Anti War Music Festival ( Peace Movement Chapter 4 )
By Kurt Rellians
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Anti War Music Festival : Peace Movement Chapter 4
Many believe that nonviolence and patience will heal the world of its wounds, that dictatorships will stand down and wither away as a new trust ends the divides of fear.
Anti War Music Festival
Anthony, the ‘Man Of Peace’, stepped onto the stage as the band left it. Once he might have thought their brand of rock music unpleasant. Rock’n’roll and the Beatles had been enjoyable but punk and heavy metal had taken noise and ineptitude to new levels in recent decades. However with the passage of time he had started to become inured to even this. It seemed positively normal by comparison with the tuneless excesses of some of the mechanised sounding dance ‘tunes’ and the whining gutteral repetition of rap artists. And yet all of these styles had their part to play in the development of music; all of them were folk musics, of the people and by the people, an expression of their souls and life experience.
At heart he was a very tolerant man, he took pride in that fact. He could sit down with anyone and appreciate where they were coming from. The artistic and social variety of the world made it rich, and he would not seek to pass judgement, at least not publicly. At heart he was a jazz man, dixieland New Orleans, big bands and modern too. He also loved classical, not so much the balanced and polite pieces of the older composers Bach, Handel, Mozart or Beethoven, but more particularly the modernity and passion of those composers who had reached out to a modern people’s future such as Ravel, Gershwin, Debussey, Dvorak, Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin, Tchaikovsky and many others.
Andy, a fresh keen young freelance journalist looking for a topical article about the current war debates, went among these young people at this music event, which was also a demonstration of anti war sentiment. Many of them were as old as himself or older, but most were younger, students, young workers, teenagers, faced with the freshness of life, and believing in the possibility, even likelihood of a better world. There were many here who had chosen to rebel from what they perceived as the conventional paths of an older society and sought to express themselves through the musical arts and individualistic clothing which became a badge describing their variance from conventional society. There were also many here who saw no conflict between normal and decent society and the various musical and youth culture styles.
Andy went among the crowds, pleasantly encouraged to find that there were so many people of varied interests who cared about the foreign policy decisions of the nation and its effects on the Middle East. That was his initial assumption about these people. He would now put his assumptions to the test, and see whether people had come here to support a cause or whether they merely wanted to listen to top performers for free. He intended to find out whether the people here knew much about the current issues affecting the debates going on in parliament at the moment. Were they well informed? Did their opinions hold weight? Could he tell from these crowds the intensity of popular revulsion towards the possibility of going to war, or whether there was much understanding of the government’s position.
He wandered through the crowds in the sunlight, observing these colourful people. Some of the young men were long haired, others had “cuts” of different styles, a few wore their hair very short, cut almost to the bone of the head. All of the hipsters wore clothes which differed from the normal suits, shirts and dresses of the general working populace. They were off duty, not at work. This was a get away from it all holiday for many of them. A significant proportion of them were students and had probably not worked in occupations of great responsibility yet. These would be untested and only partially formed in their opinions. How could nineteen year olds be expected to have come to the conclusion of their opinions at this age.
Colours were often wild and varied, reds, greens, orange, yellow, purple, not usually seen amongst the working population. Some wore black, or mainly black, a group within a group. Materials of their clothing varied too – some wore leather, others suede, silks and occasionally even rubber.
Andy was enthralled. As an artist he could appreciate style, as a writer here perhaps was material to be written, a hidden culture flourishing within a grey society, ready to burst out in flowering to inspire the denizens of the grey world, lighting colour to the mediocrity. Andy had followed these bands on the concert circuit and in some cases the TV, the more artistic ones, in particular, but they were the residue from cultural expressions discovered many decades before society had begun to close in on itself in the grip of commercial interests which grew too big, and the petty legalism which had come to control everything. He had even enjoyed the pre-packaged bands which had been created by the ever- slicker music industry, which harnessed youthful beauty to reworkings of the past’s produce.
The audience’s inspiration came from the Rock music and the Popular Music of the past. The bands which were playing here were certainly varied and came from recognisable styles of the past. These predominantly young people copied the past and appeared to believe in it, so much so that they were prepared to live it by wearing its clothes.
Andy was pleased to see that. He was not one to reject the past’s art forms and he was pleased to observe the “maturity” of this open movement which embraced the best of the past and the present.
