12 March 2011

Pop Song Philosophy--The Greatest Love

I am very serious about this. And maybe all those damn liberal institutions are right to study pop culture...BUT they should study it not as a kind of entertainment but rather as a diagnostic for prognoses; it should be studied in political and moral philosophy courses because, let's face it, there is not philosopher that rules our world nor even one that informs our world leaders (unless we count the vile Rand and the glorifiers of greed); it should be studied in abnormal psychology courses and early childhood education. Our world order is based on the consumption of toys and this includes the consumption of entertainments. All is infantile mania and it is very easy to sell toys to toddlers.

Imagine a time when our future elites (we call them leaders) were taught in schools where the curriculum was actually called Paideia and the students (not children, not kids, students) were taught Latin and Greek and read the philosophy of the ancients in the original languages. Yes, you can argue with me about elites, about Greek and Roman slavery, about any number of things...but I'm not arguing that students were taught how to recreate these societies--rather they were taught how to think about humanity, about the polis...not to manipulate and abuse them for greater wealth and power.

I have not studied this issue in the least and so really can only speak to my moment and dissect what is happening now in our states (you really need to be aware of what's happening in states like Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, and Michigan--it seems worst in Michigan), particularly those with Republican governors.

First, my education--standard and I honestly remember little of it all the way until about sophomore year of college. I liked to read but that reading was limited to Stephen King and Dean Koontz and was centered in escape and emotion.

I'd like to take really just a brief look at Whitney Houston's The Greatest Love--lyrics and Youtubes follow. This track is off her debut album. Be sure I don't "blame" Houston for this song, nor the songwriter, this is the kind of ethos that was in the air; as I said "of the moment" in the same way that "Workin' for the Weekend" was. But these entertainments are pervasive and invasive...we sing them to ourselves and in the presence of our children--we were, thank you Journey, Raised on Radio, and radio, pop songs in the mainstream, invade our minds and become the under-song of our living. I believe that this is the strength of Limbaugh--he is a constant chant of resentment, hate, prejudice, racism, weakness...all posing as wisdom from a godly servant of righteousness.

So to the song (and the video is wonderfully self-referential as well--and more beautifully "performative" as her education seems to be "on the stage"). I don't really want to go through it line by line (and you probably don't want me to either!) but just think--this is the "paideia" of our popular mind.

What are we teaching the children that gave birth to this song in 1985? What are the lessons that inform our popular mind and lead us into our current moment?--Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, b. 1967.

Self-love WITHOUT commitment to community; without family love--it is even without the Xtian community--it is me alone with myself and that pretend Jesus who is everyone's personal savior (commentary of the times offered by Depeche Mode in 1990?)--and I am RIGHT and Justified in my love of self. But can't you tell this is the resentment of the meek? "I'll show you when I finally get to the point where I can show you!" This is the ethos that leads to self-justified rapacious destruction.

It's a conflicted ethos--We teach the children, we teach "them" to "lead the way", but to what?

The Greatest Love
I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be


And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love


  1. We're teaching them that self-love will empower them to be pop stars. If you believe in yourself you can be the next Whitney Houston! For some reason I just got Too Legit to Quit stuck in my head. (Think you could also apply your philosophy to this song of self-righteousness?)

    Images, songs are a very powerful opiate. The generation of Whitney Houston crooners that grew up singing The Greatest Love went on to produce American Idol.

  2. We are indeed a nation of idolaters!