Three Beautiful Songs Which I Detest

Here are three songs, well-known and with a powerful impact in the generations in which they first were first played. They have beautiful tunes, which are in perfect harmony with their message. These are the songs which we occasionally find ourselves humming, sometimes to our own surprise. They all have powerful messages which mold the minds and have an impact on whole generations.

Yet, their message is a lie. Even worse, they lead people towards dangerous dreams, disconnected from reality and from the essence of the human nature.

The Internationale

This was the anthem of the working class on its way to communist revolution. The name came from the first socialist international organization of workers, called the First International, established in 1864. The Second International (1889) adopted it as its anthem.

There are multiple versions of its lyrics, all expressing the same ideas. I will use here the version which I have learned myself and sang at various public meetings in Communist Romania. It goes like this:

Raise up, you oppressed of life,
You, condemned to hunger, wake up.
Let rebellion boil in your hearts,
Let the old world perish.

Finish up the dark past
Raise up you oppressed,
Today you are nothing in the world
Fight that you will become everything.

Come to the great fight
Slave with slave let us unite
The Internationale
Through ourselves to create.

Raise up, there is no salvation
Through kings, nobles, or gods.
Unity, workers, unity,
And the world will get rid of them.

The words of the anthem find some resonance in all of us, as they seem to embolden us to fight for justice. They may remind us of Israel coming out of Egypt or of the Spartacus rebellion. Let the slaves go free, punish their oppressors and establish a new world order in which there will be no oppression and men will live in brotherhood!

Alas, anger, hate and violence cannot create a better world. Violence brings more violence, hate brings more hate and anger triggers more anger, until the dreams of justice collapse in ashes or take a new form, very far from the initial dreams. The Communist revolutions resulted in tens of millions of deaths, and indescribable suffering for the very masses of people who were supposed to be liberated. After the violence run out of its course, it gave place to a new order, worse than the one which it overturned.

I saw it with my eyes. In Communist Romania, where I grew up, there was no workers’ paradise. We had to wait long hours in lines to buy food, while the leaders of the Communist Party, which we called The Nomenklatura, enjoyed privileges not very different from those of the hated capitalists who exploited the workers. The Nomenklatura had its own network of stores, in which they could buy products inaccessible to the rest of the population. They had their hotels, which were closed to the public. Their children could go and study at Oxford or Sorbonne, while we could not get a passport to travel to another country. The same children got the best jobs and were marked for promotion in their organizations.

There was however a revolution which succeeded beyond any expectation. Jesus Christ gathered around him twelve apostles and a few tens of disciples and preached to them love and humility. There was no trace of anger, hate or violence. Still, in less then 300 years, the mighty Roman Empire was conquered, and Constantin became the first Christian emperor. The Byzantine Empire lasted for more than a thousand years and the whole culture and thinking of Europe was penetrated by Christian values and Christian thinking. Not that everybody called a Christian behaved as the Gospel proclaimed and required, on the contrary. However, Christianity lived for two thousand of years, while Communist power collapsed in total failure in a little more than half a century.

The author of the song may have been sincere and well intentioned. The ones who believed its message were deceived and became simple pawns, in the hands of dictators or mafia figures. Hate, anger and violence cannot not create a better world.

Frank Sinatra: I did it my way

Here is a beautiful song (at least as far as the tune goes), meant to put us at ease when we are bothered by our past.

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out

I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing to think I did all that

And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way

So beautiful, so romantic, and so wrong! Normal human nature is always such that we strive for something ABOVE and BEYOND ourselves, while here the author declares that he has found the full meaning of his live in himself alone. There is no TRANSCENDENCE. The athlete attempts to reach a new record, the engineer to build a better machine, the composer to create a more beautiful piece. We all think of moral laws which are above use, and to which we try to conform. Not the author of this song.

So, I imagine the following scenario:

Mister X was married in his youth and had three children. He then abandoned his wife and children, as he found a more attractive woman. He started a successful business, and then deceived his partner, who was thrown out with nothing to show for his hard work. Mister X’s business prospered, in part due to the way he deceived his customers. He acquired a young, trophy wife.