The difference in style between these bands was mainly one of fashion and style, not of general belief, it appeared. They shared the common values of youth culture past and present. There were those who were strident in their views that the youth should leave normal society and join them, that the “grey suits” were “boring”. Some pretended an acceptence and even promotion of drugs in the lyrics of their songs, which were sometimes banned from the media for that reason.
This promotion of drugs and the assumption that the young could choose to “leave” the “grey suit world” caused most people, even their fans, Andy included, to have doubts about the opinions of these leaders of fashion. It all seemed a little immature. Drug taking had been discredited decades ago, both by the societal establishment and by the musical movement who had lost so many of their own to it. To bring it back now seemed to be a ridiculous stupidity. Andy felt himself to be far too rational than to wish to ever take such dangerous risks, and he would not encourage anyone else to either.
All participants here, young and mature, modern dance and hard rock fans alike, rappers, hip hopsters, popsters, goths and punks alike seemed to agree on certain things however; notably they had come together for this mini festival in opposition to this threatened war, which they felt to be unnecessary, harmful; Britain being led into affairs which it had no responsibility for. Many there were here who felt beyond the question of war that there were ills in modern society which should be tackled, that the threatened war was a symptom of the leaders’ ignorance or misunderstanding of society’s true ills. Although he was personally in agreement with them about the ills of Modern Society, Andy did not see any possibility that large numbers of young people could exist outside of it, as some of the youth said they believed.
Like most caring and intelligent people Andy wanted society to change for the better, not to cause the young to avoid responsibility. Perhaps if enough of the young did “leave” society then society would change. He saw the idea and it amused him. Every adult beyond certain ages knew better than to believe in such youthful dreams.
Andy listened to one band who looked very fashionable. The lead singer jumped energetically, holding the microphone to his mouth in the way that older bands had done years before. It gave him something to do with his hands. His hair was long and dark giving him a presence and appearance of maturity that he might not otherwise have had.
The lyrics impressed him. Here was social concern. Here was desire to change politics for the better.
Young teenagers and under-thirties roared and clapped with approval at the “revolutionary lyrics” and perhaps equally at the conscious “oppositionism” of the band’s clothing also.
Andy was impressed. Here was release, excitement. Listening to this music was participating in something unbound by society’s normal rules. It was nonetheless a familiar form of release. They had been doing this when Andy was a teenager. He had had this fantasy before many times and he had become used to the disappointment when he had to leave it all behind to go on the Tube to work the next morning. You could pretend that people were listening to the lyrics; that the audience clapping meant that they agreed with the sentiments of the song; that they would all go home fired up by the words and remembering them all verse by verse; that they would all treat this concert as the first day of a new life in which each would pass the message on, converting new people, playing the music to them and talking to them so that they understood the message. The message seemed a simple one, that life could be fun again, if only you made a choice not to believe in those pompous politicians who now wanted to take us into a distant war, and those self-serving Directors and the rich, who complacently ruled the lives of ordinary people.
But there was always work again the next day, and where was the explanation of how you could earn a living in your devotion to the youth lifestyle and its amiable beliefs, and how you could come to terms with your work not changing when everything inside your head had? There were few paying jobs associated with the ‘youth culture’. Certainly the big companies paid lip service only to embracing it. They used the youth cultures to sell CDs, T shirts, sports gear and other clothing. Magazines targeted particular age groups. Adult males and females were pedalled dumbed down magazines thought appropriate to their respective cultures, which gave them ‘trendy' and ‘cool’ ideas about the world around them and allowed them to live in a continual fantasy of sexual innuendo, permanent youth and beauty, and ‘coolness’. Companies lived in the real world of survival and moneymaking. How could they become the centre of the generous and idealistic new world the youth culture espoused.
Now was the time to approach these people and find out a bit more about them. He was standing behind a couple of white teenage boys who looked every bit to be devoted hiphopsters in their baggy and colourful clothing and their cool caps. They were not actively speaking to each other or anybody else and seemed to be wrapped in their own thoughts so they seemed suitable. He would ask them a few questions.
‘Hello there,’ he said. ‘You seem to be into this cause, the anti war movement. Is that right?’
‘Yeah,’ frowned one lad. ‘So what?’
‘I was wondering do you people really agree with what these bands are saying?’ he persisted.
