I’ve been thinking about the Dixie Chicks a bit lately, anticipating their first new music since 2006, and that line from one of the songs on their last album has been chiming with me during this shutdown.
The Dixies had been through a torrid time, following comments made about the Iraq war and George Bush, the sentiment being, “Not my President.” Which I think a lot more people recognise at the moment than even then. So there were radio station boycotts, death threats, property damage etc. And they recorded a defiant record with a defiant song, “Not Ready to Make Nice”:
I know you said
Why can’t you just get over it?
It turned my whole world around
And I kinda like it
And then they kind of did what their detractors wanted: they stopped recording, put the group on hiatus, and disappeared from the airwaves, along with most other female artists, it has to be said. There’s an argument to be made that the lack of airplay for women on Country radio dates back to the Dixie Chicks incident.
But now they’re about to be back, first single already out, and I’ve been thinking about that line in connection with the pandemic.
First of all, I am not delighted that, as of this writing, 51,400 people have died. I’m contrarian enough, however, to be more disturbed than otherwise by the Thursday night “two-minute clap” for the NHS, which is Orwellian in its undertones and its forgetfulness. We have aways been at war with East Asia, and we have always supported the NHS, even when we were voting Conservative at successive elections, and even as US private healthcare companies were hungrily eyeing these islands in anticipation of Brexit.
And then I read this short chat with SF writer Ted Chiang (who wrote the short story the movie Arrival was based upon), in which he explained some comments he’d made on a panel:
I said that traditional “good vs. evil” stories follow a certain pattern: the world starts out as a good place, evil intrudes, good defeats evil, and the world goes back to being a good place. These stories are all about restoring the status quo, so they are implicitly conservative. Real science fiction stories follow a different pattern: the world starts out as a familiar place, a new discovery or invention disrupts everything, and the world is forever changed. These stories show the status quo being overturned, so they are implicitly progressive.
Yes, I thought. The reason I’m okay with this situation is that I can feel the status quo being overturned. Sure, there will be Herculean efforts to turn it back, but it will probably never be quite the same. Sometimes, as a leftie, you have to understand that some people will have to be really confronted with consequences before they understand what they just voted for. Right? You see people voting to protect the status quo, because they are doing okay, and you realise that the only thing that will make them empathise with the suffering of others is for them to be forced into suffering themselves.
I said the other day that one thing this pandemic has revealed quite starkly is who the sociopaths are. This is the hardcore group of people for whom empathy will never happen. But everyone else? Their lives are being touched. So maybe, just maybe, there will be some progress.