I was hoping that my first blog would be a lighter one. However a few days ago I came across this article and this one. I can’t even begin to describe how absurd is this introduction of extra paperwork and expenses and how angry it got me. I’m sure that this sort of bullying happens in all fields however I’m a musician so I’ll just talk about how it affects me. Usually I stay away from politics but on this occasion I’ll have to bring it in for obvious reasons and for some other reasons you’ll find out in a bit.
So let’s start analyzing some ideas from the above mentioned articles: “Most musicians won’t require a passport, but if you bring an antique bow with the elephant-ivory or tortoiseshell frog overseas… you’ll need to obtain the proper legal documentation to cross international borders …. Unlike your actual passport, which through international agreements is accepted worldwide, travelers with an instrument passport will need to check local laws with each country they plan to visit… Obtaining approval should be easy for applicants, since CITES went into effect July 1, 1975, and most of the bows with tortoiseshell or ivory parts have survived since in the 19th century and are defined as antiques.” So who’s pockets are we going to line now? First of all no luthier today will use any of the prohibited materials. It takes A LOT of years for any luthier to gain a little recognition. None of them will jeopardize his job by sticking any ivory or other illegal materials on the instruments they repair or make. Despite what the rednecks that pass these sort of laws may think, luthiers are not the same as a carpenter or a joiner.
Secondly: making a law retroactive is OUTRAGEOUS. Most professional musicians spend a fortune on their instruments and put a lot of time to find the instrument best suited for them. Sometimes it may not be in a shop. Actually, most of the time the deals don’t take place in a shop. Instruments and bows can be passed down through family, acquired from private persons or collectors. Usually it’s done through a simple receipt and handshake and in the case of an expensive instrument it will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. But trying to trace if and when the ivory in my bow was placed is just insane. For example i know my luthier for many years now. He trusts me and I trust him. There is no need for receipt. If I sell any of my instruments now, it will be extremely hard to trace back who did what and when.
“..Has not subsequently been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since February 26, 1976” What does that even mean?! If I sell a bow to buy a better one, that is financial gain. And none of the bow’s qualities stand in the piece of ivory. I don’t know ANY musician that would buy any instrument just because it has a pretty tip. This is bureaucracy gone mad. I put up enough with airlines’ crap every time I travel. Now I have to be double stressed? They are saying that the ones with no ivory won’t need passports. And how may I ask will the uneducated border control officer (that is handling my violin and bows like sacks of potatoes) know the difference between ivory, bones, plastic or any other material? How will he know if my instrument is an antique or not? If i don’t bring a passport he will take my word for it?
And $75 per passport! If you have ivory in 2 bows and violin you need 3 passports! That’s 3 sets of paperwork. Financial gain? This is all about financial gain but for CITES! Whilst I do care about animals I think we are treated worse than them. So now musicians have to pay for poachers’ criminal activity! In a way we will be the poachers’ sponsors. Why thanks USA you just lowered your standards to new lows! Yes if i sell my bow it will be a financial gain. And it’s perfectly legal and within my rights to resell something a bought. And most musicians start with cheaper instruments and as they save money, they sell the inferior bows and upgrade. That’s the business.. Unless you have a benefactor. In which case you have to stress out your benefactor to do all the paperwork for his instrument and risk losing the instrument altogether.
Are musicians cowards?
I went into a musician Facebook group to raise awareness. I was quite harsh and compared USA’s approach on this as fascist. My post was deleted… by the American admin… I even said to her, how ironic that by deleting my post and my opinions you just infringed the first amendment of USA’s constitution. They cared more about PC than their own work! Not all of them. Well when they want to paper trail me and want to know my every move, I have all the rights to call them fascists. But especially the admin (who was American) kept on defending this ridiculous fallacious law. Except for couple of guys no one stood up with me. I was even told “has USA gone too far? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t be the first time” That was an argument! Wow! Would it be perhaps just as valid for a rape victim? If it happens again you say “well it’s not the first time so no biggy”. And yet we are being raped on daily bases and no one takes attitude until it’s too late. I live in London and I must say that Musician’s Union here it’s doing some stuff but not enough. But I start wondering if the blame is to be put on us, the members. We moan here and there but we don’t really stand up. Well I am not going to bend over again. If that means I won’t tour to USA anymore then so be it.
