Gil Scott-Heron on GIM? It makes sense. I was watching a brief video of GSH addressing how black history was rewritten to suit the dominant white culture in North America, and it struck me that it made an equally cutting commentary on aspects of Western economic history.
Of course, I also just thought it would be cool to get Gil on here. He’s long been one of my favorite musicians, as much for his political commentary as for the excellence of his music. Along with long-time collaborator, Brian Jackson, GSH built a unique and significant body of work. He is sometimes called, the “Godfather of rap,” for long before the advent of rap/hip-hop, his “soul jazz” songs were often interspersed with spoken word, poetry-based pieces, invariably expressing intensely felt social messages. The most famous, of course, was The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
A question to consider is whether those behind our economic activity at some point repudiated their hegemonic ways. I think not. I think they make them a little less obvious today, and may not always be completely conscious of them. It’s not really so different, though, from the attitude of those who first imposed their economic aspirations in a blunt force manner on people in places like Africa. They rationalized their actions and insisted they were doing the right thing. Globally — and to profound degrees — the effects have been both socially unjust and environmentally destructive.
The video also brings to the fore the element of greed which merits attention when examining the problem of economic growth. I hope, in fact, to take a serious look at greed in some future posts.
Sadly, in recent years, Gil has fallen victim to drug use which has more or less ended his musical career — at least until he confronts his personal issues. More than that, he’s fallen victim to U.S. drug laws which make criminals of those possessing even small amounts of certain drugs. As a result he’s spent most of the last several years in prison. In my view, these unfortunate facts take nothing away from his music or his message of justice.
For some pure GSH music, here’s a video currently posted on YouTube. It’s a live performance of his song, “Is that Jazz?” If you want to know more about GSH, here’s the best site. Its even includes a GSH discussion forum which has been active for a number of years. Enjoy.
Image source: itspaulkelly, posted on flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license