Friday, August 18, 2006

Music, Life & Love

Society is always looking for something to define it. Catchphrases abound, things like "every generation has an event that defines it" (from the trailer for the new movie "World Trade Center"), and my favorite "music is the soundtrack of our lives." We crave a little piece of definer to help us make sense of life because we are completely incapable of simply accepting that life just is. The premise behind one of my new favorite movies & books, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" is the search for meaning in life, boiled down to explanations of almost everything, neatly gathered in a resource called The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy (my feelings on this are the subject of another post for later).

According to reports, a Mew York researcher has found that young men who listen to certain types of music are more likely to put themselves as risk for HIV. The music styles range from hip hop that glorifies materialism, which is different from traditional/ancestral hip hop that discusses urban life and politics, to club music, defined as techno and electronica (although I believe the researchers are really talking more about house, hard house, and jungle), and gospel. The researcher spoke to young men in three New York neighborhoods, and judging from the styles of music cited, these guys were probably mostly Black and Latino, and many were probably gay or bisexual.

Yes, I'm generalizing. I have to say that I don't know too many young White men who could identify Israel Houghton or Hezekiah Walker. And, I'm sure there aren't a lot of straight guys who could sing the main lyrics of "Din Da Da" or tell you who Frankie Knuckles or Junior Vasquez are. But, I think it's a bit simplistic to say that music styles will influence your sexual decision making. The pelvis-swirling antics of Elvis Presley were thought to be the beginning of moral decay in the staid 50's, yet we now revere Elvis as a cultural hero. White kids were dropping acid, dropping their drawers, and dropping out in the 60's, yet the aforementioned phrase "music is the soundtrack of our lives" came from that era. The resentment of the children of the working class who didn't have the luxury of dropping out became the incubator for the borderline racist and homophobic Disco Sucks campaign of the 70's, complete with the destruction of thousands of disco records in a baseball field, yet the now-senior rockers of that time have also become cultural icons. Was not the drug addiction and sometimes criminal behavior of these pseudo-heroes not responsible for just-as-destructive behavior involving drugs and alcohol, and yet we don't think of rock as responsible for moral irresponsibility?

Some repressive conservative somewhere will use this discovery as yet another reason why this or that lifestyle is destructive. I think we have to do better. Let's do a better job of teaching kids about sex in schools -- not telling them anything is not working, and not making condoms more available isn't working either. Let's make parents be more responsible for their children. Let's make our neighborhoods more livable, increase employment opportunities, and make it easier to get a real education and perhaps sex won't be such a dicey form of recreation. But don't say that a thumping beat or scantily clad girls in videos are making kids more likely to put themselves at risk.

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