Sunday, August 18, 2013

"What Shall We Do" as midrash on addiction/defining oneself by someone else's standards

Upon taking home the new  and much-expected double album by Pink Floyd, "The Wall," and taking it for a spin..

I complained to my brother, "This isn't worth 50 cents!"

I was wrong.

 Believe it or not, I don't think I ever heard /heard of the song "What Shall We Do?"
which was cut from the album, but showed up in the movie (I never saw it.  I always felt like it wouldn't be worth a buck..oops!)

Until now.
Thanks to the wonderful "Digital Midrash" site, and their page on "Addiction."
They wove the song into this video collage (along with Pedro the Lion's "Almost There" and a  Meg Ryan film (unnamed. anybody?)

Here it is:

The wiki ion the song is here; and some insightful  commentary/midrash  on the song below

What shall we use to fill the empty spaces
Where waves of hunger roar?
Shall we set out across the sea of faces
In search of more and more applause?
Shall we buy a new guitar?
Shall we drive a more powerful car?
Shall we work straight through the night?
Shall we get into fights?
Leave the lights on? Drop bombs?
Do tours of the east? Contract diseases?
Bury bones? Break up homes?
Send flowers by phone?
Take to drink? Go to shrinks?
Give up meat? Rarely sleep?
Keep people as pets?
Train dogs? Race rats?
Fill the attic with cash?
Bury treasure? Store up leisure?
But never relax at all
With our backs to the wall.

The Song in a Sentence

As if in direct answer to Pink wondering how he should fill the final gaps in his wall, a number of modern day vices and other things that keep us from truly connecting with others and ourselves are listed.
While many fans assume that "What Shall We Do Now?" is an expanded version of "Empty Spaces" recorded specifically for the movie, the exact oppsite is true. "Do Now?" was actually slated to appear on the album, but was ultimately replaced with a shortened version because it was felt, as Waters explains in his 1979 interview with Tommy Vance, that the song was "quite long, and this side was too long, and there was EmptySpacesNow2too much of it." Along with its length, its easy to see why Waters' might have been thematically motivated to nix the song from the album. While the lyrics are applicable in a very general way to Pink and his wall, in terms of his narrative arc, our protagonist is ostensibly left on the sidelines as Waters delivers his polemic against a modern, consumerist culture. Thankfully, the song wasn't scrapped entirely, finding a place in their live shows and taking the place of "Empty Spaces" entirely after "Mother" in the movie. Whereas the shorter version rhetorically asks how to fill and complete the wall, the longer "Do Now?" lists a number of ways to do it.
In the aforementioned interview, Roger Waters goes on to state that "this level of the story is extremely simplistic." Simplistic, perhaps, but by no means simple. At the core of "What Shall We Do Now?" is a condemnation of a consumer culture run rampant as well as an attack against the notion that a person should be defined by what he owns and what social trends he hollowly maintains. The implication is that when one bases self worth and identity on the external, he or she is never satisfied, but constantly panged by roaring "waves of hunger" for "more and more applause" (that is, more and more acceptance). While we think such things make us stand out in a "sea of faces," mistakenly believing that we are asserting our individuality through our fancy cars, designer clothes, and workaholic lives, we are in actuality blending in with the rest of the masses who are told to define themselves by these very same social yardsticks. True to the undercurrent of previous songs like "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II," this attempt at individuality (in this case, materialistic/consumerist individuality) is only achieved through conformity to commercialized social norms. Abandoning your personal idea of self EmptySpacesNow3for the one that a collective media says you should be only leads to further dissatisfaction, cycling back into newfound obsessions, new trends, and new, pointless minutiae to govern your life and define who you are.
Yet many have noted that all of the things listed in the song aren't necessarily detrimental, or even all that noteworthy. Sure, the obsessive need to "buy new guitar[s]" and "drive a more powerful car" is lyrically emblematic of a culture that is never satiated , and ""get[ting] into fights," drop[ing] bombs" and "break[ing] up homes" can be said to be the morally empty byproduct of a society always demanding more...but things like "giv[ing] up meat," "leavi[ng ]the lights on," or "send[ing] flowers by phone?" As Roger Waters states in the previously mentioned interview, it's about being "obsessed with the idea of being a vegetarian...adopting somebody else's criteria for yourself without considering them from a position of really being yourself." These things are not inherently wrong - rather, it's the obsession with defining one's self by someone else's standards that leads to personal and social  CONTINUED< LINK

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