Processed By The Boys by Protomartyr is a song about totalitarianism.
When the ending comes, is it gonna run At us like a wild-eyed animal? A foreign disease washed upon the beach A dagger plunged from out of the shadows A cosmic grief beyond all comprehension All good laid low by outside evil Against belief, a riot in the streets A giant beast turning mountains into black holes Fiction Fiction No, none of that Rolling in your heads Reality has a far duller edge
What will end be like? We imagine it will have grandeur, of a stark and inhuman kind. It will be like footage of a tidal wave; awe-inspiring in its power. On a scale that is not our scale, that exceeds our grasp. Like an invading army, like the Black Death. Out of an otherwise blue sky. "A giant beast turning mountains into black holes" — something bizarre-sounding and cosmic.
But this is a child's conception of the danger. Reality's true blade is crueler because it is not as sharp. It cuts slowly. It's more painful.
Everybody's hunted with a smile Being processed by the boys They got the job when they came back to town Why not let 'em earn a living? Fill out the form, download the app Submit your face into the scanner
The child's conception is of forces to which we are like ants. But the real danger is of forces which stand level with us. "The boys" are just people. Maybe you know them personally, or are neighbors with them.
They just need a job. (On some level, that excuse applies for everyone. Why are you doing this? "It's my job." That's often a lot of the reason.)
(I think about e.g. getting my parking permit renewed. Sure, I'll sign the form. Sure, I'll download the app. Seems excessive, but it would be annoying not to get this done. I have to do stuff, I hope this doesn't take long.)
In their tatterdemalion uniforms They look so nice Tattoos of their children So cool, so nice This time will be gentle enough Gentle enough This time will be gentle enough Gentle enough Next time will be different Different Next time will be different So cool, so nice They'll be gentle enough Gentle enough They'll be gentle enough Gentle enough
Is the risk of humanitarian disaster due to governments becoming more totalitarian really greater than than the risk due to a sudden event? I'm not sure. The rising power of technology plausibly increases both. In intellectual discussions about the long-term future I've been in, we talk about both. This song is just about the emotional experience of thinking about this question.