Stand Up To The Man (Dictators, Placaters and Thieves)
by Stephen Michael Murphy
(Music & Lyrics written, arranged and produced by Stephen Michael Murphy)
“The Bible is burning, the Arab world is on fire, the Bible is burning, the heat is desire, cool breezes quench that flame cool running has no name, touch an empty space no fan the flame”1. These are lyrics from a reggae tune I wrote that only begins to describe the unrelenting tension and release this region has inspired since the dawn of civilization. The current unrest percolating across the Middle East while local in many aspects has its roots in a complex interaction of faith and culture with hemispheres colliding north and south like Plate Tectonics. The First World took the economic advantage in the name of a Third World Jesus back in the pillaging Crusades and we’ve been fueling our vehicles, framing borders and shaping destinies ever since . Recently well established regional guardians have lost their oppressive touch while the people seem mad as hell and apparently they’re not going to take it anymore. People in great numbers are passionately demanding a positive change in their political institutions. It’s like a karmic rebirthing for a region of the planet that hasn’t got a fair shake since they were doing the unfair shaking back in the BC.
Where did America acquire this Jekyll and Hyde ability to applaud a people struggling toward freedom and democracy; while openly supporting their oppression because it’s in our best interest? In 2009 the Obama administration committed big to democracy building in Egypt while the other hand was furnishing Mubarak the military hardware he needed to stay in power. This is one of a few soul searching Kodak moments in store for Uncle Sam. It’s similar to you can’t be sort of pregnant, you either support democracy or you don’t; choosing case by case is old fangled imperialism. Echoing President Kennedy’s aphorism that “those that make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”, Dr ML King warned in 1967 “while our country once initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world we were becoming the arch anti revolutionary.” That reality has sowed predictable anti Americanism in populations we’ve helped to subjugate 2. Today’s Wiki leaked reality is out of the box for all to ponder especially the well worn US foreign policy of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.
Understandably the world is a very tricky place, a Middle East in revolutionary cascade could have as a many possible outcomes as there are countries. The amazing thing is that while these autocratic regimes have remained rigidly locked in place, the “Arab Street “is the headline. This flowing collective sentiment has a wide range of constituencies with no institutional path of expression. Street politics is where today’s Arab heart resides, pent up with a burgeoning student population, secular and religious movements of all stripes each ready to bring voice to their own reason 5.
The game changer is new information technology, internet, email, Face book, You Tube, Twitter and satellite TV (like Al Jazeera). A new generation of fully educated and unemployed youth with big dreams are organizing, wanting what we have (free speech, economic possibilities and the end of “blatant” corruption). Social structures are changing with mass educational systems producing higher rates of literacy, improved communication,public transit, and electrical access blurring the lines between rural and city5. Most are self-employed and without regulation side step deaf, archaic institutions (you think the DMV is bad). The Arab Street is a vibrant rough house arena and the source of their important message.
Revolution in the street anywhere on the planet is a call for a correction, a re-balancing of the system. Jimmy Carter said early on referring to Egypt “the people have spoken” he nailed that, now the hope is for a controlled transition not a crash landing as a best case . Hillary speaking regionally said “a perfect storm is brewing of economic woes, oppression and popular discontent”, she’s working hard for the money. Obama recently criticized the intelligence community asking why with 80 billion dollars a year they didn’t see this coming. It’s the same reason the Yankees (the best team money can buy) can’t win the World Series every year. Life is messy, sacred, weird, thrilling and unpredictable. The welcome wagon of change is pedal to the metal with the playing field leveling out worldwide creating more bumps in the road; so start saving for a rainy day (Wall Street is).
My great grand father was Simon Walsh “the peacemaker” from Caherciveen, County Kerry on the southwestern tip of Ireland, a stones throw from where Michael “Mick” Collins the revolutionary leader was born in Cork. Collins and the IRA helped lead the Irish people to freedom in 1919 after 700 years of English oppression. Today I live in a country where everyone is descended from folk who were economically, spiritually or politically abused somewhere else until they arrived in America. When it comes to oppression we’re very sensitive. Our collective fuses were short in 1776 and every day since; it’s organic, in us like the eyes in our head. When we see a quarter million Egyptians running in the streets of Cairo we don’t think cents at the gas pump, we think it’s about time.
The song, Stand Up To the Man from my “Nobody Knows” CD relates how the outer world mirrors our inner reality imbuing us with qualities of both the dictator and the enlightened teacher, a placater and a peaceful resistor, a generous heart and a lonely thief. You don’t have to be political strongman to be the oppressor; you can be the guy holding the cards or the one pulling the wool over the customers eyes for another piece of silver. The road is long, so root for the common man because we are all just common men in the face of eternity from kings to fruit vendors. The revolution we each battle is an inner one as we search for our voice, our place, in a rhythm that resonates with infinite soul.
1The Bible Is Burning, Lyrics and Music Stephen Murphy © 1989
2With Democracy Or Against It, There Is No In-between, David Sirota, Truth Out Op-ed, Feb 2011
3No Democratic Dominos In The Middle East, Benjamin R. Barber, Huffington Post, Feb 1, 2011
4Everybody Knows, Lyrics & Music, Leonard Cohen