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    Sean Daily is an English major from New Jersey now living in Las Vegas, the Other City of Lights. "I consider 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' to be comfort reading, I like the al pastor tacos at Tacos Mexico and I count among my literary influences the Chainsaw from 'Doom'. 'RRRRRR! You don't like that, do you, Mr. Undead Marine! RRRRRR!'"

    Shanoah Alkire is our Discordian at large. "Born in Santa Cruz, I grew up in Grass Valley and the Bay Area, and now lurk in Las Vegas. My literary influences include Ray Bradbury, Lewis Carroll, and Douglas Adams. I also program as a hobby, and currently maintain the Gtk port of Angband. You can find a rather old bio of me here."

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5-1-09 Mavis Staples – Hard Times Come Again No More

Posted by Sean on May 1, 2009

I wouldn’t exactly call the Great Famine an act of God, Shanoah. The reasons are a little hard to explain, so just stay with me here.

First off, most of the land in Ireland was owned by about 8,000 landlords who – surprise, surprise – were English descendants. They rented out their lands to tenant farmers who, in turn, rented out their land to subistence farmers called cottiers.

And cottiers had it good, let me tell you. In return for tilling the tenants farmers’ land, the cottiers got the priceless privelege of tilling their own teeny tiny plots of land. They weren’t paid, mind, but they could grow their own food and – crazy, I know – keep it.

Well, turns out that the potato is perfect for growing in teeny tiny plots of land. I read somewhere that you could feed six people for a year on just an acre of potatoes. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that, by 1845, when the famine broke out, most of the rural population was living on potatoes and buttermilk… and nothing else.

So let’s break it down. You have an entire population relying on one crop for its subsistence and, once the famine breaks out, a distant government that devolves all responsibility for dealing with the disaster to local government and the free market. (Sound familiar?)

As with most disasters, the gun was cocked long before the Great Famine. All the potato blight did was pull the trigger.

Again, sound familiar?

You’re right in one thing, though, Shanoah. The oppressed rarely manage to blow up the Death Star or kill the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. A certain exchange from the film adaptation of V for Vendetta comes to mind:

“What do you think will happen?”
“What usually happens when people without guns stand up to people
with guns.”

So, yeah, treasure the few times when the oppressed have managed to pull it off.

This song, Hard Times Come Again No More, was written in 1854 by Steven Foster. It was a popular song back during the American Civil War, when about half the United States had a collective temper tantrum because the mean old Fedril Gubmint wouldn’t let them own human beings as property. This version is sung by Mavis Staples, who pretty much sang the soundtrack for another struggle in the South, the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movements is one of those few times when the rebels did manage to blow up the Death Star. And they did it without firing a shot, too. Not bad.

Courtesy of Ellis Creative (site here).

By the way, Shanoah, I just thought of this: Guess what the English band was playing when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the nosepicking Continental Army at Yorktown. Why, it was The World Turned Upside Down.

Of course, this may not be true; I doubt an English military band would play a protest song against the English. That would sort of be like the boys in the NYPD choir singing Cop Killer. And like most things of this sort, I don’t care. A line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance comes to mind: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

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One Response to “5-1-09 Mavis Staples – Hard Times Come Again No More”

  1. […] 5-1-09 Mavis Staples – Hard Times Come Again No More […]

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