find the important details: hidden in the back pages or after the next commercial break, if they're there at all. it wasn't until i was able to forward through the commercials and breakaways that i could feel some of the flow and emotion of the live 8 concert.

through the impassioned pleas of bono and bob geldoff i was moved to write president bush about the crisis in africa**. i have written the president in the past to complain and chastise as i have marched in protest of his policies; yet, on this occasion i saw fit to appeal to him with the same spirit of hope that i felt watching the concert.

i hope that the show of popular support is enough to convince this group of powerful men to seize the opportunity of this moment.

i hope that we can look long enough at the suffering to do something about it and not be distracted by the next big thing.

i hope that the conspiracy theories about keeping the third world down will not distract me from the possibility of radical change.

i hope that i will not continue to be distracted by the cynicism of "what can one person do?" and "that's just the way it is".

i have been distracted by my own problems, which pale in comparison to those of the african people.

i was distracted also in my zeal for the concert. after it was over, i had the television going as i fast forwarded through the many hours of footage, trying to record my own version. i had my headphones on clicking the different online feeds as i tried to catch up on some email, multi-tasking away with the baby monitor cranked up as well. it was late and the wee hours were growing bigger with the circles under my eyes. my wife was sleeping but when i heard her voice on the monitor, i ignored it. i didn't want to break away just then.

she was concerned that i wasn't paying attention; but when i explained that i could hear her and ignored her...well, let's just say that it didn't make her happy. no reason why it should have. i had let myself get carried away from what was important.

it is in these distracted moments that neglect tumbles headlong into accident. we need to keep our eye on the ball.

the g8 starts today and i have seen footage of demonstrators clashing with the security forces in scotland. standing up to these troops and throwing rocks and getting tear gassed is a lot like tearing it up in the mosh pit: it's good for blowing off stream; but it doesn't really accomplish much. facing tribal warlords and trying to stay alive is a much scarier proposition.

we can't hope to solve international conflicts without working on our own: right here at home. ignoring each other and holding grudges in our personal lives becomes reflected in the world around us. if we can step back and see how blessed we really are, then maybe we can actually connect with each other and share our good fortune. i hope so.

we need balance. as a society and as individuals. too much of anything is unhealthy. we need to be able to forgive ourselves and others and allow for the possibility of change. if we can focus on ourselves and change what we can in our own lives, then we can change the world.

the personal is the political and the revolution starts at home. if we ignore our neighbors and cut folks off in traffic, then we are sowing those seeds of discontent and distrust. the ripples are felt all over the world like the butterfly effect. if we practice trust and forgiveness in our own lives, then we can spread trust and forgiveness around the world.

we create our own experience with our thoughts and reactions. we get to decide what kind of world we want to live in when we decide how we want to live in it.

*1) the two channels showed the exact same footage rather than giving us twice as much 2) they interrupted most of the songs 3) the announcers sometimes seemed oblivious of the seriousness of the footage that had come before them and talked for more than ten percent of the eight hour presentation 4) the commercials took up almost twice that 5) they showed very little of the concerts other than those in london and philadelphia 6) some footage was showed more than once.

**dear president bush,i am deeply concerned about the conditions of poverty that afflict the continent of africa. this problem takes its toll in the death of tens of thousands every day. i truly believe that we can do something to change this. the eight leaders of the free world represent the countries that made bad risk loans to brutal dictators in africa. tarriffs and world bank policies have contributed to the problem as well. the interest on these loans is more than these countries can pay; and to continue to collect them takes food and medicine and water from the people who have nothing to do with the loans. it is unconscionable to keep these people in poverty in this way. i know that you are aware of this problem. you yourself said the african people "should not be burdened by mountains of debt". this gives me hope that you will do the right thing and contribute american tax dollars to alleviate this problem. we are the richest, most powerful nation in the world; and as such, we can do more than anyone else. our hope lies in your example. please do the right thing and allot one percent of our great wealth to help these people in this time of dire need. if we cannot give this small amount then we cannot consider ourselves to be the world's greatest country. it will be our greatest shame that we stood by and did nothing. look into your heart and let god guide your decision.


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