Underground Music

Comrade chat 10-1

7. An important issue raised in this chapter is the issue of freedom. The underground rock and roll and art scenes existed because Soviet citizens didn’t have free speech. If they wanted to listen to music or express a message with which the government did not agree, they had to do it out of sight. On the other hand, part of what made these scenes so vibrant is that their members didn’t have to worry about commercial success. They all had day jobs, housing, and health care guaranteed by the state. Looking back after the Soviet Union’s collapse, many artist and fans felt nostalgic for the safeguards of the Soviet Era. Which form of freedom do you think is more important? Would you trade freedom of speech for freedom from want? Why or why not?

Starving artist. When people want to start out as musicians or painters or writers we refer to them as starving artists. The idea is that the pursuit of a career in the arts is often difficult and often ultimately a failure. When the state guarantees your housing and health care etc. that takes a lot of the burden of being a human being off of your chest. The combination of the oppression of free speech and the basic security that the Soviet citizens were provided made for a vibrant music scene. You need motive and means. They had the means provided for them. Food would be on the table. And the motive is due to the lack of free expression. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the means were taken away. Instead of enjoying music, people were more concerned about being able to put food on the table. Ultimately this would affect the music scene and as the question proffers, pit the freedom of speech against the freedom of want.

Personally, I would choose freedom from want. Especially as someone who is family oriented, I would prioritize taking care of my family members over everything else. Additionally, although this may be a loophole, it seems like even when freedom of speech was restricted people still found a way to express themselves. I wouldn’t be able to radio broadcast a controversial song or publish radical art. But in the privacy of my own home, even on a slight and miniscule level, I would still have freedom of speech. And freedom of speech can always exist in your mind and inner thoughts. Until they invent mind control chips but that’s a ways away in the future. 

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