Emotional Diplomacy, and Where it Falters vs. Folk Music
Our diplomacy suffers while it tries to defend patriarchal underpinnings. Maybe not explicitly excluding fat chunks of American society, but protecting the stability of a system built by and for elite white males who wanted to set up in the New World what they couldn’t have in the old.
Those old white guys thought they were the oppressed; maybe they thought they were being fair. They literally didn’t see as peers all the people who didn’t look like them. There’s evolutionary precedent for that (evolutionary sociologists will tell you all about it) but there’s also empirical evidence that we’ve evolved the ability to get over ourselves. We don't need to serve that mindset.
I'm attending Folk Unlocked online, an annual event which usually overruns a hotel with troubadours somewhere in North America. As a former hotel worker, I shudder but also want to join in.
One of the panels I attended - Anti-Racism: Setting a New time in Folk Culture - included the voices of @joe_seamons and @domflemons. They pointed out that inclusion needs to be better defined: it’s not letting people sit at the table who weren’t allowed before; it’s not even holding the door open and saying, “Come in. What do you want to do with this space?”
This space was built for someone else, with someone else’s sensibilities in mind.
Inclusion is asking: What kind of space do you want to build, if we can get funding for it?
Something's been welling up from my gullet since the beginning of lockdown, and I’m finally finding words for it: if the extant structure is crumbling, what might you build instead of propping up what was already there?
Folk is the people's music. By this definition, rap is also folk. Punk is folk. We turn to music to find a rhythm when life is failing us, to find a connection when society fails us. And that's ironic, because society *is* us, all of us.
But the social structure in America wasn't created for *us* - it was created for a bunch of guys who could afford to take a boat to The New World and set up their own tiny kingdoms. The invited the (white) religous-oppressed to fill up space with (white) bodies. They brought over the cheapest labor they could find, propping up the industry of human trafficking to such a degree that we had a civil war about it. Yes, actually, it was about slavery.
We don't have to match ideals or even wardrobes. We can share recipes, trade licks, taste what's different about those folks over there, and what feels familiar. At the bottom of this page I have a long list of material to get you started. Get your feet wet - keep an eye on your local music scene. When your area is Covid-safe for live venues, find a show that plays music you don't know. Hopefully there's a banjo involved.
People are terrified of change. The surprise will be that people who aren’t like you have similar needs and goals. Listen for the differences before forging ahead. Listen.
I'm grateful to Folk Alliance for the opportunity to take part in this and other panels, see some of my favorite musicians, and learn about others, in the middle of a freaking pandemic. Well done, y'all!
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