‘I approve the message ‘course. Don’t we all? Why are you here?’ said the youth, displaying some accusation in his question, turning Andy’s enquiry back on him. Andy wondered for the first time was he too old to speak to these youths on their level. He was not too old to be here. Many old original hippies and punks, rockers were here. Anthony ……., the old politician and others were here and seemed to have got a good reception from the young. They had all spoken, and may do again, later. After all this was a political rally first and foremost, to show the strength of feeling on a particular issue which was of prime importance to the nation, and the world at this time.
‘I’m partly here to see the bands just like you, but I‘m also a journalist. I want to see what the fans, the audience think of the prospect of war, whether they’re genuinely against it, or whether they’re just here for the music. I also want to find out what you all know about the Iraq and middle eastern politics, whether your opinions are deeply held,’ replied Andy, stating the obvious.
“Politics is boring,” said the youth. “All those suits can do is talk. None of it makes any difference to us. Things are the way they are! You can’t change anything. They’re only in it to make money for themselves. We prefer to be real, ya know?”
“Real?” asked Andy, innocently. “So what do you mean by real?”
“Real is real,” said the youth. “Ya know.”
“Well I’m interested in what you think you mean by ‘real’. My readers probably don’t know what you think. They don’t know what real is. They would like to know. So would I.”
The youth smaned. Andy thought he was laughing at his expense, but did not quite understand why.
Luckily the other youth had something to say, because the first youth seemed to have lost interest in explaining himself. “Real is real life, like on the street. In parliament they don’t know what real life is any more. They say they work hard, but they only fiddle about.”
“Well thanks for that,” said Andy, sensing that trying to tie these two down to a full explanation of their concept of ‘real’ might be quite difficult. He was here to find out the general opinion about the prospect of war, and to see what the concertgoers had made of Anthony’s speech, not to quiz these youths on the hazy subject of political reality.
“Turning to the possibility of war in the middle east, do you think war against that distant country is something Britain should get engaged in? After all the dictator has been refusing to let the weapons inspectors into a handful of factory and research sites again, and he has broken yet another United Nations deadline. The government is saying we just don’t know for sure what weapons they have stockpiled, or which smaller state in the region, or larger for that matter, they might attack next. If they aren’t intending to attack another state, then perhaps they intend to attack another section of their own population. Should we get engaged in threatening force?”
“Na,” said the first youth, now recovered from his bout of smaning. “It ain’t none of our business. Why should we care what goes on in the desert?”
“Is that why you’re here then, to tell the world where you stand on this issue?”
“I suppose so, although mainly we came for the music,” first youth answered, unconvincingly.
“And the drugs!” said the other youth. Now it was his turn to start smaning. He thought his joke to be very funny.
“Have I got this straight,” asked Andy. “Do you mean you did not come here for the anti war demonstration? You came purely for the free music?”
“Not purely,” said first youth. “We do agree that war would be a bad thing. What’s the Middle East to us. Their dictator seems like a total nutcase, but he’s definitely not our problem. We’ve got enough problems of our own here.”
“Thanks for that,” said Andy. “Can I just ask you one more question? What did you think about Anthony’s speech?”
“What? The old geezer?”
“Yes. I suppose you could call him that.”
“I thought he talked too much. It was a bit long,” said first youth.
“To be honest, I fell asleep in the middle of his speech,” said the other youth.
“But he was right I think,” said First youth. “The Americans have brought this on themselves. They’re to blame, its not our problem. The middle east should sort its own self out. If they don’t like their top geezer they should get rid of him. Simple!”
Andy was inwardly disappointed. These young men did not seek to give the impression that they were well educated. Whether they really were he couldn’t be sure. Everybody in modern Britain was well educated, they had to be. No one could escape education, but these two gave the appearance of having ‘escaped’. Or perhaps they had escaped from the zoo. He did not like the slight undercurrent he sensed of accusation, as if he were not of the right generation. Andy was only thirty-two, not so old really. He didn’t like the implication that this was somehow not his kind of music. He’d been listening to and viewing this kind of music for many years, and it hadn’t really changed much in more than two decades. Could it be that these youths were unaware of this? They seemed genuinely uncaring about what went on in the middle east; the daily struggles of political prisoners in prison; the tortured; the families of the missing; those who came from communities viewed as the enemy by those in power, by the dictator himself in particular; the refugees from the regime who had escaped and one day hoped to return.
