Leonard Cohen, On Being Asked If His Songs Reflect World Conflicts: “I’ve tried over the years to find a political position that no one can actually decipher.”

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There seems to be within [Popular Problems] recurrent mentions of the military and war and battles. I was wondering if that reflected a current preoccupation with conflicts that are taking place at the moment?

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Of course it reflects the world that we live in. It was not deliberate but one picks up these things from the atmosphere… I’ve tried over the years to find a political position that no one can actually decipher.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m a closet optimist’ [a report on the Sept 16, 2014 London Press Preview Of Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems] by Andy Morris. Gigwise, Sept 16, 2014. Photo atop this post shared by High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom Facebook page

“Democracy is a faith, and it is an ideal and I think it is the greatest expression of western experience, this notion that there is a fraternity of men and women is a very, very high idea. It involves a deep, deep appetite that cannot be denied.” Leonard Cohen (1995)

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Democracy is the religion of the west and perhaps the greatest religion that the west has produced because it affirms other religions. Most religions have a lot of trouble affirming other religions. A great religion affirms other religions and a great culture affirms other cultures, and democracy is a faith, and it is an ideal and I think it is the greatest expression of western experience, this notion that there is a fraternity of men and women is a very, very high idea. It involves a deep, deep appetite that cannot be denied.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Cindy Buissaillon for CBC Radio on August 26, 1995. Originally posted April 13, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“A confident people is not exclusive. A great religion affirms other religions. A great culture affirms other cultures. A great nation affirms other nations. A great individual affirms other individuals, validates the beingness of others.” Leonard Cohen 1994

From Jewish Book News Interview With Leonard Cohen By Arthur Kurzweil And Pamela Roth: 1994. Originally posted July 29, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Democracy] makes people act, whether it’s for the good or the bad… But we see that the populations of the world are no longer content with their previous positions in regard to authority. Democracy makes everybody nervous.” Leonard Cohen 1993

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I think we are on the edge of a democratic experiment. I think it has begun. I think that the idea has escaped into the world. It becomes a kind of necessity that is stronger than hope, and it will result in a tremendous amount of human suffering like all other ideas that get into the air like an infection. I don’t know whether there’s an absolute quality to democracy or to Islam or to Christianity, but it’s like fuel—it makes people act, whether it’s for the good or the bad, I couldn’t possibly decide. But we see that the populations of the world are no longer content with their previous positions in regard to authority. Democracy makes everybody nervous.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From The Future by Alberto Manzano (El Europeo: Spring 1993)

“So can you place me on the political chessboard from that song [Democracy]? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it social? Is it a joke? Is it mystical? A mystical democrat?” Leonard Cohen

Do you regularly read the newspaper?

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Sometimes, at the moment I get the paper every morning. And of course during the Gulf War, I watched the TV night and day like everyone else. I try to stay informed. I listen to the news on the radio. It’s like the last verse of my song, ‘I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean / I love the country but I can’t stand the scene / I’m neither left nor right, I’m just stayin’ home tonight / Getting lost in that hopeless little screen / But I’m as stubborn as those garbage bags that time cannot decay / I’m junk but I’m still holding up this little wild bouquet / Democracy is coming to the USA.’ So, can you place me on the political chessboard from that song [laughs]? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it social? Is it a joke? Is it mystical? A mystical democrat [laughs]…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

“Violence doesn’t interest me much anymore.” Leonard Cohen Changes His View On Violence After Cuba

During that time [when Cohen went to Cuba in 1961] you spoke of a “deep interest in violence.”

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It was a very fashionable point of view at that time. Violence doesn’t interest me much anymore. But at that time I had never witnessed extreme violence. Now that I have seen a little I would like to avoid it at all costs. It was just a romantic interest in something I was not familiar with. Since then I have seen enough.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

“The belief in a human fraternity, a compassionate society, people living in the name of something higher than their own greed has always been seductive to me.” Leonard Cohen On Political Systems

There was a lot going on in the world back then [late 1950s-early 1960s]: Israel, the Suez, the Cold War… Did you pick sides, did you have a strong opinion?

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I backed everything. You can not suspect the megalomania that was my perspective in those times. It was true megalomania, but a strange one: I thought that the whole world was unfolding for the benefit of my observation and education. Everything that happened fit into my grand plan. I was not interested in practical problems. I had this plan, according to which everything had to be just so.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Were you satisfied with everything that was happening?

 

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Yes, and I still am. For me, suffering was not a political issue, although I recognize that some systems produce more suffering than others. It would be idiotic not to recognize it. So I had the same feelings as everyone else vis-à-vis those systems; I was against them. But, on another level, I felt that suffering did not have a political origin, that it came from something much deeper, something inherent in the cross of human condition. I had no faith in my political opinions; they didn’t really interest me and they changed often. I was never really passionate about my opinions even back then. As you get older you see people adopt all kinds of nonsense. At one point or another every French intellectual was a Maoist, as if China had had a real alternative to the American industrial experience. You begin to see that these positions were absurd, that all these reservoirs of thought were totally exhausted. The left, for example, only survived in France for a time or in Italy where communist ideas had a real validity. Of course those ideas were very attractive to me but so were those in the Bible: I was always drawn to messianic ideas. The belief in a human fraternity, a compassionate society, people living in the name of something higher than their own greed has always been seductive to me.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.

“There can be no free men unless there are free women.” Leonard Cohen

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You notice how strong [women] are? Well, let them take over. Let us be what we’re supposed to be – gossips, musicians, wrestlers. The premise being, there can be no free men unless there are free women.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Ladies and Gents, Leonard Cohen by Jack Hafferkamp (Rolling Stone: Feb. 4, 1971). Note: Originally posted Jan 7, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric