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Cultural Diplomacy Through Music

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Cultural Diplomacy through Music ‘‘Who writes the Nation’s songs shapes the Nation’s souls,’’ said Abraham Lincoln. This quote is relevant to today’s crisis: the influence of music on our youth. Music has been known to influence those who listen since the end of the Industrial Revolution, when people had more leisure time and the demand for entertainment and amusement began to increase. This is significant because media has a powerful influence on society and affects how we dress, act, and think. In The Republic by Plato, Socrates argues against Thrasymachus’ idea that "Obedience to the interest of the stronger" will lead to a successful tyranny. Socrates believes that "justice is the excellence of the soul,” and that benevolence is the key to a successful state. Yet humans embody not only Apollo, the god of the sun, of dreams, and of reason but also, Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy and intoxication, both sons of Zeus. In Plutarch’s Moralia, it is suggested that the state allows society to live for their pleasure so that the state gains the power to control them. We are fighting a constant battle between the rational principle of the soul and the irrational or appetite. The state is determined to keep feeding the Dionysus in each of us in order to continue to control us. The music industry is a tool that is used to influence the youth to indulge in their desires through songs about violence, sex, misogyny and drug use.
In the Socratic dialogue in The Republic, Adeimantus, son of Ariston of Athens, proposes the idea that “any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. Plato informs us that “when modes of music change, of the state always changes with them.” Adeimantus is known for his concern for the education system and the affect it has on our youth. “Education in music for the soul and gymnastics for the body,” Socrates says, indirectly that it is the way to mold the mind of the people. Education is essentially driven through music. In the story about Homer, the poetic educator of Greece, uses his parlance to shape the culture during his time. Plato believes “There is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry.” Plato realizes the influence poetry has on the members of The Republic and that often times it can be harmful. It makes certain behaviors acceptable and makes it difficult for people to think for themselves. However, Socrates’s mission is to teach members of The Republic that they must investigate the mimetic poetry and discover for themselves if what they are listening to is correct. Socrates acknowledges that if the gods commit unjustified acts, that the youth will think it is acceptable and participate in these dishonorable acts, which we see being done in current day society.
In Plutarch’s Moralia, we are introduced to the philosophical dichotomy between Apollo and Dionysus. These duos of opposing forces are much like twins. The Apollonian force is defined by its reliance on reason, order, control, individuality, and sober thought, and seeks to bring philosophic order to the universe. The Dionysian philosophy is that which embraces mysticism, emotion, and chaos. We see these gods working together in current day societ. If then anyone ask, “What has this do with Apollo?” we shall say that it concerns not only him but also Dionysus whose share in Delphi is no less than that of Apollo. Now we hear the theologians affirming and reciting, sometimes in verse and sometimes in prose, that the god is deathless and eternal in his nature, but, owing forsooth to some predestined design and reason, he undergoes transformations of his person, and at one time enkindles his nature into fire, call him Apollo because of his solitary state, and Phoebus because of his purity and stainlessness. And as for him turning into winds and water, earth and stars, and into the generations of plants and animals, and his adoption of such guises, they speak in a deceptive way of what he undergoes in his transformation as a tearing apart, as it were, and dismemberment. They give him the names of Dionysus, Zagreus, Nyctelius, and Isodaetes; they construct destructions and disappearances, followed by returns to life and regenerations- riddles and fabulous tales quite in keeping with the aforesaid transformations. To this god they also sing the dithyrambic strains laden with emotion and transformation that includes a certain wandering and dispersion. (388-389) The people this generation idolizes and emulates the most are current pop stars in the music industry. This industry has a huge influence on the current generation and as Socrates believes, “educating them in music and gymnastics” determines the man or woman they will become. While Socrates believes in teaching justice through education and gymnastics, our society in its corrupt manner is using music to indoctrinate our youth and promote unjust behavior. Many of the artists in the music industry who promote this behavior are icons such as Kanye West, who goes by the name Yeezus, as well as Jay Z, who goes by the name Hova. Both artists are referred to as idols and their names sound much like the divine, Jesus and Jehovah. This correlation is significant because as Socrates states in The Republic, the actions of the gods are found to be acceptable by the city. What our generation fails to realize is that when they call someone their “idol” they are referring to someone they worship. The young people listening to these idols are essentially worshipping powerful figures who subconsciously influence their motives and actions. The study, “Exposure to Violent Media: The effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and feelings” demonstrated the effects of violent songs:

