My Pilgrimage, Chapter Twenty-Five: Good Things Under Bad People?
By Michael Moriarty
Under Adolf Hitler, Germany’s trains ran on time and the Volkswagen was created.
Under Mao Zedong, all those whom he didn’t list for execution were fed regularly.
Joseph Stalin didn’t, as was quietly threatened, have Dimitri Shostakovich thrown in the gulag or shot by firing squad.
And so it continues.
In Venezuela, both dictators, Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, helped a miraculous training program for musicians called El Systema thrive.
Hmmm… I’m a composer… so… no one appreciates flawless symphony orchestras more than I do.
However, what should any musician of any persuasion feel about Venezuela and El Systema?
One of Venezuela’s grandest prodigies and, yes, geniuses, Gustavo Dudamel, held his tongue about both leaders of his country… until, of course… he could no longer endure his government’s increasingly violent responses to his people’s increasingly justified protests.
Some defend Dudamel’s previous reluctance.
One example of the conductor’s rationale for his lack of involvement:
Others are quite ferocious about a few generally reluctant or absolutely well-known but silent conductors.
Dudamel said lots of people tried to tell him what he ought to believe.
“Now I wish to speak for myself,” he wrote. “I am neither a politician nor an activist. Although I am aware that even something as benign as conducting an orchestra may have deep political ramifications, I will not publicly take a political position or align myself with one point of view or one party in Venezuela or in the United States.“
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s reluctance to involve America visibly and actively in World War II can clearly be criticized by the earliest victims of The Holocaust. Convincing anyone, however, of the depth of Hitler’s psychopathic policies toward the entire world’s Jewish population was almost impossible until the likes of Dachau and Buchenwald were opened for all to see.
The newest evidence for not meddling with questionable government’s and their increasingly dictatorial behavior was the scandalous charge against President George W. Bush’s assaults upon Iraq.
One, now horrendous event, was the creation of ISIS!
That President Bush’s decision had more to do with Saudi Arabia’s oil-fueled influence than any pressure put on the White House by Israel…well…that’s how back-room discussions make things happen and not to any appreciable improvements of the situation.
There we see “bad things happening under seemingly good people.”
As for the political predicament that the exceptionally gifted conductor, Gustav Dudamel, and his “silence” about the increasingly violent policies of both Chavez and Maduro brought him into?!
Perhaps the Maestro is right when his silence clearly inferred that people outside of Venezuela don’t really know the entire picture within Venezuela.
Tragically, however, any delay in protesting tyranny always feeds the tyrants. In the end, all those efforts to avoid war eventually make an even bloodier and more sadistic conflagration inevitable.
That a brilliant symphony orchestra and the deadliest of military brigades have much in common when it comes to executing both a difficult piece of music and a challenging campaign against an enemy?!
It’s no wonder the phrase “kill ‘em” is frequent advice for all performing artists when they’re about to face an audience!
The vital distinction that can easily be forgotten in this debate, is that a great symphony orchestra hardly wants to kill its own audience.
Whereas a great army simply wants the war to end and, of course, that objective can only be achieved by inflicting greater death and devastation on the enemy than is suffered from the enemy.
I, and, I assume, Maestro Dudamel?
We both adore an Army of Sound!
The concert halls of the world have rarely received such a gift as that which Venezuela has lavished upon the greatest of composers and their worshipful audiences than the Venezuelan El Systema!
That El Systema has also saved these young musicians from lives of poverty and despair?!
Because El Systema is, for many, a demanding and arduous training program doesn’t diminish the miracle it has provided in the lives of not only the students but their grateful audiences as well.
God bless El Systema!
There is no reason it cannot come alive within any governing system in the world.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.