Political Divisiveness Has Officially Ruined Everything
by Jeremy Frederick
Politics in the United States have become incredibly divisive over the past decade, and to add insult to injury, ubiquitous. There's no avoiding politics. People used to identify themselves by their religion, their ancestry, and even their subculture. Now everyone wears their party affiliation on their sleeve. Of course, with there being only two eligible political parties in our country, it creates a clear and definite line between liberal and conservative, left and right, democrat and republican. All this has done for our society is divide us into two neat little groups: red states and blue states. Nothing else matters, and this became apparent to me when I noticed the one consistent love, indeed passion of my life to be polluted by this asinine pissing contest that is politics. I'm talking about the politicization of heavy metal music.
Metal used to, much like it's unofficial mascot, Satan, stand for rebellion against the status quo, living outside the norm, bucking the system, and whatever cliché you want to throw into the mix. Much like Satan, heavy metal was “the accuser”, the last bastion of rebellion against all that is conformist. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people realize that choosing one of two sides of the same corrupt coin is about as rebellious a child being sent to bed on time, but sitting there in the dark and quietly refusing to sleep. It's a meaningless gesture that just makes the so-called “activist” feel exhausted. I fear that the subculture of heavy metal as a whole has succumbed to left/right rift that is tearing the western world in two.
I'm not saying that heavy metal has been devoid of politicization, in fact politics have always had a presence in heavy metal lyrical themes. Black Sabbath's “War Pigs”, Iron Maiden's “Two Minutes To Midnight”, and a great deal of Metallica and Megadeth's songs are all relatively early examples. The difference then from now, however, is that those songs represented a disdain for authority, and contempt towards the corrupt base of power in our society. Today, metal musicians and journalists who cover the scene are making their allegiances known, and instead of questioning and criticizing those in power, they are making endorsements.
Dave Mustaine's recent unofficial endorsement of Rick Santorum for President of the United States is a prime example. And then there is the inevitable backlash, from the likes of Odorus Urungus of Gwar and metalsucks.net, who believe that heavy metal music is appropriately placed on the left side of politics and needs to stay that way. To say that heavy metal music and culture has anything to do with conservatism is indeed absurd, but heavy metal as a culture is much more nuanced than that. If heavy metal culture was a stalwart liberal constituency, Barrack Obama would surely be scheduling campaign appearances at this year's Maryland Death Feast, a short flight via Marine One from the White House, but so far his administration has not announced any such plans. Heavy metal culture embraces personal liberty and responsibility, the “Do as thou wilt” of Aleistar Crowley, the “virtue of selfishness” professed by Ayn Rand. If heavy metal should be the back drop of any political movement, it would be libertarianism. But metal does not, and should not do this. Metal is a culture unto itself, and it is a culture of resistance against politics and the quest for power over many by the few. Heavy metal embraces the power of the individual; it is the artistic synthesis of anarchism.
Politics does have a place in music, metal or otherwise. Most people are confused and depressed by current events, especially politics, so they escape them through music. Metalheads are no less guilty of this than hip-hop, pop, country, jazz, or even dubstep fans. That dude in leather jacket with the Immortal patch is more interested in the mythical kingdom of Blashyrkh than The Arab Spring or the GOP Convention, and who could blame him? But, it is good for society, and every sub-culture within it, to be aware of the issues of the day. And this awareness can and should be slipped in surreptitiously among songs about demons, orcs, psychopathic serial killers, or loose women wearing little more than leather chaps. But it's best to keep it in the background. That way if the listener wants to delve deeper into the wider concept and enlighten themselves they can, while the rest of us can bang our heads. Unfortunately, in a now perpetual election cycle and worldwide civil unrest, everyone has their opinion and feels obligated to share it. You know the old joke about opinions being like rectums.
I live and breath 2 things: music (especially heavy metal) and knowledge about the world around me. I want to know what's going on at all times. A negative consequence of that, however, is that I think too much (which is what my friends and family always complain to me about). That's why I need heavy metal. I need the dark humor of a Cannibal Corpse song about turning tattooed human skin into wall hangings and the wild fantasy of a Blind Guardian song. Sadly, evidence is mounting that no one cares about escapism anymore. In this age of instant and infinite information, we're beginning to forget how to empty our heads and daydream for a while.