We are increasingly situated in a world where we are brutalised and feel incapable of fighting back. Wage theft, denial of adequate housing, consumer waste, wanton corruption, unjust war. Sold dreams of a metaverse and off-world colonies while those responsible for these elaborate fantasies accrue vast wealth from the ruination of this, our current planet. Greed, ignorance and a profound lack of empathy laying at the root of many of these avoidable circumstances.
Why then are we as individuals, who are in opposition to these behaviours and their outcomes, so quickly too compelled toward revenge as a response to wrongdoing? In part, it is to do with autonomy and control. In a society where we are often denied much control, in even the most basic of choices, our desire for justice, and the self-appointment of ourselves as judges, (delusionally) affords us the job of decision-maker and places us in a position of power.
While it must be acknowledged that unchecked anger is inherently harmful to the individual and inevitably leads to further suffering, an argument can be made for its utility in one sense. The converse emotional response to trauma or wrongdoing would be for one to fall into sadness or depression and then, potentially, further into vulnerability or inertia. Anger, if properly harnessed, is an emotion of action. It may be used as fuel, as a catalyst for one to right wrongs through their own action, by being the change which they desire.
An eye for an eye.
The words of Exodus, in their most literal sense are a call for equivalent, mirrored punishment. But the mirror itself distorts, the image reflected is not exact and is subject to the whims of light or the viewer’s perspective.
A primary function of justice is not only that it achieves reparation, but also that it must be seen to be done. Are we truly able to see ourselves when the collective eyesight is insidiously eroded by blue-lit screens, when its vision is filled at all times by branding attempting to sell something? Our notions of truth (the bedrock of justice) have become corrupted, wilfully gouged and devalued, preventing us from being able to trust that which should be most unconditional.
Where then does music or art figure in this corrosive milieu? Anything existing without the corruption of capital, social or financial, maintains an essence of purity. Purity is truth, truth justice. Music and art that exists primarily for motives of community, connection and/or communication serves this purpose as well as any mode can hope to in the current epoch. They can transgress lingual boundaries and have the potential to tap into liminal, underlaying fabrics of the human condition. These are the very reasons the Ancients and we, “moderns”, utilise the forms of sound and visual expression as mediums for traversal of ideas. They are timeless, as are the problems of injustice or complication that we reflect or challenge within them. Do not discredit the song, or the scrawl, as reduced merely to abject exercises of ego or commodity (as they unfortunately can be in wrong hands). Such charged artefacts can truly exist as rituals for change or examples of how to opine for better action, should we as creators or as appreciators of the form, demand of them.