[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Insularity

JimDBB at aol.com JimDBB at aol.com
Sat Feb 8 22:42:00 PST 2003

In a message dated 2/8/03 7:48:34 PM Central Standard Time, zenith at ans.com.au 

> As an expat Scotsman living in Sydney with my Kiwi (New Zealand) wife since 
> 1968 I do genuinely believe that Australia does sit somewhere in the middle 
> (lifestyle, instincts, attitude and opinions) between UK and American 
> thinkers.  Having a bet each way with five passports between us (here we 
> go) [polite snipe] it has been my experience in discussion with your 
> "average man in the American street" (excluding those who travel overseas) 
> that they have somewhat insular thinking.  I presume this is caused by the 
> educational system and background.  :~)  
> Basic surprises include; is Australia in Europe? (perhaps mistaking it for 
> Austria) and having never heard of New Zealand, where is it?  (In New 
> Orleans, some years ago, we visited a tower overlooking the water that 
> included all the flags of the countries in the world and New Zealand did 
> not even exist, however, we left a note advising them).  What makes this 
> more alarming/amusing for me is that I am attempting to gain membership to 
> the 100 CLUB, which is based in America, with 87 countries visited and 13 
> to go, where this club includes Tasmania (an island that is part of 
> Australia) as another country!  Should I still attempt to join? 
> Please correct me if I am wrong but I think the above thinking also (in 
> some cases) extends to jazz music.  I am always careful to say that we play 
> American music (especially when trying to gain gigs in USA) as that is 
> where jazz was born, but again, never to have heard of Cleo Lane or husband 
> Johnny Dankworth or the three B's - Barber, Ball, Bilk for Listmates in 
> their sixties is another genuine surprise for me.  Canadians seem to be 
> more like New Zealander's including their similar dollar values.  
> Tom (hoping not to start any trouble) Wood

   aw...come on, Tom.  Start some trouble...I'm up for it.

   Your post is quite thoughtful and I have thought about it.  You are quite 
right that we americans are guilty of an annoying insularity.  However, I 
don't think that we are 'guilty' of anything as such. Beyond a general 
dumbing down in our society there always has been an indifference to thngs 
beyond this country.  This, I believe stems from a traditional or historic 
desire to stay out of Europe's perennial problems and wars  This general 
feeling now, of course, includes much of the rest of the world.  We always 
seemed to be going to war to save somebody's ass in Europe and now, 
everywhere else.  I think that many of us tend to think of Australia and New 
Zealand as 'Europe' even though these countries are a long way from Europe. 

I think that some of our insular mentality stems from our ancestors who came 
here.  Many of them desired to cut ties and contact with their homelands.  
They went out of their way to adapt to new ways, new language and to shut out 
the old world.

When you add all of this up there has always been a general non-interest in 
the affairs of much of the rest of the world.  Stir into this each individ
uals focus on his/her families on going trevails and they simply don't want 
to hear about problems elsewhere...even though this is in our news 

As far as jazz, most of the leading exponents in the various styles have been 
in this country and so no desire to look further.  Also a contributring 
factor in the low interest in non-american jazz groups has been the 
unavailability of foreign recordings.  You really have to go out of your way 
to find them here.  Another factor is american and european musicians unions. 
 The American musicians union effectively kept foreign musicians out of this  
country for years.  Those who were able to tour here were usually well 
received.  I Know that the British and other countries Trad groups would find 
a ready audience here.

Sept. 11 was a big wake up call here akin to Pearl Harbor.  We have been 
confronted with the revelation that there are 8 million undocumented illegal 
aliens here.  Our gov't doesn't know who they are, where they are nor what 
they are doing.  This has been very alarming and all in all I think that we 
will end up with an even greater insularity.  Our borders have been porous 
and any bomb throwing arab can get in here easily...no problem.  We have 
suffered through one attack after another and done nothing about it. A 
growing sentiment now is to kick every illegal out of here and close our 
doors and borders. A lot of people are alarmed and pissed.  We very much want 
to move forward in the middle east and clean out that whole rats nest...once 
and for all.

One more factor, Tom is that it is hard for most Americans to travel abroad.  
Besides not having the money or time for it many do not have the taste for 
it.  Those that were abroad in the military have no desire to travel.  I was 
stationed In Japan for a year and I have no desire to go there again or 
anywhere in the far east. I would like to go to Europe but I can't.  New 
Zealand and Australia is a long expensive plane trip that few people care to 

So, Tom, all of this to acknowledge your concern at our insularity and to try 
and explain it.  Hopefully, the internet serves to break through some of it.  
Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Jim Beebe

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