Thursday, May 17, 2007

Growing Up Philly Style

I grew up in Philadelphia, a city with a beat all its own. This beat pervaded the whole city. It seemed like everyone walked to that beat when I was a kid, bouncing along to a rhythm no one could hear. It was the rhythm of passion, and it was contagious. It was the beat of the heart, and we all moved to it. It made Philly this electric place, a place where people thrived or died, but never just survived. Philly was my home: it created me, hook, line, sinker, and I became addicted to the energy that made Philly great.

People who came into the city just heard noise, the deafening noise of millions of voices and screams in the night. The bullets of mafia drive-byes, the pounding of hundreds of kids pushing over cop vans on South Street on a Friday night, the thumping of the poor kid who walked into the wrong neighborhood as hundreds of locals kick him, even the clickety clack of the typewriters that fueled one of the largest commercial districts in the country.

The noise was also the fiercest sports fans in the country, cheering on the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and 76ers, throwing snowballs at Santa and cheering injured opponents. It was the hundred people lined up around the block at Pat’s cheese steak, waiting for the best sandwich in the world. It was the clanking of the nightsticks of the mob thugs hired as cops to keep order in the craziest city in the world, and the boom of the thermonuclear “entrance device” that burnt a city block to the ground when residents took on the law.

And it was the music! Great music was coming out of Philly in the 70s and 80s. Philadelphia International Studios was producing some of the best R&B in the country, with acts like The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Whitehead Brothers, and a ton of other bands that made up the traditional Philly sound. Plus, there were the rockers: Bruce Springsteen was right across the bridge, George Thoroughgood was playing clubs every weekend night, even Hall and Oats were producing awesome music before they sold out.

Yeah, visitors thought it all made up a deafening noise, but anyone from the city heard the rhythm, bounced to it, grooved to it, felt it in their bones. The city was electric with that beat, ready to explode from it at any moment. That charged the whole city, amped it up like crazy, and supercharged anyone who spent any time in the City of Brotherly Love.

I loved the rock, and Philly was just brimming with it. There were these two radio stations rivaling each other every step of the way, always trying to outdo the other. They set up these amazing concerts, where the best musicians in the world came into Philly and put on these amazing shows.

The Jams at JFK each went over 12 hours with bands like The Who, The Stones, Santana, and so many more. 110,000 people going crazy to incredible tunes. On the art museum steps would be shows like 3 Dog Knight, CSNY, and Aretha Franklin. And the Spectrum would have bands like Derek and the Dominos, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was awesome!

The city created a type of passion that pervaded every person I knew and everything they did. The passion is contagious! It was all about heart; the city would embrace anyone who showed that heart, and would never forgive anyone who lacked it. From the lowliest janitor to the athletes that played for our teams and the musicians who graced our stages, a little bit of heart went a long way in Philly, and I was brought up valuing heart more than anything else.

Ever wonder why Rocky has always been considered Philly’s favorite son? It’s because of the heart he showed against such amazing odds. You don’t have to be the smartest or the best, in Philly, just the most passionate. In everything you do. And that’s what I aspire to as well. With my radio show, when I play guitar, in my work, in everything. I hope that passion is contagious; I hope you feel it too. The way I figure it, that’s the way it ought to be. Passion and heart, Philly style. Hope you like it.


Posted by Scottage at 12:54 AM / | |  

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Teaching Hatred – As Worlds Collide

Al-Aqsa TV, out of Palestine, has decided to continue airing a cartoon featuring Farfur the Mouse, a Mickey look-alike. Farfur preaches hatred of the Jewish people, Israel, and the occupation of Palestine. The show has been condemned by Israel, of course, but also by the Palestinian government. But the producers of this show have not realized that they are dooming the children as much as they doom the two nations to a life of conflict.

In recovery, I am beginning to see the very real effects of resentments and hatred on an individual’s psyche. The type of resentments fostered by a program like Farfur are killers, breeding self-doubt, self-loathing, and a general lack of confidence in ones self-evaluation that most likely will plague these children throughout their lives. Once again, the innocent children of this ongoing war are the victims.

I have always focused on the impact on a child’s morals from early education in hatred. Time after time we’ve seen that kids who are taught hatred early in life have a looser grip on common morality, and are unable to distinguish absolute wrongs when it comes to the groups they hate. Whether hate groups in the South, the Nazis in Germany, or modern-day skinheads, extreme acts of violence have become more and more acceptable as hatred has been taught earlier in life.

I’m astounded by the number of people that I encounter daily who were raised on hatred. This has produced a generation of individuals who are at war with themselves; on one hand, they have been taught morality as the bible teaches it, including kindness towards your neighbor and mutual respect, on the other hand they have been trained to hate a class of people, to resent people just for being part of a specific group.

So often, it seems that these resentments are at the core of problems experienced by these people I encounter daily. Alcoholism and addiction are but the tip of the iceberg as these individuals fight with a spiritual malady that consistently pushes them suppress their feelings.

No question, it is not just people bred on hatred that feel these resentments, nor are these people the only alcoholics or addicts. But it’s not surprising that so many people who have been raised on hatred would wind up facing serious mental issues. Thus, one has to question the morality of teaching hatred to children, and ask whether the well-being of the children is being sacrificed for the teacher’s political agenda.

This is an extremely poignant question in the Middle East. Children in the region have already been robbed of a childhood by the danger they face daily. However, many indicants point to a better future on the horizon. Living in the region it was amazing how much optimism was felt by young children both on the Israeli or Palestinian side of the wall. And I feel this optimism is justified, as the two sides move ever closer to an agreement.

Even if common ground can be found, and the Palestinian people do gain a homeland, will the younger generation be able to enjoy this new life? Will they be able to build their own paradise in the desert, and live as neighbors with Israel and the other Middle Eastern countries, or will their lives be dictated by the consequences of having been taught hatred from such an early age?

It’s no surprise that not only the Israelis but the Palestinians are pushing for Farfel to be taken off the air. But many people obviously care more about propagating and winning a conflict with Israel than with securing a better future for the Palestinian people. Tonight, I’ll be saying a prayer for the children of this conflict, the innocent victims, pawns in a conflict they hardly understand. May they hear a message of peace in days to come.


Posted by Scottage at 1:20 AM / | |