Violence and Nonviolence

Bad Religion: Hello Cruel World

For this week’s entry into the playlist, I present Hello Cruel World by Bad religion. The song involves the point of view character pleading that the world recognizes his suffering. The nature and content of the suffering is never expounded, allowing us to interject our own understandings. I believe we can thus read the lyrics though Judith Butler’s framing of redressing inequality in terms of grievability.

The first chorus begins:

Hello cruel world
Do you know that you’re killing me?
I don’t mind, but I could use a little sympathy
I’ve been blind as a fool can be
My dear cruel world
Do you ever think about me?

The lyrics are rather straightforward, the perspective character is pleading with the world to recognize and sympathize with his suffering. He’s so resigned to his suffering, that he doesn’t even plead for a change to his condition, rather that it merely be seen. I think we can interpret this outside of a simple call for empathy, which as Butler articulates, can center a more self-serving interpretation of recognition. Moving away from this, to see a population as grievable is to value them outside of their relation to oneself but as entities that have value in of themself.

“If and when a population is grievable, they can be acknowledged as a living population whose death would be grieved if that life were lost, meaning that such loss would be unacceptable, and even wrong—an occasion of shock and outrage.”

This concept can even be extended to include land and non-human animals, whose moral value is so often obscured by the limitations concepts of empathy naturally provide. The loss of say, an species of primate, can be framed in the grievable loss of a unique member of earths community.

Daniel Lazcano

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