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THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

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Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013) is a titan of world politics. A conservative heavyweight who effectively championed the conservative ethos in the public sphere and, in doing so, managed to transform her country for the better.

Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13th, 1925 above a green grocer’s store in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Thatcher was an ambitious and driven student who won scholarships to Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ school and Oxford University. After university, Thatcher worked as a chemist but abandoned it to study for the legal bar after meeting her husband Dennis Thatcher (1915 -2003), whom she married in 1954. Thatcher became a fully qualified lawyer that same year. Thatcher became the Conservative member for Finchley in 1959.

During her rise to power, Thatcher was not massively popular. Facing oppositions because of her gender – when she was elected she was one of only twenty-four female Parliamentarians (out of six-hundred members) and, even more unusually, was the mother of twins – and her social class. The Conservative Party had not changed its structure since the 19th century. She was often denounced as the “grocer’s daughter”, one conservative politician even commented that she was “a good-looking woman without doubt, but common as dirt.” In spite of these barriers, Thatcher managed to rise through numerous junior ministerial positions to become the shadow education spokeswoman in 1967. She became the Secretary of State for Education and Science when Edward Heath (1916 – 2005) became Prime Minister in June of 1970. Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1975.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990 and in her time, she changed Britain and helped define the times she lived in. Thatcher became Prime Minister after defeating James Callaghan (1912 – 2005) with a seven percent majority. There were many reasons for the conservative victory, the main ones being economic failure and the lack of union control. Thatcher was seen as aggressive but also as something of a paradox. She was the first scientist in Downing Street and was enthusiastic in pushing Great Britain’s technological innovations forward, but was an anti-counterculture revolutionary who opposed trade unions and the socialism they represented.

During Thatcher’s first term, however, it was the economy that needed the most attention. By the late 1970s inflation in Great Britain had peaked at twenty percent due to rising oil prices and wage-push inflation. The once mighty nation had become known as the ‘sick man of Europe’. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, by 1980/81 Britain was suffering from downward trends in employment and productivity. The great industrial cities were in decline. Glasgow, for example, had seen a decline in its population from 1.2 million following World War One to eight hundred thousand in the early 1980s. In some areas of Glasgow, male unemployment would remain at between sixty and seventy percent throughout the 1980s.  The director of the Department of Applied Economics, Wayne Godfrey, stated on the prospect of the 1980s: “it is a prospect so dreadful I cannot really believe there won’t be a sort of political revolution which will demand a basic change to policy.”

Inflation, particularly cost-push inflation, was seen as the biggest enemy. However, Thatcher knew that tackling inflation would require restricting the flow of money and causing mass job losses. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make. The government had a three-step process for tackling the issue. First, they increased interest rates. Second, they reduced the budget deficit by raising taxes and cutting government spending. Third, they pursued monetarist policies to control the supply of money. Despite great job losses, the economy slowly improved over Thatcher’s first two years in power.

In 1981, however, her policies caused a recession and unemployment peaked at three million. In fact, unemployment would remain a characteristic of the 1980s. Following the recession, Great Britain saw a period of economic growth with inflation dropping below four percent, although unemployment soared to 3.2 million before easing off a little. It is also of note that despite the mass unemployment, average earnings were, in fact, rising twice as fast inflation and those in employment had it better than ever. The Secretary of Transport, David Howell (1936 – ), stated in 1983: “if the conservative revolution has an infantry, it is the self-employed. It is in the growth of the self-employed, spreading out to small family businesses, that the job opportunities of the future are going to come.”  Thatcher’s biggest achievement in her first term, and the one which endeared her most to the British public was the Falklands War. Following the Argentinean surrender in 1982, Thatcher stated: “today has put the great back into Britain.” The Falklands War rekindled the British public’s pride in her navy and in the nation, itself.

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The Conservative Party won the 1983 election by an overwhelming majority. Thatcher had become the uncontested leader and saviour of the Conservative Party. Thatcher used the victory as an opportunity to change the configuration of the Conservative Party and reshape it in her image. She fired Foreign Secretary, Francis Pym (1922 – 2008) and sent the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw (1918 – 1999) to the House of Lords. Having ended the ancien regime, she refilled the front bench with dedicated Thatcherites. Only one old Etonian remained: Lord Chancellor Hailsham (1907 – 2001), who was eighty-five at the time. Thatcher then embarked on a policy of privatisation and deregulation with the intention of decreasing dependency on the government and encouraging personal responsibility.  Critics accused Thatcher of attempting to dismantle the welfare state and refusing to provide a base safety net for those down on their luck.  Unusually for an anti-socialist, Thatcher established the Greater London Council along with six metropolitan councils in an attempt to control local councils from Whitehall.

