Monday, May 9, 2016

249. Prince’s passing and problematic priorities

Although I enjoy music and can find it inspiring, emotional, or motivational, I rarely attend concerts.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate them, it was just usually a measure of time and money. I am not much for crowds and have never been the “partier” type.

However, one of the concerts I did attend was Prince, thanks to a friend of mine who was a passionate fan. He shared with me awesome seats, something like 15 rows center. What I remember most about the concert was one of the first things Prince said: If you came to hear songs from “Purple Rain,” you were in the wrong place. He played a lot of his new music, much I did not recognize, but I greatly enjoyed it nonetheless. He was an amazing talent.

“Purple Rain” was one of the few albums I associate with a specific time in my life and one of the few I listened to over and over. Others include Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” of course, as well as the Bee Gees’ “Saturday Night Fever,” Eminem’s “The Eminem Show,” Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill,” and Boyz II Men’s “II.” There are a few others across a wide variety of genres, which would include Garth Brooks, Def Leppard, and Shania Twain. What they all have in common is when I hear their music, I am taken back in time. In high school, it was Prince. In college it was the Beastie Boys. And when I fell in love with my wife, it was Boyz II Men.

I did not pay much attention to Prince’s personal life, I only knew that he was socially active and a vegan — the latter of which of course touches my heart. A PETA blog after his death noted, “A committed vegan who never shied away from speaking the truth, Prince laid out the reasons why animals are not ours to eat in these stirring lyrics from his song “Animal Kingdom”: “No member of the animal kingdom nurses past maturity, no member of the animal kingdom ever did a thing to me. It’s why I don’t eat red meat or white fish, don’t give me no blue cheese. We’re all members of the animal kingdom, leave your brothers and sisters in the sea.”

Through his music, activism, and compassion, Prince impacted many lives across the globe. Artists, especially once-in-a-generation artist, have the ability to do that.

Yet Prince had his detractors, as all socially-active artists do, and while Facebook and Twitter were largely filled with sadness and a recognition of his talents and achievements, there were a few of the typical posts that basically ask why we mourn more about his death than that of American soldiers. After all, they risk their lives to protect our freedoms, while earning a comparatively paltry salary.

Although the timing is callous, it is not an unfair question. It is, however, a slippery slope and if you are bold enough to go there then you better be ready to call everything into question.

I often write in this regard and could fill many pages in a book asking such questions as:

• Why do many CEOs make more than the president?
• Why do athletes and actors make so much more than doctors and nurses?
• Why do we care more about our steak than the dreadful life of factory-farmed cows?
• Why do people care more about a football game than who is running for judge?

In fact, each day I open up my Internet browser and there are probably 100 different headlines. As I scour them, many are met with a roll of my eyes. Why do people care at all about Kate Middleton, let alone Kim Kardashian? Who cares if Michael Strahan quit “Live! with Kelly and Michael” and Kelly Ripa is upset about it. And the fuss people make over what other people say — Charles Barkley said this and Curt Shilling’s wife said that — followed by comments about the comments about what Barkley and Shilling’s wife said. Why do more than 100,000 people gather to watch a horse race, and many more care whether Tiger Woods wins a golf tournament?

Just today there is an article that asks, “Katy Perry Drinks Apple Cider Vinegar; Should You?” Another notes that Prince Harry has massive paranoia about love life. Oh, and the Canadians are upset that Dwayne Wade might have disrespected their national anthem. Why do we care about any of this stuff? It is so trivial and unimportant in our lives. Why do some people, as fans, seem to care more about celebrities than they do their own families?

The point is, I suppose, a matter of perspective and it’s often frustrating for anyone passionate about a good cause, justice, or fair economic and political systems. Sometimes it seems like everything else is a waste of time, money, and resources. In modern times, we are afforded the time and ability to care about things that don’t really matter except our own interests or pleasures.

Whether it matters or not, Prince did impact my life and I am sad about his early passing. His music will always trigger an emotional response.

But it doesn’t mean that I don’t care, appreciate, and admire those who serve our country, or others that truly act to make this world a better place.

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