It was a double bill. An Israeli singer and an Iranian who I had heard perform on numerous occasions before that day at this new venue. My ticket named a famous celebrity as the presenter – a producer to the stars, practically the Godfather of the recording industry and the patron saint of who’s who on the A-list. So I figured it must be a marketing plug. Probably Mr. Big Shot sat on some board and had graciously lent his name to one among many events on the season’s calendar. After all, the entire cultural scene in this town runs on philanthropy and celebrity horse trading rather than Uncle Sam’s love for the arts who, judging by those head shots pasted all over the country jabbing his finger in my face and yours, is probably more interested in fine arsenal rather than fine jazz – much less in obscure world music from the rural Middle East.
So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the celebrity producer, in the flesh, a little older and a little heavier than his TV persona, walk up on that stage, slightly hunched, and dressed in his finest, festooned with a blue silk scarf to make the introductions.
He said he was so happy and moved to be presenting an Israeli artist along with an Iranian. Really? I am sitting in the audience puzzled as to why that is interesting — more interesting than say an artist from Zimbabwe with an Iranian. Or an Eskimo with the Israeli. It goes to show the power of music, he said, clasping his hands in reverence. That despite all their differences, music is the language of peace and can bring people together. Shalom. Salaam ….
Peace? Between Iranians and the Israelis? Does he mean the Jews and Persians? Jews and Arabs? Israelis and the Arabs? The Palestinians? One never knows with celebrity activists.
For a while it seemed that an adopted African child was an absolute must have accessory to a designer outfit just in case one was caught off guard walking out of Kitson’s by the paparazzi. But with all the modern day upheavals; the Arab spring, the Syrian revolution, the poor Afghani women sequestered inside their burqa – (now that we know what the heck a burqa is, never mind that they have been wrapped in that thing for centuries) – with the mass rapes in eastern Congo; the Maasai land grab in Tanzania; oil exploitation by Shell in the Niger delta; Yanomami evictions from their ancestral land in the Brazilian Amazon; oppression of the Nepalese Dalit; the Tibetans, Burmese, Darfuries ….and did you know that the Saudi women can’t even drive?… well — Its practically a supermarket out there!
A giant outlet of pet causes, discount and premium brand raison d’etres right for every pocketbook — the privileged Brentwood dweller wishing to get a whiff of the exotic from the safety of her security patrolled, pesticide-free, air conditioned mansion without missing a single Pilates class; the suburban minivan-driving soccer mom wanting to escape the routine of humdrum PTA meetings, Costco hoarding exercises and Wednesday nights at the in-laws; and of course that constant mother lode of activism — the idealistic college kid who has channeled all his frustrations growing up in a dysfunctional family with an abusive or absent parent into saving the world whose army of middle men sit ready at call centers tethered to donate buttons happy to help pay his way into his inner humanitarian through a simplistic, ready packed and pre-digested narrative to fund raise, validate mainstream agenda, and stamp that free-trade locally grown designer-diet, free of guilt in spite of its higher price tag because an undisclosed amount is going to some tribe with an unpronounceable name in the middle of a war zone.
Excuse me, but since when are the people of Iran and the people of Israel at war with each other and in need of peace, understanding and a hearty sing-along? If you can’t recognize a conflict for what it is – namely a pissing contest on the highest levels to wield influence over the cradle of civilization – nowadays simply the cradle of strategic trade routes and bottomless oil and gas fields, kindly refrain from opining on the subject, let alone using our position and status to give it oxygen. Because you know what? You may actually be breathing life into a non-existent problem; worse – diverting from the actual one. In other words, if you can’t be bothered to read an in depth analysis from all angels – and I don’t mean listening to Wolf Blitzer on an infinite CNN loop – then stop. Do no harm.
But in the event you should find yourself in the position of wanting to engage in the fine art of political activism, here are a few thoughts.
Did you know that over 80,000 homeless wander the streets right here in Los Angeles, or that we in the U.S. incarcerate a larger number of our own people than any other country – that’s a quarter of all documented prisoners in the world.
Did you know that the prisons are privatized and that their lobbies, like all other lobbies in this great democracy have short-circuited the system, passing laws to maximize sentencing terms for profit?
Did you know that The U.S. is among the top five countries carrying out executions along with Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China. And did you know that once the hysteria around the Boston Marathon bombing subsides and the main stream media is done mourning the lives of the three victims and dissecting the two suspects ad-nauseam, there will still be a violent crime committed in this country every 25.3 seconds, that’s up to 30 gun related deaths, 162 injuries, not to mention 53 suicides each day.
Now; in case you do decide on that fundraiser, here’s also an idea for an opening concert: An evening of songs for peace and understanding – a double bill — An upcoming young Chechen duo along with a band from the Czech Republic!
….Now that is what I call interesting.