(Hello! Normally this post would be a part of my music challenge series. This post is meant to be a part of this one. However, it turned into a massive rant and I decided to give it its own post. Let’s all hope it was worth it.)
Rage against the Machine – Rage against the Machine
I like my brother. He’s good people. But good grief, are we ever different people. It really showed when we were kids. He was more of the ‘free spirit’ type, who didn’t really do well in school. Knowing what I do now about the school system and how it incentivizes (or really, fails to) students who may be more pragmatically focused, I don’t think my brothers poor academic performance is a reflection of his intelligence. Frankly, if I had been a little smarter when I was in school, I would have been a much worse student. Particularly if I knew then what I know now.
People treated me like I was smart because I was doing a little better at school than my brother. That wasn’t the case. Later in life, my brother would emigrate to a country he didn’t know much about, and managed to make it there. I’ve tried to do the same thing, and failed repeatedly. My brother also decided he was going to pursue a creative career, in that country where he was living as an immigrant, and managed to do it with some success. I tried and failed to do that too, although here it should be said that he had the support of our parents, while I never did (and yes, i am still bitter about this point1).
Both me and my brother are bilingual. I have always had the goal of becoming trilingual. I have failed at it. My brother hasn’t. He is successfully trilingual. That irks me.
All of this is to say that there are plenty of metrics where one can look at my brother and show him to be a smarter person than myself. As a person who is fascinated with epistemology, I have given a lot of thought about what that actually means. While I haven’t exactly a sound theory of epistemology, I have an inkling that many of our beliefs are linked to our values. At times, my brother believes in some pretty wrong things, and he does so because he values somethings that shouldn’t be valued.
Ok, what the fuck does any of this have to do with Rage against the Machine (RATM)?
Well, both me and my brother are two American raised people who are getting to watch the dumpster fire that is the USA in 2020 safely from our respective homes in Europe. And while watching all the fun, my brother cited Rage against the Machine to prove the racism of the American police fore, the same way theists cite Hebrews 11:1 – completely ineffectively. he then told me that I HAD to listen to RATM fist album. It spoke ‘the truth’.
God damn it. Well, I do have a blog, and I do have a music review section on that blog. And I’ve never listened to that album before, so why not?
Ok, so let me get a few easy things out of the way. This is good music. ‘People of the sun’ and ‘Bulls on parade’ kick off my workout playlist, every time. That’s music that will find your pulse unless you are all but dead. From a music point of view that music really is enjoyable, albeit it does seem to lean towards (or at the very least, suggest) the type of music that ultimately gave us Limp Bizkit. Shutter to even think of it!
But I can’t listen to RATM, because in many respects they represent everything I fucking hate. Politically, RATM is my side of the fence – liberal left leaning. But I despise them because they are one of the forces making the world a worst place.
My brother thinks that all cops are bastards. There are two problems with this. First, I get that ACAB looks really good on bumper stickers, but its not the truth, and it certainly isn’t true because, and this is my brother’s heuristic exactly, Zack De La Rocha (ZDLR) said it. Are all cops bastards? Defined how? Looking for additional information from my brother, I was given this:
Some of those that work forces
Are the same that burn crosses
Zack De La Rocha
-Killing in the name of
Right. So let’s take this a step at a time, and bearing in mind that much of this is devil’s advocate. Let us first acknowledge that ZDLR was kind enough to give us the weasel word ‘some’ in his wisdom here, which means that if even one cop in all of America has ever attended a clan rally, the statement holds water. The pedant in me would also like to point out that ‘work forces’ is also poorly defined, and if I were prostitute that sold my ass solely to members of the armed forces, I would constitute ‘some of those that work forces’. The vagueitries2 of the English language aside, since when are you going to this assholes word for it? If ZDLR sung about how someone in your life were a pedophile, would you just fucking accept it? Can ZDLR, show me any kind of fucking evidence3 to this point?
Holy fuck, how much longer am I going to go on about this?
Let me get a little right side of the argument in here. I know there is a problem with the police force. I know that their treatment of African-Americans is completely unfounded and unjustified. I believe that recent documented cases of the killings of African-Americans demonstrate that there is a deep problem in the USA. I see the footage of the equipment modern American police officers have and I become convinced that indeed the police need to be de-funded. I see how other countries handle crime and become convinced that American officers need to be trained to resort primarily to non-violent counter measures. I think a police officer should acknowledge that there is an element of risk to their job, and thus not ever go into any situation guns blazing.
I am a lefty and I am onboard. However…
No one ever made progress calling the other side names. Consider your reaction to the statement “All [insert your tribe here] are bastards”. When you take umbrage to this, someone might remind you that, indeed, some members of that group you identify with really are bastards, because xyz action they took. But still, you don’t like it. After all, you are a part of [that group] and you aren’t a bastard are you?
Holy shit, did I just have to explain basic fucking empathy here?
Again, I don’t think my brother is dumb. I don’t think ZDLR is dumb either. Hell, he might be kind of brilliant. If I sat down with him, why might agree on any number of things. I lean pretty far the fuck left. But ZDLR’s career with RATM was nothing but another blip in the soundclip wars. Fitting something into a song often expunges all the possibilities of nuance out of it. RATM is good music. However, it is shit politics. It is the Che Guevara t-shirt of music.
I am not one to tell anyone how to do things. If you want to make music, and you want to make politicized music, go right the fuck ahead. But people will take it seriously, and once that happen know that you are part of the sound clip war. ZDLR and RATM can and should continue to make their music, but their oversimplifications equates everything they have said to being lesser than Fox news. My gripe isn’t with the music, but don’t kid yourself that RATM is anything but a part of the capitalist machine. What’s worse, he is a part of that machine that eliminates nuance of discourse. I’ll repeat again that I like the music as music. But political it is actually not.
I’ll conclude with a nice Chris Hedges quote. Because Chris Hedges is the real fucking deal.
Those captives to images cast ballots based on how candidates make them feel.
-Empire of Illusion
1 People give me shit for saying this, but it is 100% true and is certainly a hill I am willing to die on. Every parent has a favorite child. If you do not know which of your siblings is the favorite, then it isn’t you.
2 After about 10 minutes of googling, I have found that this isn’t a real word. Does anyone know a collective noun meaning ‘a collection of vague things’ ?
3 This would bring up the awful awful discourse of what would constitute evidence. I have no idea what ZDLR’s standards of evidence are, or if they would be acceptable to me. But as a person who really loves Epistemology, I am rather skeptical that he is going to make the grade.