First Youth and Cast were nothing but immature children of the most undeveloped kind. They might as well have been ancient feudalists or tribal people from the early history of the planet for all the civilised sensitivity they seemed to project.
Andy was not ready to give up on this movement of youth yet. Two young lads was not an adequate sample from the population of music lovers. Surely there were others who would have more vision and awareness, someone with whom he could discuss the political issues of the anti war movement. He looked around while this interval continued. There were a couple of young ladies, attractive to his view, who seemed to be waiting, not involved in any particular conversation or activity. He went over towards them. Although he could well be quite shy towards women and attractive ones in particular (his social opportunities had always been quite limited), but these were so much younger, it would not hurt him in any way to talk to them. He steeled himself in any case to find out more about these people while he was here. This was social research
“Hello, girls,” he said, as casually as possible. “Are you enjoying the gig?” He waited for the kind of noncommittal reaction which he’d had from First Youth and Cast.
“Hi,” they both said at once, smiling. “Yes, we’re really enjoying it. That band the Dragions were really good. You know, the one before last.”
Andy had indeed seen them. “Yes, I thought so too. Very modern, very melodic, exciting too.” These too seemed charming, the complete and opposite of the other two. They were like any well brought-up “professional” women would be at their age, before the repetition of work dulled their behaviour. That was probably what they were, just normal young ladies. Indeed they seemed much more outgoing than the average professional woman type would be.
“Carisa liked the lead singer, didn’t you?” Laughed the other one, long brown hair, brown eyes and a slender figure.
“Well I have to admit...” said Carisa, who had a fresh attractive face and whose hair was a similar length but slightly lighter. These young ladies had a very open sense of humour, that much was obvious, and Andy was included in it, despite being a total stranger. Nothing could be more different from the greeting accorded by First Youth and Cast. Perhaps he did not look too old to these young ladies. Likely they enjoyed attention from men and were happy to talk. Age did not diminish the attraction of women towards men. They probably appreciated maturity, and he was not all that much older than them anyway.
“I am a journalist,” explained Andy, getting down to his business. “I’m doing a piece about the peace movement.”
“Oh yeah,” said the lighter haired one enthusiastically. The other girl’s eyes lit up too. Andy had the impression his profession was held in high regard by these two well educated young ladies.
“What do you both think about the government’s policy on Iraq?”
“Well we think it stinks, don’t we,” said the lighter haired girl, looking sidelong at her friend briefly for confirmation that she was giving the right answer.
“We certainly do,” said the darker slender girl. “The Prime Minister is trying to start a war in the middle east. The people of Iraq will only suffer from this. He should let the United Nations deal with this. They don’t throw rockets around but use reasonable persuasion, and follow the best legal rules.
They will appeal to the better nature of the dictator and with the pressures of opinion from his people I am sure things will turn out alright in the end. But this prime minister of ours, he’s leading us straight into bloodshed. He should try peace first. Peaceful persuasion is far more effective than violence and threats. If it turns out there’s a real threat to us then we can deal with it by force as a last resort, but let’s try peaceful methods first.”
“Well said,” said the lighter haired girl.
“This dictator doesn’t have a good track record of listening to his people,” commented Andy. He loved this about his job, the ability to test people with counter questions. He liked forcing them to take into account the realities of situations, encouraging them to test and evolve their opinions.
“His armed forces and government workers are people with their own opinions. That has to matter to the dictator,” said the girl.
“Many would say the opinions of his people do not matter to him. If any dare to disagree openly with him he can silence them.”
“Well maybe, but the United Nations can persuade him by various means.”
“That may take some time!” retorted Andy. He was playing the devil’s advocate again. One of the aspects of his job which he liked was that he did not need to form a final opinion of his own. He could just test the opinions or utterances of others. He could see all the arguments. None were completely 100% right. He did not need to give his own opinion, but he could assist others to mature or develop their opinions. On this subject he had not reached a final conclusion. All he was completely certain of was that the dictator was a dangerous and nasty man. He had done things to his own country and terrorised it in ways which could be described as evil. Andy would be inwardly pleased if the Prime Minister and the President of the USA did manage to invade Iraq and depose the dictator. At the same time he would prefer the necessary dismantling of those weapons to be done peacefully, not through the potential or actual threat of force, but by the concerted pressures of the United Nations.
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