Sunday, November 12, 2006

New World Singing & Elton John

Not too long ago, I began writing what I was, at the time, calling a "cantata." The premise of the cantata -- called "New World Singing" -- was based upon a manifesto I wrote about religion and war. The basis of the manifesto went like this:
Religion has failed.

It has failed because it should be presenting role models of peace. It should be teaching the world how to heal, how to reconcile, how to live together, how to create a partnership of humanity. Instead, religion in this day and age is turning out role models of violence and hatred. Religion is not the source of peace. Religion is the source of war.

All the world's wars would end tomorrow if the leaders of the world's religions made the decision to stop them. They could do this. It is within their power. They could direct their followers to end the violence now. But, instead, they direct their followers in fear. They direct their followers into revenge. They see everyone who isn't a part of their religion as "infidels" who must either be changed or obliterated.

Religion has lost its moral compass and it has lost its moral imperative.

Therefore, we the artists must step into the breach. Politicians are not interested in peace because politics is the art of war. Ministry used to be the instrument of peace but it has now been co-opted by the politicians and become an instrument of war.

We, the artists are the last hope of humanity. It is up to us. We must create the Art of Peace.
Naive? Absolutely. But that's when I began writing "New World Singing." (Artists are nothing if not enduringly naive, thank God). The overreaching, naive and impossible goal of this peace was to create a piece of music that would transcend culture. After all, I reasoned, the one time we can gather great groups of people together and witness them all acting as one is when they are listening to great music. Or, better yet, singing along.

I began writing songs and putting this together. One of those songs is the one called "Holy Dirt," the demo of which I turned into a video which became featured on Neil Young's website for his album, "Living With War." It was even in the Top 10 at the time. The video itself was little more than the song against a backdrop of words which I also wrote. The phrase that still resonates is this one:
People ask me, "When will we see the Muslim Gandhi?"

I ask, "Why does the next Gandhi have to be Muslim? If being the next Gandhi is such a great idea, why don't you do it?"
So, I was quite taken aback today when I was reading an interview in the British Guardian between Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters band with Elton John. They were thrust together because they are both openly gay artists. The headlines surrounding this interview sensationalize what Elton said, in that he told the truth that religion these days does little more than provoke violence against gay and lesbian people. But farther down he said this:

The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren't they having a conclave; why aren't they coming together? I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts: instead of more violence why isn't there a [meeting of religious leaders]. It's all got to be dialogue - that's the only way. Get everybody from each religion together and say 'Listen, this can't go on. Why do we have all this hatred?'

We are all God's people; we have to get along and the [religious leaders] have to lead the way. If they don't do it, who else is going to do it? They're not going to do it and it's left to musicians or to someone else to deal with it. It's like the peace movement in the Sixties - musicians got through [to people] by getting out there and doing peace concerts but we don't seem to do them any more. We seem to be doing fundraisers for Africa and everything like that but I think peace is really important. If John Lennon were alive today he'd be leading it with a vengeance.

Maybe he'd even be singing a song like "Holy Dirt."

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