Violence: A Playlist

Music is an art form which allows us to express ourselves. It allows us to explore many aspects of life in a lyrical, melodious, and harmonious way. Violence has become (unfortunately) an integral part of our lives. Shout out to Ursula Le Guin for that absolute downer. So naturally there is a lot of music out there, a lot of songs, which draw upon violence in some shape or form. I took the liberty of putting together a small playlist with songs that do this. You can check it out here.

For now, I’m going to introduce you to the first song on this playlist.

Marina and the Diamonds – Savages

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Marina and the Diamonds, otherwise know as Marina Diamandis, is known for making pop music that elicits equivocal meanings. During her address on music at Oxford University, she states that she sees pop music as a way ‘to express unorthodox ideas to large audiences’. Savages does just that. It is one of her songs which directly addresses human nature and its relation to violence. The song opens with these lines:

Murder lives forever
And so does war
It’s survival of the fittest
Rich against the poor
At the end of the day
It’s a human trait
Hidden deep down inside of our DNA 

The songs draws upon Hobbes idea of violence. Born with the same abilities, humans are all equal. However this makes us too equal. We need to compete in some shape or form for something to create an inequality. This something is most often power, but it is not limited to power. Thus we then turn to violence to create this inequality. Just like fighting over the last slice of pizza, if you ask me. The line ‘Survival of the fittest / Rich against the poor’ hones in on this. Marina utilises a sarcastic tone in the next lines, ‘At the end of the day / It’s a human trait / Hidden deep down inside of our DNA’. ‘At the end of the day’ it is easier for us to blame violence on something that we have no control over. Am I suggesting that Marina implies that we’re low enough to scapegoat our own DNA? Yep. That’s the problem with studying literature, you go a bit crazy.

The bridge of this song brings up question after question about the nature of violence. Is it really within us? Is it finding its way out? Marina infers that we’re just using that as an excuse and in fact, we commit violent acts because we choose to:

Were we born to abuse, shoot a gun and run
Or has something deep inside of us come undone?
Is it a human trait, or is it learned behavior
Are you killing for yourself, or killing for your savior?

The chorus of Savages is an admittance of this. It acknowledges we are savages and try to hide behind our own excuses and facades. Marina elicits the idea that our ability to act violent has become hidden behind the normalised idea that we are good because we are somewhat more developed and civilised than animals. However the truth is that we are animals and act that way. In fact, Marina goes as far as to say animals are far more graceful. Charming. We have not learned from the mistakes we’ve made in the past and we’re ‘still learning how to crawl’. Evil in the form of violence has become banal, and as Marina writes, is hiding behind our ‘shirts, ties and marriages’.

Underneath it all, we’re just savages
Hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages
How could we expect anything at all
We’re just animals, still learning how to crawl

Marina also explores how we ignore these problems and simply ‘say’ things but do not do things about the violence that is happening around us. The repetition of ‘you can’ and actions of passivity which follow such as seeing, watching, reading, emphasise that we receive and but do not actively work against or do anything about the violence we see, watch, and read except say ‘it’s troubling’:

You can see it on the news
You can watch it on TV
You can read it on your phone
You can say it’s troubling
Humans aren’t gonna behave
As we think we always should
Yeah, we can be bad as we can be good

Whew. That’s a lot of violence for one song. And more guilt tripping. Great!

TLDR: Savages is a pretty hippie song. It makes you wanna bop your head around harmoniously and just yell heyyyyy mannnnn we’re all just savagessssss while throwing an empowering fist into the air. Power to the man I always say.


Sources consulted:

Marina Diamandis | Full Address and Q&A | Oxford Union

Savages

Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan

The Grossly Misunderstood ‘Banality of Evil’ Theory

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