26 December 2011

Occupation of the Mind, Part 2

[ Why bother? ]

• • • • •

NP continues:

The 99% is simply about a class of Whites aligning themselves with the impoverished they didn’t give a shit about until they, too, were broke. Am I supposed to care now that you’ve had a “come to Jesus” moment and want to say it’s all about us? Us didn’t become “us” until a faction of people felt the burn who never felt it. They didn’t give a shit when it was “just us”, so now I don’t give a shit. Justice. How does that song go, “Cry Me A River”?

At the heart of this statement lies what white culture might call an "old world" view of ancestry and cultural inheritance. In other words, you are a living representative of your entire lineage whether you like it or not, and their deeds and misdeeds alike are yours as well. I'm not oblivious to the backstory here, and yet I also have trouble seeing this worldview resulting in anything less than a permanent impasse in the getting along department. Because I'll never meet a German who helped exterminate the Jewish side of my family, I can't see any reason to put all of that on any given German indiscriminately until one who had nothing to do with it can be cowed into a contrite gesture of my choosing. From my middle-class white American vantage point, there's no rational justification for this, nor can I anticipate anything constructive coming of it. And to meet a random, unexpected contrite gesture with "so now I don't give a shit" would simply be to throw salt in the wounds.

So yes, Mr. Payton, we presently feel the burn, and only more acutely with your comments. In jazz as in life, the options are few for us modern-day pale folk who aspire to be part of the solution: apathy is complicity, activism is sour grapes; we are thieves if we imitate black music too closely, or ingrates if we do not imitate it closely enough; and the happy medium in both cases is a pinball of a moving target. It is a worldview by which culpability and victimry alike become genetic traits, and where each generation takes with them to the grave their children's hope for reconciliation along with their own. I think we can do better without forgetting our history, and I'm ready when you are.

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