Tuesday Muse

Agony, Art, and Apple

It is a cliché that artists are among the last-ditch truthtellers in a society. It is also true. These days, for example, as corporate journalists become less willing and less able to contradict the ruling script of American life (e.g., there is no alternative to 21st-century monopoly capitalism as a way of running our country or organizing the world), it is increasingly the artists who help break the actual news about what is wrong and what change is possible.

Who is passionately exposing lies and delusions on the part of both the Obama corporatists and the dog-whistle right? Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — comedians, for God’s sake. Who wrote a famous open letter to Laura Bush declining her dinner invitation with the explanation that Ms. Bush had chosen to live in quiet harmony with a murderous and criminal regime? Internationally-celebrated poet Sharon Olds. And who, now, is sending chills down corporate and consumer spines with his little one-man show about the people who actually make your iPhone? An overweight, nervy actor and monologist named Mike Daisey, whose theatrical monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” brought audiences the story of Chinese workers leaping to their deaths from factory complex roofs to escape a wretched life in service to Apple. The New York Times and other corporate media have since picked up pieces of the story of how the electronics industry runs horrifically dangerous, hellishly abusive, city-sized factories. But it was a solo guy with a touring one-man show who told it.

It’s one more reason why artists should have way more societal stature: they are among our default sources of truth when the official tellers choose to shut up. Read on Daisey’s blog how Apple is now acting very, very afraid of these revelations. And listen here to an edited live performance of Daisey’s monologue aired on the radio show This American Life.

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Bruce A Jacobs

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  • American musician Tao Seeger speaks to Ahram Online on music and its important role in revolutions over the course of history, following his performance on the night of the Egyptian Revolution’s first anniversary last month

    Farah Montasser, Tuesday 14 Feb 2012

    Tao Seeger performing with grandfather Pete Seeger (right)
    American musician Tao Seeger speaks to Ahram Online on music and its role combating oppression after his New Orleans concert marking one day of Egypt’s revolution

    “Music and art have always played a critical role in revolutions,” Tao Seeger tells Ahram Online. “When governments crack down on freedom of speech of the media, the only ones who can speak truth to power are artists with the ear of the people…We see examples of this from Shakespeare to Bob Dylan,” he explains.

    Tao Seeger performed at the People is Singular event in New Orleans, marking one year of the Egyptian revolution, and launching a book of poetry by the same name by Andy Young. A number of artists took part in the cultural multimedia event, with Seeger contributing with what he knows best: protest music.

    “I have been singing songs of protest all my life,” Seeger says recalling his grandfather Pete Seeger, an iconic protest singer and Seeger’s mentor. “Both of my grandparents played a big part in the civil rights movement in America,” he says.


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