(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘This Land is Your Land

“To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace”*…


What does having money mean for us and for our neighbors? When the art critic John Ruskin took up this question in 1860, he started from the assertion that more money for us means less money for them, and he didn’t have to go much further to conclude that disparity, after all, might be the whole point of the enterprise…

Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants?

In order that he may be able to have servants, someone in his neighbourhood must be poor and in want of his gold—or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man’s portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of wasteland, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling “his own.”

The most covetous of mankind would, with small exultation, I presume, accept riches of this kind on these terms. What is really desired under the name of riches is, essentially, power over men; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist; in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial, or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).

Via Lapham’s Quarterly, John Ruskin on the Master/Slave paradox: “Blessed are the Poor.” (From Ruskin’s “The Veins of Wealth.”)

[Image above, from here.]

* Confucius, The Analects


As we wonder about wealth, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that Woody Guthrie wrote (the first version, he varied the lyrics over time) of “This Land is Your Land.”; he didn’t record the song until 1944, nor publish it until 1954.

Guthrie wrote the lyrics (to an extant tune) in response to to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he lifted his pen…as he’d considered writing a retort, he’d thought to name it “God Blessed America for Me”; happily, it surfaced with the title we know.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

The Anti-Skinheads…


American Juggalo
click here for video

Once a year, the fans of Insane Clown Posse— a group self-anointed the “Juggalos“– gather at Cave-in-Rock, Illinois for a week of music, carnival rides, and partying.

In contrast to the Skinhead movement, Juggalos pride themselves on inclusiveness, embracing all races, genders, creeds, and economic backgrounds (though they tend to be drawn, like Skinheads, largely from the economically-challenged), and consider themselves a family.

The inimitable Bob Lefsetz on American Juggalo:

This ain’t Coachella. It’s not even Bonnaroo.

We’re used to corporate sponsors, patrons staying in hotel rooms. Everybody in America is a winner, on their way up.

But here you have an endless supply of what society calls losers. And they all seem to know it.

This film is as powerful as the great documentaries of Frederick Wiseman and D.A. Pennebaker. It captures a vibe, a feeling, which you don’t find too often in today’s mainstream media.

I can’t imagine many of these people are Democrats. They want every dollar they earn, because it’s not many. And where’s the better life, the jobs Obama promised?

It’s an endless carnival of the disenfranchised. An underbelly pushed under the rug, joining together to have a good time.

What happens when your parents aren’t rich, when your life has taken a wrong turn? You get tattoos and become a Juggalo.

This certainly ain’t the beautiful people.

And it’s not all stoners. There are Straight Edge Juggalos, and if one of the talking heads is to be believed, even brain surgeon Juggalos. But I’m guessing those are in the minority.

This is not plastic-surgeried, dieted down to nothing television America. This is the people servicing you, doing those low paying jobs you’ve got contempt for.

But they’re also us.

They’re bonded as family, and that’s admirable…


As we dream the American Dream, we might spare a warm thought for Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, the musical voice of voiceless Americans for half a century; he died on this date in 1967.  Guthrie began writing and singing as he travelled with other refugees west from the Dust Bowl in the 30s.  He became a professional, and moved to New York in 1939.  Almost as soon as he landed in the East, he met Alan Lomax, who was collecting folk recordings for the Library of Congress.  For two years, Guthrie added to Lomax’s store– which led to the album Dust Bowl Ballads, the nation’s introduction to “Protest Folk,” a form that Guthrie pioneered with such songs as “This Land is Your Land.”

In the 1950s, Guthrie was diagnosed with Huntington’s chorea, a genetic disorder that was treated in those days with confinement to a psychiatric hospital– in Guthrie’s case, Brooklyn State Hospital, then Creedmore– where he spent his last 12 years.

In 1963, Bob Dylan was asked to contribute a 25-word “thought” to the preface of a forthcoming book on Guthrie; Dylan responded with a 144-line poem…  in which, having asked where a man could go to “look for this hope that yer seekin’,” Dylan suggests

You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You’ll find God in the church of your choice
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital



Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 3, 2011 at 1:01 am

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