Pax Americana and the World of Music Education
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Pax Americana and the World of Music Education

It may seem ironic to speak of a Pax Americana at a time when the United States is prosecuting a war and its aftermath.1 Still, imperialism, or the desire to keep the peace on one's own terms, has led other nations into war when their will and power was frustrated and thwarted. My purpose in this essay is to raise four important and interrelated questions: What are the political tasks that hopeful music teachers, administrators, and those interested in their work need to undertake to pursue an ethically universalistic, democratic, and humane education? What are some guiding principleswhereby music educators and policy-makers can navigate this territory? What are the conditions that would facilitate educational dialogue of the sort that is needed? How should music to be taught in order to achieve the intellectual objectives necessary in dialogical education? I view these questions from the limited musical perspective of the Western classical tradition — a misnomer since it is now an international tradition practiced around the world by people of many different languages, ethnicities, and cultures — and in the context of my position that this tradition merits transformation.2 This is a particularly interesting example since its roots originally are European, Eastern, and African, and it potentially subverts the predominant American popular musical culture of our time.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri write of a global empire in the making and the seeds of its decline and fall, the multitudes that arise against it and the challenges they encounter in making their voices heard in the political arena.3 The forces of globalization, interwoven as they are with those of capitalism and the ideologies that foster it, are so pervasive that it is difficult for nation states to resist. The powers of nation-states decline while pervasive internationalism lies like an "epidermis" over the many nation-states, religions, languages, and ways of life that characterize societies on planet earth.4 The United States might champion capitalism and its own [End Page 1] breed of democratic ideology, yet globalization engulfs it such that it becomes the creature of its own making. Its values and culture might lie at the heart of the cultural, economic, and political agents of globalization — the multinational corporations with their corresponding distribution networks, interlocking international corporate directorships, licensing agreements, technological inventions, and powerful political and religious liaisons — yet even the United States becomes the child of forces it has exported throughout the world and that it is now unable to control. A culture of fear and violence pervades the country.5 Outsourcing, off-shore export of production capacity, the power of the profit motive, and management decisions made far from the particular places they impact leave many Americans without jobs and security, and a sense of powerlessness to change their circumstances — a phenomenon that also appears in other countries. Eventually, as Hardt and Negri posit in Marxian vein, the people impacted by these developments both here and abroad begin to organize themselves and rise against the oppression they may at first sense if not fully understand; in the beginning they may march peacefully but as their anger and frustration grow, they may eventually revolt. One need not buy into their particular reading of history to notice that, at least over the long term of decades or centuries, there seem to be limits on the human willingness to tolerate oppression; when their patience is eventually exhausted, people resist, subvert, escape, or overthrow their oppressors.

One of the particular challenges of our time is the "polyvocality" of contemporary societies. Globalism may constitute the epidermis overlying these "multiplicities and pluralities" but underneath are the hosts of differing tribes, religions, languages, colors, and identities. Ways need to be found for people to dwell together in peace and debate and reconcile their differences without resorting to violence.6 In such a world, even in societies that espouse democratic ideals and principles, moral conflicts cannot be avoided, and differences between and among individuals and groups are often deeply rooted, persistent, and pervasive. This necessitates forging mechanisms that enable deliberation about how to solve the conflicts that necessarily arise.7 Seyla...