Same old tune
It was like a dream come true. At first I didn't believe it. Not only was Bob Dylan coming to New Zealand, he was coming to Christchurch and I was going to be there.
When I told my father I was going, he started laughing. Hard. "But, but . . ." he stammered between bouts of mirthful giggles, "but Bob Dylan's the music I listened to. Shouldn't you be listening to some sort of thrashing noise that I don't understand? Aren't you meant to be young? Couldn't you rebel just a little?"
I started to tell him that Bob Dylan's message of rebellion was eternal and therefore knew no generational lines. I gave up halfway through. He couldn't possibly understand he's far too old.
My mother was equally perplexed. She doesn't think that Bob Dylan can sing.
"Why would you pay money to hear someone who can't hold a note?" At that point, I tuned out. All I heard was: "Music should have a melody. . . blah, blah. This new fandangled . . . blah, blah. Thrashing, screaming, moaning . . . blah, blah. If that's what they're calling it these days." I tried to tell her that Bob Dylan could sing in tune, he simply chose not to. She didn't believe me. I gave up trying to explain. She wouldn't understand she's far too old.
My brother calls me a dirty hippie. To this, I don't respond. I quite like being called a dirty hippie. In fact, I find it quite endearing. I have always harboured the notion that I was born at the wrong place in the wrong time.
In spirit, I feel like a youth of the 1960s. I like the music, attitudes, entertainment and culture that abounded in the post-World War 2 period. I like the idea of youth around the world forming one big rebellious group, with good taste in clothes and music.
I know that I'm romanticising the era. I know that not everyone was a hippie and not everyone rebelled. Most New Zealanders were probably as conservative as ever. They weren't out listening to cool music and talking about how to overthrow the system. They were too busy wearing pulled-up socks, talking about sheep and going to Bible class dances.
But somewhere out there, people were starting to stand up. They began to battle for civil liberties and social justice. They questioned the existing order and they fought to change it.
I envy the degree of political awareness that I associate with the 1960s and 70s. I love the idea of people everywhere getting off their fat, apathetic, pizza-eating, TVwatching asses and fighting to make a difference. I like the idea of belonging to a group and feeling the buzz and power of the masses fighting for a cause.
It never occurred to me that in the South Island of New Zealand, 40 years later, I could feel a part of a buzz like that. But I have. Not just because Bob Dylan is coming (though, damn, it's going to be good). I felt that buzz on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the Octagon surrounded by a couple of thousand people, all of them concerned about the state of international politics.
At both of the protests against a war in Iraq there has been a huge cross-section of the community students, parents, city councillors, professionals; old and young, informed and just plain ignorant. It's horrible, I know, to celebrate any aspect of a potential war. But I really did find it heartwarming to see such a large crowd of people giving up their Saturdays to demonstrate. We had a larger turnout per capita than any city in New Zealand, a fact that makes me more proud of Dunedin than the Highlanders ever could.
When I told my brother how great it was to see so many people exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest, he told me to go hug a tree. Then he lent me a book entitled (I kid you not) Give War a Chance . "Invasions make good television," he tells me. Somehow, I don't think I'm going to read the book.
In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy Bob Dylan. I'm going to enjoy the crowd and I'm going to enjoy the music of protest that's as relevant now as it has ever been.
Melanie Bunce is a Dunedin student. She contributes a regular column
to the Otago Daily Times. This item appeared on Friday, 28-February 2003.