Last night I spent a little over an hour experiencing severe cognitive dissonance. I attended a screening of Neil Young’s The Monsanto Years: A Work in Progress. It was a documentary of the making of his new album which is due to be released in June.
I was filled with dread as I waited in line to go in the IFC Center theater. What could I expect? Well, I got what I expected, nonsense filled songs. It also validated my other fear, that I would like the music. I suppose one saving grace is that Crazy Horse wasn’t his backup band. His new band included Willie Nelson’s two sons.
Young was introduced and walked on stage and I thought to myself. Wow. Neil fuckin’ Young. He gave a little intro about the film and said that he saw Monsanto as the poster child for the corporate evil usurping of our democracy, but added that he harbored no ill will for the people who worked for them. Huh?
Monsanto as the poster child for corporate villainy? Banks and oil companies I can see, but Monsanto, a mere $15 billion dollar a year company whose profits are similar to Whole Foods?
Forbes Top 100 US companies in 2014 have Walmart coming in at #1, with Exxon/Mobil and Chevron placing and showing. Hell, Apple comes in at #5. Monsanto comes in at 197. True villain, Bank of America ranked 21st.
Young’s stance and his idea that Monsanto is ultimate evil shows how the anti-GMO movement has skewed the debate about the issue among well-meaning lefties.
The movie started off well enough with a song called Too Big to Fail, which was more an overall indictment of corporations like banks et al, getting away with criminal activity. Okay, so far so good, but I knew what was coming and it came next. It was a song about Starbucks and Monsanto picking on poor little Vermont. It was standard anti-GMO stuff, straight from the anti-GMO playbook.
There were a couple of songs about farmers which led me to think, despite the 30 years he’s been involved in Farm Aid, did he ever once speak to any actual farmers? The songs sure didn’t seem like it.
Two songs were all about how horrible farmers have it due to the villainous nature of Monsanto and how poor farmers are sued into oblivion by the company who forces them to keep buying their seeds. (I never thought I’d ever hear Young sing about seed patents.)
Monsanto, let our farmers grow what they want to grow…
Seeds are not what they once were. God and Mother Nature don’t own them anymore
He bemoans the plight of the sad farmer who wistfully remembers the days when the family farm was pure and not tainted by the greedy hands of Monsanto.
He really has this nostalgic idea for a time that never existed. I don’t know what farming was like in his hometown of Canadia, but I’m sure it couldn’t have been that different from here in the U.S.
The rest of the songs were about the environment and stupid hippie earth loving stuff like how we’re killing the planet etc. Although I did hear the word autism at one point but I couldn’t quite make out the rest of the lyrics.
Oh, and in between songs they had the names being put up on a movie marquee by two guys dressed in hazmat suits.
Left Brain: Oh man, this is nonsense
Right Brain: Neil fuckin’ Young!
Left Brain: He’s singing, bullshit, Mooney
Right Brain: But it’s Neil fuckin’ Young
Left Brain: Stop tapping your foot, idiot.
As much as I wanted to be angry at Young, whose work I have admired since I was a teen, I just couldn’t muster it up. He’s wrong about what he’s singing about, but I think it’s that he’s more of a dumbass than a newly minted anti-GMO activist. He did say the record, is “just what I think.” That’s something, I guess. Next record he’ll be on to something else. It’s what he does.
Still, the antis will seize on this and they already have. Alex Jones and Natural Society have weighed in.
After the movie ended and I was leaving the theater, I was all of a sudden jostled by some guys and then right next to me, as in inches from me, was Young being hustled out to an SUV to make a quick getaway. Man, he’s old.