Ode To Joy Was A Protest Song?

I was sitting at my kitchen table this morning munching on my cereal and an English muffin (with strawberry preserves) when my reverie was pierced by the announcer on the local classical music station talking about Ludwig van Beethoven and his political activism for and against Napoleon Bonaparte.  Huh?  Beethoven and political activism; that doesn’t make sense – at all.

So I spent today delving into this oxymoronic justapositioning and to my great surprise I find that not only was Beethoven politically active, one of his signature pieces, “Ode to Joy” (“Ode An Die Freude”) from his 9th Symphony was a protest song!  Apparently it was a plea for universal brotherhood and was written in the context of social change following the French Revolution.  You can find lyrics in English here.

Given this context, “Ode to Joy” becomes even more meaningful today as the oligarchic cloud of  social change looms large on our horizon.

In more recent years, we have become familiar with the use of song to protest social conditions.  From the songs of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie to the songs of the folk movement.  There are so many to choose from that it is hard to pick out any one as my favorite.  I will endeavor to post a few in coming days.

To start off with one of my favorites has been “Guantanamera” which is a song that has come to symbolize the peasant struggle against tyranny in Latin America. Although admirably done by so many, my favorite version is by the Sandpipers, especially the ethereal female vocals done by Pamela Ramcier, who was never credited for her contributions.

Ramcier’s voice comes in during the English soliloquy in the song.  The ethereal quality of her voice is haunting; the fact that she has disappeared into the fog of time is perplexing.

Let Them Eat Cake

There was some lost symbolism played out this last weekend.  Apparently, the Republican National Committee sent a cake to the Democratic National Committee this last Friday ostensibly to help celebrate President Obama’s 51st birthday.  The inscription on the cake read, “You didn’t bake this cake” or something to that effect.  The DNC returned the cake uneaten, along with a copy of the independent Tax Center report on Mitt Romney’s tax plan.

The study,  by the Brookings Institute/Tax Policy Center which is independent of either political parties, had concluded that Romney’s tax plan benefit only the very rich and that it pays for that benefit by increasing the tax burden on the rest of us.

What we have is a massive redistribution of wealth in our country; one that was started by the George W. Bush Administration and maintained by the Republican controlled House of Representatives since.  Except it is different from what one normally thinks of such redistributions of wealth in which the money flows from the rich to the poor.  No, ours flows from the bottom to the top.  Simply put, the rich have gotten obscenely richer and the rest of the population has paid for it.  Doesn’t make sense, you say?

Let me explain.  Under the Bush Administration, the tax cuts seemed to be a benefit that went to everyone.  However, the Bush Administration paid for the cost of government  and two massive land wars by increasing our national debt.  In addition, their amateurish stewardship of our economy precipitated an international collapse of never before seen proportions.  Bailing out the financial sector, paying for government, and fighting two land wars cost money, which the federal government did not have.  What they did have is the ability to borrow money which is what they did.  Who pays back this money?  All of us and not just in future taxes, but in the cost of fundamental goods and services.

So in effect, the current tax cuts to the wealthy were paid for by you and me.

Now comes the Romney tax plan.  The above independent think tank has concluded that his plan is more of the same, much more.  The rich will get uber rich and the rest of us will pay for the privilege of seeing the rich party and send their money offshore.

Don’t bother kidding yourself that one day you will be one of the one percent, that is not how an oligarchy works; just look at the Bourbons in prerevoluntionary France.  So that is why I titled this piece, “Let Them Eat Cake.”  How apropos.