Friday, November 1, 2013

old 80s pop songs direct foreign policy

OK, so everybody now knows that the NSA has spied on basically everybody.  Including Pope Francis.  (On that note, I' like more information.  Did the NSA target Cardinal Bergoglio [and other papabile] or were they just trolling around, fishing for whatever?)  The NSA/Edward Snowden scandal extends far beyond anything this blog would ever dare address.  That being said, the revelation that the surveillance included the Vatican...during a conclave electing the next pope ought to chill everybody's blood. If that's inside the lines of fair play, is anything outside?

At this point it's probably appropriate to blog--as much of the blogosphere already has--about the morality of too-big government, overreach, and humility.  Given some of the parameters within which I've conceived this blog, I should chip in a few cents, too.

However, I'd rather use humor.  When the NSA/Snowden news broke, surely I wasn't the only one to recall the glory days of 80s pop music, like this and this.    Catchy songs with choruses about Orwellian forces watching every move--who knew such pop tunes would become commentary on our 21st century national image?  I know there are others songs, and probably better ones, to add here but the situation seems to beg for some necessary (but still illuminating, hopefully) humor.

There's also a pop music/religion angle.  Currently the nation rages against its own government's intrusions (a government, remember, that we elected), but the Christian culture/secular culture nexus has generated some catchy reflections on secretive (and occasionally insensitive) power.  Some of this boils down to reflections on the Book of Job (a book I just covered with my own students, reminding them that Job isn't nearly as patient as we've been told or like to think).  For example, Seven Nations' Kirk McLeod sings in defiance of the very divine power his band's song captures.  Originally titled "God" the band sped up the tempo, made the guitar heavier (and thus made the bagpipes sound even better, imho), and renamed the song "Up to Me."   As in "it's not up to you, human."  Collective Soul's 2001 hit "Why Pt. 2" takes up that human side, plaintively recognizing the infinite qualitative difference between the divine and human realms.  The song's video subtly adds another layer, depicting the band playing amidst a wild Hollywood party.  As the shenanigans increase among the beautiful people, the police show up and shut it all down.  The band is left alone, being the last ones to leave the house.  The partyers' blithe ignorance of anything other than their own enjoyment contrasts the common-sense, hard-boiled cops who quickly and firmly shoo everybody out.  The scene recalls the cows of Bashan whom Amos warns a day is surely coming when the fun will end.  And as the song tells, it isn't the same.

Now,  the NSA scandal remains open, so who knows the ending there?  But there are signs, even amid pop culture and its still-detectable Christian understructure, that we shouldn't dance around blithely until the authorities show up.

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