Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On Missing James Taylor and the War on Drugs

James Taylor and his songs were part of my adolescent years but I do not mind him cancelling his February 25 concert at Manila’s Mall of Asia. I am not used to live musical concerts for I cannot afford it. The five-time Grammy award winner and singer-composer of the classic “Fire and Rain” and rendered Carol King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, cancelled the musical tour saying he finds reports of summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines without judicial proceedings “deeply concerning and unacceptable”. While acknowledging that drug addiction is a worldwide problem that seriously harms society, Taylor criticized the anti-drug campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Well, Taylor, in his teens, was also hooked on heroine but he bounced back in his mid-30s. He once stated:  “A big part of my story is recovery from addiction. One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people.”  James Taylor will never forget his addicted past, “somehow I haven’t died,” he said once.

I have never heard of James Taylor for years until his recent cancellation of his scheduled musical performance here in the country. I am happy that the musician I adore is still alive at 67. I am happy the same way he stood against how the present Anti-Drug Campaign is waged. I am sad that many Filipino artists do not stood the same.

This government does not need James Taylor on the same manner that it does not need Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial summary or arbitrary executions, they may argue. This government cannot be moved by creative artists like James Taylor much more their craft. All they want is to eliminate the drug addicts using foul or fair means.

Barbarism is ignorant of what art could do. It would not understand that the goal of every musician it to connect with his fellow human being in ways that repeatedly surpass time or words. Music, as an art, helps us better understand our world and ourselves, and the eternal quest for knowledge and knowing. This brings us to “Do Not Die Young”, a sad but celebratory song from James Taylor. One of the song’s lines goes this way: “Oh, hold them up, hold them up, never do let them fall prey to the dust and the rust and the ruin that names us and claims us and shames us all.” Isn’t this a good reminder for the government what to do to its young people?

Music cannot tame monsters, movements do…

(Photo: Associated Press)

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