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If we are to be unified, then we must be able and willing to share life. Bill Whittle and company offer a timely reminder of the tremendous good that social media can achieve when people are free to associate across boundaries and to enjoy life together as fellows.
I was unaware of this shanty’s sudden popularity until a fellow Ricochet member recorded a version of it. Almost ten years ago, the only shanty I had heard was the brief bit of “Spanish Ladies” sung in the movie Jaws. Then a popular pirate fantasy (Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag) introduced millions of gamers to several, including “Leave Her, Johnny” and “Drunken Sailor.” Trivial pleasures and such mutual interests often lay the first stones of friendship.
While helping to test another pirate game, Sea of Thieves, I wrote my own shanty (not yet recorded) and would like to echo Whittle’s sentiment. The songs I make are for anyone and everyone who enjoys them. If people very unlike myself appreciate anything I have to offer, then I am grateful for that bond. If something in my tastes or values limits my song’s appeal, then I can remain proud of my work yet hope that some future project will bridge that divide. Trying to please all is a fool’s errand. But to please only oneself is also foolish.
Before shanties on TikTok, there were singing flash mobs on YouTube and Facebook. Such joyful group activities seem rare these days apart from social media.
It’s a shame and perhaps a mystery that tavern singing has faded from American life. Apart from a handful of Christian hymns, usually set around Christmas, Americans share few songs not composed in the 20th century. Still, one might occasionally happen into a bar or party where people enjoy singing those pop songs together.
Perhaps, how cultures are constructed is not how they are reconstructed. If a civilization’s entertainment first emerges as a privilege after essentials are secured, entertainment might ultimately prove essential to reclaiming common values by renewing interest in our neighbors and devotion to them. If people want to live together because of joyful experiences they share, those shallow interests can lead to deeper interests and debates. One will tolerate more meaningful disagreement among friends than among enemies.Published in