Many people already know the influence that artists from any genre, pop or otherwise, on their personal lives, but how much do artists REALLY affect something greater. Meaning, can artists really have any influence, by way of their established influence on the personal lives of the people who listen to them, to change the state of the world, politics, and the beliefs of people? It’s a question that definitely needs answering, as there have been quite a few contradictory examples of how artist influence really works. The Black Metal scene, for example, has incited people to take up something as awful as Church Burning as a hobby. While those people are few and far between, relative to every Black Metal fan in world, they were still influenced by the music to do some pretty awful things in the name of the ideas of Black Metal (look at Varg from Burzum).
The opposite example, however, has been developing for quite some time now in Indonesia, starting with the arrest of two Australian drug smugglers. The Indonesian prime-minister, Joko Widodo, sentenced the two smugglers to death in, what seemed to be, going a bit too far with punishment in order to scare away potential drug smugglers in the future. In an attempt to stop these executions, Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway sent a letter to the prime-minister, appealing that he spare the live of the two men:
“Dear Mr. Widodo,
“I am appealing directly to you to please spare the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australian citizens who are currently awaiting the death sentence in Indonesia for heroin smuggling. As a follower of our band Napalm Death, you would appreciate that our lyrics and ethos challenge the unbroken cycle of violence in the world, whether it comes from a state or as an individual. If these things are not challenged and ultimately changed, I believe we will never truly move forward as humankind.
“I understand that you are standing as a leader determined to change things for the better, and so I believe granting clemency would be a major step forward in this pursuit of betterment. I appreciate that heroin can be damaging on many levels, but I believe that this is a much deeper issue that cannot be changed or altered by simply taking away the lives of people.
“Again, I respectfully ask that you make a real difference and overturn these sentences.
“In hope and peace
“Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway (Napalm Death)”
While it seems a bit odd that someone involved with Grindcore to be appealing to the president of a nation, in this case, it made perfect sense:
That’s right, the president of Indonesia is a metalhead, through-and-through. So, as a fan of Napalm Death, it might mean a lot to you if the band’s mastermind and frontman sent you a personal letter, asking you to halt the executions. Despite this, Widodo did not send a response letter, or even give a public statement, even though Greenway’s letter had gotten some pretty big attention from the media. Not only that, but Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi followed suit, with his own appeal to the president:
“The President of lndonesia
3rd March 2015
“Your Excellency, I am writing to appeal to you to grant clemency to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
“I understand and respect your efforts to combat drug abuse in lndonesia, this is something that all countries are having to deal with.
“lndeed, I have seen first hand the negative impacts that drugs can have on people and their families. That is why I understand your strong views on this issue. The lndonesian prison system has had great success in transforming Andrew and Myuran.
“I appeal to you, as a forgiving man, to take note of their transformation. They are now reformed men who are making a positive difference to the lives of their fellow prisoners.
“That they have been transformed so much is a real credit to the lndonesian authorities.
“For this reason, I would ask that you stop the execution of Andrew and Myuran.
“Please allow them to serve out life sentences where they contribute to the wellbeing of lndonesia and make good for the error of their previous ways. I do hope you will consider this personal appeal.
Guitarist, Black Sabbath.”
Again, despite Iommi coming out with a strong appeal, there came no response from the Indonesian leader. Finally, one final ‘letter’ from Axl Rose, was posted to Guns N’ Roses’ Facebook, which was, by far, the longest and most eloquent of all 3 letters:
It seemed, with this last, strong appeal to the president, if no response or statement would be issued, the prisoners would definitely be executed. Sure enough, today (April 29th), Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had their executions carried out. Axl Rose responded with a series of tweets, saying things like:
“It's deeply troubling President Widodo ignoring International outcry went thru w/8 of the executions.”
“Widodo's refusal 2 postpone the executions until all legal challenges n' investigations of corruption r resolved is inexcusable.”
“4 Widodo 2 b out of the country during his big statement refusing 2 take calls or read any last minute pleas 4 the condemned is cowardice”
“The people of Indonesia deserve better”
With all this to take in, do artists really have any kind of influence on the world of politics? It’s especially obvious that Widodo was a genuine fan of the bands whose shirts he wore, as it takes quite some resolve to stand against the people who will call you a radical for enjoying Grindcore. It’s evident, however, that, while artists may be able to change the mind’s of ordinary people, when it comes to influencing the realm of politics and politicians, their power seems to dissolve instantly. No matter how big of a Napalm Death fan you are, even if Barney pleads with you to do something, maybe politicians are beyond the influence of music. Maybe Widodo’s was SO influenced by what he perceives to be ‘Metal’, that even the artists behind the music couldn’t even talk him out of it, which would be a sad reality.