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[Xmca-l] Re: Dylan at the super bowl
I am not a North American. I am a South American. Specifically a Chilean with a strong jewish heritage. So I have always looked at the role cars play in the American imaginary with some uneasiness and astonishment. (Most of all, because cars are one the most depredatory technologies ever mass-build in human history).
When I lived in the USA the first thing that impressed me is that without a car there is almost no real everyday citizenship there. And by citizenship. I mean access to, for instance, public natural parks and to other public goods (e.g. schools, hospitals, and so on). Most generally, if you want to move more or less freely you need a car. Therefore I can understand why people equal cars and freedom (which is a reverse of the fact that they are dependent on cars, mostly). That's not true in many places of the world, certainly, where public transport is a better way to move people around. And where cars are (or were) more of a nuisance. (I lived two years in the USA without one as I just didn't like cars; my wife and I have to get one when my wife was expecting because of obvious reasons. Unfortunately I have kept the bad habit).
Then, after 9/11, I learnt how cars meant more than citizenship. GM made their ads about "keep america rolling" right after the September attacks. Do you remember them? In many countries, using a national disgrace to support the commercial interest of a corporation would have backfired as people would have thought that they were being manipulated. Not in North America. Buying a car was now a way to overcome terrorism and recovering America's muscle and strength. The ad made by Bob Dylan is on the same sort of nationalistic genre. I don't know Dylan's track as a socially minded singer t but I can't imagine Victor Jara or Violeta Parra doing a commercial such as that one.
Before leaving, I stopped by Detroit on my way to a summer school in the University of Michigan. Then, I understood even less. A full American iconic city provided testimony that public and private interests do not coincide. The GM headquarters dominated the skyline of a destroyed city. Then, I left the USA. And then, the crisis came along the American government bailout of the auto industry, including GM. By December 2013 GM was free again from USA taxpayer ownership whereas Detroit had filed for bankruptcy. I am not an economist. Some people say that Obama's role in the bailout of the auto industry was one of his cleverest moves. I assume that those saying it don't worry too much about the decay of many American cities such as Detroit.
And now, this ad. To be honest, I am not surprised that Bob Dylan, other American icon, uses his symbolic charisma to convince the American public that they need "to keep America rolling", whatever that means. Certainly it does not resonate with me. I have never liked the use of national values to sell the produce of any industry. I don't like it here in Chile when we use it to refer to mining, winery or anything. At the end the ad, though, becomes openly chauvinistic... Sad that Dylan lends his credentials to that sort of discourse. But who knows, maybe he does not consider himself as somebody that appeals to an international audience. As I said, I am not a North American. I am a South American. That sort of stuff can't resonate with me.
And then, I remember that there are other things "made in the USA" that are a real part of the "international arts" to compensate for this. At this moment, some of the best work of Phillip Seymour Hoffman comes to my mind. But also, many other american artists (specially poets) that I treasure as an important part of my own cultural background.
On Feb 3, 2014, at 1:57 PM, Dr. Paul C. Mocombe wrote:
> C. Wright mills was accurate when he described the emerging post industrial power elites of america.. Celebrities are the means by which we are forced to consume...
> Dr. Paul C. Mocombe
> The Mocombeian Foundation, Inc.
> <div>-------- Original message --------</div><div>From: Peter Smagorinsky <email@example.com> </div><div>Date:02/03/2014 9:45 AM (GMT-05:00) </div><div>To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org> </div><div>Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Dylan at the super bowl </div><div>
> </div>I included a link to the ad in my original post.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Martin John Packer
> Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 9:13 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Dylan at the super bowl
> I didn't see the ad (or the game!), but Detroit desperately needs any help it can get, or simply some attention in the public media.
> On Feb 3, 2014, at 8:46 AM, Peter Hourdequin <email@example.com> wrote:
>> I agree that "buy American" can play into nationalist sentiments which are often based on some version of patriotism. 'Buy local' would be the same thing on a community scale, but it's certainly a sentiment I am more comfortable with. I also agree with the idea of the rust belt producing different products, though it is hard to argue cars are not "socially useful," despite their awful environmental record.
>> But there is also the significant fact that it is hard for any product to be produced without a market. And so it is in fact true that when Americans choose to buy their cars from elsewhere (a logical choice), this has an effect on the workers who once made cars in the states. In the absence of demand for other things these people can make, the rust belt continues to rust.
>> The reality is also that trade policy which influences consumer choices much more than patriotic sentiment is not written by workers, and the version of capitalism that many in America have embraced has led to the hollowing out of America's manufacturing sector (though I think some sectors such as military hardware and aeronautics manufacture remain strong). Thus Dylan's argument that Americans support the production of one type of product (the automobile) in the US. Again, I share the confusion of hearing this message from Dylan on behalf of a giant American corporation. But where are the other viable jobs for those rust belt employees? And where is the market that will drive these jobs?
>> I do think there are various kinds of patriotism, and perhaps the kind in which one has pride in something one's country produces is not the worst of them. On the contrary patriotic pride without any real production seems pretty empty.
