Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Neil Young's "Honour the Treaties" concert tour (Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary) was designed as a fundraiser for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations legal defence fund and their fight to block oil sands exploitation and the government policies that enable it.
Although Young's criticism of oil sands exploitation is not new (see the above video), his recent comparison of that exploitation to Hiroshima has achieved what he set out to do, and that is bring the issue to the forefront of the popular imaginary, get people thinking about it, talking about it, connecting themselves to the larger conversation.
While many of us laugh at artists who involve themselves in social issues (even artists themselves, if we consider what the creators of South Park's satirical Team America: World Police gave us in their treatment of actors Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon), it is worth noting that artists specialize in analogies, particularly those that appear to some as hyperbolic -- and that the best of them (including our satirists) do not mind erring on the side of what is best about our species.
American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein reminds us again and again that World War Two was a battle over who would lead the world economy, with colonial Britain on the wane. To lead that economy, one would need to control not just the flow of oil but its extraction and refinement. The United States won that war with two unusual drilling platforms -- one of which was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
That the United States government and its corporate string-holders are slowly dropping an even bigger bomb over the oil sands is something we need to think about, talk about, connect ourselves to, if not for our sake than for the sake of those to come. On that note, consider what Young said on CBC radio yesterday, when he expressed concern over a hole so big his grandchildren won't be able to climb their way out of it.