My wife’s grandmother lives near the center of Sarajevo. from the window of her small two room flat is a stunning view of green slopes of Mount Trebevich, its lowest approaches a patchwork of terra cotta rooftops. in a sheltered alleyway, pressed between buildings and shaded by small tress is a cluster of small booths; something of a flea market for books, clothing, and kitchenwares. Near the center, almost directly beneath Ana’s grandmother’s window was a small booth where a couple local boys sold music CDs. I would show up with beers and ask the guys to play for me local artists. It was just after the war and before the internet had proliferated to any meaningful extent around the planet. I was eager to discover local music and, with the abject destruction of the war, even save and preserve some of that lost culture.
Yugoslav Rock musicians throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s had been eager to show relevancy and solidarity with the audaciousness inherent in Rock, punk and other genre’s of contemporary music that heralded, it seemed a cultural revolution. I found, however, that Yugoslav Rock musicians, as well as emerging Bosnian, Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian Rock musicians always incorporated strong elements of regional folk. there was always a traditional element regardless of how contemporary the banded intended to be. It caused me to look at contemporary music in the US differently. bands I’d grown up with like Three Dog Night relied heavily on songwriters like Hoyt Axton and Paul Williams whose roots were in folk and country. Paul Williams penned the lyrics for “The Love Boat” theme.
all too often those who run the spectrum in society between discontent and revolutionary forget or ignore their own traditional underpinnings. Rarely if ever is anyone truly transformed completely in their humanity. The relics, the attitudes and ideas of our times and places are woven deeply within each of us. nit is imprinted, or becomes imbued without our realizing just how fully we are compromised, or incorporated into our world, our history and our culture.
It has become vogue in our culture to extol and demand the right of free and unencumbered expression. We can insult the police, berate the president and verbally assault one another with relative impunity. The First amendment becomes our shield and our burden. never in human history has the common citizen held this degree of expectation of free speech. It is revolutionary, but is it so revolutionary that we are free of those traditional underpinnings of a past in which speech was much less free. We all believe in our right to free expression while conjuring ways to curb the expression of those we disagree with.
I am in broadcasting. Broadcasters are the one place in which it is possible to understand the hypocrisy of what it means to assert truly free and independent and unencumbered speech. Stations in the past have cautioned me about certain limits about what I could and could not say. One station promoted verbal attacks on one political party while quietly forbidding dissent against its opposition. Today I was researching FCC rules on obscenity. In training new hosts I brag about the station’s policy of non-censorship, then advise them that they can be fired for not supporting the station’s policy of defending diversity in the community.
While I defend the right of groups, minorities and traditionally oppressed segments of society to fight against the willful and blatant use of offensive language and terms I also understand that there is a right of free expression that even protects offensive speech. The goal there should be to teach and build a society that respects the rights and sensibilities of others, and that often speech is the cornerstone of oppression. Offensive and oppressive speech should go out of vogue rather than be legislated out of existence. Words must never be banned, because words by themselves are not culprits. We are the culprits.
The American tradition is strongly rooted in reactionary politics and justice. While a narrative has arisen that positively challenges the reactionary and oppressive rhetoric and systems it also has characteristics of that other heritage. We have seen it with attempts to ban certain types of speech. Groups like Anonymous, which has done great work against oppression and injustice too often condoned by society and government, also at times acts extra-constitutionally as judge, jury and executioner. There is tremendous responsibility in that, and great peril as well. Across colleges and universities there are movements to highlight oppressive and offensive speech. That effort is vehemently resisted by the powerful forces benefitting from and supporting oppression. The frustration level pushes one to the point of restricting speech, but that ultimately is a zero sum game.
The effort is never to trade one type of oppression, one oppressor for another. the ideal is to create true revolutionary change, not merely have the oppressed and the oppressors change hats in an endless cycle.
The ideal should be not only justice; but fair, honest and humane justice. It should be equitable and accountable. The system change we champion must be that or we become the oppressors, while the newly oppressed, or those who believe they are oppressed scheme and conspire to overturn the balance.
The same is true for the incarcerated and those who have been incarcerated. What sort of justice and society do we pretend if those who have been sentenced and deemed to have paid their price are forever branded and excised from society. We eschew other cultures for the barbarism of cutting off a hand, or a foot, or putting out eyes, and yet we do the same to those who have been punished. There is no evolution of thought or justice or society. We are the lynch mob on the lawn circa the early 1900s. We are not learning from and evolving out of the relics of the past which have done nothing but perpetuate societal cancers.
Revolutions should be by revolutionaries, striving to create something new with a critical sense of where our common shortcomings exist and where are common strengths lend themselves to actual and demonstrable positive progressive change. anything less shows we are as culpable and guilty and destined to repeat the mistakes and injustices of the past as our reactionary predecessors.
Listen Saturday’s from 11am-1pm to WC Turck, Brian Murray with Jack Hammond and guests on Chicago’s real alternative media, AM1680, Q4 radio, streaming at www.que4.org.
WC Turck is an author, artist, playwright and talk radio host in Chicago. He has been called the most dangerous voice on the Left. His new book “A Tragic Fate: is an unflinching look at the events leading up to the shooting down of Malaysia Air Flight 17.” His first novel, “Broken” was recommended by NAMI for its treatment of PTSD. In 2006 he published “Everything for Love,” a memoir of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo. He wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He works with the homeless and foreclosure victims in Chicago. He partners in a weekly radio show dedicated to issues, society and politics with cohost, activist and artist Brian Murray For more information, past shows, videos and articles, visit www.revolutioandbeer.com