Love Letter to Bruce Cockburn [re-post]
[Bruce Cockburn is a Canadian rock musician, perhaps most famous for his songs “If i had a rocket launcher” and “If a Tree Falls”. He makes consistantly some of the best political music i have ever heard. He also is a patron of the Friends of the Earth International Network, and on a trip to perform in Amsterdam, i got a chance to meet him. This was my letter of introduction.]
We will meet on Saturday for lunch with a few of the other Friends of
the Earth folx, so i thought i would send this letter as a kind of
introduction. I hope you find it worth your time.
It was twelve summers and a thousand years ago, i was living in Santa
Cruz California, in the shadow of the Silicon Valley, running a small
software company making more money than one person can usefully use.
And then i met them.
They were the radicals, the heretics. People who talked about
“revolution” not as an abstract concept, but as something they were
personally dedicated to. They were active, optimistic and inspiring.
With both vision and dreams, they crafted wonderful rituals and built
intricate community. They had the most playful parties and intense
intimacies. And they had the music, your music.
I became one of them. Within a year my life completely changed. I
sold my part of the company and started working with a collective. I
moved into an eclectic group house and got involved in political
work. I fell in love with a witch. And i started listening to the
We were the lovers in a dangerous time. Friends returned from
support work in Nicaragua and reported that it was, in fact, the best
of what we were. We felt the rage that drove some to rocket
launchers, but knew there was a better way. I remember smiling when
i first read the words to “Democracy” in which you some how managed
to get the phrase “idolatry of ideology” within a couple of lines of
“you don’t really give a flying fuck”. I still cry when i listen to
I have hitchhiked on sailboats across the Pacific since then,
smuggled monks out of Tibet, danced upon Russian tanks, worked with
windmills and in war zones and been arrested for non-violent actions
in countless cities on three continents. Your music has been there
the whole time, playing on cheap tape decks through long nights of
organizing and partying in Berlin and Bratislava, Sydney and San
Francisco, Kiev and Kathmandu. Inspiring me and the incredible
collection of activists i have been lucky enuf to cross paths with –
keeping us kicking at the darkness, waiting for it to bleed daylight.
I don’t measure our success in the number of progressive pieces of
legislation passed or nuclear reactors stopped or other campaigns won
– tho there have been a gratifying few. For me personally, it is
about the lives changed, about the people who because of our work see
the world differently and are now working for the many, rather than
just for themselves. If you look at things the same way, then you
can take partial credit for one more success – me.
Paxus in Budapest
15 Early Spring 97