The Price of our Future

7 04 2007

By Jill Ettinger

A recent email thread on the “illegal” downloading of music got me to thinking about our worldwide economic imbalance. There is an overwhelming majority of poverty on this planet. What personal property is worth imposing a royalty on, and how much of that is the effect of a colluding culture posturing itself as righteous and civilized in doing such?  I love the idea that we can, for all intents and purposes, create our lives as we choose. (If we live in the western world, of course.) Poverty, as we see it in this country, is a far cry from what is going on around the planet. Ever take notice of how much money you can actually find lying in the streets? Literally, it is possible for dozens, if not hundreds, of people to find more than $2 a day just walking through Manhattan –  the same amount of money that more than half the world population lives daily.

So the question: Should musicians, pro athletes and movie stars really be expected to take home millions upon millions for their craft? There’s a built-in expectation over the last few decades muddling real talent with the size of Hollywood homes. (MTV’s Cribs anyone?) The two couldn’t be further irrelevant to one another, and it’s the opinion of this blogger that less is most often a means to much more.

Right now, I’m listening to one of the most stunning songs I’ve ever heard: “Kothbiro” by Kenyan artist Ayub Ogada. It’s eerie and prophetic, soulful and penetrating. It’s the type of song that has immediate impact on its listener. One of those types of songs that would motivate someone to seek out more world music to hear a global message.  Because of the corporate media McTalent machine, artists like Ogada spend much of their time swimming upstream just to record, let alone share, their music.

Poverty is a growing issue. It does affect all of us now, and will increase in urgency until we work together to find a working balance. If we keep moving away from reducing this reality, rerouting our efforts towards meaningless lawsuits over illegal downloads, or world wars to control the diminishing natural resources we’ve got crippling addictions to, then we will find it spreads faster and more quickly.  We’ve all but sealed ourselves in that coffin as the barometer keeps telling us. We’re setting ourselves up for a world of Katrinas. When an overwhelming, unstoppable force of nature decides its time has come, iTunes will be as poignant as they really should have been all along. Music and art are a massive entry point to understanding each other so that we may begin to respect, love, honor and work together. And in that respect, there is no price high enough on the means we use to get ourselves to that point, which is why we are finding more often the ability to access these things for free. Like Victor Hugo said, one can resist an army, but not an ideas whose time has come.

So I tried to find Ogada performing “Kothbiro” on youtube, to tie this piece together with the gorgeous track. No live performances available – make of that what you will, but I did find this interesting slide show set to his song. While there is clearly a lot left to figure out about this life we live together, one thing is extremely clear to me now, we live in a very strange and beautiful world.

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