College students who heard a violent song felt more hostile than those who heard a similar but nonviolent song. Experiments demonstrated a similar increase in aggressive thoughts. These effects replicated across songs and song types (e.g., rock, humorous, nonhumorous). Experiments also demonstrated that trait hostility was positively related to state hostility but did not moderate the song lyric effects.

This peer-reviewed article, written by Craig A. Anderson and Nicholas Carnagey, supports the theory that violent songs influence behavior and thought. Some examples of violent lyrics would be a line in Kanye West’s song, “Monster:” as if the song title wasn’t enough, Jay Z raps, “I kill a block I murder avenues, rape and pillage a village, women and children, everybody wanna know what my achilles heel.” This line alone contains murder, rape, and violence. Not only do these lyrics explicitly mention rape and violent behavior, but also the beat of the rap is aggressive in itself. To mention another popular song, “Love the Way you Lie” by Eminem displays misogyny and violent behavior. “If she ever tries to f****** leave again, Im'a tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.” This song, rapped in aggressive haste, won many awards and received five Grammy nominations. It is Eminem's best-selling single and ranked number one on twenty-six record charts, including the United States' Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. It is frightening to know how many people listen to these lyrics and completely disregard their true meaning as if the catchy rhythm leaves them perplexed.
This manipulation of the youth leaves the state with authority and control. As our youth are being distracted through the music industry, our state is making significant decisions that will affect their futures. Socrates tells Adeimantus “In the human soul there is a better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse over control, then a man is said to be a master of himself; but when owing to evil education or association, the better principle is overwhelmed by the greater mass of the worse.” It is safe to say that the state is doing a good job of keeping the better principle overwhelmed with the power of influence in the music industry. Socrates states “Unless they give up eating and drinking and wenching and idling, neither drug nor cautery nor spell nor amulet nor any other remedy will avail.” What Socrates is teaching is that if we continue to behave recklessly and give in to our desires, we are going to give the authorities the power to manipulate and control us. This is happening in current day society and the regime treats our society like puppets on a string. Take 9/11 for example, “Its primary conclusion was that the failures of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted the terrorist attacks to occur and that had these agencies acted more wisely and more aggressively, the attacks could potentially have been prevented. After the publication of its final report, the commission closed on August 21, 2004.” With only 14 million spent on investigations, families still have questions about the murder of their loved ones. Our president at the time, George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney did not testify under oath. Most people are unaware of thermite material found in samples collected on the day of 9/11. These are just some of the facts that go unnoticed by the majority of people in the U.S. Instead of being concerned with pop culture and gossip, our society should be doing research on relevant events like 9/11 and protest for a more thorough investigation. We must stop believing everything the people on television say. Essentially, Socrates is stating that those who agree and follow what they are being taught with the education system will be a “good statesman.” Socrates refers to these people as “noble puppies” that are trained to personify and love their country because it is good and its ideals are noble. But in the case of our generation, its ideals are far opposite from noble, which is why the education system is so corrupt. If we allow the desires within us to control our actions and allow the state to manipulate us, we can see our society becoming imperial. Socrates corroborates the idea that education is a key factor to social order. With the music industry having such an impact on our generation, it is no surprise our state chooses to influence us through music.

Work Cited Plutarch, and Frank Cole Babbitt. Plutarch's Moralia. London: W. Heinemann, 1927. Print. Anderson, Craig A., Nicholas L. Carnagey, and Janie Eubanks. "Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs with Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84.5 (2003): 960-71. Print. Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. The Republic. New York: Modern Library, 360 B.C.E. Print.

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