Saturday, May 31, 2014

Primal Music, Elliot Rodger, and the Hijacking of Women's Advocacy

This whole Elliot Rodger thing has me all shook up. And I'm really surprised at the total lack of nuanced analysis. It's all second amendment crap, hand-wringing around male brutality, and the inadequacies of our legal and mental health systems. There is little talk of male obsolescence or any of the other nasty, unforeseen consequences of a hijacked feminism. Women have made great strides on a lot of fronts, and deservedly so, but my concern is that such gains come at a price that disenfranchised men are beginning to tally up. I am not here to argue for the accuracy of their accounting, only to point out that I think it's happening.

My concern is that Mr. Rodger represents the tip of the iceberg. I sense a simmering resentment toward women, globally, that could get a whole lot uglier.

God protect us.

Let's go back a generation or two to see how this all got started. And, so you know that I'm not making this up, I got a lot of this information from a wonderful 2005 paper written by Hester Eisenstein, Dangerous Liaison? Feminism and Corporate Globalization.

White women in the 50s were bored. They wanted more opportunity in the forms of employment, education, and political participation. These were boom times, after all, and women wanted a piece of the action without having to work through any middlemen. In this case, the obstructive middleman was her family.

Women got together on this and there were grounds for dissatisfaction. Enough noise was made in the name of creating equal opportunities for men and women, particularly in the workplace, that people started paying attention. Although initially grating, as any break with accepted norms will be, it didn't take too long for corporate America to get behind this new feminism in a big way. A larger labor pool meant lower wages and more profits. A woman with money in her pocket did not have to consult her husband on purchases. This in turn increased demand for goods and services. Globalization, with its lopsided trade agreements, exported these ideas to the developing world. Industry was thrilled to have such a cheap and willing supply of third-world women who were equally thrilled to give up the rice paddies for a seat behind a sewing machine. The circle was complete when, with all of those suburban white women advancing in their corporate careers, cheap female labor could be imported from developing countries to take care of the house. The shackles of domesticity had been plated with silver and passed a little further down the economic chain.

Proponents of neoliberalism took full advantage of the increasing desire among women for economic independence. Welfare programs initiated as part of the New Deal were dismantled. Women and children were expected to work rather than receive government handouts that were initially calculated on the basis of familial support. Except there was no more family to support. The divorce rate soared along with the growth of single-parent homes.

The New Imperialists also came to love a strong feminist. Advocates of American imperialism see the world as divided in two: those that are open to American economic practices, and those that are not. In parts of the world where the family unit remains strong, accusations of outmoded patriarchal repression are linked convincingly with sensational media accounts of brutal misogyny to paint the picture of a people that need to be taught a little something about freedom and the marketplace. Islamic finance, with its various charitable devices and 2% flat tax for all but the poorest individuals and its populist condemnation of usury is anathema to the interest-based financial instruments of American banks. But, with all of their women covering their hair, are such things even worth considering?

Militant capitalism and its rapacious endorsement of profits at the expense of people requires that society be fragmented, broken down into its smallest possible paying unit: the individual. Feminism, for all of its initial promise and intent in rectifying the injustices perpetuated against women, has been totally and completely hijacked in order to further American corporate and ideological interests. This is possible because freedom and independence are the common rallying points for all camps.

What does this have to do with a depressed and totally unstable kid rampaging through a college town with the intent to destroy women?

Selling freedom and independence without qualification sets us all up for some pretty wild expectations. I should be having more sex than I am. I should be having more fun than I am. I should not be forced to respect anything or anybody that stands in the way of my happiness.

Sexual agency, economic opportunity, and the right to do as one pleases without consideration for established societal norms are all objectives of the women's movement that have been amplified and exploited by vested political and corporate interests. And this is accomplished in part by celebrating unrestrained freedom and independence as the only alternatives to oppression and subjugation. These are entirely false dichotomies. And if we buy into them we will come to hate the things that we believe keep us down, whether despots, husbands, or sorority girls.

What happened to cooperation? Compromise? Interdependence? Are these not also alternatives to oppression and subjugation? Is our self-determination really an all-or-nothing enterprise?

Primal music can't happen without a willingness to work together. Whether we are drumming or singing, the music doesn't happen unless we're listening to one another. But it's not necessarily an egalitarian exercise. There must be someone to lead the song. In it's purest manifestation, this is an experienced reality, not an articulated rule. It happens quite naturally, but the participation of all is necessary or the song is compromised.

As we remember the fallen students of Isla Vista and the Dalit girls of Uttar Pradesh and the oppressed and abused peoples all over the world, let us not forget that we are all connected in huge and mysterious ways. Good intentions must always be balanced with a healthy dose of circumspection and when things go bad somewhere, there's no doubt that we had some small part to play.