The conservatives won the 1987 election having lost twenty-one seats, but with a majority of more than one hundred. Thatcher focused on social issues and embarked on a program for social engineering. This was a seven-step process. First, the program actively encouraged women to stay at home and look after their children rather than join the workforce. Second, the program suggested putting the care of the old, unemployed and disabled into the hands of families. Third, the program suggested helping parents set up their own schools. Fourth, the program suggested providing support for schools with a clear, moral base, including religious schools. Fifth, the program suggested creating a voucher system to encourage parents to send their children to private schools. Sixth, the program suggested training children in the management of pocket money and the setting up of savings accounts. Seventh, the program wished to alter the way the public viewed wealth creation so that it would be seen as an admirable pursuit. Thatcher’s tenor as Prime Minister ended when she stood down from cabinet after her party refused to support her in a second round of leadership challenges. She was replaced by John Major (1943 – ).

After leaving office, Thatcher wrote two memoirs: The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). Thatcher was known as many things, including ‘The Last of the Eminent Victorians’, ‘New Britannia’, and, most famously, ‘The Iron Lady’. However, despite her many years in politics and her eleven years as Prime Minister, Thatcher was never a populist. This was probably because of her deep personal convictions which were stronger than her fear of the consequences. Thatcher did, however, demand and receive respect from the public. Satire almost always focused on her husband Dennis rather than on her. It is also worth noting that in her time Thatcher never lost an election. As a politician, Thatcher revolutionised political debate, transformed the Conservative Party, and altered many aspects of British life that had long been deemed permanent. Paul Johnson (1928 – ), a prominent English journalist, stated on Thatcher’s abilities as a politician: “though it is true in Margaret Thatcher’s case, she does have two advantages. She did start quite young. She does possess the most remarkable physical stamina of any politician I’ve come across.” In her time, Thatcher was determined to curb government subsidies to industry and to end the power of the trade unions. She made the trade unions liable for damages if their actions became unlawful and forced the Labour Party to modernise itself. Margaret Thatcher was an impressive and important Prime Minister whose political career and personality helped change Great Britain for the better.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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FATS DOMINO

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This week for our cultural article, we will be celebrating the life of Fats Domino: the legendary New Orleans rock ‘n’ roller who died last Tuesday at the age of eighty-nine.

Fats Domino was born Antoine Dominique Domino, Jr. on February 26th, 1928, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the youngest of Antoine Caliste Domino’s (1879 – 1964) and Marie-Donatille Gros’ (1886 – 1971) eight children. and introduced him to New Orleans’ music scene, which would be a major influence on his later music. Fats’ came from a musical family. At seven-years-old, he was taught to play the piano by his brother-in-law, Harrison Verret (1907 – 1965). Additionally, Verret also introduced Fats to the New Orleans’ music scene, which would become a major influence on his later music.

By the age of ten, Fats was performing as a singer and a pianist. Four years later, he dropped out of school completely to pursue a career in music. To support himself during this time, Fats took on odd jobs – factory work, hauling ice, and so forth. By 1946, Fats had begun playing leading piano with the well-known New Orleans bass player and bandleader, Billy Diamond (1916 – 2011). It was Diamond who gave Domino the nickname, “Fats”. Years later, Diamond would reminisce:

“I knew Fats from hanging out at a grocery store. He reminded me of Fats Waller and Fats Pichon. Those guys were big names and Antoine—that’s what everybody called him then—had just got married and gained weight. I started calling him ‘Fats’ and it stuck.”

Diamond’s audiences were impressed by Fat’s rare talents and by the end of the 1940s the New Orleans’ pianist had attracted a very substantial following. As a musician, Fats was versed in numerous musical styles – blues, boogie-woogie, ragtime – and had drawn inspiration from pianists like Meade Lux Lewis (1895 – 1964) and singers like Louis Jordan (1908 – 1975).

In 1949, Fats met his long-term collaborator, Dave Bartholomew (1920 – ). Around the same time, Fats signed a record contract with Imperial Records. Fats’ first song with the label, The Fat Man (a play on his own nickname), would sell a million copies and reach number two on the Rhythm and Blues Charts.

