The Friday Morning Listen: Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975)

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One of the things I love about our 24/7 “news” cycle is the daily “Which new technology is going to kill you or otherwise screw your life up”-type story. Cell phones cause brain tumors. Facebook is leading people to have extramarital kokey pokey. Google is making us dumb. Texting is making us dumber (OK, they might have a point there). Social media networks are pushing us farther apart. By the age of 30, today’s kids will have several carpel tunnel of the thumbs.

Occasionally you’ll see articles about Internet bullying, which isn’t really anything new. Back before the web showed up, people used to converse in a variety of network forums and there were always the boneheads who liked to push people around. In unmoderated newsgroups on Usenet we dealt with them by putting them in our “kill file.” If a user was in the kill file, then you’d never see any of his posts. The fun part was when somebody would announce that they had just put somebody in their kill file…”PLONK!” was what posted. Oh, it was so satisfying.

Yes, people have been hiding behind their keyboards and screen for many years. What still amazes me though, is not the bullying, but the lack of empathy. I do wonder if the proliferation of “social” media has put a drain on the world’s empathy quotient. Or maybe people have never had much of an ability to imagine how other people might feel about something? Is it just that it’s easier to discover this fact, what with the explosion of so many avenues for discussion on the Web?

Right, so last week I wrote a little fantasy piece, partly about Joe Jackson, partly about Clarence Clemons, but mostly about me. (As a friend of mine says, “Isn’t it always about me?!”) Well, Clarence passed away the very next day. It was something of a shock. I mean, people do die from strokes, but this was Clarence, the biggest man you’ve ever seen! I guess we just don’t expect our heroes to die. I admit it, I feel that way myself.

So today I’m scanning a Springsteen “fan” site and there’s a discussion topic about how we all just need to get over it and move on. Clarence wasn’t related to us. He wasn’t a brother or a sister. Just be glad he wasn’t a relative and stop your whining. See, this is the best part about the Internet. A total stranger can tell me how I’m supposed to feel about something…and there was no charge for the service!

And how did I feel about the death of Clarence Clemons? Here’s the odd thing (or maybe it’s the pathetic thing, if you’re this particular guy), that morning I woke and it felt very much like how it felt the morning after my mom passed away. Honestly, it’s not what I expected, but there you have it. “Sad” did not begin to describe it. A forum member put it perfectly when he said that a big part of his youth was gone. That’s what I tried to expand on when I wrote my appreciation of Clarence.

Well Mr. Lack of Empathy, you have a lot to learn, though I don’t have much hope for you there. Clarence spread a lot of love, and we reflected it right back in his direction. At a show you could feel that bond between Bruce & Clarence, and when the spotlight hit the Big Man for his roaring “Badlands” solo, that energy burst out over and through us…and we took it, and roared right back. If you want to reduce our grief at the loss of this phenomenon down to mere misdirected whining, then you’re a sad little person.

Wait, did I just display a lack of empathy on the Internet? Ah, what the hell..


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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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