For all of the human suffering and depraved human folly involved in waging the Vietnam war, it is reputed to have had the best soudtrack of any tregady in history. Most of Classic Rock was a direct or indirect result of the anti-war movement. The current crisis, however, lacks much of a soundtrack or even a filmography. There are, without question, many celebrities taking stands and the predominant form of broadcast comedy is investigative journalism. Yet, unlike Vietnam, there aren’t many songs to accompany any of John Oliver’s pieces. And, as said in an earlier article, there is no anti-war stuff.
That’s to say nothing of the broadest crisis which is the decline in liberalism. The decline of liberalism carries with it a great volume of material with which to create art. It is an epic story of a system which promised a nearly utopian future that came crashing down. It is the attempt by wonks with no background in psychology or urban studies to replace God with a technocracy that fails to satisfy anyone’s emotional needs once liberalism has replaced the traditional community. John Rawls and Robert Moses killed anything communitarian, civic, and richly cultural, and left nothing except bureaucracy and the people went crazy in a metaphorical sensory deprivation tank, made worse by the internet and a globalization that made them feel ever more insignificant.
One doubts that Julliard produces many people who could narrate that nor does anyone coming from the entertainment scenes in Los Angeles or Nashville have the ability to understand that. Unlike Vietnam which was a simple crisis, liberalism’s decline is not one. It is a story of hubris and the desperation to be human and the need for fulfillment going unmet and leading people to metaphorical pipers like nationalism and pseudoscience. Perhaps it seems abstract, there is a lot of human story in that story. It speaks to a reason behind the decline in liberalism, itself. Back when social issues were primarily handled by the community, the major political questions were simpler. Now, there is no community and society’s big institutions are left to address the nuanced psychological and social needs they were never able to. That’s why, one reason why, the police have become so huge. Minor issues were formerly handled as adults by neighbors who knew each other and now neighbors don’t know each other and use the police. Police who are not trained as social workers or psychologists.
It didn’t matter whether a congressman in 1968 knew political philosophy or not. The questions of Vietnam and Civil Rights were pretty simple and Hegel and Plato were not required to make these decisions. The average congressman, now, still doesn’t know political philosophy but they actually need to now because while Aristotle or Mill may be less relevant to the SALT treaties, they are very relevant to handling the psychological needs of people. Likewise, the artistic community can write about nucler war but they can’t write about the feelings of insignificance of a Middle-American in the face of globalism. Not because it is too technical, it’s not, but because they aren’t paying attention and don’t really care. Gay rights anthems, sure, but not how the decreasing relevance of the individual to their community makes them depressed and become Nazis.
There are no major poets for the current crisis. It is sad that this is true. It is strange that such a titanic metaphorical Titanic has gone unremarked on by major artists. Democracy is crumbling and nationalism is rising and the popular airwaves are silent about it. In fact, it is strange such a massive change is happening without the cognizance of most people. As a poet, songwriter, and story writer, I make my own art about it. Hopefully, more art will be made to tell the epic story of the waning of liberalism.