The White Issue

by Lindy Davies

The Beatles released “The White Album” in 1968. The intital reviews weren’t so good, but at least two generations of listeners have loved the record and repurchased it on each new media format. The Fab Four themselves thought of it as their “breakup album” — they weren’t, always, even together when they were recording it; they were in different studios, on different tracks. You couldn’t really blame them. They were in the middle of a huge storm, a tremendous cultural upheaval, awakening, revolution — which seemed to be all about them (they were “more popular than Jesus,” as John famously quipped). Being The Beatles was more weight than four blokes from Liverpool could ever hope to carry on their backs.

But the album has some great work on it. Back in the USSR, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, Little Piggies, Revolution, Blackbird, Helter Skelter, Why Don’t we Do It in the Road? — just for starters. The lads might not have been together, but they were worth listening to. They were frighteningly creative. Even though they couldn’t live up to being The Beatles, they had more to offer artistically than they could possibly realize.

Which brings us to what I’m (rather presumptuously) thinking of as the “White Issue” of the Georgist Journal. There are some fairly obvious problems with the analogy (Georgists couldn’t claim to be in Jesus’s league, popularity-wise), but it does make some sense. Consider the “unity” issue. Millions of fans seemed to think that the World As They Knew It would pass away, if Beatles broke up. And, literally dozens of prominent Georgists seem to think we’ll never succeed in changing our world as we know it, unless we all stop whatever else we’re doing and unify behind a single effort. But which one would it be? Should we stick with Paul’s music-hall melodies? John’s sharp-edged messages? George’s mystical explorations? Ringo’s good-time ditties? They were all good. Despite their fans’ fervent wishes, the Beatles were more than “The Beatles” — and less. Unity was no longer a realistic possibility for them.

It’s evident that no movement that deserves the name ever got to be that way through conscious direction. It’s just not the way things work; there’s no committee planning how the bees are going to spread the meadow’s pollen (or, when there is, both the bees and the crops suffer). There’s no guarantee of miraculous success if only we had a Five Year Plan. And truth to tell, don’t most of those plans really come down to newer, subtler ways of saying, “Only I can save you — only if you fund me?”

One singularly sensible Georgist I know says that when the public does finally come around to embracing the obvious good sense of the Georgist remedy, the “Georgist movement” isn’t going to get any of the credit. We shouldn’t be demoralized or surprised by that: the credit will go to whichever Prominent Person happens to propose it at exactly the right moment. Our job is to keep it alive until then. That might not seem the most hopeful thought — and, indeed, we have a long list of disadvantages and hindrances. But we have one great luxury. We have the opportunity — as the Beatles embraced on the White Album — to play any tune we want, at any volume, to any audience, as long as it’s Real.

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