Consensus in America has always been an illusion, albeit one media, governments, and corporations were built upon. Our country found that out the hard way in the 20th century during the civil rights, women’s rights, homosexual rights, and other movements. Thanks to Noam Chomsky and other media analysts’ ground-shaking research, we now know that mass media, “the one true religion”, and other mental constructs are dangerous delusions that the rich and powerful use to make us believe that they know best and are in charge while the rest of us are identical and expendable.
So when Bob Dylan gets the Medal of Freedom award from President Obama, that’s significant. Here’s a guy who became famous, extraordinarily and ironically successful, by singing anti-war, anti-government, anti-wealth, anti-consumer, pro-freedom, pro-love, and just good, old rock ‘n’ roll songs. Dylan arguably had as much or more impact on the world as Hitler, Steve Jobs, and other contemporary icons. When we think of who we became in our lives, do we really think of politicians, bankers, and religious leaders. Or do we think of our favorite athlete, actor, or in this case, singer/songwriter?
Which raises the question: if Barack Obama was not president, would Dylan be even considered for such an honor? If Mitt Romney was president, can you really see him standing on a podium next to Joni Mitchell, draping her neck with a gold-laden ribbon, and whispering “I just loved ‘People’s Parties’?” I think you’re more likely to see Mitt glad-handing and sharing a strawberry fizz with Donny and Marie.
It shows that our institutions are run by people, not cosmic fiat (think Catholic church, NCAA, Microsoft). You change the people, you change the institution. Each of us is our own universe with our own standards, our own goals, and the freedom to maintain and reach them. When someone tells you there’s only one of something and that everyone should believe it, they’re actually ordering you to blindly obey them and their own personal standards and goals. Why would you do that? Unless, of course, you really want to be controlled, bullied, and otherwise rendered powerless.