Friday 29 April 2022 – The Monocle Minute | Monocle:
The case for compulsory voting:
Almost 30 per cent of the French electorate declined to vote last weekend, while a projected 90 per cent of voters will turn out for Australia’s federal elections later this year. The difference is compulsory voting.
In Australia your failure to vote results in a $55 fine. Failure to pay that fine within 28 days results in the fine going up to $120. I think compulsory voting may work but wonder whether Americans would prefer a different method. What if voters received a payment for voting, or a tax deduction?
I was thinking about large scale public works and whether they would get off the ground in today’s political and cultural climate. The public library system, NASA, or public health initiatives like iodine in salt and fluoride in the water, or even mandatory smallpox or cholera vaccinations. Why? What has changed? If social media had been around in the Seventies, would there be a public platform now? Would social media be like public roads or a postal system?
It’s been very interesting to watch how people react to the pandemic in general and to mask-wearing in particular. This year has shown us a lot about people. There is the amazing and selfless care that so many nurses and doctors continue to give. Too many of them pay for that with their lives. There is also the careless and egotistical behavior of those who endanger others on purpose.
We don’t wear a mask only to protect ourselves; we also wear it to protect others, in case we are unaware of being infected. People in Asia have been doing this for decades. If you’ve ever visited Japan or Hong Kong, you will have noticed people wearing masks in public, especially on crowded trains. Most of these mask-wearers either have a cold or another infection and wear the mask so that they don’t spread their illness.
Somehow we have allowed people to hold the belief that wearing a mask is equivalent to being afraid. Wearing a mask whenever I go outside does not mean I fear the virus; it means that I want to protect you as much as myself. I also want to protect some of the people closest to me, one of whom has diabetes and another, asthma. If I myself get the virus don’t bother with ventilation…just give me morphine until I die and then throw me in a dumpster. It’s not me that I am worried about.
Experts continue to tell us that if everyone were to wear a mask in public the virus would be gone within five to eight weeks. Just imagine… the pandemic could have been over months ago if everyone had actually done this!
The other day, I was grocery shopping when I saw a young man approach the store without a mask. A person working for the store, counting the people entering the store and checking for masks, asked the guy whether he had a mask. He pulled a bandana over his mouth and nose and was let into the store. Immediately upon entering he removed the bandana and started walking up and down the aisles of the store at a fast pace, mumbling to himself. The young man appeared to be homeless. He continued to run-walk around the store mumbling threats. Eventually, I saw him escorted from the store by a security guard.
I realized that what I was witnessing was an act of bullying. This person, most likely homeless, probably feeling powerless, entered a store that required the wearing of masks and proceeded to run around without a mask, talking and spreading potentially infectious droplets of his saliva.
This pandemic is offering bullies a golden opportunity through which they can flaunt their disdain for masks and watch people shy away from them. The sense of power! I am fearless! No, perhaps you are stupid, you act like a bully, and you are endangering yourself and others… all in order to give yourself a little jolt of power.
I think bullies have always been around, but they didn’t have the massive opportunities they have right now. Yelling at people who speak a different language, beating up a Japanese musician in the subway in Manhattan because he looked Chinese, marching around with weapons, not wearing masks… it’s a golden age for bullies.
My thoughts return to the homeless man in the grocery store. Bullies tend to be people who feel powerless. One aspect of bullying is called Radfahren in German. I don’t know whether the expression is used all over the country but I have often heard it used in Köln. The word literally means bicycling. This particular meaning derives from the position of the cyclist in the saddle kicking down into the pedals. Radfahrer bend their backs to receive the kicks from people or institutions above them and in turn they kick down to someone they perceive as less powerful than themselves. And perhaps this is what we are really learning now. Too many people feel helpless, powerless, uncertain, and not in control of their lives, and some of them derive a false sense of power from bullying others.
Our world is evolving rapidly and not everyone can keep up with the changes. People feel left behind, excluded and ignored. Inclusivity also means including the bullies and, perhaps in time, they will cease to be bullies. Bullies, like racists, aren’t born; they are created by society.
This little video on Instagram came to my attention. Ukulele and oud playing 2 the Night. I think it’s a nice combination!
Without the listener there is no music. The listener completes the musical circuit, and, even though I am not a musician, I feel as if I am a form of musician when I listen and believe that, by hearing the piece, by responding to it with my thoughts of what it is and what it is doing – what it means – I am actually helping to finish it off. As the listener I am the final element in the making of the music. I have made the music useful. I have put it into context: the context of my own life, and my own perception of what music is, and why it exists.
– Paul Morley, Words and Music: a history of pop in the shape of a city
I do not think that music has to have a listener aside from the person or persons making the music, and I don’t believe that music has to be useful, but I like the above description of the listener completing a circle.
We could say the same about a reader who, by imagining the people and the landscapes described in a book, makes words come to life and thus completes the circle.
See also this, which I wrote about twenty years ago for Musician magazine.
How to produce a sound, draw a melody from the strings, is a constant question. You can hold a guitar comfortably, which may choke the sound a little, or you can hold it a little less comfortably and produce a finer tone. Somewhere in between those two extremes lies the perfect way to hold your instrument.
In Flamenco, when the guitar was mainly accompanying singers or dancers and when volume was an important concern in the days before amplification, people often balanced the bottom of the guitar on their right leg. The advantage of this position is that the guitar is loud and sings. Unfortunately the guitar isn’t very stable in this position and has to be held up by the left hand, which is not free to move about the neck.
In the last fifty years most guitarists favor this position: cross your right leg over your left leg. Rest the cut-out of the Flamenco guitar on your right thigh. Lean over so that your body is collapsing on the guitar to a degree. This will put your right hand in a good position to strum the strings and your left hand in a great position to play the neck.
Actually, I haven’t done that during concerts for a couple of years. I have been using a footstool, but while classical guitarists put their left foot on the stool and rest the guitar on their left thigh, I put my right foot on the stool and the guitar ends up in the same position as if I were to cross my right leg over my left leg.
The trick, then, lies is finding a balance between holding the guitar securely and thus enabling both of your hands to move freely, and holding the guitar lightly, so that the instrument isn’t choked and can sing. Similar to many relationships, isn’t it? Hold your lover tightly and set them free – at the same time. How do you do that? With care.
Don’t forget to practice.