Sunday, March 19, 2006

the fine line between morals and religious tenets

Thanks to a generous post on a blog that shares a name with this space (nothing in common, really), I caught a recording on a 1986 episode of Crossfire. Musician Frank Zappa was in the seat as a spokesperson of music makers for free speech and his articulate and deft fielding of the questions might surprise a lot of people. The show often devolves into a shout-fest predicated on semantics and dangling questions and Zappa seems like the only one who manages to stay calm. My favourite moment involves semantics to some extent, but is an interesting point of the conception and perception of morality. Zappa is asked to provide one example to support his assertion that the United States is moving towards a fascist theocracy (the other person in the extract is John Lofton, who was at that time a Washington Times columnist):

Zappa: When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion, and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view and if that code happens to be very very right-wing almost toward Atilla the Hun...
Lofton (interrupts): Well then you are an anarchist. Every form of civil government is based on some kind of morality, Frank
Zappa: Morality in terms of behaviour not in terms of theology

That was 20 years ago. I'm not sure things got better (the comparative degree implies that they were good then; and in retrospect, they might've been, although you can't extend that generosity to the time of the HUAC and the KKK).

Aside: Although I've heard some of the work by Mothers of Invention my memories of the music aren't strong. However, I have Zappa to thank for the most interesting song title I've ever heard: Prelude to an Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask.

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