Monday, July 20, 2020

The bound-up Scientific Being and the Privilege of the free Artist: a simple Tune in a complicated Reality

Please note: I wrote and published the following text back in 2014, but have chosen to publish it again. It deals with questions relating to artistry, academia, feelings and rationality. It still holds true for me to this day, so without further ado...

Having enrolled in academia, training in the objective, neutral and empirical analytical models and methods of science, it has somewhat become very clear for me how the methods of a discipline in many ways stand in sharp contrast to the subjective and irrational freedom that the «fine» arts allow for. Harking back to some of the ideals of Romanticism, I find myself in a kind of continous internal strife: on the one hand seeking to implement the academic mindset - one of more or less unbiased and argumentative thinking, while on the other hand feeling a strong obligation to remaining artistically free to express personal viewpoints, often based strongly on emotions, and not letting the rational mind take control over the free-spirited passion of creating music; though never forgetting that by looking beyond the abstract and elite-created laws and norms governing the people of the world, all of us are in fact free to think, mean and speak as we choose.

Upon seeing video images of the Gaza War of December 2008 - January 2009, I found myself writing the lyrics for a song - entitled 'Rest'. It was pretty much triggered by emotions - tears rolling down my face - in front of the television set, one situated in an overly safe environment, and in a distance that made me feel shameful yet utterly and sincerely sad. My own interpretation of this relatively short song lyric is that it's free from prejudice - almost, but that it reflects my own opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict nonetheless. It's an opinion, however, that is not really biased towards one or the other; it doesn't propose any kind of solution to the inherently complex situation; this would be the domain of the rational political analysts, and indeed (perhaps most) one for the populations that are directly involved in, and affected by, the brute forces of war. Instead it presents the notions of one simple man, living in one simple and peaceful country, far-far away from any conflict remotely resembling the Israel-Palestine complex.

Thus it might be fair to evoke the criticism towards the outsider who takes it on himself to comment on events that he, by fundamental lack of knowledge, really isn't entitled to comment on; indeed, perhaps even the top-down attitude of Orientalism, suggesting that this kind of expression has no place in the world society of our time. And I couldn't agree more. The ever increasing tendencies of simplifying what is actually highly complicated processes in play can only be a sure path of destruction. One highly illustrative example of this is the Western expressive feminism's hit on the veiling of Muslim women. In few (if any) imaginable ways do their views contribute in any significant way in altering the situation regarding the veiling of or by Muslim women, which seems to have been one central aim for this movement as exemplified by certain media-exposed topless activists who have had a habit of appearing in front of mosques. Indeed, many of the reactions evoked have been quite the opposite from what these particular activists are looking to achieve: their demands and actions have rather been felt as an attack on Muslim womens' autonomy. Go figure! By not taking into consideration and appreciating the many layers of structures that exist both within and outside the human experience, the activism turns out to be nothing more than an "us" versus "them" campaign, living up to the simplified and mono-explanatory world view that polarizes various parties by not even considering, for example, highly relevant factors such as personal and collective feelings of identities and freedom of choice.

Rather than inviting to constructive dialogue and, I would think, some sorely needed understanding on the part of the activists, it is exactly this kind of antagonism that exacerbate tensions, when they should in fact be reduced (in a global sense). The world is very colourful, though some particular world views may perhaps see it in bleaker terms. It was, in any way, never black and white. The tendency of a firm belief in one's own views doesn't seem like a formula for peaceful and nuanced co-existence and understanding. Blame, which often derives from hard-edged attitudes, can only result in a cyclical un-doing; a negative self-fuelling trap.

The kind of personal view reflected in the song 'Rest' may be one of despair from being unable to do anything constructive. The Norwegian (i.e. my geographic location) way of dealing with the conflict has been to take sides, often involving a boicott of Israeli products: a specially marked socialistic attitude in Norway (the political Right tries to avoid this). Again, I feel that taking sides is both simplifying and antagonistic. Somehow the only side that should be considered is that of Israel and Palestine taken as one; a co-existence wherein at least two sets of needs are accomodated. Central to this image is peace and freedom from fear; and noone is blind to the fact that one of the parties bears a considerable responsibility, partly in light of its war machine's superiority.

Utterings like the above are of course both naive and utopian; herein lies the privilege of the so-called free artist, and I myself entered into this egoistic doctrine around the age of seven and have therefore considerable training in this. But by being just that, naive and utopian, perhaps words like these can contribute to a positive and constructive attitude in general: we need less hate and antagonism in a world where everyone has become their own editor, and where, indeed, everyone is entitled to express themselves in ways unprecedented in the world's history. Unfortunately though, naivity is what it is – silly, to say the least - and probably counts for nothing in the very moment that someone points a weapon at you. Being just a simple song, as 'Rest' ultimately is, in no way does it reflect the layers of intricacy which importance I've already emphasized. Land; religion; personal experiences and the embededness of violence and hatred that I can only assume grow in step with the continous recurrence of violent outbreaks, are a few of the factors that seem to pertain and distress the particular region, and other recurring conflicting regions. No, the song is what it is, a simple one, expressing what perhaps others too are quietly thinking when struck by feelings of powerlessness: that the situation seems without hope.

However, this view is truly sad. When reflecting on the critical climate changes that are going on, I tend to think that perhaps as the world's dominating political and economical actors make room, either willingly or by internal or external force, for the younger generations that have everything to win by taking this unprecedented global problem seriously, then truly a revolution for the better might take place. This basically means that I'd advice optimism on behalf of young people. One must realise that the world these days experiences an increasing number of conflicts of various scales, both cold and hot, that seem to point in the direction of more antagonism and more division. This summer (of 2014) the Israel-Palestine conflict escalated again to horrific heights, once again becoming the civilians' hell. I wonder: could a similar (hypothetic) scenario like that of a generational process in which young people are working for a safer future ever take place in this region; or will the political and ideological stances of the respective parties only continue to integrate the next waves of generations as missiles and fireshots continue to be launched from both sides? The answer is a non-given, partly by considering that «[A]bout 1,000 units [are] to be built in parts of Arab areas of occupied city that Palestinians want for their future state» (retrieved from Al-Jazeera, 27th October). . .

The privilege of the artist is tied up with an obligation to express something, while at the same time there is also an obligation to maintaining the diversity of the world. But however hard we try to remain unbiased and objective; however we choose to work for peaceful resolutions by claiming to accomodate all parties etc, our sympathy will always «slide» towards one or the other. . .

Please feel free to listen to the song 'Rest' here:

You're one that pray
Now the time is right;
thousands can't be wrong

How can you be
a soldier in - 2009
No friend of mine

can't understand
why there is no
end to a war

- fought over land
Cut off their hands
Noone will rest
All dreams are hurt -
beyond repair

- Mats Davidsen, July/October 2014

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