PATTI SMITH

  
We donít see as much community, or even family, loyalty these days. Why is that?

I think it has a lot to do with the rampant materialism in our country. Just look at sports. My brother and my father loved sports, but I never liked sports when I was younger. When I moved to Michigan in 1979, I was in a climate of sports obsession, so I decided to try to understand why sports were so important to people. And I saw that people who work hard at a job that maybe isnít their thing attach themselves to a team for identity. I came to the conclusion that maybe sports is the only proper place for nationalism; that desire to have a team, to have a flag, to identify with something. With sports that desire isnít harmful. Itís a release. Itís entertaining. And you can witness the grace and beauty of a great athlete.

But I was naÔve and thought that when you joined a sports team, it was your team. Like, the Rolling Stones didnít trade Bill Wyman for Jack Bruce. So I would become attached to a teamís players, and the next year theyíd trade Jack Morris to Toronto, and Iíd say, ďWhat do you mean? Heís our guy.Ē

Throughout the 1980s I saw more and more materialism and a lack of loyalty by athletes and team owners; more athletes moving from team to team in search of higher salaries. This mercenary attitude in sports is an indication of whatís going on in our country, and in families. Couples get divorced because marriage isnít fun, or having kids is too stressful. People bail out. They donít respect the institution of marriage. They donít understand that children arenít puppies: you donít drop them off at the grandparentsí and not come back for two years. And everybodyís working so they can buy their kids more things. Kids have plenty of material possessions but no spiritual guidance, no real communication with their mother and father. The result is a lack of loyalty and cohesiveness within the family and the community. And itís reflected in the culture.

It hasnít always been this bad. I remember that when Jimmy Carter was president, he actually inspired me. He asked the American people to sacrifice. He asked us to bring down our thermostats, to use less energy, to buy fewer material things. He asked us to strip away a lot of what we didnít need and in that way to help our environment. He also asked us to develop ourselves spiritually and mentally.

But what happened is that people found his requests offensive; they didnít want to sacrifice. Then Ronald Reagan said to the people Ė and Iíll never forget this Ė he said that American children deserve a bicycle in every garage. He wasnít talking about a chicken in every pot, or an education for every child. He was saying that we deserve certain material possessions. That made a big impression on me. All the way through the Clinton era, people embraced this idea that we deserve certain material things, that our children have to have them, and if they donít have them, then theyíre deprived This has really hurt our country, the fabric of ourselves, our network as human beings.

-- interviewed by Greg King in The Sun