Tara's Thoughts

This is an excerpt from Tara’s upcoming book Speaking Truth; Words that Matter written with and about co-author, John Glass. More details can be found at www.SpeakingTruthTheBook.com

 

“A bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together?”

When the question is about life choices there is usually more than one right answer. Case in point: Bird on a spiral fuzzy edges

One of my very favorite Broadway musicals is Fiddler On The Roof.   I have always felt it is one of the better written scripts in the vast Broadway repertoire. Every word of every line of dialogue and every lyric of every song is there for a reason. There is always a nugget of a story to tell or a window into the mind or soul of a character. Or, as is so often the case with Jewish material, there is a lesson to teach.

 That is not to say every point of view in the story is agreeable. When his young daughter falls in love with a man outside of their faith Tevye says to her, “A bird may love a fish but where would they build a home together?” This one line has always stood out to me as slightly disturbing. He is trying to tell her that their differences are too great to overcome. After all, a bird cannot swim (unless it is a duck. See what I mean?). A fish cannot fly (well, OK. There is one species that can. But we’re looking at this particular quote here). A bird cannot live underwater. A fish cannot breathe out of the water. How could they share a life? It seems, on the face of it, to be a practical statement of a physical limitation.

 But when you take a deeper look what you might find is a limitation in thinking and an intolerance for choices that do not mirror your own. Stick to your own kind. Take the easy route. Don’t make the neighbors uncomfortable. It never occurs to Tevye that some form of cohabitation different than his own traditional choice might be a better fit for someone else.

 Yes, most birds live in the trees and fish live underwater. But songbirds come to the pond in my backyard and sit at the water’s edge. They drink, bathe, rest and sometimes seem to be looking into the pond to see what may be under the water’s surface.

 I question even the notion of the bird and the fish being so very different from each other. Look at the photo on this page. Both bird and fish have round bodies, pointed mouths, round eyes and tails. They both spend their day foraging for food. Traveling around their environments and resting in the sun.

 And, perhaps, even their differences are a benefit to our very non-traditional partners. The bird’s song can speak for the mute fish. The fish provides a stable home-base for the adventuring bird to return to.

bird and fish w shadow

 That may not seem like enough to some. Well, then, you’ve made your choice. But to say that no other choice is acceptable, or even possible, is to deny others the right to choose what is best for them.    You may decide that you can’t live without a swimming partner. Others might be content to coexist in the same back yard.

Fiddler On The Roof opened on Broadway in 1964. And yet, more than 50 years later, the analysis of this world view is just as relevant. In the past 50 years we have seen overwhelming amounts of inhumane treatment and intolerance justified by our “differences”. We have seen ever growing amounts of environmental degradation justified by corporate greed and the notion that those “other” people don’t matter. If they knew what was good for them they’d be living like us!

Growing gun violence. Open hate speech. Devaluing of entire groups of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. All because we are taught to fear each other’s differences.

And we all breathe the same air.

Wouldn’t it be a nicer world if we all remembered that? After all, flowers come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some need a full day of sun. Other varieties thrive in the shade. Is a lily really more “correct” than a sunflower?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bernie Sanders free tuition

Higher education is the road to career success. Career success is the path to financial stability. Financial stability makes it possible to look beyond your own immediate survival needs.  Only then can you have the time and resources to notice what the corporate and legislative bigwigs are doing to our society.

NOW you know why the bigwigs are trying to ruin our educational system.  Keep the masses uneducated, uniformed and too busy trying to survive to notice anything outside their own immediate circle and the Bigwigs can pilfer, steal and destroy without any limits. 

Senator Bernie Sanders Introduces a Bill to make College tuition free

WE NEED an educated electorate! GO BERNIE!!

So I am one of the few oddballs who actually watches C-SPAN.  I find it to be a window into a very distant world. But a world whose actions and decisions affect us in ways we only begin to comprehend.  And sometimes those decisions have consequences that we, down here on the ground, only feel after it is too late to do anything about it.Image

In yesterday’s House Sub-committee Hearing on Copyright Regulations and Intellectual Property Law I had a moment of clarity that revealed why, when it comes to legislation about the arts, those mountain-top decision makers so often get it wrong.

