Us + Them
“Those who tell you ‘Do not put too much politics in your art’ are not being honest,”Chinua Achebe observed in his superb forgotten conversation with James Baldwin. “If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is… What they are saying is don’t upset the system.”
… Maria Popova in the ever excellent Brain Pickings.
Guernica - Picasso - 1937
On the 2nd and 6th of October you can go see The Roger Waters’ movie ‘Us + Them’ in ‘selected’ theaters. The film was made over three nights in Amsterdam on the tour of the same name. Meanwhile. ‘Us and Them’ is the longest track on ‘Dark Side of The Moon’, Rick Wright writing the music 50 years ago this year. Waters adding the lyrics 4 years later.
So what’s all this to do with People First?
Us … and them …
And after all, we're only ordinary men …
From the beginning of People First, I have worked hard to avoid the politics of ‘People First’, preferring to stay focussed on ‘The Business Equation’. But life isn’t like that. You can’t keep issues in tidy buckets. All issues, be they political, commercial, cultural … affect issues of conflict, culture, business, politics …
Roger Waters was always the edgy, angry one. Not just in The Floyd - in the Music Industry as a whole. So I don’t expect the film’s subject matter to be a surprise. Indeed, here’s an idea of what I suspect we’re in for …
It’s not from the film, but is from the same tour.
The message and politics of the original song still holds, though the lyrics are driven in a different direction. For example, most people in the USA would have had no clue who Mary Whitehouse was 45 years ago. There’s even less chance now. But we all know what ‘The Whitehouse’ is and should stand for.
Spoiler alert … the ‘Us + Them’ Tour includes a lot of anti-Trump imagery. In New Orleans some concert goers booed or even walked out of the show. They did the same at ‘Oldchella’ in 2016. Waters also lost sponsors such as American Express, who refused to have their company associated with his shows in the U.S. because of his Palestinian stance. (Pulled out or refused to bid? Who knows - I have read articles that support both narratives.)
I don’t seek to support Waters’ position one way or the other, but rather to highlight
The overlap of art, culture, business, conflict and politics is inevitable.
While it is possible to learn everything about business from the Grateful Dead, Roger can also provide important lessons about success in life.
Let me explain …
In November ‘76, the Sex Pistols firmly established themselves in Britain with their first single ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ By all accounts they ‘launched’ the Punk music scene, Johnny Rotten famously writing off ‘pretentious bands like Pink Floyd’. In fact Rotten wearing that famous T-Shirt that read "I Hate Pink Floyd" is what caused Malcolm McLaren to notice him to begin with and invite him to join the Sex Pistols.
But did he really hate them? After all Chris Thomas (the mix engineer on Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon) produced ‘Anarchy in the UK’ - the Sex Pistols’ first single. Years later Lyndon went on record saying that he actually loved (and loves) ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ saying in this interview;
“Listen, you’d have to be daft as a brush to say you didn’t like Pink Floyd.”
But ‘back then’ it was ‘Pink Floyd being pretentious … acting … performing … hiding themselves’. Really?
Fast forward two months after the release of ‘Anarchy’ and Pink Floyd’s album ‘Animals’ is released in January 1977. I will say nothing other than to quote Brent Ables who on 6 August 2013 wrote;
If punk is a style, then punk is absolutely and irrevocably dead and buried. If, on the other hand, punk is an ethos, then our perception of this moment in history changes.
Animals is, by some distance, the most venomous, bleak, cutting, ruthless lyrical document released by a major rock band in the 1970s (unleashing) a furious condemnation of you, your family, your boss, your lover, and the depths of your corrupted festering soul. No one is safe.
Question their (Pink Floyd’s) punk cred if you want; all I know is that now, thirty-five years later, while Roger Waters goes before the United Nations in defense of Palestinian rights, Johnny Rotten is growing fat from VH1 reality shows and butter commercials.
Love or hate him. Love or hate his music. Whether you are with his ideas or against them, nobody can argue that he has always been vocal in his criticism of things that seemed wrong to him, has never been afraid to take a stand or to state his position and is consistent. His attitude is that if people walk away .. so be it. Nothing’s changed in 50 years!
“I’ve only ever written about one thing in my life, which is the fact that we as human beings have a responsibility to one another.”
‘Hats off to Rog’ - if you ‘ll pardon the pun. A career directed by ‘passion’ and culminating in ‘purpose’.
And if ‘purpose’ and ‘passion’ aren’t enough to connect the subject matter of this Newsletter to People First, let me end with a People First tenet …
You might notice that the original song was called ‘Us and Them’, while the tour and film is called ‘Us + Them’.
It’s not a mistake. It’s a subtle modification. The original ‘and’ was not necessarily inclusive. It was highlighting one or the other. The power of ‘+’ sign is additive. It drives home the idea of being united. Together.
It’s a small and very important detail. It’s language.
Many Thanks For Your Attention. Please do share through your social channels of choice and forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey And thank you to the new readers that are regularly joining us. I appreciate all of your support.