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admin / January 1, 2016

Hymns of desolation

Aurelio Porfiri

While I am writing these lines, Christmas is exploding in streets and shops. I am using “explode” in a positive sense of course, but I am sure many people now associate this word with dark scenarios, especially in Europe and in the USA. We cannot hide that the images and fears related to the attack in Paris are still with us, with all the stark and scary associations that are strongly related with them. In these days of great emotions, with thousands of possible and imaginable articles and comments in all media, I have noticed that there were some songs that provided, in a sense, a sort of sinister soundtrack to accompany the sentiments aroused by the terrible terrorist attack on French soil. As a musician, but also as someone who does not want to bow to the political correctness that suffocates us all, I have tried to reflect a little bit on why the Marseillaise, Imagine and the most transgressive rock had become a symbol of this commotion. Certainly for Marseillaise it is easy to imagine. This is the French anthem, but I think it will not be improper to make some comments on what this soundtrack hides, but most of all, what it reveals.

Let’s start from the Bataclan, a symbol of that horrendous massacre. That day a US band was performing, the Eagles of Death Metal. Now, there have been a lot of discussion these days about the type of music that in fact this band would play. In their Wikipedia page their music is referred as hard rock, alternative rock, garage punk. I do not think I’m the first to say that this kind of music certainly has a very important Dionysian function, to promote the loss of yourself, in the good tradition of Dionysian pagan cults. Certainly a lot of good music has the effect of depriving the listener of himself or herself, but when it is really good it is not lost in the indistinct. The ultimate goal is not to get lost but to refocus on a superior dimension, as we might say, using an Augustinian image: Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas. Was not rock and all its incarnations one of the main tools to favor this Dionysian paganity? Of course there are many rockers that have completely good intentions but if we see the big picture, most of the so called freedom that has weakened the West come also from messages coming from this kind of music, very powerful in itself because it uses a sort of primitive and ancestral rhythm that very easily has effect on those not able to resist it with a superior music understanding. If you go to a rock concert what you are looking for is to move hysterically, to be stunned by the noise, to lose yourself in the nothingness. The attack in Paris has not stricken the heart of Western culture but one of its many unpredictable historical developments. The killing of so many innocent people was horrible and so the attack on one of the great nations, as France is. But it is not out of place, I think, to see what the West has become and why we should be afraid about it.

After the bombings you can hear the Marseillaise being sung anywhere. This hymn in fact, is the symbol of the French Revolution that would subvert a certain kind of society based on traditional principles, of which religion was an important part, to another one based on the tyranny of reason as the supreme entity. The issue of the use of the Marseilles was noted by journalist Mauro Faverzani in the news agency Corrispondenza Romana: “The 129 dead and over 300 injured in Paris have not shed blood for the Marseillaise. It has nothing to do with what has happened: it is a singing that’s out of tune from the beginning. And, if it is a symbol of something, it is the Revolution and the subsequent period defined – not by chance – “Terror,” which was not that much different from the horror caused by ISIS. Invoking those notes is out of place” (November 18, 2015). In short, another symbol of all that has brought Europe to get lost in the Dionysian sense, to give up its identity to devote itself to the cult of Dionysus that, as Nietzsche taught us in The Birth of Tragedy, should never be separated from its brother Apollo, who gives meaning, balance, equilibrium.

But what was being caught by the omnipresent mobile phones, ipads and so on was the pianist who wanted to honor the dead of the attacks by playing another hymn of the decayed west, Imagine by John Lennon. In this well-known song you can imagine how nice it would be a world where there was no religion or differences, a world where there are no countries and where everyone lives in peace. But what peace is this? When you have no identity, a supernatural dimension that surpasses you, for what is life worth living? It seems to me this idea of world government, typical of certain Masonic circles, that a well-crafted melody and catchy accompaniment masquerades as the anthem of the peaceful world, when it sounds rather as a symbol of the decline of the West.

Aldo Vitale on tempi.it was right (17 November 2015): “The famous song by Lennon is, in fact, at this time proposed as a symbol of peace and brotherhood. But is this true? No, the song by Lennon, albeit fine under the melodic aspect, is a veritable ode to violence, for many reasons that to be understood should be divided into two parts, those ex fide and those ex ratione, i.e., those which constitute a critique in the light of faith and those which constitute a critique in the light of reason. In the light of the faith, in fact, to deny heaven or hell is something radically anti-religious in general, and anti-Christian in particular, especially if it stands for a view that what matters is only the sky above us, that in the most optimistic hypothesis is an emanationist and pantheistic view, but in the more pessimistic hypothesis gives us a materialistic and atheistic view of life and of the world. (…) In the light of reason, however, we need to consider the following. First: the idea that there should be no nations, is a violent idea – not surprisingly at the root of revolutionary socialist internationalism ideology underlying the nineteenth and twentieth century – as it denies the relational and political being of the man as such already discovered by the rationality of Greek thought that had in Aristotle the opportunity to express its highest summit. Secondly, the idea that there should be no property is also a violent idea – not coincidentally the basis of many political and ideological movements in the name of this principle have brought more death and devastation on those whom they thought to remedy – because it denies a direct expression of the natural law, namely the right that by nature, by the nature of the human being, it is a right that pertains to good reason, to human rationality.” Imagine should be called Imagined, because the world that the song presents was already tried and has failed many times bringing death and destruction. And the same life of John Lennon was a hymn to this new mentality that has found in drugs and oriental pantheistic philosophies a new heaven above a desolate land.

The article of Vitale, which should be read in its entirety, gets the point; the West defends itself from outside violence with the same poison that has caused its weakening, instead of returning to what has made it great: religion, art, culture, philosophy; the West offers itself as a body soaked by the ravages of mentalities and philosophies that have steered our civilization towards this long sunset. It has not given great importance to the role that music has to read the evolution of cultures and societies, but if this were done we would understand better why we are in the situation we are in and what are the strategies of the “ enemy,” much smarter than you think, because he knows that with a song or with the emotional force of music many battles that seem lost at the beginning can still be won.