The House panel was asking questions of a number of “experts” including Professor Glynn Lunney of Tulane University Law School. The question of the moment had to do with copyright restrictions applied to the music industry that used to exist but that had been recently eliminated.  The Professor was asked if the elimination of the copyright laws had any effect on “content producers” (meaning song writers, composers, music producers, etc.).

The professor cited a study that charted the amount of content produced before and after the elimination of those restrictions.  The study showed that the amount of content produced by the industry before and after the lifting of those artist protections had not changed. So the conclusion the professor and his ilk have come to is that those protections must not have been necessary!!

 WOW!! Talk about a major misunderstanding of your intended subject!!

 The inference here is that the additional protections the laws had been providing would motivate artists to produce more because income from your work is more likely. And conversely, without those protections artists will produce less music.

 This is stunningly wrong.

These conclusions are based on a business model that, I suppose, works for shoes or driveway pavers or plumbing pipe.  But artists produce because we HAVE TO!  Not just because we are getting paid to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, here. Getting paid for what you create is important.  I have always felt the creator of the art should be fairly compensated for each creation. But it is also true that we do not choose to become artists. We are called to it by something greater than ourselves.  And it is a demanding calling.

Whether you are a musician, a writer, a painter, a poet, a sculptor, a clothing designer, a novelist, a choreographer or any other type of creative spirit there is something within you that demands to be expressed.  Those who ignore that demand will pay the price, one way or the other, in personal anguish.

Artists will create whether or not we are fairly treated by society. And that is the crux of the misunderstanding of the politicians and industry experts who are creating the laws that either protect us or leave us to be taken advantage of.

As long as the politicians treat art the same way they treat widgets we will never have a system that truly understands why we create art or that values what artists contribute to society.

 If any of you out there are brave enough to contact Professor Lunney, please explain this to him.

Tara Sitser, Proud Singer/Songwriter 

Los Angeles, CA

January 19, 2014

Sending here an alert to all creators of music: Singers, composers, musicians, songwriters.  Your right to be paid fairly for the music you create is under attack.  Please read this article from MusicFirstCoalition.org.  

SAG-AFTRA Recording Artists & Background Vocalists

Need Your Help:

Tell Congress to Say “NO” to Pandora

You may have heard from Pandora radio, asking you to contact Congress to support a bill that Pandora says would create “parity” in how much they would have to pay recording artists and background vocalists for the use of their music. Despite Pandora’s claims, this bill is not about fairness or parity, but instead would slash payments to SAG-AFTRA performers by starting a race to the bottom when it comes to recording artists’ and background singers’ royalties. We need you to click here to contact Congress today and tell them to say NO to gutting pay for performers.

Under current law, Internet radio services — like Pandora — pay recording artists under a “willing buyer, willing seller” standard.  Just like it sounds, this standard is intended to approximate the standard Pandora and performers would arrive at in a fair market negotiation. Pandora is asking Congress to move to a cut-rate, below market, government-mandated subsidized rate. This would slash payments to our members and all recording artists and singers, possibly by as much as 80%.

Pandora has made claims that it needs this bill to survive. In fact, Pandora is valued at more than $1.8 billion and is expecting $600 million in revenues next year.

It is the SAG-AFTRA recording artists and background vocalists who will suffer.  All other developed nations in the world – except for a few, like China, North Korea and Iran – have full performance rights, paying royalties for all public performances of sound recordings, regardless of whether they are played on terrestrial, Internet or satellite radio.  In the U.S., recording artists and background vocalists only have a right to be compensated when their recordings are played on digital radio platforms, like Pandora. Artists don’t get a dime when their music is played on AM/FM radio.  So, in essence what Pandora is asking for is a discount that will hurt performers who are already getting shortchanged.

Pandora has sent emails to millions of listeners, asking them to tell Congress to pass its unfair bill. That’s why we need to make our voices heard. Congress needs to hear from SAG-AFTRA members that Pandora’s bill would devastate our recording artist and singer community, make it harder for working performers to make ends meet, and force us to pad Pandora’s pockets by subsidizing its business model.  Please join with our partners in the musicFirst Coalition and tell Congress TODAY that you support parity and fairness that treats performers fairly, not a government mandated subsidy that starts a race to the bottom.

 Thanks for standing up for the rights of SAG-AFTRA performers who make their livings as recording artists and singers.

