Have you ever noticed that some folks can read just about anything into anything? Any and all observations seem to run through a single filter in the brains of these people; it doesn’t matter what they see, hear, or otherwise experience, everything is processed through pretty much the same biases. It’s more or less the same kind of mindset that led to the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and the “communist under every rock” congressional investigations of the 1950’s.
Case in point: In a recent post my old friend Mark Hobson, referring to the lyrics of a recent Bob Dylan song called “It’s All Good”, said –
“It pleases me no end that Bob Dylan, on his latest album, takes a rather unsubtle (for him) swipe at the relativists in the crowd. In his song, It’s all good, he sings:”
Big politician telling lies;
Restaurant kitchen all full of flies.
Don’t make a bit of difference; don’t see why it should.
But it’s alright, cause its all good.
Its all good.
Its all good.
Now, there’s more to these lyrics than shown here. You can see most of it in Mark’s post or you can listen to the whole song on Youtube. It’s a great song and is, in my opinion, a wonderful mixture of the “old” and “new” Dylan. Even if you don’t pay any attention to the lyrics, you’ll love it. I would highly recommend taking 5 minutes and listening to it.
What truly baffles me, though, is Mark’s assertion that this is an “unsubtle swipe at the relativists in the crowd”. Huh? Are we looking at the same words? If Dylan is indeed doing that, it’s not exactly what I’d call an in – your – face indictment. It may, in fact, represent one of the most subtle uses of language in the history of songwriting. That is, if that’s the message he’s trying to convey.
Most would conclude that the song is simply typical Dylan irony – that he is once again revealing the human tendency to ignore the horrors all around us as we wander aimlessly (and blissfully) through life. He’s certainly been known to do that in previous work. And maybe that’s what he’s doing here. Maybe.
But I’m not sure. The album, after all, is called “Together Through Life“. Most of the other songs contain none of this kind of “irony”. Some are just plain old fun – type music. A couple are romantic ballads about lost love. My point is that, taken as a group, the songs on this album seem to be conveying a different message than one might expect from Dylan. I might not go so far as to say he’s trying to convey a message of hope here, but I think he’s leaning in that direction. Dylan has certainly mellowed with age, and I think these songs tend to reflect that. And that includes “It’s All Good”. But you be the judge – listen for yourself.
In any case, I don’t think Mark would know a “Relativist” if one came up and bit him in the ass. For that matter, neither would I. As usual, he’s simply trying to lump some very complex views and beliefs into one easy – for – him – to – understand idea. There’s the good guys – those who believe in Absolute Truth – and there’s the bad guys – those who believe in whatever’s convenient at the moment (those evil Relativists).
He must be right, though. Dylan, after all, is on his side. I’m just not sure that Dylan knows about it.