I’ve been a fan of Utah Phillips for several years now. His album, made with Ani DiFranco, called
The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere is one of my all time favorites. He sent Ani 20 years worth of cassette recordings of his rants and speeches while performing, and Ani compiled them, picked out the best parts, and set these spoken word snippets to music. It’s a brilliant collaboration.
I recently came across
An audio letter from Utah Phillips, which is available as mp3s (part one, part two, part three, part four). As explained on the website, “Utah prefers to communicate in the spoken word. The tape was going to be transcribed, but the printed word is a poor representation to the feeling and emotion expressed in this spoken form.” I agree completely with this assessment, however a few transcriptions of some relevant parts are, in my view, in order. Especially since my main goal is to entice some of you to go get the mp3s and take a listen on your own. Here are some snippets from part 3 and part 4:
I’ve always said that the long memory is the most radical idea in America….
So, yes, it’s pretty dire. What we’ve experienced is a corporate takeover of the executive branch of the government. The megacorporations have always tried, through lobbying, through outright bribes, through campaign contributions and so on to control the government. Well now, they’ve sort of staged a coup on the executive branch, and it’s behaving like a corporation. Corporate fascism, we’re in it, we are in it, and we are of it….
Are corporations democratic institutions? Well, of course not. No, they’re not. They’re hierarchical institutions. It’s shut up and do what you’re told institutions. Are corporations anti-democratic institutions? Do they hire companies to help bust the union, do they try to drive the unions out, do they try to get the wages down as far as they can without any benefits? Well, yeah. That’s true….
Fascism is here. It’s not something we worry about coming. Fascism is here. The question is, what are we going to do about it?…
I do know now that these people in Washington are not Republicans and they are not Democrats, they’re a different kind of thing. They’re fascist ideologues. And they’re the most dangerous people the country — and maybe the world — has ever seen. And they’ve got to get out of there, we’ve got to get them out of there….
It is long past time when every progressive organization in the country — from animal rights, to the feminist movement, to peace, anti-nuclear — every progressive force in this country has got to come together, for once, in one united front, we stop hammering on each other, stop confining ourselves to our own gig — “oh that’s not my issue” — no, this is all of our issue, right now, and if we don’t build a united front, and if these Democrats don’t sort themseleves out pretty damn fast, we’re going to marching lockstead into heavy-duty fascism. That’s looking at it from the top down. That’s looking at it from the national news, from The Nation magazine, and of course I get frightened when I do that, I get frightened when I take the world from the top down….
I have to realize that there are too many good people doing too many good things for me to afford the luxury of being pessimistic, so I’m not and I won’t be….
They tell me that those under the crosses in the military cemetaries made the ultimate sacrifice. There is a world of difference between sacrificing, and being sacrificed. Those who lie under those crosses, and those found frozen to death in the street, were sacrificed on the altar of human greed. Those who benefit from that sacrifice, in the workplace, in the field, in the prison, on the battlefield, those who benefit from that sacrifice, have got to understand that the harvest of greed is not wealth but rage. And it can’t go on. It all has to be repaid. It all will be repaid. I am a peaceful man, I am a man of peaceful means because I have to be. I don’t want the world to blow up. But that rage is there, and it builds and builds. And if it is not repaid, those who benefit from these sacrifices are simply going to perish. I don’t know when. There’s no way to predict what time. But I’ll tell you, they fight with money, and we fight with time, and they’re going to run out of money before we run out of time.
OK, enough transcribing. Go get these files and listen.