July 2008

The world is changing and you`d better damn well be ready.

July 14, 2008 16:17

Let’s face it, we have lived for so long in an oil product based culture in which gasoline has always just been `there` that we have almost never questioned the possibility of finite resources as we go about our relatively comfortable and privileged lives. Now that is changing with staggering implications for all of us, not only as musicians but as human beings.
For me it started two years ago when I suddenly realized the price of olive oil had gone up 35 percent. Now olive oil is such a cleanly produced product that much of what you get in the supermarket is organic anyway. The point is that once the incredibly stupid rush to produce highly polluting and inefficient bio fuels went underway (as usual, at the expensive of the poor at ground level) the first to be faced with incredible price rises in food are those who wish to eat organic and healthy diets. Ridiculous at it seems, natural eating is a specialized area of production……Then my friends in the natural food industry began talking about rice shortages and the price doubling over this year. A report was leaked from the Japanese Government on how Japan was now food dependent (less than forty percent of its own grown) and that with a likely up coming rice crisis the people should start growing potatoes as a famine food. Bizarre. Just like the Irish of the past and completely foreign to Japanese physiology.
Then the gas prices went up real fast and people were shocked. 130 yen a liter was a twenty yen increase, but the government pushed the prices back down for a while and we forgot. Until I woke up one morning and it was 170 yen. Now it’s 180 and soon will be 200. I’m not doing the conversions but in 6 months the cost of a tank of fuel in a 30 liter car has jumped from three thousand to seven thousand yen. Tragically, over he last few years the Japanese have been in the habit of buying SUV type cars with 70 l tanks that guzzle. These are hyped as family cars so those families are really hit. An apocryphal anecdote: newspapers report that car parks in Tokyo are, for the first time in history, losing money. The cars are staying home.
Talking to my terrified friend in his new restaurant with no customers (suddenly) I asked him what did he expect? When families cannot afford to travel the luxury of eating out is the first to go. What will his family do, I wonder?. This has incredible implications for Japan with its eating out culture that supports especially older people who run small bas and grills etc.
How about the old in the very old population? They can no longer drive for medical treatment. Big deal? How hard is the American culture with its tacit assumption that distance is irrelevant because of gas going to be hit. Reading around one is already seeing disenfranchisement as the lower earners are losing jobs because of distance (not to mention the shocks to the car industry- when is GM going to shut down?) Ghettos, homelessness sand anarchy are well on the way.
The implication for violinists is simple. Consider my English friend whose mother is dying. He bought an open ticket for 150 thousand yen (expensive) to England. The plane company won’t even cite a return price. They say he could be asked for anything in a matter of a few weeks. He’s in shock and he’s a frequent flyer. How many musicians have to fly all over for auditions for orchestras, universities and –concerts- Young people will not have the money to do these things anymore. Nor will great orchestras be traveling around the world. The implication for music is that its going to become –very local, very homegrown.- This may be a positive new direction but it sure is going to be different. Violinists are going to have to plan their futures more carefully in terms of where the world is actually going.
If this sounds gloomy this need not be the case. Take a way the excess and stupidity of the current situation and people will have to sit down and ask `what do we value? What is family? What is real eating? How can we cooperate to live well?` And governments are going to have to be pressurized to provide an alternative greener infrastructure, actually recognize the economic sense of a healthier, cleaner world; apply all our marvelous technology to solar power and so forth. It’s almost too late but we might just make it.
Back to practice.

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