As a side note to those who said I am USA hater when I said it was fascist: I had some amazing trips and met amazing people in the USA. And still have very nice friends in there. Plus lots of my favorite bands, movie directors and comedians are/were from there. In fact one of my favorite comedians and social critics is *****strong language warning in the next link***** George Carlin and I don’t need to add anything to his words. But that doesn’t prevent me to use my brain and recognize infringement on liberties and stealing money out of our pockets legally. Every time I visited the States the border experience was ignoble – I was treated like a criminal, fingerprinted and questioned for a long time and my instrument mishandled. And believe me, I toured all of Europe, Asia and Australia. Even at Israel’s border I was treated better despite the fact that they actually are in the middle of it all. Yet the respect was there. Only Australia comes second worse after USA. And talking about using the brain: if you think I exaggerate when I’m using terms like fascism, then perhaps you should take a look at the documentary Inside Job or simply talk to people that lived through dictatorships and other horrible systems or simply talk to other intellectuals that have insight. Perhaps is not fascism but it is a form of totalitarianism. I grew up in Romania under a totalitarian regime and i recognize one when i see one even when wrapped in glittery packaging. Same goes for cheap propaganda – I can even smell that! Anyways, in conclusion I don’t hate the USA however some or most of their policies… are very very very worrying. And this one does affect me directly.
Like I said I care about endangered species. And I even give concerts for raising money and I CHOOSE the charity. And yet I don’t believe for a second that ANY of that money we pay are going to be used in any good way. Perhaps it will pay for the cocktail and dinner parties of the ones that proposed this fatuous program. Whilst the true criminals will go on doing what they do: not having to pay for any passport of any kind. Another example of how the ones in power found yet another way to squeeze more money from a poor segment of the society. And what better way than playing the “endangered species” coin? Makes them look good, right? And the tree huggers will jump right in the band wagon blinded by the “green message” which is actually the government capitalizing on your pockets again. This has nothing to do with “green”. This is robbery. How many more taxes and stress before we all lose it? I simply fail to see the logic behind any of this.
We already have mortgages in place for our instruments, insurances, maintenance and repair works to pay for. If an old bow that had ivory is tempered with it WILL devalue yes, but not because the ivory has to do anything with how the bow works, rather simply because the bow has been tempered with! If I am wrong, then someone please help me understand how will my stress of tracing the roots of my bows , filling in forms spending more cash and renewing this every 3 years will save elephants? And I restate here that no luthier will use any of the listed materials nowadays.How would that even be any business? Less than half square inch of ivory of 1mm thick at at the tip of bow: is that how we secretly plan to smuggle ivory?
I strongly believe that if musicians won’t stand up soon and say “enough is enough”, soon we’ll be to spend our already laughable fees on more and more made up scams and taxes. Let alone the little time we had left to practice between arranging your gigs, making the posters, negotiating fees, finding more gigs and so on, will be taken by more running around to sort out who knows what paper that our violins are made of some kind of oak or fur tree that disappeared in 1736 and now we must pay the penalty! U think I’m being ridiculous now? I bet that few months back you didn’t think you’d have to do the genealogical tree of your instruments back to 1976. It’s a debauched law and shows lack of ratiocination. It is all about robbing people of more money. Thank you USA for your indefatigable strives to make to make the poor poorer and the rich richer. The sad truth is that it is happening more and more in Europe. Perhaps we can prevent this from happening in UK or even Europe.
Edit 1: And if the ivory was placed in the bow after 1976? Will we be required to remove it? And that does what exactly for the elephants? What happens to the removed ivory? The elephants would have really died for nothing then. And some of that ivory came from already dead elephants! Shall we pay for private detectives to determine if ivory was obtain pre or post-mortem? Just thinking… the keyword is “thinking” of course.
I kept on referring to bows and violins. Feel free to use your imagination and apply this article to guitars, spoons, pens whatever you want.