Sing it, Neil

He’s one of our National Treasures.

I dare you to challenge that.  The man has a body of work that runs the gamut from inspirational and incredibly harmonic, to silly rockabilly, to political commentary that can strip paint with its caustic words.

The night before last he showed up in town to kick off a very important journey.  He’s putting the boots to our current federal government and defiantly and loudly– in that signature growly voice of his- taking them to task for their irresponsible governance and stewardship of this great land of ours.

He’s done this sort of thing before, of course.  Way back when, he wrote a couple of tunes about racism and its continuing evils that resulted in something of a ‘song battle’ with one of the stalwarts of Southern rock.

And then there was this one- critiquing the politics of George  H. W. Bush.

Seems Stephen Harper fancies himself something of a musician.  He’s serenaded those who follow his party line a number of times now.  You’d think he’d have some level of respect for someone who has conquered the musical world to a rarified degree while participating in raising awareness about things that impact or concern him greatly.

Evidently not.

I started this post yesterday on my lunch break and intended to finish it once at home and settled in after some dinner.  But while prepping said dinner I tuned in to Evan Solomon on the venerable CBC to hear him lead the convo about Power and Politics.  Topic?  Should Neil Young be talking about the tar sands?  So.  I listened intently- and with anger and frustration, per usual, as the Conservative ‘analyst’ worked her rhetoric into a full head of steam- and then thought about what was said over the course of the rest of the evening.

Do I like the tar sands?  Not so much.  I have a few close peeps who have been involved in natural resources industries- some of them for decades– and I have formed my opinions regarding things like fracking and the tar sands (interesting that they call them the ‘oil sands’ these days- new lingo for a new, positive spin.  We NEED oil– ‘tar’ has a much more ambiguous association, and the most accurate descriptor- ‘bituminous sands’- means nothing to anyone) based in discussions with them and my own readings about the ways in which we ‘withdraw’ our resources from our collective Canadian Bank.

My opinion about this stuff isn’t really the point of this post though.  Nor is Neil’s, if it comes to that.  It’s all about the ability to speak up and create awareness that a single perspective- in this case, that of Harper’s government- shouldn’t be accepted without reflection and analysis.

Do I concede the point that we live lifestyles that are reliant upon fossil fuels?  I do.  Do I also believe that this is an unfortunate and unsustainable reality?  Yes.  The production of new, cleaner forms of energy has to become a priority, but our current federal government is not on the same opinion page as I am, as far as that goes.  And that, for me, is at the heart of the issue that Neil has brought to the forefront for discussion.

His focus- which is being supported by his current tour- has to do with government violations of First Nations land treaties in the on-going quest for fossil fuels at any cost.  I respect that- and his dedication to a cause that he feels strongly about.  The issues- both environmental and cultural- are myriad and often-complex and all deserve a fair hearing and examination.

Harper’s Conservatives have a pretty singular line of defence/purpose in their approach to the extraction and production of natural resources: the economic bottom line.  They have to push for this straw as a means of maintaining a grasping hold on the idea that Canada has weathered the worldwide financial crisis and is doing just fine, thank you.  Despite a falling Canadian dollar and rise in unemployment numbers.

One of the commentators last evening made the point that the two things- the environment and the economy- needn’t be presented as an inescapable dichotomy- but this is exactly what Harper’s Conservatives are doing.  Oil-at whatever cost- or no economic growth.

Anyway- I didn’t intend for this post to become a political rant (you can find those all over the place today).  I was spurred to write this because I, unlike what’s-her-name-the-Conservative-pundit-from-Evan’s-show-last-night, think that Neil has done veryvery good- leading this charge and creating discussion.  While she would maintain that sure, debate should take place, she questions his methods and means of bringing the issue to the surface (his own version of ‘fracking’, if you will).

I maintain that someone who has earned a voice- through his decades of social commentary and activism- and who is inherently entitled to express that voice- by virtue of his Canadian-ness- has every right to use whatever means he can come up with to present his message to any and all among the electorate that might take the time to listen to him.

Anyone who can shake said electorate out of our apathy/complacency/laziness and make us pay even cursory attention to something important, has my full support.  If even a handful of people- who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered concerning themselves with anything going on out there in those Alberta tar sands- take even a small portion of Neil’s message as a starting point to learn more about the situation?

Bravo, Mr. Young.