Now, he is a rich and successful man. Still, deep inside his conscience bothers him, and he feels that some things were not right. It is a pity that his conscience throws a shadow over his plentiful life.

In his 60’s, he goes to Las Vegas and buys tickets to a Franks Sinatra’s concert. He hears this beautiful song, “I did it my way” and suddenly has a revelation. All is well and tears come into his eyes. Yes, he was disloyal and deceptive, he ruined many lives to reach this high point in life. But there is something redeeming: he did it his way. There is no repentance, no restoration, no compensation to the victims. Unlike Zacchaeus, who, when he met Jesus promised to give back all that he had stolen from others, even four times more, Mister X does not have to return anything, because he did it his way. Mister X is now at peace with himself.

John Lennon: Imagine

My life had a strange connection with John Lennon: I arrived as an immigrant in United States the next day after he was assassinated in Central Park, New York. For at least one day we were physically present in the same city, New York, I as a perplexed immigrant looking in amazement at a city full of life, and he as a dead corpse of a famous singer and song writer and millionaire.

At that time, I was not aware of his latest successful song, Imagine. I believe I’ve heard it for the first time while I was working in the IT organization of the bank Morgan Stanley. My boss, a brilliant and capable man, was humming Imagine his office.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Aaa haa

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharin’ all the world
Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

“You may say I’m a dreamer,” John Lennon tells us, and he is, a dreamer of the worst kind. It is no better than the dream of a teenage boy who thinks about his favorite sexy actress. John Lennon feels good about his dream, because he believes he loves mankind and thus he is a better person. But, he claims, it is not just a dream, because he is not the only one. Maybe a world revolution will come, in which dreamers singing kumbaya will conquer the world with their dreams and beautiful songs.

He imagines a world without possessions, while in the meantime he is a multi-millionaire living in a hedonistic paradise. We know that he was not a generous person, not caring for his own son Julian. He told his son, “You are the product of a whisky bottle.” But if he was an egotistic and greedy man, at least he dreamed about a world with no possessions.

John Lennon even has a formula for the success of his dreams: “No heaven, no religion, no possessions.” Many have tried this formula, including Lenin, Trotsky or Mao, and their dreams became a nightmare and lead to the suffering and death of tens of millions of people.

***

I am not suggesting that we should stop ever listening to these songs. We can even enjoy them, as long as we can listen to them with detachment, in a particular way, not taking them seriously. Here I have to confess: sometimes I find myself humming some old Communist revolutionary hymns which I have learned in my childhood as a Young Pioneer. Besides the feelings of nostalgia, they amuse me by their incredible absurdity, and they make me laugh. It is the same as listening to the “Springtime for Hitler in Germany,” in the movie The Producers. It would be in bad taste, until you discover, just as in that movie, that it is only a comedy which makes fund of human stupidity,

3 thoughts on “Three Beautiful Songs Which I Detest

  1. I don’t know, Mihai … but the first song resonates today a bit more than yesterday. i was thinking many times, why, in my childhood, when our elites were physically exterminated by Communists, no one cared. I understand why now: our elites where as much corrupted, obsolete, greedy, and unreformable , like the ones we have here. I am not sure now if i would care now, just like my parents didn’t then. I bet you if Canadians invade us, they will be able to conquer the country in about 7 days, just like Taliban did it in Afghanistan. Who will protect Joe, Nancy, Kamala, and Chuck? I will be so happy to see them abandoned in a corn field in Iowa in the middle of the winter, just like Ceausescus were abandoned in Baragan.

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    1. I believe the first song, The Internaltionale, will always resonate, as it speaks of the real injustice in the world, born of class differences, of having rich oppressor and oppressed poor. The Bible itself, through laws and prophets, spoke against this injustice. The problem with this song is that it is attempting to solve the problem with the wrong means: hatred, anger and fight against God.

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      1. It looks like a warning to the oppressors: we can turn against you using the same ungodly weapons you use and more. The language of violence is the only one they understand, because of their ungodly nature. And that’s the only thing that scares them … look of January 6th events.

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