There is something distasteful about Neighbourhood Bully, despite Dylan’s assertions that it is not about Zionism. Maybe it is not. Maybe it is just about the state of
The point is that if you are going to write a song in praise of something it is best either to be romantic, or to evolve a scene of pastel colours, and soft tones. If you want to be tough, be selective in what you say. If you get into hard facts it is always going to be difficult if you slip up at any point and ay something that is palpably untrue.
In Neighbourhood Bully there’s eleven bouncing rocking strophic verses all fixed on three chords. It gives you a sense of power and certainty. You want to say, wow, yeah, let’s go and get them. Except, except…
Take the opening. “His enemies say, he’s on their land”. Yes, when speaking of the state of
So Dylan’s got it right there. People do say
But where does that get us? Simply to an argument that says that
What has all this got to do with “Neighborhood Bully”? Simply that by invoking a line such as “on their land” in the second out of 55 lines of a song, Dylan invites us to get involved in such debate. The song continues by telling us how badly off
Verse six, which opens with the classic, “He got no allies to really speak of,” and we think simply of the
This is not to attempt in a few lines to have a serious debate about
Back on the political front, in writing this I am of course aware that the US also gives extraordinary levels of aid to Egypt, following the Camp David Accord, and I’m aware of the corruption and insanity of the many Arab regimes – indeed I have lived part of my life in one of the Arab protagonists against Israel, which at least gives me a little insight.
But I repeat this is not the main thrust of my problem with this song. It is the point I made at the start. If you are going to do a political song, you don’t have to be balanced (no such song ever is), and your facts don’t have to be inclusive (ditto). But you have to avoid lines which are just so incredibly wrong that they bring the whole song down and make those who don’t believe dismiss what you have said.
Think of “Times they are a changing”. It brings us all together, and joins everyone. “Neighbourhood Bully” just pushes people further apart.