|:: Description ::
||Alan Lomax: dictation on cultural diversity; conversation from Tobago; Harlan County coal strike conversation; Norwegians talking on the beach
|:: Project ::
|:: Date Range ::
||01-01-1963 to 12-31-1993
|:: Particpants ::
|:: Subjects ::
|Cultural anomie - similar under capitalist and socialist economies|
|Material prosperity - its conquest in modern societies|
|Cultural diversity - maintaining sufficient cultural diversity for human needs|
|Freedom of movement - freedom from tyranny, freedom to move through physical territory and across social barriers|
|"Doctor, Doctor, I Am Feeling Much Better" (song)|
|:: Cultures ::
|:: Holdings ::
|:: Notes ::
||Dictation by Alan Lomax (background sounds of running water and food preparation).
Cultures, like biological species, can be killed off. We can destroy the cultural variety that man has created on the planet just as we can destroy biological variety. Ecologists know that biological variety is necessary to maintain all the varied environments on the planet. In a similar but more subtle process of sub-speciation, all man?s cultures are essential for the maintenance of future of the human spirit, and of his varied relationships to climate, terrain, productive potential, the biological surround, the landscape, and not least his fellow humans.
Sol Tax once said that the only way to completely kill a culture is to exterminate its carriers down to the last man. I suspect that, since culture is not biologically transmitted but carried by systems of communication that belong to the sphere of tradition, that cultures can be destroyed if you destroy communities. But they hang on as long as people find one safe place. However, cultures, unlike species, can have their special character blurred so that the way that they reward their carriers is disguised and reduced and a sense of helplessness pervades their communities. We can see all around us everywhere in the world this sense of hopelessness and degradation. This is a basic to the problems of our culture.
After centuries of struggle man is to some extent winning his battle with the pressures of the environment and is more secure against hunger, cold, weariness, and illness. Many economies provide a basic economic and physical security for millions of families and communities. After centuries of tyranny the second struggle has been to re-introduce democracy, justice, and sharing into human relations.
Inequalities still exist in democracy and socialism, because we still haven?t learned to reward the leaders. Still, for millions, both socialism and in democracies in Europe and America have brought a tremendous release from tyranny in the form of freedom of movement both across territories and through society. Socialism is accompanied by a guarantee of minimal comfort (including education, housing, medicine, food, and culture) from birth to death in return for a minimum of effort - which would appeal to traditional subsistence economy peasants as incredibly riches. In both places the millennial fight against [political] tyranny is virtually over and biological and social problems are, to a major extent, on the way to being solved.
When it is possible to escape from tyranny to freedom a man makes his choice or dreams of it all his life.
Yet, there is now, in our time, a rising level of bitterness, fear, and desolation. I believe this is because of the neglect of man?s basic home, where he has always dwelt.
Until we solve the problem of the healthy maintenance of independent cultures of the size and quantity that human beings need to sustain themselves, our human problems will remain largely unsolved. I began by saying that human cultures are hard to kill but easy to degrade. The feeling of malaise, anomie, and despair takes on different forms in modern industrial economies and different directions in socialism and capitalism but the feeling in both places is remarkably similar.
Fragment: Five Harlan County (KY) coal miners talking about strikes
Woman: "I told my husband and my son, I?ve got nothing to lose but my chains. I?m 73 years old and they killed my daddy, they gave my husband black lung. They put miners, women and children in jail for no crime but of asking for a better life. I?m going to stand on the picket line.?
Two Norwegians talking on a beach. Sound of waves, sound of people walking.
Alan Lomax: This is a good town.
Unidentified woman: Need to go away. No money.
Conversation erupts into spontaneous rhythmic shouts, drumming, whistling
Calypso song: ?Doctor, Doctor, I Am Feeling Much Better.?
Alan Lomax: When did you make it up?
Unidentified man: The song is about a man injured by a bomb during the war in Vietnam.
Alan Lomax: Good God!