Arms and Sleepers is the music duo Max Lewis and Mirza Ramic. The group was formed in 2006 and has since released 26 albums and EPs, written music for film and TV, and performed live in Asia, Europe, Central America, and North America.
EARTH OVER SPACE, SPACE OVER EARTH: 'YOU MAY VISIT THE COSMOS'
When Arms and Sleepers released its most recent album ‘Life is Everywhere’, the message to our listeners became purposefully more socially-conscious than our previous creative output. Inspired by my own experience of working and living in Chicago, Illinois during the summer of 2015, as well as my refugee and immigrant background, ‘Life is Everywhere’—both through its music and album artwork—conveyed a sense of despair and hopefulness, with the perpetual clash amidst the two defining the album’s core. Continuing racial tensions in the US, rising immigration crisis in Europe, and the ongoing conflict in Syria, among others, all contributed to the uneasy emotions behind ‘Life is Everywhere’. The 45th US presidential inauguration was the icing on the cake, preceding the album’s official release date by a week.
The broader social themes underlying the album’s message are ultimately Rawlsian in nature: they concern justice and fairness, freedom and equality. With Victor Ferreira’s latest contribution to ‘Life is Everywhere’ (he also co-produced, mixed, and mastered the album) by way of a music video for the album’s track ‘You May Visit The Cosmos’, the moral issue at hand is clear albeit presented without judgment. In Ferreira’s signature dreamy visual style, the video shifts from the troubled streets of Chicago’s South Side to humanity’s ambitious space exploration. How do we reconcile astronomical (pun intended) spending on technological advancement, and ultimately, human progress, with the continuing poverty and injustice that fuels human suffering? Is it possible and desirable to resolutely address the latter before we get fixated on the former? How far into the cosmos should we venture before we provide basic human needs for everyone back on planet Earth?
Since the release of ‘Life is Everywhere’ earlier this year, I have had disagreements with others about this topic. Whenever I bring up the idea of distributive justice—the concept arguing for just and fair allocation of goods in a society—people tend to react with apprehension due to negative labels that the society has placed on such beliefs. But despite my own reservations about this idea and certainly about the extremist argument of dismantling space exploration in favor of focusing on Earth’s ongoing problems, there is a moral dimension here that should be carefully considered. Maybe we do cherish those incredible human achievements in outer space and other areas of technology, but maybe we also need to do better—much better—with those most elementary of human struggles still grappling the majority of Earth’s population. The universe should not be an escape from our harsh realities at home. We should do better in Chicago’s South Side before we do great on Mars – this ought to be our moral imperative. And, we should know that the cosmos is only as beautiful as we make our own planet.
Written by Mirza Ramic