Chorus and Verse
Larry Kirwan
Chorus and Verse Blog
Posted: June 5, 2012 10:58 pm (-05:00)
Larry Kirwan
Musician/Novelist/Activist - Leader of Black 47
Individual Versus Community

The Republican primary debates have been an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the soul of America or, some might argue, the lack thereof.

The topsy-turvy nature of the race demonstrates that democracy is alive; though, with the unbridled spending now allowed by Political Action Committees, it may be less than kicking.

And yet it wasn't until President Obama's State of the Union speech coincided with the debates in Florida that we were able to clearly identify the two contrasting fountainheads of American political life the individual and community.

For sure, one can't survive without the other but the degree of emphasis placed on either defines an era and its people.

The Gaelic clan system favored community and both saved and nourished the Irish when they landed on the often hostile shores of North America.

Forget about the melting pot! The Irish clung together in their neighborhoods, voted for their own and within a couple of generations were running the great cities of the Eastern seaboard.

Eventually they left for the suburbs, loosened their ironclad Democratic affiliation and began to take sides in the great battle between individual and community that's been fought since the birth of this republic.

The real problem in the US right now is not that we differ on the proper balance between the individual and community but that we are unable to conduct a dialogue on the matter.

We have allowed ourselves to be railroaded by political partisanship. For me, the alarm bells sounded with the refusal of both parties to deal with the suggestions made by the Bowles-Simpson National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility Reform.

God knows the committee's report was far from perfect but it could have served as a platform for debate.

It would have meant Republicans swallowing increased taxes, reduced defense spending, and the possibility of legislative success for President Obama. Democrats, for their part, would have had to antagonize unions by cutting both the federal workforce along with entitlements, and raising the Social Security retirement age.

Unsurprisingly, neither side had the stomach for confronting their bases with a presidential election in the offing.

But it's the sheer inability to even have a discussion that's frightening. Depending on one's political point of view, society has little other function but to deliver profit - or the US is fast becoming a European style welfare state.

All that being said, whether you favor the Tea Party, the Occupy Wall Street Movement - or curse the day you heard of both - there is an important question that begs asking: does our present corporate system bear any responsibility to the nation's citizens?

In other words, if more bucks are to be made overseas is that where US factories should be built?

Apple claims that it set up its manufacturing plants in China because there are not enough trained engineers available in the US. If that's the case then why shouldn't Apple spend some of its vast profits paying for US citizens to attain engineering degrees?

To balance that form of community-minded thinking, I have a friend an unabashed member of the 1% - who feels that young people should be encouraged to save and invest for their own medical care and retirement, that they would do a far better job than any government.

By the way, this citizen is by no means heartless and feels that the government should operate welfare programs for the poor and those unable to look after themselves.

However, he considers the mere idea of Apple having any responsibility to the American public to be Soviet claptrap.

And yet with social mobility at its most static in generations and financial inequality growing by the minute the current national balance between the individual and community is obviously off-kilter.

When full employment returns as it will someday lower paid service jobs will have replaced many manufacturing and white-collar positions leading to increased social tension and inequity.

Isn't it about time we stepped back and took a look at the forest rather than bumping our heads off partisan trees; we might discover a way out of the morass we are surely heading into.

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan is the leader, singer/guitarist and composer for the Irish-American rock band Black 47. Black 47 has released thirteen CDs for both major and independent labels. The band has appeared on Leno, Letterman and O'Brien and been profiled in most major magazines and newspapers in the US. Their album, Trouble in the Land, was recently voted the "top album of the decade" by readers of Bankers and Gangsters, Black 47's latest CD, was released in March 2010 by UFO Music.

Kirwan has also recorded Kilroy Was Here and Keltic Kids as solo efforts.

He has written twelve plays and musicals, five of which are collected in the book Mad Angels. Liverpool Fantasy, his best-known play, has been produced Off-Broadway and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He has also written a novel version of Liverpool Fantasy (translated into Japanese, Spanish and Greek), a memoir - Green Suede Shoes - and Livin' in America, a collection of songs and stories. Rockin' The Bronx, his latest novel, was recently published in the US and UK/Ireland.

Kirwan hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo.

A political activist, he has long been involved in Irish and American causes.

He is currently working on a new novel about the aftermath of 9/11 and a musical with Thomas Keneally of Schindler's List fame.

Connect with Larry Kirwan on:
Black 47 Official Website Black 47 Official Website
Black 47 on Facebook Black 47 on Facebook
Black 47 on Twitter Black 47 on Twitter
©2012, Chorus and Verse
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