by Stephen Michael Murphy
(All music and lyrics written, arranged and produced by Stephen Michael Murphy (c) 2010)
I made sure I voted last November not to be an upstanding citizen, but because I’m personally responsible for the 911 debacle, suffering inflicted by US invasion, the financial meltdown, a faith based weapons industry and that GW pretzel stuck in the throat thing. Back in 2000 I sat disheveled and decaffeinated in a Florida room on Big Pine as a somber Miles Obrien (CNN) reported the younger George Bush had captured the sunshine state by a 500 vote margin taking the national election and presidency from Al Gore. The rest is pretty miserable history. The kicker is I’m one of the 500 Florida Democrats who stayed home that day, I’m vote number 431 and Sue is 432. True there were larger forces at work, disenfranchised voters, hanging chads, powerful special interests with axes to grind and crony payback in mind. The irony is our personal “Decision 2000” was a protest against a corrupt system stemming from a visit, a book and a song back when Dubya’s daddy was still ruling the roost.
It was late April in Key West 20 years ago, gigs were winding down and with weather improving up north the tourists were gone. We packed the Blazer and cruised up to Stonington, Maine to see Sue’s Uncle Charlie. He and his partner Bob owned Captain Bob’s hotel, the centerpiece of a picturesque Maine fishing village. On a hill was the “Bay View Dinner” that Charlie also owned and managed; we crashed up stairs in a retro linoleum studio with a wood stove and a panoramic view that included the Isle Au Haut 7 miles out into the rocky Atlantic. In all aspects this place was an awesome counterpoint to Key West. Charlie was generous as well as pragmatic, sharing his books and politically libertarian viewpoint. As we parted, he handed me a copy of George Clason’s 1926 classic “The Richest Man in Babylon” and said “read this, it’s principles will serve you in the future”. I heard him; Charlie was a man with more than a few shekels.
As we headed south I realized the book was a light hearted approach to serious wealth building. The author speaks through a series of timeless stories about common people set 6000 years ago in the first great city of Babylon which was located south of where Baghdad, Iraq is today. The theme is that the handling of wealth can be learned and practiced; that anyone can achieve their desire to become prosperous and happy. The characters struggle learning the discipline regarding the spending, handling and accumulation of wealth. Written in an old English style with chapters like “the man who desires gold, start thy purse to fattening, make thy gold multiply, guard thy treasure from loss, the five laws of gold,” I could see thy sense but couldn’t feel thy vibe. It was the King James Version of “Wall Street: Money Dost Never Sleep”. The problem is the degree of focus required to amass Babylonian style wealth, starting with paying thy taxes, healthcare for thy slaves, and thy monthly sprinkler bill in a dry desert climate. It’s what you don’t see in the pursuit that becomes the crime. Money can be like crack, like a religious fanatic, in the blink of an eye, in the forgetting (ask Bernie Madoff). Shocking fact: from 1980 to 2005 A.D. four-fifths of the total increase in American income went to the richest one percent.1 Art thou feeling me? I was a money changer (reformed) early in my career so it went in deep and probably not as Uncle Charlie intended. This little book (126 pages) seemed innocent enough, not unlike the beginning of a Jurassic Park movie. Everyone’s smiling; laughing oo ah then comes the screaming, bleeding, running for thy life after the ancient text is stolen by a Dutch Derivatives structurer (made evil by an unfortunate schmelting accident) and diabolically used to create a “Catastrophic Bond”. Oh how I kid Uncle Charlie and the richest men in Babylon.
Clearly, I was in a different head space than Charlie. In those younger days Zen retreats and immersion in the teaching of spiritual masters occupied my time as well as performing roots reggae music with its Rastafarian message in Key West clubs and outdoor venues. While Bob Marley was certainly the most influential, Burning Spear, Aswad, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Third World and scores of others labored to spread a unifying vibration worldwide. There are two words in Rastafarian ideology used most often and most passionately, one is the name of their majestic ruler Haile Selassie (who Rasta sees as a reincarnation of Jesus) and the other is “Babylon”. A Rasta uses the word Babylon to label injustice and corruption in all forms stemming from slavery. This contrasts the biblical parallel of the Jews exile into Babylon with modern slavery’s aftermath of racism and poverty in Jamaica. The word also relates to the Babylon system formed in antiquity to feed a newly expanded city population (not involved in food production) effectively creating the world’s first bureaucracy and the “middle man” with its attendant abuses. The most prevalent aspect of the Babylon mentality alive today is that money is still the medium by which earthly success is measured. Rasta believes a man is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has. So for me the book “the Richest Man in Babylon” spawned a roots reggae Op-Ed that begged the question; with our lack of emotional evolution through the ages are we even worth saving? Charlie chuckled calling it a slight over reaction. I saw it as Jah working thru the music in not so mysterious ways.
The rule of 500 is a return of an old tell, an ancient knowing that thrived in a long forgotten age before Babylon. The current planetary crisis of faith and finance is a societal self diagnostic where our intentions, emotions, storytelling, even our animal spirits coalesce into a collective shift in receptive ability. Internet search engines are revealing a deeper constant, that so called “new ideas” have already been “shared” and acted upon (to some degree) by at least one individual somewhere on earth. Thus an intentional act (casting a ballot) can power a shared magnetic reaction of up to 500 like minded people; meaning if I had been focused on that sunny day in November 2000 our civilization’s collective history would have unfolded differently. Six degrees of separation, a Human Web for the silicon set. Think of it “W’ would never have promoted his memoirs and slapped himself on the back for water boarding. Al Gore wouldn’t have grown that beard, he’d still be with Tipper and no one would have been inconvenienced by the truth…
Let this stand as a belated apology to the world for myself and Ralph Nader. I never fathomed how much my vote could count until that day. So now every couple of years around the anniversary, I make sure I’m registered and on Election Day I show up; as a tie breaker, dream maker, love taker, don’t mess with our voice. Even if we’re not the ones, we can still safeguard a path for a yet unborn “greatest of all generations”. They, Jah willing, shall manifest a benevolent power within and without to finally become the change we all want to see in the world.