Sunday, November 23, 2008

Protest Songs vs Changing the World

I was listening to a 1980's protest song over the weekend (specifically 99 Red Balloons). Catchy tune, but of course the words were a German protest against nuclear weapons, the war machine and Ronald Reagan. How Europe hated Reagan. They denounced him as a war-monger. He was burned in effigy, protesters screamed against him, and in the end it turned out he was right and the protesters were wrong. Reagan used the power of a capitalist economy to outspend the Russians, the Russians realized that they couldn't compete because of the weakness of the socialist economy, and the Russians gave up. The walls came down, peoples were reunited, and freedom rang. And of course Europe continued to hate Reagan, to smugly ignore religion and to embrace more socialist ideals. As for Reagan, I suspect he knew the magnitude of what he had accomplished, and didn't really care what a bunch of bearded lefties in Europe thought. But for the purpose of this post I guess the important thing is that that protesters were wrong and it was Reagan who changed the world.

Protest songs have a powerful legacy throughout the second half of the 20th century. But protest songs themselves are a reflection of all that is weak about the political left. Protest songs allow the left to feel like they are doing something, while they smugly look down on anyone who would actually sacrifice for their ideals. Protest songs can only be sung openly in a free society*, unburdened by Communism or thought-control**, the two main ends for which the Left strives (C.S. Lewis's essay on why he is not a pacifist comes to mind at the point). Finally, protest songs appeal to students. These songs let students rage against the system, ignoring the fact that the system (and Mom and Dad) are paying the tab. Socialism seems so good to students, because it is nice to have everything given to you. Unfortunately for students, it is a dream that someone else pays for.

It would be a mistake to over-estimate the strength of the political Left. True, they have media and courts in their favour, and these are a powerful influence. But the Left is ideologically bankrupt. They view a complex world through a series of over-simplistic slogans, and their economic system is not strong enough to support their goals. Finally, they are not willing to sacrifice for their ideals, in money let alone blood. Yes, the Left will win victories, and sing their songs, but in the end the song has to end eventually.

* Russia had a tradition of protest songs under Communism, but they could only be sung underground.

** while pretending to support free speech, the Left in practice is all in favour of silencing dissent of the Left, and using the coercive power of law to try to change peoples thought patterns.


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