Leon Rosselson and The Last Chance: Being morally right in a morally wrong world

Leon Rosselson is one of the best kept secrets of British music.
He is an amazing lyricist, an under-appreciated tunesmith and as clever a writer of protest songs as they come.
He is also a proponent of the kind of politics that sound good in theory  and shatter rather quickly in the real world, mainly Communism and Pacifism.
Being a leftist and a Jew, he has also made the switch from pro to Anti Zionist with a flair.

A case in point is the brilliant The last Chance, whose lyrics can be found herewritten in the 80’s about his experiences in a desolate pub located in the Negev desert.
A brilliant piece of writing, this song portrays Zionism in a negative, brutal light and as a result inadvertently explains why Zionism is absolutely necessary.

The song features two distinct main characters representing opposite views. Meier is a Hungarian holocaust survivor and businessman who fought during the war of independence and believes Israel can only survive by being strong and establishing facts on the ground. Sam is a Jew with artistic aspirations and a sensitive soul, he has the mournful look of a martyr and an aversion to violence. The two are locked in a constant needle match, arguing about politics, as Israelis are prone to do.

As written, our sympathy should undoubtedly go to Sam. He is a physical and fiscal underdog, tries to be nice to everyone and has the soul of an artist.
Meier, on the other hand, is a burly bald-headed butcher who deals in pork and probably other unkosher stuff. He uses violence  and is blunt about people he considers weak and uncivilized.

However, a closer look at what actually happens during their arguments, reveals that Sam’s views are unsustainable in the real world and that Meier is simply confronting him with the harsh reality.

In the first verse Sam argues that there’s nothing wrong with being weak, so Meier twists his arm and brings him to his knees to show him how quickly things can change and that the weak will always be at the mercy of others.
The second verse has Meier arguing that only  the hardening and common bloodshed of battle will turn the returning weakly Jews into strong Israelis, “history loves a winner” he says. Sam says he’d rather stay a Jew and that he enjoys being different. Meier reminds him what happens to those who are different: “No wonder they fed you into the gas ovens.”
The final verse starts with Meier recounting his deeds in the war of independence, blowing up Arab houses and establishing FACTS on the ground. This leads to the crux of the entire song.

I want nothing to do with such facts, said  Sam.
Where would you be without them? sneered Meier.

Sam says that the Arabs were people like us with “hopes and dreams.”
Meier mocks this notion and tells him that hopes and dreams will buy you nothing in this world and that only FACTS  like hard currency matter. Sam begins to dance by himself and Meier gets upset at this public display and hurls a stone in his direction. Sam breaks down and starts to cry “I want to go home, he said.”

In a perfect world, Sam would be an ideal. There would be no violence and persecution and people will be free to follow their hopes and dreams.
Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world.
We live in a world where money talks and power rules.
The weak will always be in danger of being abused, running the gamut from mockery and discrimination to genocide.
And the song itself proves this.

All the events take place in a night club filled with people.
There’s businessmen, pickpockets, whores, soldiers and tourists.
And the narrator, Mr. Rosselson himself.
Yet no one helps poor Sam when his arm is twisted by Meier.
No one steps in when Meier picks up the stone and gets ready to hurl it at Sam.
While Sam may have the sympathy of at least part of the crowd, he stands alone when confronted with the powerful Meier.

Meier’s actions seem harsh and brutish, but in a way he is showing Sam what reality is like, teaching him what being constantly weak and not demanding what’s yours can lead to.
Meier knows that no one will stand up for Sam.
Just like most of the world stood by and did nothing while the Nazis carried out the final solution.
Just like the Kurds under Saddam and the oppression of Tibet.
Unless people are directly affected by a matter, they will offer some sympathy and roll their eyes while blood flows.
Meier has learned the hard way that the world cares nothing for him and his people and he would rather be brutal and secure a tiny bit of homeland than roll over and die.

There are plenty of Sams these days.
Some are simply young and naive, while others are wretched and wicked.
More Gollums than Sams.
They have finally found a way to combine their artistic and “humanistic” approaches with financial gain and artistic accolades.
There is no surer way of financing your art project, or getting an award from some European committee than a healthy dose of Israel bashing.
People like Eyal Sivan, Gilad Atzmon and Ilan Pappe have made a comfortable living out of being self-hating Jews, treating the society which saved their lives as the root of all evil.

Our minds are constant battlefields between Idealism and Realism and that is part of what makes us humans incredibly fascinating.
Ideally there would be peace in the middle east between all warring factions.
Realistically, the uncompromising nature of the religions involved means that this goal is currently unattainable.
Until the time is ripe for peace, there will be many killed, both guilty and innocent will pay the ultimate price.

Refusal to accept FACTS will not make reality go away.
I will let a wiser man than me have the final words.

Ah, you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win- Leonard Cohen

This entry was posted in History, Politics, Sociology, The Arts, Unsung and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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