Sentient MP3 player – again

On holiday, I brought my new little mp3 player with me, the one I bought to replace the one I landed on when I fell off my bike (crunch). It’s a Zen Stone Plus – a tiny little player, with 2Gb of memory, and an FM radio.

Unexpectedly, it took a complete fascination with one song (out of the maybe 200 or so on it), and decided to play it most days, in a very un-random way. I started to wonder what it was trying to tell me.

The song was “This land is your land”, by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (do give it a listen – here for example). The Dap Kings are the backing band Mark Ronson used for his Version album, backing the likes of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. This is them in their natural environment, with their usual lead singer. It’s very funky, and I do like it.

The song is clearly inspired by Woody Guthrie, with its message of a land to be shared by all. But I reckoned the bit that stood out most for me was the 4th verse:

One bright sunny morning
in the shadow of the steeple
down by the welfare office
I saw my people.
They stood hungry
and I stood wondering
If this land was made for you and me.

And in this verse, there was one word that stood out. The word “my”. The writer did not see “the people”, or “some people”, or “a crowd of people”. They saw “my people”. I think that one line challenges a lot of what is wrong with the world today.

Are the hungry in the welfare line my people? ┬áDo I associate or identify with them? Or are they just “some people”, or “poor people”. We can give money to good causes for good reasons without giving ourselves.

So that’s what I think my MP3 player was challenging me with.

Or I could be reading too much into a poorly written pseudo-random playlist function.

But it’s worth thinking about.

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