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A Fireside Chat With Herbie Hancock

By Published: January 22, 2003

HH: Absolutely, absolutely, there are ways, but first of all, Fred, you have to understand that the thing that is most needed on the planet for most of the poorer nations on the planet is not technology. It is water. That's first. Secondly, technology on the surface is about data and knowledge, but it takes wisdom to be able to use those elements in a proper way to move humanity forward. So technology without wisdom is dangerous and one of the problems today is the word wisdom has almost disappeared from the map of our vocabulary and it really needs to be put there because it is with wisdom that we can figure out in a more comprehensive and a more positive way, how to use the technology and how to even transfer the technology to other nations so that we don't interfere with their own ability, so it is not like a hand-me-down.

There is a tendency for the haves to think, even the do-gooder haves, to think that the have-nots have nothing to offer and the haves have something to offer and we really should take care of those poor people who have nothing to offer. That is very arrogant and elitist. That needs to be changed because it is not the have nots that have put the world into a lot of trouble. It's the haves. So maybe it is the have nots that have some of the solutions that we need. Perhaps if we paid more attention to providing the technology to the have nots so that they can give us what it is that they bring to the table, we might not have had to face the problem of 9-11.

Perhaps if we paid more attention to, not the short term view, but the long term view of what we Americans do and what we in quotes "contribute" to the rest of the world, we'd find that a lot of what we think is good is not really so good. We're not liked very much, not only by people who are more obvious enemies to our culture, but even by our allies. I go to France. French people don't like us very much. Yes, they like the American people, but they don't like what we do because we are very, very arrogant. We always think we are the best. We are the biggest, yes, but we always think we're the best.

Well, our best, to me, isn't good enough. I think we need to look further inside and look further into not only glazing over whatever mistakes we may be thinking and just focusing on the good things. We need to really re-examine ourselves and find out what it is we really need to change about ourselves so that instead of being hated by the world, so that we are loved by the world. We have the capacity to do that.

First of all, war is a last resort. War is the last resort and it should come as a result, if anything, of someone striking you in the face, but even at that, I hate the idea of war. I hate the idea of war. I haven't been aware yet of enough proof that, OK, here is what bothers me. Where do we get off in being the country that decides who is supposed to have weapons of mass destruction and who isn't? Oh, because we're the good guys? We won't do any bad things with it. Dream on. Since when have we been the good guys? We're the only ones that dropped an atomic bomb so far. And we are threatening to possibly include nuclear weapons in this war? To me that is insane.

The axis of evil? I think we should look in the mirror and then we will see what the axis of evil is. We are becoming the bad guys and I hate that. I really hate that.

There is no reason that we should be the bad guys. One of the problems is that our whole system is based off of consumerism, based off of money. That is the motivator. In order to get money, you have to get people to buy things. In order to get people to buy things, you give them whatever it is they want, whether it is good for them or not. So we have kow-towed to the lowest common denominator in America for far too long and to a total imbalance compared to all the different factions and age groups and tastes that exist in this country.

This is a big country that has a variety of things. One of the best attributes of this country is our variety. It is a whole tapestry of everything that is in this country. That's good. But it seems that the only thing we're trying to sell is to teach people to be gluttons and greed. That is not good.

So my concern is not just to complain about, as I am doing now, about what is not good, but I am concerned about finding solutions on how we can improve ourselves as Americans and improve our image, not just because, out of the fact that we hear about just the image, but we care about who we really are. That is my concern.

FJ: Should you, as an entertainer, preach from the pulpit?

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