Politics and RATM

by kubular

It’s been ages since I logged into this! I knew it had been a while but I was shocked when I saw my last post was as long ago as 2013. Just goes to show how time flies really. I’m convinced the years are getting shorter.

Oh, well.

I guess in some ways this has ended up representing a bit of a diary for me. I made an attempt at getting into writing on paper (probably the reason I haven’t posted in so long) but there’s a lack of immediacy, though I’m not sure that’s the right word. I think it’s probably fairer to say I’m better and more natural with a keyboard than I am a pen. Though there are definitely some benefits to pen and paper! Firstly, there’s a lovely tactile quality but mainly it’s that you can’t delete and reword. Writing with a pen is constantly pushing you on, making you make the most of what you have. Yes, you can cross out and rewrite but you can’t amend. It’s good if you just want to write and see what comes out.

Anyway, I’m going off track.

So, I’ve always been into Rage Against the Machine. They’re a great band and they made some really great albums. I mean, yes, they’re heavy metal and there’s a genuine sense of rage and agression¬† to their music but it’s just that – music. I can’t call every album, or even artist musical the way I would Rage. It’s genuinely groovy and, as insinuated, expressive. They’re probably the two most important things to any music, at least for me. Does the music work in it’s own right? Does it carry you? And does the music, regardless of vocals, express something emotional?

I’ve felt the need to play their eponymous album a few times over the last couple of weeks. Playing RATM isn’t that unusual for me to be fair. But usually I’ll gravitate toward their last album – Renegades. Renegades is an album focused much more on the music and the grooves, the anger’s still there but it boils away underneath. It’s a cover album but they’re their covers, it’s their voice.

What’s suprised me though is the way RATM has suddenly started to feel more relevant to me politically. I’ve always felt slightly distanced from the politics in their music – mostly because it focuses on their own politics, the politics of the US. I’ve still taken something from it, it’s made me aware of people such as the Zapatistas, who I may not have even known if had it not been for People of the Sun.

Mostly though it’s songs like Killing in the Name, mostly known for it’s heavy use of prafanity, and Wake Up that are calling out to me now. I can’t help but hear parallels in the references to fascism in those songs and our current political climate. We seem to repeatedly expect people to apologise and take the blame for actions out of their own control. Not because they knew anything of those actions or were ever in a position to stop them but because they share a race or religion with the people who are really to blame.

A family member told me of someone they met shortly after the attack in Manchester. A young man had been beaten for no other reason than that he shared his race with the attacker. Yet, we don’t talk about that. Our own PM’s reaction is to use rhetoric that I can’t help but feel encourages, though not directly, the appropriation of blame to a general group or subculture of people. This is the same PM that refused to protect in any meaningful way our own Supreme Court when it was attacked as undemocratic by national papers. Democracies fail when the people in them fail to stand up to protect them.

Some may read this and laugh. After all, we’re not Nazi Germany, etc. My fear is not one grounded in specifics and my argument as it’s written here doesn’t even quote or reference any political speeches or publications. Instead, it makes generalisations and talks about albums released 20 years ago.

My fear is grounded in tone. The tone of the political climate and not the statements but the language I read or hear repeatedly reinforces it. Though, I did read the idea of interring people in camps based on their religion was raised on Fox News today.

The more we allow the rhetoric of our time to be fueled by fear, anger and allow the balanced discussion of facts to be substituted with sweeping generalisations the more we make ourselves vulnerable to fascism. The more we alienate and divide the people of our nation into races, religions or simply ‘us’ and ‘them’, the more we encourage the left behind to seek a place to belong with those we seek to protect ourselves from.

Strength lies in unity. We have to stay strong to protect our freedoms, not just from those that would seek to take them with violence but from those in power that would seek to take them with pen and paper.