It seems that something pretty substantial (read: catastrophic) has to happen these days to get people off their butts and invested in anything other than the Golden Globes or Game of Thrones.  I, personally, applaud anyone willing to do some homework and take a stand on something they believe in strongly- whether they are a scientist, a teacher, a student, a Parliamentary Page, or an enduring and important Canadian musical voice.

Neil Young is not claiming to have all the answers.  He is sounding an alarm asking those who might listen to him to wake the hell up and look into these things a trifle more deeply than they might otherwise be wont to do.  And THEN form an opinion regarding which perspective makes the most sense.  He certainly isn’t expecting- like the Conservatives seem to be- that Canadians will continue to ignore the systemic dismantling of scientific institutions and projects that maintain the environmental standards that allow for the protection of all our natural wonders and the violation of executed treaties with our First Nations all for the furtherance of a politically-expedient economic bottom lineAnd the votes of those in the petroleum industry that might help them retain their somewhat-tenuous hold on the federal government.

This is what we all need to be doing.  Whether our audience is in the millions- like Neil’s- the thousands, or, as in my case, the 398 followers of this here little blog, voicing our concerns about negligence, corruption or tunnel vision among those elected to determine the future of this incredible country of ours is a responsibility of citizenship.  Too many of us have abrogated that responsibility lately.  Neil has not.

That’s why, even if he had never recorded Harvest (a mandated musical staple for Canadian cottage weekends/camping trips) or hung around with those other guys and produced tunes like Helpless and albums like Déjà Vu, he is one of my  heroes.

Never more so than this week.

I’ll leave him with the last words (from his response to what the PMO spokesman had to say about his tour and its mandate):

“As a Canadian citizen, I am concerned that this government is not acting within the advice of science.  When people say one thing and do another, it is hypocrisy. Our Canadian environmental laws don’t  matter if they are broken.”

15 comments on “Sing it, Neil

  1. bethbyrnes says:

    Love Neil Young of course. Have you seen the movie Promised Land, starring Matt Damon? It speaks to this dilemma. I am a staunch environmentalist. We could put windmills and solar panels on our rooftops. The fact that we don’t (or are not allowed to as in my case, per our HOA rules) shows that we think it is someone else’s responsibility to fix this. It isn’t.

    • colemining says:

      Beth: I haven’t seen the movie- will have to check it out. It shouldn’t fall to ‘someone else’- it HAS to be our responsibility. Which is one of the many reasons this current federal government makes me so very angry. They are taking apart the screens that prevent environmental damage/disasters by (among other things) de-funding or completely eradicating scientific institutions and projects that investigate concerns about our natural habitats and resources. All the while promoting our oil producing abilities to the exclusion of anything else.
      Neil is offering yet another ‘warnin’ sign on the road ahead’- and being criticized for doing so because he isn’t an ‘expert’ about these things. This world is making me crazy this week.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Well said! And why is the media framing this debate around “celebrity” and not around the tar sands? We need this discussion — the good, the bad, and the ugly of our oil industry — why aren’t we having it?

    • colemining says:

      Exactly, Booksy! Why should it matter in the least what he does for a living? He is a concerned and engaged CITIZEN who is expressing an opinion- formed through his own investigation and experiences- about a matter that should be of grave concern to ALL OF US. It’s far easier- and more beneficial- for this government to deride those that speak against their policies than to respond to challenges to their power- and power base. Which is HUGE in Alberta.
      You are SO right. We NEED to be talking about this- but this government seems determined to silence even the few voices that can be bothered speaking up against them as they erode those things that contribute to the greatness of this country.
      Thanks for reading!

      • I am naturally inclined to despise the tar sands, and the proposed pipeline, however I understand how much Albertan’s rely on it for their economic well-being. However, I would like to have real debate – not propaganda (such as our government is spending millions on to sell the pipeline in the US). I would like to know if anyone credible thinks we can do this without hurting the environment in the long-run. It’s a sad state of affairs when we are in the dark about such an important issue. Always enjoy your thoughts and writings…

      • colemining says:

        I DO get how vital the oil and gas industry is in portions of the country- Alberta especially (I have a friend- who is originally from Toronto- who moved out there and won’t even TRY to discuss the tar sands/pipeline issue with anyone in her new hometown). But the current government(s) is doing its best to silence those credible voices that speak against their mandate- and THAT is something that CANNOT be allowed to continue. Just realized I’m over-doing it with the capitalization. Please don’t think I’m shouting at you, Booksy. This (and some other stuff I read about this morning- this whole latest ‘Harper-Supreme-Court-Appointee-Thing, for e.g.- which might get turned into a post, assuming I get a grasp on some level of coherence) has my Irish up and is sticking in my craw in a bigbig way right now.

