If there is one thing that ought to be obvious enough for us to be able to agree on – it is that as a global people, specifically in this case as an American people, we are so divided we cannot agree on much. I look around the world, this state, this city, and I see people willingly self-segregating all over the place. It is evident in the schools we choose to enroll our children in (open enrollment). It is evident in our communities and in our churches. It is evident in the social circles we choose to navigate: right down to the bars, pubs, restaurants and clubs we frequent. It is evident in the entertainment we choose to pay for, and it is evident in the “news” we chose to be “informed” by.
But nowhere is this phenomena more obvious than on social media.
It is not like anything happening right now in American politics is unheard of in our national history. In fact, on the point of being a divided America, I taught from a text called Convergences when I taught English 101 once upon a time. “Dubbya” Bush was President, and there was an article in the text about America being more divided after 9/11 politically than it had been in recent memory. So to say that we are only now seeing the bitter extremes in our divide, is to be blind to signs that have been waving screaming red flags for a long time. However, that said, Facebook and Twitter did not in anyway exist in their pervasive encroachment on human life then as they do now. Nobody can argue that social media, once designed to simply connect friends and meet new ones, has changed the ways we process all information.
This shared technological environment that we are all collectively discovering has become the setting from the novels that defined a past generation. This Brave New World we have built, and in many ways is spiraling out of our control, has made our lives seem more like a science fiction novel. Never before, at least not in my experience, has the existence of multiple realities been more observable.Blocking out the world has always been a notion that many desire. It is the concept of creating a home, creating peace, creating an environment that allows us to focus on those things that bring about our own well-being. This is the essence of hundreds of self help mantras and philosophies, and they have been taught by the wise and practiced by the sane for centuries.
However, these particular philosophies get exponentially more complicated and problematic if their principles are applied to areas normally outside of their sphere of influence. Hermann Hesse wrote Siddhartha, his fictionalized literary accounting of the education and early years of the Buddha, in 1922 – needless to say, I don’t think he had all of the permutations in mind that applying this thinking to things… like facts… would create.
“Tell you something I hope you already know, they’re never gonna build a wall to keep out Mexico. Comes a time you figure out, comes a time when your time’s all out. But then again you never were in control. Freedom you don’t belong to anyone. We all shine on, like the moon, the stars, and the sun. Ring the bells, beat the drums, sound the trumpets. Raise your fists… you’re much stronger than a Matchstick.”
Thus: fake news, flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, climate denial, and basically every other polar divisive topic. And in a world where more and more of the news we take in comes from social media engines, we inherently block out all that we don’t want to see or don’t want to think about. We listen to the cable news outlet that tells us what we want to hear. We surround ourselves with the digital voices that affirm our life style. We block out every single bit of noise…. and trust me… I get it…. if you don’t, it get’s insane.
“Holy Mother and the Holy Ghost, you better dig deep now boy, you’re getting close, remember the times that you surrendered your hope, remembered the times they had your neck in the rope…. but life in your hands boy, I’ll make my final stand”
We choose to define our reality, to include or exclude whatever we choose to from it. This including time honored facts and scientific reason, however, is a relatively new development. This is the environment that we have collectively created, like a Wiki-Reality that all of us take from and add to, in interesting on an entirely different level when one imagines the social media use of pubic figures.
I have been wanting to do this topic for quite some time, but the Arizona artist, besides myself (inner chuckle) that leaps first to mind when it comes to being politically prolific is Sedona’s own: decker. But with both the release of my book, Spirits of Jerome, and the band’s newest release, Into the Red, and all of us being on tour…. the topic had to wait. Ideally, this article would have been perfectly timed with the video release of the album’s first single, Matchstick Man, which the band was very forthright in proclaiming as an anti-Trump clarion call.
Ghost Writer: You and I both live in Arizona. One could argue that our historically RED state has waffled towards purple in the last few elections, and this could certainly be proven even more true with the looming exits of Senator Flake and Senator McCain. That said, the polarity in Arizona, is still extreme, and in a world-climate that is as politically charged as ours is, social media can be incredibly hard to navigate – especially for those artists that have a political bend in their creations. So, let’s just ask the question: have your politics cost you audience in your home state?
decker. : I couldn’t really speak to that with too great a degree of certainty. I can think of a few of my fans in Arizona that were, apparently, Trumpers and offended by my stance in opposition to Trump. I don’t really look at my audience in a geographically compartmentalized sense. I’m trying to make the most authentic art I can and reach and impact the most people who feel a connection and response to it. Truly, I was somewhat surprised that anyone in my audience would think my leanings would somehow be toward a scoundrel like Trump, but perhaps they just thought I should not comment on it. Honestly, I’m not terribly concerned about offending anyone who would feel an allegiance to an asshole like that, so, there we are. Wherever this is.
Ghost Writer: When you use social media, how do you define and negotiate the line between your politics and your art… and your fan-base. There are some artists that DO NOT talk politics or take political sides at all. There are some artists that use their “celebrity” to bring attention to issues. For you… is there a formula, or a baseline that you try to stick to in terms of the line between your personal life and beliefs and what you choose to make public?
decker. : I’m growing less and less interested in social media in leaps and bounds by the day. I’m tired of beating the drum. I’d like my audience to know what I’ve got upcoming in terms of releases and performances and whatnot. I’m with certainty done thinking Facebook is an avenue to soapbox. I want my message to be through my art and my day to day living. I think everyone should spend about 95% less time on these platforms. That said, I have no strategy in place other than the least amount of time on them the better.
Ghost Writer : Some would say, audience be damned, the world is at stake. Some things are more important than sales. Let’s discuss artist responsibility to society… especially in trying times. Do artists, in your opinion, have a social obligation?
decker. : I think we all have a responsibility, first to ourselves, to become the best humans we can; to peel the layers of inconsequential back and get to a greater truth so we can both shine that light forth and harm our surroundings less. If that is done through one’s art, that is lovely. If that is done through one’s teachings, that is also lovely. Art is so important. But really only in as much as it brings us back to our humanity and our humanity is what is really of the utmost importance and significance.
Obviously, with an overtly psychedelic sound, progressive, but bluesy, structure, and heavy reliance on Eastern themes, Into the Red is an album that begs to be combined with a discussion about the nature of reality. I am not sure if there is an easy answer, one that makes everyone feel validated and secure in their beliefs. There is certainly nothing wrong with following the age old mantra of garbage in – garbage out, or simply not wanting to fill your inner personal bubble with ideas and images that are going to continually bring you into a negative space.
That said, I found this meme on Facebook the other day, and instantly had to share it. When my parents chose to not allow R-rated movies in the house, they did not proceed to deny their existence. Somewhere, between the spiritual sense of our own journey and our own peace – and the world of being a logically informed, and founded in reality society: ought to be the goal.
Not doing so is exactly why we are here, not only as a Nation but as a world in crisis.