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Album Review: "Animals" by Pink Floyd


Ask not your place in society, but society's place in you.

"Animals" by Pink Floyd earned no reknown for subtlety or diplomacy, Waters leaves very little to the imagination and yet there is much by way of commentary that seems to completely ignore his basic message. For what it's worth, here is the impression he leaves me with. Please feel free to criticise this appraisal, my email address is below.

Pigs on the Wing Part I

Here Waters portends that most mundane of possible modes of human existance, a careless world and all that failing to care for each other implies. He invites us to consider the ramifications of successfully substituting our very real need to strive for each other (and the satisfaction earned in so doing) with whatever 2nd, 3rd or nth best substitutes of perceived self interests (and the inevitable dissatisfaction this accrues) we can manage to muster from the limited possibilities afforded by so impoverished an outlook as to fail to value caring for each other.

Waters acknowledges that even from this bleakest of situations hope would spring as much in vain as eternally and would remain so for as long as we chose to avoid the bitter reality that while we continue to pass the buck of blame and avoid doing something ourselves about the pain and boredom we wear in life, which are only the external manifestations of the mental gymnastics (and resultant fatigue) required of living such lies as "there are more important things than caring for each other"

Dogs

Corporate ladder, greasy pole, back-stabbers' larder, the pejorative lights we shine on this aspect of existence should be ample for the modicum of scrutiny required to work it out for what it is, a place to sacrifice the common well-being for seemingly that of your own. Waxing somewhat more concilliatory here, Waters acknowledges the subsistence acquiessence dance we could so easily find ourselves in when convinced by those for whom the system seems to work that a worthwhile lifestyle is far more affordable than morals and despite any gut reactions it's not too long before you're part of a game that you joined for convenience and comfort. Before you know it you're defending actions that you know in your heart of hearts are fundamentally wrong and well on your way to the next phase - earnestly joining in, working on "improving" your lot and the status quo in general, becoming a component of the system yourself.

The initial convenience and comfort solicited in youth is rather short lived though, it's not many of us who can play these kind of games without at least the occasional tap on the shoulder from our conscience. The initial enthusiasm for a comfortable lifestyle having worn a little thin by now, you find that not only are your options somewhat restricted but you've also hard-wired some pretty debilitating stuff in your brain, making it only the harder to do something about the situation you've cornered yourself into. From the cradle onwards with each punishment and privelige you've done what you were told, been good girls and boys and now you're good citizens, except now it's time to ask just what does that mean? What exactly were you told again? Something's not quite adding up but you've toed the line so long now that you wouldn't even know the end of a thread if it strangled you, let alone chance attempting to unravel it. You've become a living, breathing Marley, draging the chains you continue to forge with every lie, every betrayal, every cheating act and every rejected opportunity to care for your fellow creature.

Of course consoling yourself with such fatalistic expressions as "finding yourself in these situations" is in reality a euphemistic attempt to deflect the unpalatable fact that you relinquished authorship of your own destiny, so stop feigning suprise at your current plight because, with every best initial intention (at a pinch), the tacit approval and facilitation of everything you know to be wrong that you now "find" yourself an agent for was entirely self engineered and how long you suffer this uncomfortable predicament is entirely your own decision, forever maybe, if you've got the stomach to keep shrugging it off and can fool yourself you've enough spiritual credit to keep up the payments on the high price of cowardice and inaction.

Pigs (Three different ones)

(1)
Even born suckling the silver spoon, the external advantages of rank and fortune will never satiate any deeper desires, so whilst keeping up appearances you dig yourself deeper and deeper into the "me" pit, becoming so obsessed that it's obvious to all the lengths you're prepared to go to searching for a satisfaction that is just not there.

(2)
Disenfranchisement from the human race almost complete, no feelings of warmth for your fellow creature and hence prepared to go to just about any lengths to pursue the perceived bottom line, maybe even physical violence. This is the original sin, the idolotary of rejecting Life's bounteous gifts failing to grasp that Life provides great bounties, but instead pursuing the idolatry that is rejecting these gifts.

(3)
Having safely secured your lead in the rat race, nothing now remains but to lock out those less fortunate than yourself and ensure they can not support each other in closing the gap. Pink Floyd takes the hypocrisy inherrent in censorship of any form as a given and builds on from there to illustrate the even less palatable aggenda contained therein, that of dividing people from the opinions of their fellow creature, yet another policy in the insurance against against solidarity or more to the point, preventing even any suspicion that reflected in their feelings of unease may exist that of like souls.

A hint is also made of the notion of sublimating the desire to voice opinions oneself via censorship. This might come closer to the crux of the issue - if you're part of the system and you voiced your own concerns, who knows what might come out? There may just be less to stemming the evil tide than meets the eyes.

For each of these stages of development along the road of the turning away, easy though it is to haunt the mocking finger, pity is the only appropriate response.

Sheep
Whilst maintaining the distance twixt yourself and the truths without your eyelids, you'll miss a mite more than you bargained for. Per hap the aggenda you blindly follow will serve your purposes, but you'd be pretty lucky if it proved so and even it did, you still have to look the other way as your fellow creatures reel from the blows meted out by you and anybody else who puts their own short term interests ahead of those of the common good. No dizzying heights of salary nor company car nor bribe of any magnitude is worth this, this much is obvious, still the valley of steel rings to the march of the trained troops we've become. Bad taste or neigh, Waters' splicing of his 23rd psalm parody and Marx' manifesto effectively bridges any perceived distance twixt the turning away from our duty to each other and the dire consequences of same even unto ourselves as individuals. Worse is the general precursor to better and Waters is not holding out for a velvet revolution to right these wrongs. It could be a long hard struggle sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Pigs on the Wing Part II
Apocalyptics attended to, Waters concludes with the album's fundamental message; having eminently portrayed the consequences of continuing the way we're going, he reminds us that we can choose something better for ourselves and everyone around us. To recognise the empty promises invested in porcine aviation for what they truly are is most liberating and neutralises much of the baggage of our past mistakes, clearing some headroom to stand up to such idolatry and re-engage with what Life is truly all about, caring for each other.


Further Work
Be more explicit, remove all such dogmatic abstractions as "the system", "making a stand" and the like.
Extrapolate Waters analysis.
obtain permission (if required) to present lyrics.
Discuss class, Waters' acknowledgement or otherwise regarding emancipatory potential of workers, lack of heroic element. Tease out Marx' and Engels' on alienation as it applies to Waters' condition as a middle class artist wanting a better world.
The sacred perspective - alienation demands reconnection and with something far more substantial than the spiritual fumblings of inward retreat.

Document History
Created: 2003-12-23



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Last updated: 23 Jan 2014, Hit Count: 2777