More Hendrix, Less Harris: Why A Simple Song Doesn’t Make the World Better

We are more diverse than the word ‘diversity’ suggests. We
possess greater ability than the word ‘ability’ implies. We are unrestricted to
a ‘one true’ language; in fact, we have a multitude of supposed ‘first
languages’ to use in debate.

Chorus: “Adakah saya
hanya terdiri daripada kuasa-kuasa yang bertindak ke atasku, ataupun saya
adalah satu kuasa yang disegani?”

There has got to be a way we can talk about this together.
About all this damn unrest that has finally begun to spread around the country and into the cultural consciousness in which we live. We try to talk about it, but we always end up talking over each other. 

How about music? Let’s start with music—with tones rather
than grammar.

Our ‘pop’ music has gone into this weird state of self-consumption
since the ’90s. I’m not saying it is bad, or that it isn’t well made. Rather, the
music itself—the inner element that holds the notes together—has lost its deep
cultural impact. Now ‘pop’ is more of a description of what we believe our
culture to be than a true force to determine it. It is, as folks say, just a
big business.

के म केवल
मैले अनुभव गर्ने शक्तिहरुको फल मात्र हूँ की या म अरुले अनुभव गर्ने शक्ति
ूँ?”

Think back to what you know of the ’60s and ’70s and how
impactful the simple yet complex songs from those times were. How a whole generation
channeled its frustration for senseless killing in Vietnam and at home into
sonic protests. Bring to mind Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.” It isn’t just a
show of skill, but an extremely salient comment on the state of his culture.

This last summer Calvin Harris published his hit single
“Summer.” This single song has over 294 million views on YouTube, and 213
million plays on Spotify. In other words, it was kinda popular.

But that really isn’t surprising at all. “Summer” is the
most beautiful marketing endeavor of recent years. It elegantly reuses a synth
melody from another one of Harris’ songs, “We Found Love,” and its simple chorus can
be learned even before the halfway mark of a single listen. And, more importantly, it
capitalizes on the shared cultural experience of a “thank god it’s summer”
moment.

“¿Soy sólo las fuerzas que actúan sobre mí, o una
fuerza que debe ser tomada en cuenta?”

Just step back for a moment and realize how integrated the
‘college’ experience is into the societal system that has developed. Someone
can profit massively by accurately
engaging our perceived homogeneous nature as a ‘summer-loving people.’

To quote Plato: “That’s really fucked up.” (I have an odd
translation.)

We have become a generation that simply lives with war—both
the idea of it and the literal presentation of it in front of us. Over 48,000 veterans are homeless. The U.S. military has killed hundreds of foreign
civilians with drone strikes. Yet, a ‘protest song’ sounds antiquated,
corny or ‘over-the-top.’

The only direction we have to turn is inward; to look at
ourselves, our own culture.

“Suis-je seulement les
forces qui agissent sur moi, ou suis-je une force à ne pas négliger?”

Within U.S. culture it is becoming more and more (critically
and blatantly) obvious how certain groups are and have been marginalized and
kept silent. Whether or not there are direct malicious attacks on these groups
(as in war) the malice is implicit in the institution. It’s implicit in the
culture.

The same complacency that avoids this dialogue also dances
to “Summer.”

But when we reach this point in the conversation our train
of thought breaks down before ‘the system’ does. ‘The System’—there is
something dangerous about this phrase. There is no ‘The System.’ We’ve gotta start
thinking about the complex systems in which we live, by which we live and
that we use to achieve goals.

We have to start reimagining that the end of the supposed ‘system’ will not be like shattering a bottle. It won’t simply break. We are
strong and smart enough to recognize the complexity of the systems. We also
know how to use these complex systems to our advantage. We need to take control
at all levels.

“Er jeg kun (et
resultat av) de kreftene som virker på meg, eller er jeg også en kraft å regne
med?”

The fervent individualism that has been forced upon us is
meant to make us feel as if we are alone. On one hand we love it because it
affirms our uniqueness; on the other it makes us feel as if there is no one
else out there. This cannot be true. False.

“Ben ik niet meer
dan de krachten die mij beïnvloeden, of ben ik zelf een kracht om rekening mee
te houden?”

And this is where things are changing. ‘Black Friday’
protests were centers of poetry readings and anti-racist conversations. For
over a week the country has had its eyes on its own unrest, tumultuous unrest,
beautiful unrest.

只有我能夠影響自己,還是我是一個不能忽視的影響力?”

Our generation is tasked with perpetually reminding
ourselves that we are in this together. We have the ability to act together, to
act in every sphere of our existence: from banking to music, from writing laws to
writing fiction. In this way we can topple complexity with complexity.

“Am I only the forces
that act upon me, or am I a force to be reckoned with?”

And fuck Calvin Harris.

Conner Roberts PO ’16 is a philosophy and religion major from a few places scattered around the world.

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