>>> On Feb 3, 2014, at 9:46 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>> Bruce, you're put your finger on my uneasiness when viewing and
>>> thinking about the ad. Thanks,Peter
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: email@example.com
>>> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Bruce Robinson
>>> Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 7:05 AM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Dylan at the super bowl
>>> I'm not really concerned about Dylan selling out (again) but disagree that 'Buy American' is something dissociated from American imperialism or is something to be supported. Its message is nationalist, implicitly protectionist and preaches that American workers have more in common with indigenous employers than with the Chinese or other third world workers this policy would put out of a job. Plus it's utopian to think people will put patriotism before buying a better and cheaper product from elsewhere. There are other solutions to rust belt unemployment like using the workers' skills to make socially useful products.
>>> I'm not an American but ok would say the same thing about a 'Buy British' campaign (they was one in the 60-s that sankwithout trace).
>>> Bruce R
>>> Peter Smagorinsky <email@example.com> wrote:
>>>> Dylan was also excoriated by his folk fan base when he first played
>>>> electric instruments in the 1960s, so the "sellout" accusation has
>>>> been offered before. I'm not in the business of telling musicians
>>>> how to make a living, so am not making that judgment myself. But
>>>> Dylan has always been an iconoclast.
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
>>>> [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of
>>>> Peter Hourdequin
>>>> Sent: Monday, February 03, 2014 6:31 AM
>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Dylan at the super bowl
>>>> I also found this puzzling when I read about it today, but I must
>>>> say that my first reaction was mixed feelings. Patriotism has many
>>>> varieties, and the "buy American" message is quite different from
>>>> supporting American imperialism. Back on his 1983 album, Infidels,
>>>> Dylan took a fairly straight-forward stand on these issues in two
>>>> songs. On "Sweetheart like you" he paraphrases Samuel Johnson when
>>>> "They say that patriotism is the last refuge / To which a scoundrel
>>>> clings. / Steal a little and they throw you in jail, /Steal a lot
>>>> and they make you king. / "
>>>> Then on a later track entitled Union Sundown, he writes:
>>>> "Well, you know, lots of people complainin' that there is no work. /
>>>> I say, "Why you say that for / When nothin' you got is U.S.-made?"
>>>> /They don't make nothin' here no more, / You know, capitalism is
>>>> above the law. /It say, "It don't count 'less it sells." / When it
>>>> costs too much to build it at home/ You just build it cheaper
>>>> someplace else./
>>>> Well, it's sundown on the union /And what's made in the U.S.A. /Sure
>>>> was a good idea / 'Til greed got in the way."
>>>> In this light, Dylan's Super Bowl message is consistent with a
>>>> pro-American worker stance that I think was shared by Pete Seeger as
>>>> well. Still, shilling for an American automaker on the most sacred
>>>> day of America's consumerist culture does leave me with mixed
>>>> feeling about the artist and his role. But since Dylan has been part
>>>> of American consumer culture for five decades, I think the argument
>>>> that he is selling out some principle that he once avowed is less than convincing.
>>>>> On Feb 3, 2014, at 7:49 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>>> Apologies to Pete Seeger......
>>>>> For those of you who don't follow American football, the "Super
>>>> Bowl"-the championship game-is the mecca of US advertising. In
>>>> rather a surprise, Bob Dylan was featured in a lengthy ad for
>>>> Chrysler, the car manufacturer. It appears at
>>>> Here's one media account:
>>>>> BOB DYLAN'S SUPER BOWL: Legendary musician Bob Dylan appeared in a
>>>> Chrysler ad that had been kept tightly under wraps. Dylan walked
>>>> through the streets of Detroit explaining that the city made cars
>>>> and that "cars made America." In case you didn't get the point, he
>>>> goes on to explain in his familiar raspy voice: "Let Germany brew
>>>> your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your
>>>> phone. We will build your car." It was the second appearance of the
>>>> night for Dylan, if you count his popular 1960s tune of "I Want You"
>>>> that played in the Chobani ad.
>>>>> Just to be clear: I don't begrudge musicians' efforts to make a
>>>> living. I've read some musicians' autobiographies, and unless you're
>>>> an established star or have written something that brings in
>>>> royalties over time, life is a constant struggle. One of the
>>>> greatest saxophone players of his generation, Maceo Parker, took a
>>>> two-year hiatus and worked as a garbage collector to earn enough to
>>>> support his family (James Brown, his original employer, was
>>>> notoriously tight-fisted and cold-hearted with his band members). So, when musicians "sell out,"
>>>> often they're just trying to earn a steady living.
>>>>> Dylan's a little different, given his songwriting royalties, record
>>>> sales, and concert revenues. Once a social critic of the first
>>>> order, he went as patriotic mainstream as possible in last night's
>>>> ad. Compare to Pete Seeger, who quit the Weavers because he felt
>>>> they were too oriented to producing a hit.
>>>>> I must say, this one puzzled me.
>>> Sent from Kaiten Mail. Please excuse my brevity.