Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Beautiful Day" as globalist poetics

Okay, I get it. U2 is overly earnest, Bono is pompous. Neither this song nor this video will change your mind on those fronts. But hearing it again while reading a series of essays on globalization, I have to say that this song is veering dangerously close to a kind of a lyrical global consciousness reminiscent of "Koyanisqaatsi" in its bridge:

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out

Its large-scale "panning" over the global productions of weather and high-tech fishing, Bedouin life and oil refineries, creates a juxtaposition between "natural" ways and the technologies of global life. Without overromanticizing the natural and naturalizing, I'd say that the song celebrates a narrowing, a modifying, of our petroleum-induced desires (something that the video does not, really, with all its airplane imagery!). "Take me to that other place" is not a call to hop on the jet, but to find that interior space, the space within, where the day is beautiful and not to be lost.

The song ends in a way that Bill McKibben, ardent environmentalist and author of Eaarth, would appreciate, and see as parallel to his own call for us to adjust our lives to the new reality of climate change:

What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel it somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
Was a beautiful day

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