Click Here to Tell Congress, Don’t Slash Music Creators’ Pay

 

This is a very large, complicated topic. And I am grateful for the chance to air some thoughts.  I have been baffled and frustrated for many years by what I hear people say about Ayn Rand.  She is made out to be the heroine of the Conservative, Right-wing,  Free-market, Libertarian, Trickle-down, Supply-side economics  proponents. But, in fact, I believe, those who profess to be her followers are doing exactly the opposite of what she herself would have wanted.

I started reading Ayn Rand when I was 17. I have read all of her novels; most of them several times.  I am not a Libertarian. In fact I have objections to many Libertarian views. But I have been frustrated for many years by, what I perceive to be, a massive misinterpretation of what Ayn Rand wrote and believed.

As a matter of fact,  she did not call herself a Libertarian. She created her own philosophy that she called Objectivism.  The basis of which is that no one should live their life for the sake of another without regard to their own personal value. A direct push-back against the communist oppression she experienced growing up in Soviet Russia where the State is everything and the individual doesn’t count.

Her writings about enlightened self-interest are often twisted into  accusations of selfishness but are actually more in line with the what they tell you on an airplane: Put your own oxygen mask on first. Then you can help others.  In point of fact, there are many instances in her novels of characters making enormous personal sacrifices for others  in order to live up to the obligations they have committed to.

Ayn Rand grew up in Russia and rebelled against the control of the Soviet government. So It is understandable that she would talk about being free of governmental control.  But the heroes in her novels are quite different from the industrialist and CEOs of our present day reality even though they claim to be aligned with her beliefs.   Ayn Rand was an Atheist, pro-choice and a firm believer in a rational view of reality that permitted no deviation from actual facts.

In Ayn Rand’s novels the heroes are people who create real value – not financial manipulators who just amass more and more money. I see a major difference between her characters and the conservative business owners of today in that her heroes value the contributions of everyone, at every level , who contribute to their success. And her industrialists take care of their employees and their customers, treat them fairly and take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The ethics of her main characters is such that no regulation is necessary because they would never choose to do anything unethical or take advantage of anyone.  No unions are necessary because the employers take such good care of their employees that an outside agency to control wages and working conditions is not needed.  I do not think I am putting words in her mouth when I say that Ayn Rand’s “free market” does  not the take the shape of today’s conservative notion where anyone is free to abuse ethical standards, cheat their customers and employees and destroy the environment in pursuit of wealth and power.

Ayn Rand’s heroes are copper magnates and architects and owners of railroads, yes. But also janitors and gardeners and assembly line workers who do their jobs in an excellent way.  Employer and employee trade value for value and the employer always acknowledges the contribution of the smallest cog in the wheel that allows their businesses to run.

In her novel “Atlas Shrugged” two of the main characters are Dagny Taggart and her brother James Taggart who co-own the railroad.  Dagny is the brains behind the operation and the one who runs the business.  James is the moocher who doesn’t want to put out any effort and wants to live the high life off the company’s  earnings.  James almost gets away with it until, near the end of the story, it is his secretary who finally realizes his true nature and takes him down.  The secretary is one of the novel’s true heroes.

Ayn Rand’s heroes would never play the financial gambling games that have brought us to the brink of economic ruin because – and she is quite clear about this – money is only a tool to be used for the creation of goods and circumstances. She says this over and over: Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is destructive and to be avoided.

The villains of Ayn Rand’s novels are the moochers who think the world owes them whatever they want without any effort of their own.  Her villains try to get away with not doing any of the work themselves and expect others to supply them with whatever  they want.  These moochers believe they are entitled to whatever they want simply because they want  it.  That is very different from the category of people in our country being called “moochers” and “welfare mothers”,  etc.  When your own government has allowed your jobs to be outsourced overseas and Wal-mart has destroyed your cities’ economy to such a degree that there are no jobs to be had in your town it is not “mooching” to accept help from governmental safety-net programs. Our current business model has created a system where no other options are available to help you feed your family. And it is not “mooching” to collect social security after you have spent a lifetime paying a portion of each and every pay check into that system.

The richest, most conservative among us believe that humans are only valuable if they are creating more wealth.  That is why politicians like Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell,  Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are so callous about the poor and elderly.  THOSE people, the poor, the elderly and the infirm,  can’t create wealth anymore so, in the view of the wealthy conservatives, they have no value and don’t deserve any respect or consideration.

