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Where Do The Children Play?

VIDEO: Cat Stevens has re-released his ecological anthem
Where Do The Children Play?

Is there a more prescient song in all of recording history than ‘Where Do The Children Play?’

Written and released 50 years ago, the song could hardly be more relevant to the state of our world right now – save, perhaps, for a few lines about mobile phones and the internet.

The song’s brilliance lies in the fact that it recognises and even celebrates human progress while calling for the awareness and restraint to ensure that future generations have a balanced world in which to flourish.

Simplicity and sincerity

There is no chest-beating or self-righteous preaching, just a simple melody sung with sincerity and passion – accompanied by an acoustic guitar and the lightest of orchestration.

Cat Stevens took an issue that is central to the human story – that has been wrestled with, fought over and endlessly convoluted – and condensed it into four short minutes and one simple question.

An environmental message

A great many of Yusuf / Cat Stevens’ songs handle themes of childhood and the relationships between children and adults.

‘Father & Son’, ‘Oh Very Young,’ ‘Child for a Day’ and ‘The Little Ones’ to name but a few.

However, ‘Where Do The Children Play?’ stands out for its powerful environmental message.

The fairytale of growth

The effects of global warming and climate change are now clear for all to see. We are reaping the result of decades of constant wastage and consumerism, that many countries and corporations brazenly practice in the race for economic growth and prosperity – which Greta Thunberg quite rightly called a ‘fairytale’.

That little girl stood in front of the world leaders in Davos and openly shamed them because of their refusal to slow down this madness and consider future generations.

Suddenly, a virus arrived that has resulted in the near complete shutting down of air travel, factories and millions of retail outlets and businesses on Main Street. Is it coincidence?

Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

A call for balance

Cat’s message is so effective precisely because he calls for balance between our advancing capabilities and our harmony with the natural world.

The song’s fundamental question invites us to imagine the destination that we’re aiming for. Only when we have a sense of where we want to go can we ever hope to arrive there.

I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

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