Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Know Your Rights" - As Relevant A Song Today As Ever

This is a public service announcement! With a bloooooggg...

Way back in 1982, rock band The Clash released a song called "Know Your Rights." It is the first song on their best-selling Combat Rock album. Many of you have probably heard it at one time or another, although it's not as popular a tune from the album as, say, "Rock the Casbah" or "Should I Stay Or Should I Go."
Artwork for the song on a t-shirt. (C) Marc Osborn
None the less, it's an extraordinary song that absolutely scorches out an alternative view of the western world. You just don't hear songs this cutting, this brave and this - as it turns out - accurate. Not today or even back then. I guess that's why The Clash is often called "the only band that matters."

In any case, it's not a tune you hear unless you seek it out. No time for such serious business when the world can be distracted by fluffy, electronic confections of pitch-corrected nothingness.

But even more impressive is that - and this occurred to me while listing to the song on my iPod while running a treadmill as the news filled the nearby TV screen - that despite its age, "Know Your Rights" is still dead on relevant today as it ever was. It's a song that can still be turned up and blasted loudly and people will relate...or should.

You can see and hear a live performance of the song by The Clash HERE.

So that you get my point, however, lets revisit the lyrics as written by the late great Joe Strummer to see what I mean. Here is the first verse...

Know your rights! All three of them.
Number one, you have the right not to be killed
Murder is a crime, unless it was done by a policeman or an aristocrat.

Hmm. Does that sound familiar in 2014? Ferguson, Missouri anyone? Or, how about the born-rich George W. Bush and the Haliburton-rich Dick Cheney leading the USA into a falsely-premised war in Iraq...killing thousands of Americans and Iraqis who otherwise would not have died?

Or how about verse two...

And number two, you have the right to food money
Providing of course you don't mind a little investigation, humiliation 
And if you cross your fingers, rehabilitation

Sounds like today's right wing and its ongoing, calculated ridicule, despise and marginalization of the poor and any program meant to help them help them out of poverty. As their propaganda goes, the poor are 100% percent to blame for their situation and why should anyone - particularly the rich or the government - pay one thin dime to help them? They are "takers" after all.

And finally, verse three...

Number three, you have the right to free speech
As long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it

The "Occupy" movement seems to be a good example of this. Sure, the initial protests happened, but the biggest one in NYC was shut down by the cops on a city ordinance technicality. I remember one protester sign said something like, "If authorities enforced Wall Street regulation like it does park ordinances, there would be no economic crisis." Touche. Also, this third verse evokes the more recent Ferguson, MO situation again where cops armed with military weapons swept up the street of protesters, arrested journalists and imposed a curfew on all citizens.

So there you go. Find this song. Give it a listen. Think about the words. Think about how this type of perspective on the world is so sorely missing in the "shout your opponent down" mentality of today's cable TV and non-political entertainment machine.

That is all.


thezim69 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thezim69 said...

OK. I couldn't figure out if I could edit my comment after it posted before and I spelled Metallica wrong, which drove me up the wall because I'm a copy editor.

Let's try that again...

Reminds me generally of "Eye of the Beholder" by Metallica, although the Clash beat them by about six years, so I guess it wasn't exactly original. Also a good workout song, by the way.