I’ve been crazy about The Submarine’s second album Honeysuckle Weeks for the last year or so. It’s fun, catchy pop with a great sound. I recently downloaded a live-in-studio session from daytrotter and it forced me to listen to the lyrics of “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie.” If you don’t think you know the song, you may recognize it from its ubiquitous presence in commercials for the iPhone. That association adds an extra level of irony when I realized that this song was about the angst of affluence. You should really hear it, here’s the music video:
The song, to me, is about the excesses of western life, and the difficulty of trying to live less ostentatiously. It is this very angst that drives a lot of urban trends to try to be less hard on the earth and on the labor and lifestyles of people in other places. For example, organic food, local food, bike to work, fair trade and green everything. The presence of a song about this pull toward lifestyle changes in a commercial for Apple seems oddly apt, since the apple brand identity fits fairly well with these trends. I’ll include myself in this stereotype: I sip locally roasted organic fair trade coffee at a local coffee shop while I write this post on my Mac. Earlier today I went to the farmers market. I felt bad that it was too far to go on foot.
Now, I can make fun of this stereotype even as I embrace it, but songs like “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” remind me of the niggling questions I have: Is this another type of “cool” just like any other, or is it action on personal politics? What relation do these choices have to my Christian faith?
While I am still self-aware that being “hip” and having politics I care about are perhaps too intertwined to untangle, I am committed to the idea of personal choices reflecting my values. Even if my actions are sometimes contradictory, I can keep trying. This is a lesson that I learned in many ways from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
As some people brought up in the comments section of my last post, many of the laws in the Bible were given by God for the Israelites to distinguish themselves from other peoples and live God’s values. I’d say that the year of jubilee is significantly more radical than fair trade, actually. So this association between practices and beliefs is deep in our tradition. Participating in modern practices that help us to interact justly with others and be better stewards of the resources God gave us seems rather apt, then. And, as an added benefit, perhaps our own commitment to justice and to creation will help us shine our light to others in our culture who notice the same evils, even if they don’t see them from the perspective of a Christian God.
That sounds great, but then I remember my limited time, finances, and ability to research and find the right things to buy, the right groups to own. Fortunately, Christianity also tells us that God honors those of us who try our best, and reminds us that we are just one part of a Body of Christ. It’s not just me “in the center of the first world” (as the song goes) but it really is “you and me just trying to get it right.”