Writing in today's Observer Comment section, Nick Cohen presents a typically cogent and compelling case against the Banks and the politicians who have done absolutely nothing to make those financial thugs pay for the damage done to the global economy and every individual affected directly or indirectly by their crimes. To put it simply.
One of his most convincing and rousing moments is when he writes
Bankers forced the [British] taxpayer to bail them out with public money: a policy that free-market liberals denounced as a sin when coalminers, steelworkers and car workers asked for public assistance for their "lame-duck" industries in the 1980s. Yet those same supporters of markets remain unconcerned about a diversion of public funds on a far larger scale to lame-duck banks, and do not protest when bankers pocket the proceeds as rewards for failure beyond the imagination of the metal-bashing workers of the 1980s.
It's a message about banking incompetence, greed and criminal indifference so blindingly obvious that I cannot comprehend how we haven't managed to make it stick and hurt where it matters. Ry Cooder also feels the nasty clarity of the continuing gulf between rich and poor and those responsible for it. His latest Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down tackles this and a number of other social and political issues with sincere and satirical bite through powerful narratives and classic Cooder music. Just get it, listen and enjoy [and 'enjoyment' is a paradoxical notion, I know, and you'll see], but I'll comment on three songs:
Opener No Banker Left Behind is a wry, jaunty song where the sarcastic humour doesn't disguise its disgust
Well the bankers called a meetin', to the white house they went one day
They was going to call on the president, in a quiet and a sociable way
The afternoon was sunny and the weather it was fine
They counted all our money and no banker was left behind
No banker, no banker, no banker could I find.
They were all down at the white house, no banker was left behind
Well I hear the whistle blowin, it plays a happy tune
The conductor is calling "all abort", we'll be leavin soon
With champagne and shrimp cocktails and that's not all you'll find
There's a billion dollar bonus and no banker left behind
Thanks [or not] to its sing-a-long jaunt, we don't all grab our weapons in immediate and apoplectic rage and go out hunting....
Another song that wraps its wrought and angered conscience in a musical buffer zone is Dirty Chateau. This is simply gorgeous in its opening echoing electric guitar, the beautiful harmonies and its sweeping strings, but within this pretty package is the sad story of Latino immigration and the realities of the rich and poor dichotomy in our world
She started life in the lettuce fields
Up in Salinas where the farm work is done
You go streaking by in your automobiles
You don't even know where your lettuce comes from
The short handled hoe it scarred my hands
Tell me why do they love it so
It broke mama down daddy too
Now I work for you in your dirty chateau
The most cruelly ironic song, and one placing Cooder at the vanguard of contemporary protest songwriting, is Christmas Time This Year. This is one that unwraps itself quickly and caustically to reveal Cooder's musical gift for making us think about matters we should all be questioning. That he can make us 'enjoy' such commentaries through these lively and engaging songs is a masterclass in intelligent entertainment.