We are responsible for the world.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Transition

We've had lots of conversations in our primal music gatherings about the lamentable movement away from communal music (and all of the supposed benefits of that model) and the current iteration of music as an industry that disenfranchises and distracts.

Communal singing brings people together around societal requirements: religion, work, national pride, and political protest, as examples. Much of that has changed, at least on our shores, with music still bringing people together, but not around high ideals.

Instead, we come together as fans.

It's a word that derives from fanatic, which is generally cast as a bad thing, at least when applied to things like religion and politics. The social engineering goes like this: do not be zealous when it comes to your beliefs and your ideas around governance and social justice. Rather, take that energy and put it into your favorite musical artist.

That's a really amazing picture. That's the opening of the original Woodstock concert in '69. And what's incredible to me is that I think it captures a point in our transition in moving away from a resurgence in communal music (the new folk movement of the early 60s) and into the vapid stadium bombast of today. It was possible to have a yogi address a crowd of 500,000 in order to frame the event in spiritual terms, as is happening in this picture. The people had already been connected through the folk revival. You could address the crowd's sense of unity and purpose, and you could speak about the event in terms of how it symbolized the possibility of an extended peace. But, just as comfortably, you could also turn the crowd over to their new idols.

And now the idols have taken over and we're no better for it.

We need to get back on track, God willing, and so we need to really lay out the empirical benefits of primal music. I've had a chance to read a number of research papers that I intend to share over the coming weeks, great stuff that really seems to corroborate some of the underlying, intuitive assumptions I have about communal singing and drumming.

Until then!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Primal Music Monday 5/12

Al-hamdu lillah wa shukr lillah, it's that time again. The second Monday of the month is when, for two short hours at Zawiya Perspective, we reconnect to the incredibly rich tradition of communal music. Real music. Music that binds. Music that heals. Music that restores. And music that makes working on a ship a little easier.

I'm in the mood for sea shanties.

We're a family that believes in the importance of a proper musical education. Tonight, Miranda Rondeau will be coming over for a drum and voice lesson for our four daughters. Giving our children a creative outlet is an excellent thing to do on so many fronts. This is worth it's own post, so we'll get back to that later.

But as part of this idea of a proper musical education, my wife was researching communal music that she thought the kids might enjoy. She struck on a rich collection of sea shanties, or what the girls call "pirate songs."

Here are a couple of their favorites:

Now we are ready to sail for the Horn,
Weigh hey, roll and go!
Our boots and our clothes, boys, are all in the pawn,
To be rollicking randy dandy-O!

Heave a pawl, O heave away!
Weigh hey, roll and go!
The anchor's on board and the cable's all stored,
To be rollicking randy dandy-O!

Soon we'll be warping her out through the locks,
Weigh hey, roll and go!
Where the pretty young girls all come down in their frocks,
To be rollicking randy dandy-O!


Come breast the bars, bullies, heave her away,
Weigh hey, roll and go! .
Soon well be rolling her down through the Bay,
To be rollicking randy dandy-O!


I thought I heard the Old Man say:
"Leave her, Johnny, leave her."
Tomorrow ye will get your pay,
and its time for us to leave her.

Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her!
For the voyage is long and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her.

Oh, the wind was foul and the sea ran high
Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
She shipped it green and none went by.
And it's time for us to leave her.


I hate to sail on this rotten tub.
"Leave her, Johnny, leave her!"
No grog allowed and rotten grub.
And it's time for us to leave her.


We swear by rote for want of more.
"Leave her, Johnny, leave her!"
But now were through so we'll go on shore.
And it's time for us to leave her.


That is undeniably masculine stuff! And I would also call this proof that it is the very heart of a man that has been undermined by the current, dominant model of music performance and distribution. And the kids love it!

We're going to get our hearts back this coming Monday, May 12th, from 7-9 pm, insha Allah. We'll swap grog for tea, of course.

Zawiya Perspective
1800 East Garry Ave. Suite 101
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(949) 394-6090

A quick reminder of the rules:

1) No lassies. Kids are fine.
2) Show up groomed and smelling good.
3) Absolutely no tuned instruments allowed. Bringing your own drum is encouraged.
4) Sound recording devices are fine, but no personal photography or video, please (Note: I have spoken with Brother Abdullah about a commisioned promotional video to help spread the word).

See you soon, insha Allah!


Friday, May 2, 2014

The New Yoga

Community choirs are huge in the UK. Turns out there's more going on than just singing.

We've talked about how singing together builds bonds and how music is a way of reintegrating ourselves.

In addition, some new research actually suggests that when people sing together, their heart rhythms sync up. Singing together requires that participants adopt similar breathing patterns and this is apparently what drives that cardiac synchrony. The authors suggest that the focused breathing brings benefits similar to those experienced in yoga.

Read the article here.

And while your reading, listen to this and see if you don't feel yourself lining right up!