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Musicians and Politics

Musicians so often want to talk about politics publicly. They want to share their opinions, which are usually rather strident, about some political event, party or election. Whether they are a local, national, or international musician / artist, this is a mistake. I don't think musicians should spend their time speaking publicly about politics. They should talk about Art, Culture, Religion, Philosophy, all which build politics but none of which speak to direct policy or specifically contemporary explosive issues which have been branded la mode du jour.

This is my opinion not because I think politics don't matter, but rather because I think that simply because you may be an expert on one topic doesn't make you an expert on another topic. Now, of course you don't need to be an expert to have an opinion on politics, but if you are going to share your opinions publicly, and if they are going to be strident in their orientation,which they almost always are with musicians, then one should be well versed in one's positions, and the various alternatives.

I think there are a few issues that arise when musicians talk politics publicly which I will detail below.

1. Musicians always have fans that feel differently than them and their opinion is guaranteed to rub some fans the wrong way. I realize a musician may say "this is just so important though, I can't stay quiet", and I understand this feeling. This is understandable, but if one is going to take this position then they should also realize that there are consequences that come with that choice and one of them is that you may lose some fans or colleagues. It is worth nothing that there is a worthwhile debate to be had regarding that fact that there is indeed a line somewhere that exists which when crossed, one may have an obligation to speak up, however this line is far beyond anything experienced in the Western World in a very long time.

2. Politics is not our field. We, musicians are artists who work in the field of music. We make sounds for people to enjoy, hear and react to. We are here to create art that speaks to the human condition. We are not musicians to effect political change.

3. Musicians are generally political idiots. I realize this statement is a bit hyperbolic, rather blunt and surely guaranteed to make some people angry, however it is generally true. Whatever the stripe of politics the musician supports or believes in, whether right wing, left wing, liberal, socialist, communist etc... almost always their version of the positions and reasons for the positions claim to hold are always the most childish, feeling-based, hysterical, one-dimensional, elementary versions possible. If one was to take 4 average outspoken musicians of varying political persuasion and set them on a debate stage, the debate would consist of the shallowest, least thoughtful and least informed versions of the 4 various political positions they are said to be representing. This does nothing but wound meaningful discussion.

This isn't a problem unique to musicians, but because I am a musician, this is my field of work and so I have a vested interest in the behaviors and attitudes of musicians.

Lastly, I am not suggesting politics are unimportant. At different times and in different locations politics are of varying importance ranging from the relatively unimportant, to being of the utmost importance. I am also not suggesting that musicians shouldn't talk about Art, Culture, Religion or Philosophy. Politics rests on all of these and springs from an amalgamation of the influences of all of these, however when discussing these ideas, disciplines, topics there is an appropriateness in the distance these are from direct policy action. I may be making this more complicated than it needs to be, maybe musicians should simply avoid commenting on policy, laws, current events, issues of outrage and rather instead opt to talk about the 4 big ideas mentioned before.

It also goes without saying that this prohibition does not extend to the private sphere. Obviously musicians will discuss, talk, debate their passionate (or impassion-ate) political leanings or dreams in private with friends and family, however in public, musicians would be wise to refrain from such discussion.

I acknowledge this is a very difficult line to navigate and often it can be temping to spare the dancing around or the long explanations or discussion and get right into professing belief or outrage in whatever the popular issue of the day may be, however it would be far more becoming and certainly less embarrassing if we refrained from doing this.

/ Uri Avi

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