Fats stood out as a performer due to the combination of his baritone voice, unique piano-playing style, the saxophone rifts of Herbert Hardesty (1925 – 2016), and the drum after-beats of Earl Palmer (1924 – 2008). The release of Ain’t That A Shame in 1955 exposed Fats to the mainstream public and helped make him the most popular African American rock ‘n’ roll artist. His upward trajectory continued with two film performances in 1956: Shake, Rattle and Rock, and the Girl Can’t Help It, and the recording of five top-forty hits, including, My Blue Heaven, and Blueberry Hill (which reached number two).

By the early 1960s, however, Fats music had lost much of its original popularity. In 1963, he moved to ABC-Paramount Records and parted ways with his long-time collaborator, Dave Bartholomew. The arrangement would be short lived with Fats parting ways with ABC-Paramount, returning to New Orleans, and rekindling his professional relationship with Dave Bartholomew in 1965.

Fats and Bartholomew would collaborate until 1970, culminating in the 1968 cover of The Beatles’ Lady Madonna (ironically, a tribute to Fats Domino in and of itself). During this time, Fats failed to experience significant chart success. In 1986, Fats was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of their inaugural lists.

Fats retired from touring following a health scare in Europe in 1995. Outside of the occasional performance at the New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival, he lived a mostly private life with his wife, Rosemary Hall (1930 – 2008), and his eight children. In 1998, Fats accepted a National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton (1946 – ).

Fats refused to leave New Orleans – and abandon his sick wife – during Hurricane Katrina. His home was badly flooded and he lost most of his possessions. He was rescued by the Coast Guard on September First. Following the disaster, Fats released Alive and Kicking and donated a proportion of the sales to the Tipitana Foundation which helped New Orleans’ struggling musicians.

Following the album’s release, Fats retreated back into private life and largely shunned publicity. In 2008, Rosemary Hall, his wife of fifty years, died of chronic illness. Fats joined her on October 26th, 2017, at the age of eighty-nine.

Fats Domino must be credited as a key pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll. Together with Jerry Lee Lewis (1935 – ) and Little Richard (1932 – ), Fats style of piano playing helped define the new genre of music and inspired dozens of future musicians. No wonder The Rolling Stone Record Guide likened him to Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790).

THE NIGHT THEY DROVE OLD DIXIE DOWN

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This week for our cultural article we will be examining The Band‘s 1969 folk-rock song, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

BACKGROUND

Rolling Stone magazine has described The Band as a group that “linked American folklore to primal myths.” They were founded in 1958 when Ronnie Hawkins (1935 – ) formed a backing band that would become known as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. The first future Band member to join would be drummer Levon Helm (1940 – 2012).

Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks toured the American south. This was followed by a tour of Ontario, Canada.  While in Canada, Willard Jones departed and Ronnie Hawkins was forced to hire a new pianist. He found one in Scott Cushnie. However, Cushnie would only agree to join if Hawkin’s hired Robbie Robertson (1943 – ) as well. Reluctantly, Hawkins agreed, and Robertson replaced Jimmy Evans on bass. After a short while, Robertson would be moved to rhythm guitar, playing behind Fred Carter’s (1933 – 2010), and, briefly, Roy Buchanan’s ((1939 – 1988)) lead.

In 1961, Rick Danko (1943 – 1999) joined Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks on bass. This was followed by the arrival of Garth Hudson (1937), a classically trained organ player who could read music.

1959 to 1963 were Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks glory years. Hawkins himself even sported a quasi-Elvis like quality. However, he was also quickly becoming the odd man out in the group. By the summer of 1963, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks had parted ways.

Following Hawkin’s departure, The Hawks selected Levon Helm to be their frontman and renamed themselves, alternatively, Levon and the Hawks, and Canadian Squires.

It was their work as Bob Dylan’s (1941 – ) backing band that first brought The Band to attention. The group had first been introduced to Dylan by blues singer, John Hammond, Jr. (1942 – ). Initially, Dylan only hired Helm and Robertson but was quickly encouraged to hire the rest of the group, as well.

With Dylan, The Band was forced to reconcile themselves with a new kind of music and a new type of audience. With Ronnie Hawkins, they had played as a tightly formed musical unit playing rhythm and blues-based rock. Their chief influences were the music put out by Chess Records in Chicago and Sun Records in Memphis. Most of their audiences were interested in having a good time. With Dylan, on the other hand, they were forced to adapt to electric adaptations of folk songs to audiences who seemed determined to reject them, if only on principle.

In October of 1967, the group had been writing their own songs. They were signed to Capitol Records and adopted the name, The Band. Their first album was 1968’s, Music From Big Pink. Their first album, 1968’s Music From Big Pink, managed to gain a mystique similar to albums like Beggar’s Banquet (1968) and Abbey Road (1969).

