My sadness over the reality of our divided society overwhelmed me today as old lyrics rang in my ear, in the form of an old favorite song, Us and Them, by Pink Floyd. I used to listen to this song, hour after hour, with giant headphones, with my best friend, Leslie, back in the 70s. We loved that song’s ability to take us to another place. Its ethereal sound soothed us. The words were, well, just words, back then.
Imagine my surprise today when the same song, the same sounds and the same words ripped me out of relaxation to a horrific state of revelation. These words embody my greatest fears and disappointments in our current society’s state of affairs.
Take a look at these prophetic words:
Us and Them
“Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
And you (you, you, you)
God only knows
It’s not what we would choose (choose, choose) to do (to do, to do)
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died
And the general sat
And the lines on the map
Moved from side to side
Black (black, black, black)
And blue (blue, blue)
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up (up, up, up, up)
And down (down, down, down, down)
And in the end it’s only round ‘n round (round, round, round)
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside
“I mean, they’re not gonna kill ya,
So if you give ’em a quick short, sharp, shock,
They won’t do it again. Dig it?
I mean he get off lightly, ’cause I would’ve given him a thrashing
I only hit him once! It was only a difference of opinion, but really
I mean good manners don’t cost nothing do they, eh?”
Down (down, down, down, down)
And out (out, out, out, out)
It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about
With (with, with, with), without
And who’ll deny it’s what the fighting’s all about?
Out of the way
It’s a busy day
I’ve got things on my mind
For the want of the price
Of tea and a slice
The old man died.”
A blog commenter, “SkinnyD,” put his two cents in, eleven years ago, giving his best interpretation of this, “oldie but goodie.” He wrote:
“Timeless poetry such as this has many levels of meaning.
Laid out before us by the artist so succinctly, yet so sublime.
All of us can see the reference to the nature of war, its cruelty, and futility.
However, I believe there is a more primal meaning to these words. It’s more about human nature, rather than the nature of war.
The “Us and Them” verse refers to how groups (tribes) of humans can be cruel to one another, but as individuals we like to think we would not act this way.
The “Black and Blue” verse refers to how, from the beginning of time and until its end, individuals are drawn to congregate and called to war. We like to think that as individuals we are called to war by our dehumanized leaders with their wicked words.
The “Down and Out” verse is the clincher that exposes one cruel aspect of human nature, greed. The greed of nations cause war and we can’t deny that is what the fighting is all about. Yet, in our personal lives, our greed can blind us to the suffering of the needy within our own society with people dying for the price of tea and a slice.
I believe the lyrics examines how we like to think of ourselves as individuals and how we truly act on a personal level.”
I agree, SkinnyD. If you’re still out there, props to you. Thank you for expressing what many were feeling then, and today.
Maybe I will cc my old BFF, Leslie, and get her opinion, after all these years. She probably feels the same…
Readers: What do you think about our world today? Has your view of reality changed for the better or the worse, since childhood?
Song lyrics by Pink Floyd
Comments by SkinnyD at http://songmeanings.com/m/songs/view/2812/