Wednesday, October 19, 2011


 In the early 1970’s, Marvin Gaye soulfully asked the question of questions, “What’s going on?”
In 1984 Marvin was sadly shot to death by his own father and today as we are fast approaching the year 2012, his words continue to resonate with thinkers and seekers around the globe.

Throughout many of my fifty-nine years of life on Planet Earth I was inadvertently conditioned to fear something or someone. I remember as a grammar school student how my teachers instructed the class to take cover under our desks in the event bombs started dropping from the sky upon St. Fidelis. The thought never even occurred to me to ask how a desk was supposed to protect us. I was taught to fear Cuba, Castro, Russia, Khrushchev, Communism, Socialism, black people, Satan and a wrathful God. It’s a wonder I didn’t turn out like most Americans, addicted to Prozac and a host of other antidepressants.

Risking that I may come off sounding like a relic, a character out of ancient history, I seem to have fond memories of the past, while having misgivings about a shaky future. I affectionately remember when concert halls, like New York City’s Fillmore East and Palladium, had reserved seating. $3.50, $4.50 or $5.50 got concert-goers four to five hours of the greatest music ever made in a venue where they could sit comfortably and partake in, devoid of paranoia, a mood enhancer of choice.  The last two concerts I was obligated to attend took place in huge arenas with no seating and exorbitant ticket prices. My son plays in a touring band that has had the opportunity to open for some headlining acts, and being a supportive dad, I was there. Fans eagerly piled in, uncomfortably crammed one on top of the other, standing and sweating for hours on end, bopping heads to the hypnotic thumping of bass and drums that set the back-beat to very unmelodious verses, choruses and meaningless lyrics. How anybody could honestly claim they were having a good time was baffling.

My daughter recently turned thirty. Her boyfriend organized a party that was given at the open air bar/club of a hotel on the lower west side of Manhattan. My wife and I are very fond of my daughter’s friends and we were more than happy to respond by clicking the “I’m attending” tab on the E-vite, another convenience tool of the social networking generation. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just don’t understand the mentality of clubbing. Partiers were four deep at the bar as three highly attentive bartenders vigorously mixed drinks, opened beers and ran tabs on a double deck of credit cards. The speakers pulsed while an over-exuberant DJ, who looked like he came direct from the Jersey Shore, programmed shrill and continuous techno pop, a genre I wrongfully assumed died in the 90’s. I was on my fourth Patron margarita which aided in my surrendering to the obnoxious drone of the computer driven rhythms that instigated the tapping of my feet and the bopping of my head. Before I knew it I was out on the dance floor like the old man at weddings who all the young people point to and chuckle at because of his stiff and antiquated moves. The pleasant buzz I had reached helped me to conveniently forget that I was old enough to be the father of everyone in the room.
“Hey, Mr. R, are you having fun?” one of my daughter’s equally beautiful college friends called out.
“If this is what you call having fun,” I wondered, “I suppose I am…” and gave her a great big smile with a thumbs up!

It did my heart good to see my daughters and company having such a great time, but it also made me realize how we occupy two completely different worlds. With the help of some Tequila, I was able to comfortably be a part of the world of my daughter’s generation, a generation living through some very strange times. Until the recent protests going on all over America, I was about ready to give up on today’s young people. When I was a kid, the songs I listened to stirred my mind and soul, not strictly my genitals. I cared about the earth; I raised my voice against war and violence and would like to think I lent a hand in ending the insanity in Viet Nam. I marched against a greedy establishment, but looking at the shape of things today, I seriously wonder if it did any good.

At the moment, people are gathering throughout the world, raising their voices in protest against corporate greed and the disappearance of the middle class. I have been watching closely and listening attentively to the gripes of the protestors and to the reactions of those opposed. Cries from the opposition have accused the jobless of being lazy, unmotivated cry-babies looking for government handouts. It’s easy for those who are still collecting hefty paychecks and living in homes that are in not in danger of foreclosing to judge and point fingers. It’s easy for those who are living comfortably to close their eyes to the irresponsible behavior of corporate CEO’s. The accusations that are being fired back and forth between the well-heeled and the agitated struggling majority are ludicrous to say the least. The problems facing the world today didn’t happen overnight. They have been brewing for decades and it was only a matter of time before the shit hit the fan. Those who have been content working a blue collar job, happy just to be getting by, are no longer getting by. Sadly, as American industry shuts its doors, the jobs have become scarcer. As corporations swallow one another, even those who were once holding managerial positions are standing in unemployment lines. The problems are real; they are not figments of the demonstrators’ imaginations.

For years, politicians have been groomed, hand selected, not elected, members of a club whose futures are secure. Sooner or later, they all get bought, unable to resist the exorbitant amounts of money offered to them by lobbyists for supporting their greedy, unapologetic agendas.  It’s no longer a secret that those who have somehow managed to find their way into the plush seats of  our corrupt government are merely soulless puppets whose strings are being pulled by the faceless yet very powerful few who control the world. In order to confront them we must first sever the strings and overthrow the conscienceless marionettes who obediently do their dirty work. People are fed up. They want the dishonesty, the greed and the irresponsibility of world government to cease. They want to see a bright future ahead for their children and their children’s children.

Personally, I don’t know what the answer is, but taking to the streets in peaceful protest is a start. I think world awareness to what has really been going on behind the scenes is long overdue. Too many of us have either been asleep, distracted by the mind-numbing garbage spewing forth from the media or simply overwhelmed by trying to stay afloat. I have nothing against wealth but everything against poverty, especially in a universe of boundless abundance. The lies of scarcity have deceived men into living lives occupied by fear and greed. Chancing that I may come off sounding like the idealistic hippie freak I am, I will humbly speak my mind by saying the only remedy for this backwards planet is to be governed by the golden rule…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not everyone has what it takes to be the president of a huge corporation, not everyone has what it takes to be a custodian, but no matter what position life places somebody in, he or she has to face it by being fair, honest and compassionate. Nothing else will work. Jesus said it. Gandhi said it. The Beatles said it…All we need is love.

Bill Graham’s Fillmore East was one of the greatest musical venues ever. The world’s best bands were happy to perform there in front of the most appreciative audiences. It truly was a gift. Record companies and managers started to demand more money for their bands which would have forced Bill to raise ticket prices, something he was dead set against. The result was the closing of the Fillmore. I don’t know if this is such a good analogy, but to me, it sure seems like greed has spoiled just about everything.

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