Between 1969 and 1975, The Band enjoyed great influence and popularity. They followed their first album with 1969’s The Band. This was followed by Stage Fright in 1970. Later that year, The Band would tour with Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970) and The Grateful Dead on the Festival Express Canadian concert tour.

Unfortunately, cracks were already beginning to appear with The Band‘s framework. Robbie Robertson was exerting greater control of the group. Helm argued that Robertson was being authoritarian and greedy, but Robertson justified himself by arguing that Helm, Danko, and Richard Manuel’s (1943 – 1986) heroin usage were making them increasingly more unreliable. Despite their troubles, The Band released Cahoots in 1971. This was followed by the live album Rock of Ages. In 1973, The Band released Moondog Matinee.

On November 25th, 1976, The Band gave their final farewell performance. The concert, which would later be dubbed The Last Waltz, would feature guests Joni Mitchell (1943 – ), Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters (1913 – 1983), Dr. John (1940 – ), Van Morrison (1945 – ), Ringo Starr (1940 – ), Eric Clapton (1945 – ), Ronnie Wood (1947 – ), Bobby Charles (1938 – 2010), Neil Diamond (1941 – ),  and Paul Butterfield (1942 – 1987).

The Band released their final album, Islands, in 1977 and disbanded later that year.

LYRICS

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Virgil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville train
‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell,
It’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the bells were ringing.
The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the people were singing,
They went, “La, la, la”

Back with my wife in Tennessee,
When one day she called to me:
“Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E.Lee.”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good.
You take what ya need and you leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the very best.

The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the bells were ringing.
The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the people were singing,
They went, “La, la, la”

Like my father before me, I will work the land.
And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave.
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat

The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the bells were ringing.
The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the people were singing,
They went, “La, la, la”

The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the bells were ringing.
The night they drove old Dixie down,
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

INTERPRETATION

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The story of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down begins in August of 1968 when Robbie Robertson was inspired to write a song about the “beautiful sadness” of the South. The finished song would appear on The Band‘s self-titled second album: a concept album that used people, places, and traditions within Americana as musical themes.

The song is set to the backdrop of the American Civil War (1861 – 1865). In his book, American Oracle, historian David Blight (1949 – ), explained how the Civil War helped define the United States’ self-conception:

“For reasons explored in this work and elsewhere, the American Civil War has been forever an event that for reasons explored in this work and elsewhere, the American Civil War has been forever an event that fiercely resists popular consensus about its causes and consequences; despite voluminous research and overwhelming scrutiny, it remains the mythic national epic. As a broad culture, Americans seem incapable of completely shucking this event from its protective shells of sentimentalism, romance,  and pathos in order to see to its heart of tragedy. It might be argued that this is rightly so with national epics—they should or can never be utterly deromanticized. Or it might be argued that such epics are also dangerous to national self-understanding, to a healthy, informed confrontation with the meaning of the most important elements of our past, and therefore the imperatives of the present.  Modern nations are and always have been built upon their narratives of origin and development, and in this case, of destruction and rebirth. This study of the Civil War’s literary and intellectual history,  as well as its popular memory, engages the compelling question of how the United States, to an important degree, is the stories it tells itself about its Civil War and its enduring aftermath.”

This setting, of course, is a large part of the song’s appeal. Music journalist, Greil Marcus (1945 – ) wrote in his book, Mystery Train, that The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down had less to do with the Civil War itself and more to do with “the way each American carries a version of that event within himself.” Marcus went on to write:

“It is hard for me to comprehend how any Northerner, raised on a very different war than Virgil Kane’s,  could listen to this song without finding himself changed. You can’t get out from under the singer’s  truth—not the whole truth, but his truth—and the little autobiography closes the gap between us.  The performance leaves behind a feeling that for all our oppositions, every American still shares this old event; because to this day none of us has escaped its impact, what we share is an ability to respond to a story like this one.

Similarly, Rolling Stone‘s Ralph J. Gleason  (1917 – 1975) wrote that the song echoed Robert Penn Warren’s (1905 – 1989) sentiment of the Civil War as “history lived in our national imagination”:

“Nothing I have read … has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does.  The only thing I can relate it to at all is The Red Badge of Courage. It’s a remarkable song, the  rhythmic structure, the voice of Levon and the bass line with the drum accents and then the heavy  close harmony of Levon, Richard and Rick in the theme, make it seem impossible that this isn’t some  traditional material handed down from father to son straight from that winter of 1865 to today. It has  that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity.”

