unnatural and otherwise.
This is going to read like a defense of Jimmy Buffett. My thinking is really with a broader brush than that. I’m trying to resolve my own mental conflict between the have’s and the have not’s, but in the end, I really don’t know what I’m talking about.
In his June 8 blog entry Wastin’ Away Again in OILY Margaritaville Larry Gross makes a cautious observation that Jimmy Buffett has gone “corporate” in the context of what is now the worst oil disaster in American history. This caught my eye because I’m a Parrothead–“interested in the music of Jimmy Buffett and the tropical lifestyle he personifies” (from www.phip.com)–even while personally a little uncomfortable with the extent of corporate power in our world. But what does that have to do with the Gulf oil disaster? Maybe a lot.
While the BP corporation enjoys billions of dollars worth of federal contracts, they also enjoy a legislated cap on their liability for the lives they’ve impacted in the gulf. The loss of health, occupation, and overall quality of life in communities both human and otherwise along the Gulf of Mexico are externalities that BP may very well not internalize. My guess is Joe Taxpayer will have to suck up the cost.
I think it must be stuff like this that people have in mind when they wrinkle the corner of their lip and snarl that someone is “corporate”: something akin to the reputation of business that is too large to be concerned about its impact on people. Such accusations also frequently accompany statements about someone being a “sell out” because they’ve gone to work for something “corporate”. Or bought a BlackBerry®. Or put that little ® beside BlackBerry when they typed it.
Look, maybe Jimmy is corporate. I was at Jimmy’s Nashville, Tennessee “Flood Show” this year. There was certainly a disconnect between some among the “good vibe tribe,” on one hand, and on the other, people who were at that very moment becoming homeless beyond the Bridgestone arena. In fact, two people left that concert after they “paid $800 dollars to come” when I accidentally knocked over their $12 beer. Sorry, folks, my Parakeet son had to go potty. And as they left with an $812 loss, all the houses surrounding a local park where my children had played that weekend were up to their roofs in muddy water, collective Nashville damages totaling somewhere around $1.5 billion.
Jimmy did speak frequently between songs about what was going on outside. His modus operandi as usual seemed to be as he recently stated in Pensacola: “helping people forget their troubles for a couple of hours” (http://www.washingtonpost.com).
This week I received a mass e-mail from Jimmy’s sister Lucy Buffett about the BP oil disaster. She was asking for people to help by not suspending their plans to vacation in Florida. I assume she sent me this e-mail for roughly the same reason the President stood on white beaches and pretended to finger apparently clean sand before urging us to come on down to a safe Florida. Tourism brings something over $42 billion dollars a year into Florida’s economy. That and Jimmy’s built a new Hotel Margaritaville on the beach of Pensacola. Corporate, right? Sell out. Money is power, and all that.
Oh yeah, and Jimmy Buffett walked the beaches of Pensacola this week with Florida Governor Charlie Crist. I couldn’t do that. One of the characteristics I lament in our modern governance is that the common man has no power. Joe Taxpayer cannot walk into the office of the President and say, “Hey, dude, I’m pissed.” Or the office of your Senator or Representative. Or the office of the Governor, for that matter. But Jimmy can. What’s up with that?
Well, Jimmy’s got money. Yes, he uses that money to fly around the world in his seaplane with Bono and big time record producers. And he’s an activist. Yes, he started the Save the Manatee Club. He also created Singing for Change that grants money to organizations for positively affecting “the root causes of social and environmental problems” (http://www.margaritaville.com/singing_change.html). He suspended all Margaritaville contracts with the Canadian seafood industry in response to inhumane commercial seal hunting and encouraged others to do the same. He sponsored interest in post-disaster communities like New Orleans after Katrina and Nashville after the flood. And he’s showing support for Florida in the midst of this unnatural disaster.
What are the rest of us doing? Supporting Gulf-of-Mexico communities by watching the news?
Look, I’m no good Christian, but I believe Jesus when he said, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” And I’ll admit I even have a quiet tendency to question the morality of wealthy people. But what are you going to do about it? Jesus also said, “The poor we always have with us.” If that’s true–and would Jesus lie?–it may also be true that we’ll always be stuck with the rich. Maybe even stuck with corporations and sell outs.
And maybe the most realistic expectation we can have is not for everyone to give up their money and sing with a broken guitar on the beach, but to contribute something significant to something worthwhile in a way that others cannot…
Whether you have money or not.