Rand would not have aligned herself with today’s conservative movement which has chosen  to air only bits and pieces of her philosophy  in order to rationalize their own positions. The following quote is from Jennifer Burns, history professor at Stanford University and author of Goddess of the Market : Ayn Rand and the American Right:

“Libertarians who borrowed her political ideas but didn’t buy her epistemology were “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people,” “plagiarizers,” and “scum.” Conservatives were far, far worse. “Futile, impotent and culturally dead,” conservatives could only “accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.” Despite their agreement on capitalism, unlike most conservatives Rand was a forthright atheist who supported abortion rights and opposed the Vietnam War. After her death, her philosophy was liberated from its origins; it was now possible to mix and match bits and pieces of Rand’s ideology to better fit the emerging conservative worldview. “

In the worlds of Ayn Rand’s novels  it is excellence that is valued and rewarded whether that comes in the form of a railroad,  a piece of art or the ability to care for a child.  Everyone’s contribution is valued and the ideals to be aspired to are not limited to financial wizardry.

Another false parallel that is being drawn between Rand’s writings and the actions of today’s conservative power structure is the intention behind, and the consequences of, the growing, gaping separation of uber-wealthy and lower-income populations.  What we see happening in our society is a massive grab by the wealthiest among us for as much wealth, power and as many resources as they can take regardless of the consequences to the rest of the world.  The rich surround themselves with comfort and luxury while allowing the cities around them to suffer.

Again, a reference to Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” comes into play.  The main character of this novel is John Galt. Galt sees that the true producers and creators of the world are being used by those around them.  People with no talent or desire to achieve have come to believe that they have a claim on those that do and are making victims of the creators without any regard for their rights and needs.  Galt decides to create a civilization apart from the world at large where the producers can be free of the moochers and be properly acknowledged and rewarded for what they produce.  He approaches each person who is being drained and shows them how they are being victimized. He then gives them an alternative: Stop supporting your own destruction.  Quit. Leave the moochers behind and live in Galt’s Gulch, hidden from the world, among only those who will also live honorably as responsible creators.

One by one the “brains of the world” disappear and the outside world falls apart because there is no one left who will take the time and effort to reason out how to fix anything.

That is quite different from the power and resource grab we are witnessing today by the wealthy moochers who believe the world is theirs to drink from without ever refilling the pool.

The notion that Ayn Rand would approve of what today’s conservative, right wing,  corporate CEOs and Industrialist Republicans are doing is just plain wrong.  I believe her views are being twisted and used in ways she never intended.

Image I lost a friend this week.  His name was John Glass and he was a hero in the very real sense of the word.

John and his wife, Judy Glass, are well-known in the progressive community in Los Angeles. They are, and she will still be, staunch supporters of organizations that work for peace and social justice. John’s central cause for the past handful of years was the single-payer health care movement.  He believed that health care is a right, not a priviledge, and should be available to everyone without the constraints of a particular employer or the limitations of insurance companies dictating what doctors can provide based on their own self-serving priorities.

I have known John for almost 40 years. He was a giver from the word “go” and never stopped focusing on making the world a better place for us all.  Throughout his career John was a sociologist, a professor, a volunteer coordinator for non-profit organizations, a therapist, a published author and a friend to the working man.  Every choice he made was in the service of others and with the true intention of helping and healing the world and the human heart.

Talk to anyone who knew John and practically the first thing they will recall is his enthusiasm about the social causes and political candidates he supported.  He always carried fliers with him for whatever rally or event was coming up and would invariably offer the fliers to whoever was within earshot with a bold statement encouraging his audience to attend. Show up! Make your voice heard! Make a difference!

John died Tuesday night, May 9, 2012, at the age of 76, after a week-long battle with pneumonia and a lifetime battle against the dragons that seek to diminish the individual spirit.  He will be missed by many and our work to regain the dignity of the common man will be made harder for his absence.

Of all the responses we received to our announcement of John’s death this was the one that hit me the hardest and is, I believe, the perfect statement of how John’s life affected the world in which he lived:

The average person lost a friend this week.
The people John Glass helped the most will never 
know who John Glass was. That was John Glass.

Jeff Bornstein

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As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

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