The Band‘s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down demonstrates how music and words can be used to give meaning and depth to a nation’s historical experiences.

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO TREAT DIVORCE AND FATHERLESSNESS AS THE ISSUE IT REALLY IS?

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Since the sexual revolution, society’s attitudes towards sex and the family have been shifting more and more to the left. Today’s sexual philosophy has its roots in the prevailing social forces of the 1960s and 1970s. These forces have challenged the traditional institutions of monogamous marriage and the traditional family, seeking to replace them with their own utopian values.

The introduction of No Fault Divorce in America in 1970 signalled the most immediate sign of the cultural shift. Previously, people got married young and stayed married. Divorce was a social taboo. Shifting cultural philosophies and changing laws have altered this reality. Conservative commentator and Daily Wire editor, Ben Shapiro, blames the rise of divorce on a lack of religious fervour among young people, and the existence of a ‘divorce culture’ which celebrates serial monogamy and single parenthood.

A natural consequence of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional household has been the rise of the single parent family. In the past children were born within the confines of marriage. This is no longer the case, as statistical comparisons reveal: in 2015, 40.2% of live births were to unwed mothers, compared to only 5.30% in 1960. Similarly, in the United Kingdom in 2013, 46.5% of children were born to unwed mothers, compared to 11% in 1979. In 2014, a Pew Research poll found that fewer than half of American kids lived in a home with their mother and father, compared to sixty-one percent in 1980, and seventy-three percent in 1960. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, it is believed that a quarter of all families are single parent families.

Of course, single parent families are never going to be a concern for the left. The traditional family represents an obstacle to the vision of socialist utopia the left holds so dear because individuals care more about their own families than they do about the wider community. Furthermore, it is much more difficult for the state to control a woman who has the financial, social, and emotional support of a loving husband. As Ben Shapiro notes: “the left is never going to recognise that broken families are a problem because it is one of the goals of the left to break families. Historically speaking, if you read [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels [authors of the Communist Manifesto], they do not like the traditional family, they think that the traditional family is a bulwark against an overarching, brutal state.”

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A further manifestation of the decline of monogamous marriage and the traditional family has been the increase in fatherless children. Fathers today have been relegated to the role of ‘accessory parent.’ We no longer recognise the spiritual and psychological influence fathers have on their children. As a consequence, fathers are considered people children spend time with on designated visitation days rather than a permanent and necessary influence in their lives. The consequences of this attitude have been disastrous.

Psychologically, children from single parent and fatherless families are more likely to suffer cognitive, social, and emotional problems and are more likely to be emotionally, physically, or sexually abused. Fatherless children often struggle with their emotions and suffer episodic bouts of self-loathing along with a diminished sense of self and a lack of emotional and physical security. Many fatherless children have reported feeling abandoned because their fathers were not in their lives. No wonder drug and alcohol use and rates of incarceration soar in children whose fathers are absent.

Fatherless children also suffer socially: not only in the wider community but in their personal relationships as well. Children are often left to fend for themselves because their sole parent and breadwinner is away from home. This has several consequences: it forces the child to take on adult roles prematurely. Older siblings are expected to take care of younger siblings, and younger siblings are expected to learn from their older siblings. Young boys often feel the need to assert themselves and take on the role of the “man of the house” causing power struggles between himself and his mother. Girls often feel more maternal earlier in life (especially when they’ve been tasked with looking after younger siblings). As adults, these children struggle to maintain long-term relationships and, in a cruel twist of fate, are more likely to end up divorced or as single parents themselves. Both men and women are more likely to engage in promiscuous behaviour. A natural consequence of this is an increased risk of pregnancy in teenage girls. Often they struggle to raise their own children because they do not have two parents upon which to base their parenting style. In the wider scheme of things, fatherless children are more likely to struggle at school and drop out.

Economically, they are significantly more likely to suffer economic disadvantage and, in extreme cases, outright poverty (including homelessness). As a result, many of these children live in poorer neighbourhoods, struggle to have their basic needs met, and are disadvantaged in school. As adults, fatherless children are four times more likely to experience long-term unemployment, remain welfare dependent, and have low incomes.

It should be clear that our current relationship system is not working. We must destroy the cancerous influences of feminism and Marxism in the social sphere. We must use cultural means – media, TV shows, movies, novels, magazines, etc. – to properly educate the masses about relationships and sex. On the legal and political front, divorce must be made harder to obtain. No Fault divorce, a cancerous law, must be replaced with a system of Fault Divorce which is fair to both men and women, and which dignifies and upholds the integrity of the institution of marriage.