Johnny Cash- Hard Times
This is one of my mini-rants. Be forewarned.
I’m not really much of a dreamer, which is downright deadly if you’re in my profession and situation. But flights of fancy are not my thing; on those occasions when I’ve deceived myself, the deception has been an honest mistake.
Therefore, I’m not sitting here pretending that the world (read: economy, politics, culture) is in a wonderful and beautiful place right now. I am, however, sick to death of people obsessing over it, as if we, the human inhabitants of the Earth in the 21st century AD, somehow invented a new form of misery.
Yes, yes, I get it: the world is going to Hell, and it’s all because we’re lazy and greedy and socialists and uneducated and full of ourselves. People can’t find jobs anymore, the Chinese are preparing to eat the West alive (perhaps literally), and (insert politician here) isn’t doing a damn thing about it.
I’m not the most stoic person you’ll probably never meet, but please, can we, as a species, get over this already? Times like these come and go, and we keep going. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.
Exhibit number one, as heard above: Stephen Foster. A lot is made of the bliss of simpler times, and of course it’s nonsense. His songs tell about a country at once bound and torn apart by the extensive horizons within it. People are always traveling great distances with optimism and regret in Foster’s music, and they both crave the future and fear the loss of the past. And through it all, life’s small joys and daily hardships are wound into the narrative.
When you get rid of the obnoxious minstrel show sheen that was added to the songs, and strip them down to their core essence, you get the story of a place and a people forever distraught from the anxiety of changing times. Even though it’s been a century and a half of changes since he wrote this song, that place and those people are still here, still living and dying as always, in a world that changes faster than we’d like.