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Pink Floyd's "The Wall," a Modern Warning 35-years Later?

Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is maybe more pertinent than ever.
Photo credit:
Steven Hyde - YouTube

One of the scariest music videos of the 80’s was from the highly successful rock opera and personal double album from Pink Floyd called “The Wall.” Odd how that title is political even today. 

There are actually a few music videos on YouTube which showcase the 80’s tune, and motion picture of the same name, and each of them arguably a prediction of current times. 

 Although not directly related to any historical or political event, the songs are a personal journey of its protagonist sinking into the realms of depression, some of the images may draw correlations to the fears of today. 

The main character in “The Wall” is Pink, he succumbs to self-loathing and drugs, building up a wall that contains every part of his damaged psyche.

Through hallucinations, Pink is intimidated by the visions of destruction and hatred which seem to define the world in which he lives, or at least how it molds him.

It’s a metaphorical fantasy travelogue into fascism and world domination by the evil forces of neo-Nazism and dictatorship of which he is the leader. 

In the first video, taken from the movie, we see trains reminiscent of those headed to World War II concentration camps, filled with humans wearing masks which remove human characteristics, leaving everyone looking like soul-less monsters.

Education plays a big role in the video and the song. Teachers patrol students who are distracted by poetry and individualism, instead, drilling into them the importance of conformity.

The lyrics go thusly:

“We don't need no education,

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom, teachers leave them kids alone.”

As those words play out, we see school kids marching into a mind control machine, spit out on a conveyer belt as faceless ghouls with no self-will.

The kids try to rebel, “hey teacher, leave us kids alone,” is a part of the hook, but they are still overcome by controlling powers of the establishment.

Eventually, the youth do rebel in a most violent way, breaking apart their classrooms in an attempt to free themselves from the bonds of an oppressive force, breaking down the wall that keeps them trapped inside and finally burning the school to the ground. But it turns out Pink has only imagined this rebellion and still sits at his desk listening to the booming voice of his professor.

The second video, the “official” one for the song is a little less heavy on the metaphor but still focuses on the oppression and impression those in charge have on the masses.

But it’s the third video from a YouTube user who collected all the animations from the movie and overlayed them to an unrelated song called “Pigs (Three Different Ones)."

This collection, completely out of context of the narrative, speaks volumes about America today even though Pink Floyd is focused on the oppressive nature of British society. 

Images in the video are heavy from the get-go; a dove tries to peacefully land on earth but is torn apart by a black flying bird who then ascends into the sky. This bird eventually becomes the symbol of fascism, turning into metal war machines which resemble airplanes from the Third Reich.

People are transformed into gas-masked monsters because of chemical warfare, war planes turn into crosses dripping with blood, a metaphor for doing violent things in the name of God.

Finally after the world is taken over by hatred and violence an army of hammers marches over the land to stamp out any remaining detractors and Pink is left to hopefully be reborn naked into an outside world devoid of any walls.

Yes all of this is heavy and Pink Floyd’s protagonist is suffering from deep mental illness, but his problems, as they manifest in his mind are the products of hatred, religion, and lack of free-will.

He is stunted and only fantasizes about having stood up for the things he knows are right, in those fantasies he stirs up delusions of grandeur, but given the world's violent past, embodies a neo-Nazi dictator which I imagine is the only way he feels he can take total control of his life. 

"The Wall" and all of its metaphors about being a product of our environment can probably be interpreted in many ways by the listener or viewer. 

But to me, it shows that even 35 years later, as school officials ban trans kids from using the bathroom in the name of religion (teachers leave them kids alone) and neo-Nazis terrorize beautiful cities across the country, people who have the opportunity to change should immediately do so, or suffer the consequences. 

It's not that the "The Wall" doesn't have a somewhat happy conclusion if you call insanity happy. In the movie's end, Pink himself is judged and in doing so ordered to be "exposed" before his peers. 

We all have a responsibility to participate in the change we want, but that change cannot happen if we isolate ourselves behind the false security of a self-built wall. 

Pink Floyd probably never thought "The Wall" and its imagery would be a warning for future generations, maybe a reminder to not repeat the past.

But it bears keeping in mind that there is a saying which may hold some credence as we watch America transforming in some way: "History does repeat itself."