  3. […] wrote yesterday about the ways in which our current government is silencing not only those in the general […]

  4. *Applause*
    Think of Bob Dylan, U2 and I don’t know how many other artists who have contributed through their god-given talents to raising awareness among people who may not otherwise know of political decisions because they have been switched off from or are not interested in.
    It has long been the task of the minstrel and the writer to purvey what others would seek to hide.
    Putting the emphasis on the singer rather than the song is just a ploy by those who do not want information disseminated to the general populace.

    As for fossil fuels and renewable energy, this is something I am giving a deal of thought to at the moment as Scotland begins to look to the possibility of independence from the UK. I was going to go on here but it would get too long winded. I might do a post on it instead. 😉

    Be assured that Neil may have an audience of thousands but, as your other post is entitled, ‘Voices Carry’. Right across the world.x

    • colemining says:

      Indeed- our bards/writers have always been the keepers of our histories and often the first to sound the calls to action when such is required. I’d argue that the fact that so much ‘popular music’ that seems to be trending these days- that stuff that is ear candy and little more- is representative of the reality that those in power would rather not deal with repercussions that stem from the promotion of artists who seek to inform, as well as entertain. But that borders on conspiracy-theorist thinking- and I’d hate to be considered an alarmist…
      Please do write something about the situation in Scotland- I’d love to get your perspective on what is happening elsewhere in the world on that subject. It’s an important one- and has further reaching ramifications than are being addressed in our Canadian media (for the most part).
      Neil’s stand is still making headlines hereabouts- which is all to the good, as far as I’m concerned. If my small tilt at that windmill contributes in any way it’s because there ARE critically engaged people out there in the wide world who are tired of the abuses being perpetrated under our noses. Thank you, again, for your words and support. xo

  5. I’m still perusing all the repercussions of a possible independent Scotland. So few real facts to go on. And I’m also not convinced that it’s not unnecessarily divisive even while I am proud of my national identity. I still feel I have that but it’s probably more cultural than political given our union with the crown.
    There is a huge part of me that doesn’t give a monkeys about nationality if it seeks to be divisive and I prefer a world fellowship. Having said that, I do want some autonomy in the real decision making process. Devolution gave some measure of that. But I don’t trust many of those involved. Same old, same old. I would almost prefer local political ‘small state’ legislature that at least had a clue about what was going on in the lives of the ordinary workers/people. But global politics, decisions and economics sees to the almost impossible nature of that.
    As you mentioned in your ‘Voices Carry’ post a meaningful dialectic at national and global level would be more fruitful if possible. But, those whose voices carry most sense do not necessarily carry most weight or volume. Which is where so many of your posts are beautifully linked.
    You may feel that you run at tangent but I so get that. That’s the way our minds are meant to work. Better than any computer. Developed minds seek truth and enlightenment and answers to meaningful questions. Questions and answers that seek to promote a better world. Whether a shift in perception will ever happen is down to all of us.

    And now, I think I’ll go and write some romantic poetry! Too much politics does my head in eventually. 🙂 x

    • colemining says:

      Yes! Return to the romantic and poetic! Balance is all!
      All things are connected- and the fact that those in positions of power fail to acknowledge that is a large part of the mess that we are in now.
      The ‘independence’ question is a big one (it shows up now and again here in the whole Quebec v. Canada debate) and I look forward to hearing what you have to say about it as you approach ‘decision day’.

  6. denmother says:

    Colemining, I heard Neil’s excellent interview with Jian on Q and thought he held his position well. What’s better is I heard Jian interview someone from “the other side” the next day and this guy had to concede to much of what Neil said, he could only really attack the “extreme” to which Neil presented his side. Personally, I think this is an issue that needs to be taken to the extreme. Good for Neil. I happen to totally agree with him but what do I know, I’m an Ontarian!

    See you at the Cougar Den like-in Feb. 14. Looking forward to smoozin’ with ya.

    • colemining says:

      I know, DM! I heard the same Q(s)- and thought the same thing(s). The guy can hold his own- and ‘extremes’ seem to be necessary when the politicos are determined to strike down all dissenting voices. Thanks for reading- and I’ll see you in the Den! Us Ontarians need to stick together!

  7. […] entertainment’ thing.  Pete taught us that.  People like Neil Young, who I wrote about here, reminded us of that reality recently.  It’s an easy thing to forget- when the throw-away […]

  8. […] said it before.  I’ll likely say it […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s