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May 11, 2007


What’s a perfect rock anthem? Here’s my criteria:

  • Motion: The beat has to move forward, be contagious. When you hear it, you can’t not move.
  • Sloppy: It has to be almost drunk…John Shirley put it best in Eclipse: each chord peacock-tailing off into perfect distortion.
  • Anger: It isn’t rock if it doesn’t say “Fuck you”. Period.
  • Defiance: Raw, guttural, feral: I will not bow down. I will not give up. I will not be what you want me to be. I will never abandon you. I will keep faith.

And I will resist.

You can’t defeat me.

I will resist.

And that is the heart of the matter. So let’s talk about resistance. Let’s talk about Albert Camus.

Camus was part of the French resistance during World War II. He was Algerian. He was wrongly associated with Sartre and existentialism. His death was banal: a car accident.

The Rebel is his most cogent expression of the difference he perceived between revolution and rebellion. His central question: can you justify murder? Not just murder of individuals, but murder on a mass scale. He didn’t consider war to be a special case.

Camus’ theory goes something like this: the revolutionary is primarily concerned with bringing about a new social order, the rebel with restoring to society something that has been lost, or buried under hypocrisy.

Because the revolutionary is bringing something into the world that is new, his only option is violence. Because the rebel is attempting to restore something that has been lost, he has the option of resisting society any way he chooses.

The revolutionary must enforce this new structure on society; thus all revolutions end in fascism (the French and Russian revolutions are the most obvious cases). The rebel doesn’t have to enforce anything; he is restoring something that has been lost.

Revolution tries to make the world a better place by forcing society into the straightjacket of a new set of rules. Rebellion tries to make a world a better place by ensuring the one rule already there is followed, a rule that’s pretty fucking simple: love each other.

A revolutionary looks at the face of society and says, “everything is wrong, and everything must be replaced. And the only way to do that is through force. And it must be reinforced and maintained through force.”

A rebel looks at the face of society and says, “you are not following your own rules, and have become corrupt. The chasm between what you are saying and what you actually do has become too wide. And I will not submit to this. I will resist. And I will resist until the chasm is gone.”

“I will resist.”

Resistance does not need to kill.

Resistance takes the place of a Jew on a Nazi firing line.

Resistance takes a picture of a naked girl covered in napalm.

Resistance writes a novel about the price one woman is willing to pay to follow her heart.

Resistance stayed in Rwanda with untrained poorly-equipped soldiers, walking through towns where the entire population had been dismembered with machetes, a thin blue armband the only protection.

Resistance met an entire army in the air with 3 biplanes named Faith, Hope, and Charity. They were never shot down.

Resistance is a single man speaking up.

Resistance finds the clarity and love in insanity.

Resistance has a dream.

So, with me so far?

Or are you wondering what the hell this has to do with a picture of Bono? Let’s get to that, too.

Resistance is standing on a stage wearing a London Underground t-shirt the day after it was bombed, and says one thing:

“We will resist. We will love. We can’t be defeated.”

And that is the perfect rock anthem.

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