Busted flat in Baton Rouge
Under the headline, Who needs monuments to freedom when you can listen to Me and Bobby McGee instead? Germaine Greer deconstructs a word which shimmers in the imagination, but dies in embodiment.
The art of the 60s counterculture was almost all bad. All the flower children and peaceniks were capable of was a stream of doodlings, recycled William Morris, a little dada, co-opted Kollwitz, and so forth. The dreariness of today’s graffiti continues the tradition of visual illiteracy.
The music was a different matter. Sixties musical culture was as deep as the visual culture was shallow. All the artists you heard of were only the visible parts of an iceberg of submerged musical activity that was going on in every small town across America. Integral to the tradition, whether blues, rhythm’n’blues, bluegrass, country or folk, was protest – and protest is an essential element of freedom. Every dictator will abuse the name of freedom, will erect hideous lumps of masonry and call them Freedom This and Freedom That, or simply rename old monuments, as the King Memorial Tower in Tehran was renamed Freedom Tower. States are authoritarian structures; to call them free is oxymoronic. Freedom cannot be built, but it can be sung.