“Shedding Light on the Darkness of Greed”

31 May

Rage Against the Machine is a punk / rap band that was woke before woke was cool. Their songs got a lot of play thirty years ago when I listened to music radio, so I heard and enjoyed them. They’re really good; I enjoy them, even if I don’t agree with their philosophy. But I was just thinking about this particular song and thought… man, these lyrics are so stupid.

My first thought is, “of course it’s stupid! They’re song lyrics.” They’re not supposed to be well-crafted academic texts; they’re supposed to convey an emotion. It may be a call to action (which this is), but to quote another song, “Please don’t put your life in the hands / of a rock-and-roll band / and throw it all away.”

The song is “Darkness of Greed” and what I was particularly bad phrasing was:

Ya cram ya culture down my throat
Say I’m inferior when I find it, I choke
You fill my mind with a false sense of history
And then you wonder why I have no identity?
Well, I’ll strike a match and it’ll catch and
Spread the insight we need
A tiny fire, burning bright
Shedding light on the darkness of greed

Rage Against the Machine, Darkness of Greed, 1991

Let’s break this down. “Darkness of greed;” the fact that you call it “greed” is bad. Otherwise you’d call it “prosperity” or “wealth.” But we gotta shed light on how bad it is, man… we’re fightin’ the system, bro! Okay – let’s keep on this lyric. “Then you wonder why I have no identity?” No, I never wondered. Many generations have worked very hard to break your original culture to become Americans. It’s only when people won’t let you forget it (see Irish) that you develop a whole system to empower your identity… because you have no place in the new identity.

But wait, it gets better… “My people’s culture was strong, it was pure
And if not for that white greed, it would’ve endured.” Shall I point out the obvious? That (like most woke) you’re four white boys from suburbia? Maybe you believe that story, and here’s not the post to argue about what pre-European contact cultures were like, but can we all agree that you can’t call yourself another culture without some justification?

Again, I’m thinking way too much about this, because this is a protest song. The band is Rage Against the Machine… it’s kinda on the label. You know what you’re getting when you listen to it. But there’s been an awful lot of rage and not a lot of what comes next. “If we just get rid of those nasty (insert whites, men, rich people) in power, then we’d have a utopia.” Except we wouldn’t, because (to use the language of the left) we’ve all learned oppressor behavior. Once the righteous come into power, and the king is dead, the new power start acting like a-holes.

And that’s why I mistrust activists; because even if they told you how they get to paradise, you’d quickly realize that that’s not what you believe. It’s far easier to say, “It’s these people’s fault. If only we got rid of (insert whatever), we wouldn’t have this problem.” Sorry… we campaign in poetry but govern in prose, because the details of “how we get there” don’t match the vision. When we stick to the poetry, we can’t govern.

One Response to ““Shedding Light on the Darkness of Greed””

  1. Silk Cords June 9, 2022 at 12:14 am #

    This was one where I almost thought I was going to disagree with you on before I re-read it a couple of times. 🙂 It quickly became apparent though that you were not advocating on behalf of those who are better off, but against those who are frequently playing people off against each other for their own personal gain. It’s something we see everywhere from every group nowadays too.

    As far as capitalism itself (ala RATM’s song), lets just say I’m far less enamored of it after what I’ve been dealing with and blogging about in my last several blog entries. The reality though is that it isn’t the economic system that’s flawed. It’s the lack of basic morals in society. Anything from capitalism to communism works fine IF there’s moral leadership and a moral populace.

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