Bookworm

Eurocentrism at its finest

Often I feel guilty and bad about myself just because I am a white American of European descent. As if it weren't bad enough that I obediently pay taxes that support government policies I think are evil, a few years ago I made the mistake of reading A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present, by Howard Zinn. I used to comfort myself with the fact that my early American ancestors (my mom's family goes wa-a-a-a-ay back) could not have been slave owners because they only lived in the north. But flip through the Zinn book and you'll find that those northerners were every bit as awful as those in the slave states. Only instead of oppressing the black slaves, they oppressed the native Americans . . . and each other. And unlike the evil southern white guys, the evil northern white guys managed to keep their atrocities out of the history books, too.

But there is one arena where Europeans shine like no other culture, and whenever I get to feeling really awful about our history I remember that we invented polyphonic music. We invented harmony and the symphony orchestra. No other culture on earth can match us for music.

This cd has been living in my car stereo for quite a while now. I challenge you to listen to the two versions of Ave Maria, first the Gounod and then the Schubert, one after the other and in that order, and not be moved to a place beyond even tears.

9 Comments:

  • YES! Polyphonic music rocks! It is one place that I too get to feel OK about being white/middle class. It's so easy to beat ourselves up about our cultural heritage (Australians are no exception) and while we do need to clean up the hurts of the past, we can't do it effectively if we feel bad about ourselves, our heritage, our ancestors. We can't wait until we feel better though, so we just need to bumble on in, make friends with people from other cultural backgrounds and from our own, and aplogise for any mess we make! being proud of our heritage is a good thing when it's not in that 'white supremacy' sense. Sorry a bit of a rant there, but your blog makes me think -- I like that - thank you!

    posted by Blogger Mummy/Crit on 9:38 AM  

  • Ave Maria (either one) is one of my very favorite songs of all time!

    posted by Blogger Heather on 9:43 AM  

  • Beautiful music. And history is always subjective. Remember a time when Columbus "discovered" America? Now, we know it didn't need discovering and Columbus brought disease. So many examples of that. Anyway, the reason we read history is to learn, so (presumably) atrocities don't happen again. That's the theory, at least.

    posted by Blogger Running2Ks on 12:35 PM  

  • Challenge accepted. Since I love Ave Maria, I think I'm gonna like it.

    posted by Blogger Fred on 6:42 PM  

  • One of the aggravating paradoxes of life: with potential for great beauty and achievement comes potential for great destruction, and most civilizations have their share of both. I'm nearly done with Fifth Business and have been pondering all these themes as I read . . .

    posted by Anonymous Laura on 11:55 PM  

  • I think it's healthy to be both self-flagellating and proud about one's heritage at the same time. It's pride without a broad perspective that sinks quickly into jingoism.

    Thanks for the link! I'll definitely check out that CD.

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 10:17 AM  

  • Thank you, Crit. You're absolutely right.

    Heather, me too. They are both exquisite.

    Running, yeah, and he brought more than just disease. He brought genocide, no less. And we still haven't learned from it.

    Fred, great! In fact, I didn't go on and on about the other things on the CD, but there's a lot of other lovely stuff on it, too. Especially if your taste in vocal music runs more towards German lieder than Italian opera.

    Laura, so true. I hope you're enjoying the book. That novel actually helped me to come out of the closet as a lover of Catholic saints. I'm Jewish, but.

    Suzanne, thank you. I've been having a lot of trouble finding any pride lately. I hope you like the CD!

    Oh yeah, and for any of you who actually do get the CD: my mom was the one who turned me on to it. When you get to "Funiculi, Funicula" picture her marching vigorously around the mall for her morning exercise, with that song blasting in her walkman. She is such a cutie. :)

    posted by Blogger Julie on 7:38 AM  

  • I always take comfort in the fact that on my mother's side, at least, nobody came over until the late 1800's, and they didn't exactly settle in the west, so hopefully they didn't exploit anybody. On the other hand, though, they were from Germany. So there's the whole Nazi thing.

    posted by Anonymous Melanie Lynne Hauser on 1:28 PM  

  • Hmm. Lots of food for thought... from your post to the ensuing comment thread.Thx for the music link! Looking forward to listening to it.

    posted by Anonymous SilverMoon on 8:41 PM