music and rebellion
January 4, 2010
Posted by on
A while back I saw Slipknot live. The venue wasn’t very good, nor was the actual concert, but this is not a concert review. And on a side note, I actually don’t think I would be able to write a concert review in the normal sense. Unlike a lot of people I know, I can’t remember the set list after a concert. I am not even sure of what songs were played, let alone in what order, even if it is a concert with a band whose entire body of work I know. I wouldn’t even be able to do it at gunpoint. My brain just doesn’t register the music that way. But what my brain did register was an event that took place at that particular concert.
At one point Corey Taylor, the singer, asks the audience to squat down. And everyone does. Everyone is squatting down on the floor and Corey is cheering them on up from the stage. I am just standing there. Looking at the bizarre event taking place in front of me. And I remember thinking “are they insane?” I was trying to understand what it was that was actually taking place. What type of behavior I was witnessing and why. The audience was then supposed to jump up when Corey told them to, and so they did, as one unified body. And they all seemed very happy about this. Like the fact that they had done it all together really meant something. I was just puzzled. Why did they do that? I can understand why Corey did it. Or at least to some extent. It must be an amazing high to control the masses, of course you can get off on that. But what was in it for the audience? Why did they seem just as ecstatic as he did? This room filled with people who would most likely all define them selves as more or less alternative and rebellious people. Why were they all so willing to be told what to do by Corey? And not only did they obey, but they did it happily. Why did they do that? Why were they so happy about being told what to do? And then I realized I was witnessing a prime example group mentality. This was no longer about individuals, this was about being part of the group. About inclusion. Wanting to belong. Wanting to be a member of the masses. Us against them. Them being all the people who wasn’t at the concert, the people in the outside world. So cheered on from the stage they all got with the program and squatted and jumped. Like a little army. I started laughing. I suspect it was partly something like a nervous reaction, but partly it was because it was all just so very pathetic. All these self-declared alternative rebellious people, with their elaborate outfits and t-shits with subversive messages, squatting and jumping on command. Just dying to get with the program. To be told what to do. And I know man is a herd animal, but seriously! Isn’t rock’n’roll supposed to be about rebellion? About questioning authority? Even if that authority happens to be Corey Taylor in Slipknot. But I guess that’s just a pose. Or the herd is just that imbedded in the human brain. I don’t know.
One the one hand it is indeed laughable, the whole thing was rather pathetic and silly, but the other hand it’s also scary. It’s scary just how easy it is for people to get into the herd mentality. All you need is the right setting. Once you have that anything can happen. And that is the scary part: Just how easy it actually is to manipulate the masses. Regardless of what type of individuals that mass consists of. Of course I was under no false illusion that this particular audience was in some respect special in the sense that they would be more individual, but that it would be that easy to have them play jumping games on command I also didn’t think. Or at least I didn’t want to. I wish I had asked someone why they did it afterwards, but I went home instead. Feeling slightly disgusted and somewhat disillusioned. Because sure, one can claim that it was just a “fun thing to do”, but I have to say I very rarely find it fun to do things that other people tell me to for no apparent reason other than that “everyone else is doing it”. I don’t like doing things because other people do them. To me that is a stupid reason. I also don’t think it’s very healthy to use the will of the herd as a motivator for individual actions. Things do have a tendency to get out of hand very easily if there is no element of reflection involved.
There is a great scene in Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” that really captures the herd mentality. Brian is standing at his bedroom window talking to the thousands of people who have gathered below: “You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!” And the crowd responds, with one voice: “Yes! We’re all individuals!” That’s kind of what this Slipknot concert felt like.