[Prologue: “Songs my father taught me” by Helena Puig Larrauri
Luis Puig is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Valencia, an avid gardener, and a keen blogger. He’s also my dad, and perhaps, above all these, his real passion has always been music. With years of experience curating his own refined collection, we asked him to put together a mixtape of songs about peace for the Build Peace 2015 conference. What he dug up were mainly songs about war. In this blog post, he reflects on what that means for peacebuilding. In many ways, this music represents the sensibility and values of the 1968 generation, filtered through a love of vinyl and the particular experience of anti-fascist activism in Spain. His musical taste and his values have informed much of what I do. We may go from vinyl to cd to digital and back to vinyl again; while the tech may change, the values of non-violent activism remain.]
What is the point of war?
Edwin Starr shouts it loud and clear: “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”
And, yes, we know, as Bob Dylan proclaims, the responsibility of the warlords who can “hide behind desks” that war is always, as Steve Earle sings, “a rich man’s war”.
We also know how easy it is to sustain war’s reasoning in the divine will. Again, from the thin man himself:
“You never ask questions / with God on our side.”
The onus however does not only rest on those who promote war, but also with each of those involved in it, willingly or unwillingly. As Buffy Sainte Marie wrote in The Universal Soldier, and Donovan sings in this tape, “without him how would Hitler / have condemned them at Dachau? […] And he really is to blame / His orders come from far away no more / They come from here and there and you and me”.
From you and me, it’s each one of us who must write the letter to the President that Boris Vian composed, letting the commander-in-chief know he plans on deserting. It’s each one of us who must ask ourselves, as Elvis Costello wrote for Robert Wyatt to sing: “Is it worth it / A new winter coat and shoes for the wife / And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday?”
Yes, we know what war is and what it’s for, but what does “peace” mean?
In 1964, Franco’s fascist regime in Spain celebrated its 25th anniversary with the slogan “25 years of peace”. To which those of us who wanted a different peace, our response was unequivocal: We do not want the peace of the graveyards.
This point transcends the history of Spain. After war, we do not want the peace of the graveyards. To build peace we first must know what people want that peace to mean.
Track list: Build Peace 2015 tape
1. Edwin Starr, War! (Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong), 1970, 3:27
2. Bob Dylan, Masters of war (Bob Dylan), 1963, 4:38
3. Steve Earle, Rich Man’s War (Steve Earle), 2004, 3:25
4. Donovan, The Universal Soldier (Buffy Sainte-Marie), 1965, 2:22
5. Robert Wyatt, Shipbuilding (Elvis Costello and Clive Langer) 1982, 3:08
6. Boris Vian, Le déserteur (Boris Vian), 1954, 3:30
7. Phil Ochs (with The Blues Project), I ain’t marchin’ anymore (Phil Ochs), 1965, 2:47
8. Country Joe and The Fish, I-feel-like-I’m-fixin’-to-die (Country Joe McDonald), 1967, 3:45
9. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fortunate son (John Fogerty), 1969, 2:22
10. The Doors, The Unknown Soldier (Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzanek and John Densmore), 1968, 3:10
11. Talking Heads, Life During Wartime (David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth), 1979, 3:41
12. Miguel Poveda, Guerra a la guerra por la guerra (Rafael Alberti y Pedro Guerra), 2015, 2:42
13. Wilco, War on war (Jeff Tweedy), 2002, 3:47
14. Bob Dylan, With God on our Side (Bob Dylan), 1963, 7:04
15. John Fogerty, Déjà vu (John Fogerty), 2004, 4:13
16. Marvin Gaye, What’s goin’ on (Renaldo Benson, Marvin Gaye, and Al Cleveland), 3:56