Thursday, November 21, 2013

Win Butler: missionaries to Haiti, sex and death, and Kierkegaard: “Dude, you have no idea how insane it’s gonna get!"

Interview with Win Butler in Rolling Stone (HT Christian Scharen, Roick and Theology)
In the airport in Haiti there are always these packs of missionaries with matching T-shirts that say “God loves Haiti.” And you talk to some of these people and you’re like, “Oh what are you guys doing here?” And they’re like, “Oh we’re going to help Haiti! We’re going to paint houses!” And you’re like, “Well why don’t you hire a Haitian to paint the houses? I guarantee they would love to paint a house.” So I don’t know, it’s just like this mashup of missionaries and Port au Prince and that’s probably it.
Are those some of the missionaries you sing about in “Here Comes the Night Time?”
Yeah. Well there’s a line in it that says, “The missionaries, they tell us we’ll be left behind, we’ve been left behind a thousand times.”
What were you thinking when you wrote that?
Just the absurdity that you can go to a place like Haiti and teach people something about God. Like, the opposite really seems to be true, in my experience. I’ve never been to a place with more belief and more knowledge of God.

..Were there any other things you learned about yourself in Haiti that you found coming out in these songs?
Carnival was pretty transformative because the tradition of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is really influenced by Haiti — you can find little pockets of that original energy — but a lot of it has turned into a spring break bacchanalia, flash-your-boobs and that kind of thing. But [at Carnival] there’s sex and death and people dressed up as slaves with black motor oil all over their faces and chains, and there’s these little kids in puffer fish outfits or dressed like Coke bottles. There’s big fire-breathing dragons that shoot real fire at the crowd.
For me, wearing a mask and dancing and being in the crowd — there’s this whole inversion of society that happens. For a lot of my friends and people that I grew up with, the only time you ever really feel comfortable dancing is if you’re with only your best friends and you’re really drunk. You know what I mean — feeling less of a break between the spirit and the body, and sex and death not being completely unrelated. [You] just kind of feel like a more whole person, I guess.

..On the last record you were singing a little bit about the parents’ perspective. What do you think the songs have in common?
I studied the Bible and philosophy in college and I think in a certain sense that’s the kind of stuff that still makes my brain work. There’s an essay by Kierkegaard called The Present Age that I was reading a lot that’s about the reflective age. This is like in [1846], and it sounds like he’s talking about modern times. He’s talking about the press and alienation, and you kind of read it and you’re like, “Dude, you have no idea how insane it’s gonna get.” [Laughs.]
What about Kierkegaard’s essay did you find relevant?
It reads like it was written here, basically. He basically compares the reflective age to a passionate age. Like, if there was a piece of gold out on thin ice, in a passionate age, if someone went to try and get the gold, everyone would cheer them on and be like, “Go for it! Yeah you can do it!” And in a reflective age, if someone tried to walk out on the thin ice, everyone would criticize them and say, “What an idiot! I can’t believe you’re going out on the ice to try and risk something.” So it would kind of paralyze you to even act basically, and it just kind of resonated with me — wanting to try and make something in the world instead of just talking about thi

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