The engine roars, and then it gives,
but never dies. We don’t live,
we just survive.
~ Rise Against, “Re-Education (Through Labor)”
You know, I don’t often say this, but I’m not sure where to begin on this one. Generally the problem I have is that I can’t fully latch onto any one of the million half-formed ideas swirling about my head. In this case, it’s that I can’t seem which one to pick first, because it struck me this morning as I was driving home from dropping off Orion at work whilst Tim McIlrath’s scratchy voice blared from my speakers that all these ideas are connected. Not necessarily *all* of my ideas in the sense of everything I think about, but *all* in the sense of the ones I have been bouncing around lately, albeit not necessarily blogging about for want of coherence (and, as always, time).
What are these connected, bouncing ideas, you ask? Well. Back to my original dilemma: where to begin. I think I may just throw them all out there at once and then see where that takes me. Sure, because that usually works, and by “works” what I mean ever so sarcastically is “leads to a coherent end product.” So here it goes.
Disregarding any accusations of being a broken record, I really did spend a good chunk of my childhood running around the woods barefoot and climbing trees, and when I wasn’t getting in touch with my inner fae-amazon-native-hippie-athlete, I was reading books. Devouring books, in fact. I think I might have read The Hobbit before I read The Magic Schoolbus. My point is that I was either outside, learning straight from the source—albeit unbeknownst to me at the time—or I was inside, learning what others had learned before me. Then, of course, I became a pre-teen and discovered that music consisted of more than singing songs about bees and trees and flowers and the things I saw in the woods, and I picked up a guitar. Thus began my semi-rebellious stage. I listened to Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine. I didn’t exactly understand which machine RATM was raging against, but I liked their music nevertheless. I dressed like a cross between a punk and a hippie with occasional goth-prep elements. (Is that even a style?) I even went so far once as to walk downstairs sporting black lipstick, which was promptly nipped in the bud by laughter from my parents. But really, that was the extent of my teenage rebellion.
My parents never instated a curfew, because I never needed one. I never stayed out late or got in trouble or even ran with a semi-rough crowd. I ran with the track team instead. Sure, I went to the occasional punk show, but those were always straight edge, and I use the term “punk” here incredibly loosely. My parents loved me and always treated me like a thinking adult. All my teachers loved me, with the exception of the 8th grade fiasco. There were no authority figures in my life that I deemed unfair or unworthy, let alone tyrannical (again, excluding 8th grade). However, a part of me always longed for a cause, for a reason to fight the system—any system, really—for a revolution.
Then I went to college, and not just any college, a military one. I became part of the system without even realizing it, and now I serve the machine of the government as the “fourth branch.” However, I will get to that whole service issue later. Back to my college days.
Enter Rise Against.
This song always gives me chills. There are a few songs that do that, all for very different reasons. There is just something about the combination of the screaming and the rebellion and the mechanical references and the driving beats that sends tingles all up and down my spine whenever “Re-Education” scrolls across my iPod screen. While they’ve been making music for much longer than I’ve been listening to them, this song—released in 2008—was my introduction to the band. Even now it affects me with a wave of nostalgia, inspiration, rebellious longing, and just a twinge of fear. Funny how music can do that, and that’s part of my theory on why music is magic, but that’s another post entirely.
I’ve listened to this song for years now, yet my first time actually watching the video was just moments after I decided to write this post. Finally, several paragraphs later, you’re about to understand why this and why now. It's all about the fire. While I do not condone the tactics displayed in the music video, I can’t help but be moved by the symbolism. Obviously, terrorism = bad. But fire? = pretty. Anywho, before my carefully suppressed pyro flares up (flares? get it? I made a pun!) I am going to get back on topic. The fires they start in the city—which at least on the upside appears to be entirely unpopulated, apart from the bike-riding firestarters themselves—resemble the spark of knowledge, that destructive, creative, purifying force in the universe. The fire of suns, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium and releasing massive amounts of radiation that make life on rocks such as Earth possible. Food cooking over a campfire, in an oven, in a microwave, nourishing life further. Bodies burning calories, always consuming in order to produce. Fire is light. It’s energy. Fire is life as much as it is death. In this particular music video, the fire is used to cleanse the city of the tyrannical elements it represented, leaving the ground purified and ready for rebirth, for a new order, one in which differences are respected and celebrated.
If you can’t tell, my normally earthy-nature is on a fire kick lately. I think it may have something to do with all the coffee I’ve been drinking. Regardless, between Rise Against and Robopocalypse, my feelings about the future are a mix of excitement and apprehension. Whenever I crack out my tarot cards and ask for insight into the future of this country, of the world, I pull the Moon and the Tower: hidden mysteries, uncertainty, ultimate destruction necessary for rebirth and re-creation. I don’t know where things are headed, but I know I want to be there to put the pieces back together as necessary. I want to be that Amazon—a Warrior-Priestess-Leader—to set things right again once they go terribly wrong. Whether we are approaching a slow economic decay or a sudden, violent collapse; whether we are about to explode into another war or implode into a failed state; whether we are to turn a corner and reclaim our regional hegemony or even achieve global status (believe it or not, we have never quite qualified as a global hegemony by IR standards); I want to be there. I am a part of the system, yes. But what I pledged my loyalty to, what I signed up to potentially lay down my life in service to, is the Constitution. That pledge I hold as holy.
It’s a fabulous document, full of all sorts of wonderful knowledge and governmental ideals. You should read it sometime.