It’s so seldom good news permeates the airwaves these days. When it does it’s a real joy to comment on it. Such is the announcement that the New York Philharmonic is to play a concert in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, this Tuesday.
One has to wonder why George Bush has waited till the declining months of his presidency to allow such a trip. After all, it doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that promoting culture and friendship throughout the world will have far more positive results than bombs and bullets.
It’s a simple philosophy, but a true one. No-one wants to fight their friends, only their enemies. The use of bully-boy tactics may coerce nations into sullen cooperation temporarily, but arouses so much hostility the end result will always prove negative.
On the other hand, a continuous flow of political diplomacy, coupled with exchanges of art and culture, provides an intermingling of interests and ideas that meld themselves into more permanent and satisfying relationships.
Of course, there are the sour pusses who mutter about ‘pandering to dictators’, or, ‘handing Kim Jong-il a propaganda coup’, but maybe the time has arrived to put culture and art before political power-mongering. After all, it is we, the people, who fashion our culture; it is a part of us. Politicians were never meant to squash and restrict free access to it in their never-ending quest for empires.
Zarin Mehta, the orchestra’s director, said of the trip:
“”This journey is a manifestation of the power of music to unite people. It is our sincere hope that these concerts will aid in the beginning of a new era between the peoples of our nations.”
Condoleeza Rice, whose department authorized the trip, advised against high expectations:
“I don’t think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea,” she said.
Let us echo Mehta’s hopes, and not expect anything obvious from the concert, other than a greater willingness on the part of politicians to realize that boundaries and walls lead to separation; separation creates lack of understanding; misunderstanding powers fear, and fear is the enemy of harmony and mutual trust.
May the New York Philharmonic play a great concert. May the people of North Korea enjoy Dvorak. May the orchestra’s next concert be in Tehran.
I only wish they would refrain from playing the US national anthem at the beginning.
Filed under: Light in a dark world