It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen. And it’s even more amazing how few of us have even noticed. While most people continue to delude themselves that the world is a fundamentally orderly place, their preoccupation with a shallow present permits them to ignore any and all disturbing or irrational denials of self-expression or individual freedom. Their laxness and resigned acceptance of authority and the mundane illustrates the disintegration of personal style and taste and a general lack of self-realisation that is so necessary for true self-expression and freedom of choice. Nobody really cares. They expect to be told what to do and would be lost if they weren’t. They think what they think or like what they like because everybody else does and there’s an almost sick pride in their own apathy.

Denial of self-expression and freedom of choice is the death of the very soul of mankind. Without it, all sense of balance is gone and the scale dips to the side of totalitarian mediocrity. So how do we convince people that free choice is essential for a civilised world and that conscious perception must become a habit of mind?

To be honest, I don’t even know if I know anymore. While Bush and Blair plod on with their war on terror to make the world safe for democracy, America and Israel plot to coerce and destabilise the Palestinians because they don’t like the result of the very democratic process they claim to be striving for – for everyone in the world. Back at home we’re now forbidden to smoke in pubs, have to have the most intrusive and draconian ID card system in the world, and can’t say or write anything that could be construed as glorifying terrorism. What’s next? A two-pint limit on each visit to the pub? A GPS implant to monitor or curtail freedom of movement? A rewriting of our historical stance on freedom-fighting groups like the anti-Vietnam war protests, the ANC, or various Soviet dissidents to go along with our total memory lapse about Israel being founded by terrorists and the fact that many of them are still in government?

According to the dictionary, to ‘glorify’ is to exalt, invest with radiance, transform into something more splendid, invest a common or inferior thing with charm or beauty. It also defines ‘terrorist’ as one who favours or uses terror-inspiring methods of governing or of coercing government or community. Read the papers and listen to the news and then think about that for a minute. Who’s spinning what for whom? Are we guilty of glorification of terrorism now if we go to iTunes and download, say, The Doors (‘they’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers’), or Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers album... or even if we decide to sing something like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ or any of a number of Irish and traditional folk songs in our local pub? Where and when do we draw the line? What happened to ‘sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me’?

Information and disinformation is more readily accessible now then in any other time in history. I’d wager everyone who reads this magazine has a Mac connected to the internet.
If we really want to read between the lines, we should be doing it now while we still can. If Google can block certain search words and sites in order to get a market share in China, how much longer will it be before everything else that the powers that be don’t fancy us knowing about gets erased as well? One possible ray of information hope could lie with the growing interest in podcasting, which allows listeners to choose the programming they want to download from the internet and listen to whenever they want.

Podcasting allows for audio files that would have been previously searched for, downloaded and played on a personal computer to be automatically downloaded and listened to on portable, music-playing devices. The development of the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) file format made podcasting possible and the original intent of RSS was to automatically update blog postings, news headlines and other internet content on local computers. Podcasters anticipate that the overall podcasting audience will continue to swell as the tools to create and subscribe to podcasts become more user-friendly. This means there’s yet another way of disseminating real information and encouraging free thought and free choice… if the right people choose to produce programming and if the rest of us choose to listen to it.

Depending on the content, I suppose this could potentially make the iPod a vehicle for the glorification of terrorism. Or, depending on your point of view, just another attempt to preserve free speech. Politicians have already jumped on the podcasting bandwagon as a way of more personally reaching their constituents.

Perhaps it could be used as a means of expressing alternative views as well. Personally, I’d love to see a podcast of the Penn and Teller programme on the truth behind the anti-smoking lobby’s supposed research, or perhaps a thorough explanation of just how intrusive and Big-Brotherish the new ID card scheme really is... not to mention how much it’s going to cost each of us to be scrutinised so intensely. And how about a few programmes on the historical and political manouverings of the British and Americans in the internal affairs of any number of democratically elected governments throughout the world that just didn’t seem to suit our interests? Maggie’s friend Pinochet and the CIA’s involvement in removing Allende would be an interesting starting point.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. How they are viewed historically depends on who ends up on top. As for freedom of choice and freedom of speech, Hesse called man a “bourgeois compromise” and even the Buddhist scripture tells us that those who refuse to discriminate might as well be dead. Yet each time we bow under the weight of the nanny state’s twistedly perceived status quo, its recognisable norms and the common tastes, we are still consistently and tragically missing the message. As for me, what do I know? But I definitely have the feeling that it’s time to light another cigarette, pick up my guitar and say, as Groucho Marx so aptly put it, “Hello, I must be going...”MW