This series will cover a variety of musical styles. Part one was a New Age instrumental piece by Kurt Bestor and part two was a “Bubble Gum Pop,” song by R.E.M. Later entries in this series will include “Concept Album style” rock and roll by Roger Waters, a couple of Folk songs, and a well known Labor Anthem.
The group featured in this entry has been described as “alternative metal, art rock, experimental metal, hard rock, new prog, progressive metal, and thrash metal.” They have also had their lyrics described as being “Dada” in style. AND, in what is in no doubt an internet first, I am going to tie their message into one of the major messages from the longest story line in the Book of Mormon.
The song that I am highlighting in this post is “Hypnotize” by the Armenian-American rock group System of a Down (SOAD or System to their biggest fans). In 2005 they released a “Double” Album – Part 1 “Mezmerize”, was released on May 17 and part 2 “Hypnotize”, was released on November 22, 2005. These albums continued the SODA’s themes of politics, propaganda, government control, loss of freedom, etc.
While the song “Hypnotize”, references the Tiananmen Square protests, it is not actually about them. Rather, it leads off by asking the questions “Why don’t you ask the kids at Tiananmen square? / Was Fashion the reason why they were there?” Then, in Mormon parlance, SOAD “likens” the Tiananmen protests to their audience and the song moves into a theme of how we so easily allow propaganda to “Hypnotize”, “Mezmerize,” and “enslave us” into complacency, when we should be out fighting for our rights as were the protestors in Tiananmen Square.
I’ll be honest, I had never heard of this song or “SOAD” until I was researching this series. But as I listened to various versions of “Hypnotize” to choose one for this post, the image that kept coming to my mind was that of a man, or I should say of men, on “Towers” mesmerizing the masses into surrendering their agency and believing/doing what they are told. The version of this image in my mind comes from my Mormon heritage.
The longest single storyline in the Book of Mormon is that of a war between the Nephites, who are led by Captain Moroni, and the Lamanites who are led by a man called Amalickiah. When the story starts Amalickiah is NOT a Lamanite, he is actually a Nephite. He is depicted as a power hungry man who campaigns to take over the democratically elected Nephite government, but is unsuccessful in his attempt. Being a sore and a power mad looser, he leaves the land of his birth with his chief followers, and then, through a series of intrigues, he manages to take over the neighboring Lamanite nation. He then wants to go to war and take over the Nephite nation too, BUT, even though the Lamanites have agreed to follow him, they DO NOT want to go to war. Then, evil man that he is, Amalickiah puts the following plan into action:
And now … Amalickiah … began to inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi; yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites from their towers, against the Nephites.
And thus he did inspire their hearts against the Nephites, insomuch that … he having accomplished his designs thus far, … he sought also to reign over all the land, yea, and all the people who were in the land, ….
Therefore … he had hardened the hearts of the Lamanites and blinded their minds, …
For he was determined…to bring (all the people) into bondage.
(Alma 48: 1-4)
Government control of the masses through media is not new. Be it from ancient towers, 20th century pulpits, the radio, the silver screen, the boob tube, or the modern high tech media, SOAD reminds us in “Hypnotize” that all governments want to find ways to keep the masses complacent and under their control. If they can convince us that nothing is wrong then we will be happy to just sit around waiting in our cars completely oblivious while our rights and freedom slowly slip farther and farther away.
Our freedom is up to us. We can buy into the propaganda and allow ourselves to be hypnotized and mesmerized into believing that everything is perfectly fine. Or we can, like the guy who refused to salute Hitler or the students in Tiananmen Square, say no, my mind is my own and I am going to stand up for my freedom.
This is part 3 of my series on music related to the Tiananmen Square Protests/Massacre in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the massacre.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.