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philosophy/social activism

personal philosophy

as an artist, scholar, and human i cannot work among the peoples of the world as a distanced observer, blind to the daily inequities and suffering that infect most of our planet. i cannot gather information, record melodies, transcribe rhythms, and learn dance movements without seeing the villagers’ hunger, illness, and lack of clothing and shelter. i cannot return home to perform and contribute books and recordings as if all is well, pretending, covering the underlying reality: the paradox of ancient, powerful, spiritual music born from constant pain and struggle for survival. i cannot have a worldwide website and ignore the people who give us music and dance.

the human path has been a story of physical survival. with the accumulation of surplus wealth since the middle ages, humanity has been largely coerced by the rich and powerful few into a role as competitive economic individuals and societies, resulting in the poisoning of the planet and its peoples over the last millennium. now at the depths of a barbarian competitive way of life, we stand at a crossroads of extinction due to our blindness. if we do not realize our true human and spiritual essence we are doomed to self-destruction: that life can and should be a cooperation in an interdependent worldwide family, where we are part of, not separate from, nature, caretaking it, rather than controlling it for ego-driven self-gain in a styrofoam narcissistic disposable society.

the clear cutting of forests and mining at the stroke of a lobbyist’s pen; the pollution of our air, water, land, bodies, minds, and spirits to maximize profit margins; the demonization of immigrants; the denial of health care, education, and opportunities to the world’s masses while the few enjoy privilege, at a time when elderly people are thrown into nursing homes; militarization, violence, and obsession with guns are rampant, and worth is judged by material possessions; the control of discourse by co-opted corporate educational, government, and media institutions; and the colonial penetration into the so-called ‘third world’ by multinational corporations and techno-centric stealth, extracting resources, people, and wealth with the same results as slave ships; these are all genocide against people and the world which must be confronted and stopped if we are to survive.

the historical reality of over 600 years of colonial and neo-colonial penetration has made our planet into a grand prison where people are herded into geographical and psychological cells, a wall street garage sale, with everything available to the highest bidder – and money, spectacle, television, media, and technology as the new gods. the result is a twenty-first century psycho-economic totalitarianism and techno-centrism arising from the ‘information revolution,’ just as the american robber baron abuses were spawned by the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrial revolution. the historic and continuing consequences and collateral damage from the ill-named american dream is in effect the world’s nightmare, a walt disney snake-oil medicine sideshow, lying to us about the reality of history and of our time. yet time and space do not alter truth: we are all responsible for each other, and what happens in a boardroom in new york or a government office in washington, tokyo, or paris affects someone’s life in tanzania, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

history has so far been kind; since world war two we have had the ability to extinguish life on earth, and have avoided that specter. if we do not change we will destroy all that is living on this planet through environmental, nuclear, radioactive, chemical, biological, mental, and emotional holocaust. 

i advocate for a self-sustaining use of the world’s resources, with renewable energy, such as that from solar, wind, and geothermal sources. a society that values nature and its healing powers, whether in forests, plains, meadows, mountains, deserts, oceans, or parks.

i am an egalitarian. i believe in the equality of all peoples and value of all cultures and their artistic expression. political equality means nothing without economic, social, and cultural equality. in my view, self-interest and greed is not a valid motivation for work or activity. part of the necessary change is in consciousness: from acting for profit, other material reward, or ego to doing meaningful things for their own sake or for the sake of others. property necessary for survival and lifework is at most a temporary custodianship, as many native americans believe. excess property and control is theft.

academic, social, economic, political, or personal hierarchies are betrayals of human social justice and equality. the world has historically functioned as a grand plantation with a minority of wealthy and powerful people committing daily direct and indirect murder against the masses. this old-new world order should be replaced with a radical redistribution of wealth and fundamental global systemic change, so that people may work meaningfully, eat, be clothed, sheltered, have education, and live in a dignified way in their communities, able to pursue their humanity and spirituality. 

real freedom and equality come not with theoretical abstract ‘freedoms,’ such as voting when there is no real choice, status, or self-centered market purchasing power, acquisition options, and material possessions, but rather with the knowledge that all people have adequate food, clothing, shelter, health care, education, meaningful work and life activities, including expression through the arts, whether by performance or enjoyment. 

to these ends i have dedicated my life and music, and my colleagues, musical and social, share this outlook. 

my music is inspired by the spirit of world cultures voiced through the medium of creative music in the african american tradition, as a symbol of the equality and worth of all peoples. as trumpeter dizzy gillespie said, ‘we are all different branches of the same tree, each with its own unique and beautiful fruit.’


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