Zen is a State of Mind; Music is a State of Action
I find it very hard to place myself into a calm state when my human rights are stripped away right in front of my eyes. This is no time to enter a state of Zen, it's time to take action!
I will be sincere; 2021 has proven to be just as a challenge as its predecessor. A strange mix of anxiety and anger stir inside my stomach as I cannot help but lose hope every time I leave my home and realise what is happening to my country. I have been a UK resident for just over 16 years now (I originate from Poland) and have endured my share of hardship in my life, simply for being born on the wrong side of the line in the sand. From school bullying, petty theft of toys, and a constant bombardment of racist remarks, to workplace racism, refusal of opportunities, wrongful pay, and the rise and aftermath of Brexit, I’ve endured my fair share of pain. Life has been nothing close to smooth, but I stood my ground, continued to challenge myself, and moved forward. Despite everything I have lived through, for the first time in my life I am truly petrified to live in the UK as this time, it’s no longer personal, but tyrannical.
You need to understand that I have a love for the UK that cannot be compared to any other country. This tiny island is my home, and I work tirelessly to build a foundation for others so that they do not have to experience the hardship I did. The UK is a remarkable, multi-cultured democracy that allows us to stand for what we believe and have our views heard. Conversing is the only way we can move on as a society, and when our demands are ignored, we have the right to move together, unite, and protest.
Well, that was until the UK Government, led by Boris Johnsons’ Conservative Party, has decided to remove our right to protest. As I write this, it is illegal to be part of any form of protest, and events will be evaluated to see if they are causing disruptions to the community. To make matters worse, Priti Patel, the home secretary in charge, has been granted the power to deem what is considered a disruption and what is not. Put it simply, Patel has been given the powers to play God with people’s lives and liberty. Our rights to protest have been stripped from us, and the Brits are not going down lightly. Various protests are rising across the country, referred to the movement as ‘Kill the Bill’, and do not seem to be losing momentum. Have the Conservatives forgotten this is the UK they’re dealing with?
Music has played a crucial part in British culture and has supported movements throughout history. From the British Punk scene, a notorious time in British music history that supported the socio-economical struggle of the ’70s, to the support of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2013. Music has been at the core of these powerful symbols of freedom, unity and love. It provides the beat that moves us forward as one, like a heart beating to the same drum.
In the spirit of good ol’ British rebellion, I have decided to create a playlist that will place you in a unique state of zen. This may not be the best soundtrack to do your daily yoga routine, but it sure will get your heart pumping and set your mind to work. So put on your headphones, grab your punk jacket, spike up your hair, and get ready… It’s time to march!
Black Eyed Peas – Where is the Love?
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction
The Black Eyed Peas released Where is the Love? as a response to the 9/11 terror attack. Its message is powerful, moving, and inspiring. It was challenging to pick a section of the song to share with you as every line is exceptionally constructed. It has been a while since its release; however, its message is more relevant now than ever before.
The 1975 – Love it if we made it
Write it on a piece of stone
A beach of drowning three-year olds
Love it if We Made It holds a special place in my heart. The 1975 explore the struggles of modern society, shouting that modernity has failed us. The chosen lyric refers to the body of a young migrant child that washed up on the British shores. The boy was only three years old. No matter its status, no country can allow this to happen—shame on the government and shame on Britain.
Panic! At the Disco – Girls/Girls/Boys
And never did I think that I
Would be caught in the way you got me
But girls love girls and boys
And love is not a choice
Girls/Girls/Boys is probably the tamest song on this list; however, its importance stands strong with its comforting message. The piece states that we are born as we are and that sexuality is unique to each one of us. Since its release in 2013, the song has been a beacon for millions of young listeners discovering themselves as they grow, reminding them that it is okay to love whoever we choose and that love is not a choice.
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Strange Fruit is actually not a song written by Billie Holiday. The song originated as a poem written by Abel Meeropol under the pseudonym Lewis Allan. This harrowing song tackles the horrors of lynching in America. Strange Fruit is nothing less of a masterpiece and will forever remind us of the atrocities our species can subdue to.
System of a Down – Sad Statue
You and me will all go down in history,
With a sad Statue of Liberty,
And a Generation that didn’t agree.
System of a Down is an Armenian-American rock band that are notorious for their political stance in their music, specialising in challenging the oppressive regimes of government, media control, and war. With the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the conflicts between Armenia and Turkey, Sad Statue is a reminder that history will judge us for the actions we do today. My generation is quick to judge the ones before us but forget that we are next in line to the podium, and our verdict will be strict and analysed with a magnifying glass.
Michael Jackson – They Don’t care about us
Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, no
I’m tired of being the victim of shame
They’re throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
Michael Jackson has released a handful of songs in his career that speaks of the world's wrongs. None come close to the powerful message that They Don’t Care About Us holds, both in the ‘Brazil’ and ‘Prison’ music videos. The direct attack on the ones in power is inspiring. Jackson talks of the historical figures that fought for social justice, such as Martin Luther King Jr, and how they would be ashamed of the world we created. Since its release in 1995 and a shocking 26 years on, its powerful rhythmic beat and outcry are needed more than ever.
Muse – Psycho
Your mind is just a program
And I’m the virus
I’m changing the station
I’ll improve your thresholds
I’ll turn you into a super drone
And you will kill on my command
And I won’t be responsible
Muse are well known in the UK for their hypnotic sound and political message. There were many songs to choose from to make this list; however, Psycho, from the album Drones, is a phenomenal reminder that the ones in charge want us to stay obedient and stop at nothing to, quite literally, programme us to however they see fit. In Psycho’s case, it’s the forceful mind control of soldiers to build authoritative, killing machines for war, aka, a ‘Super Drone’.
Donald Glover – This is America
You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a Black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
This is America took the world by storm in 2018 with its lyricism and shocking music video. The song is a reminder of the flaws that haunt America to this day, including police brutality, gun crime, and racism. The contradicting sounds that flow through the song alongside the sudden changes in beat provide an anthem that crowds can unite and march as one. Day by day, we see the struggles that the black community face and America is not the only country that is challenged by racism. I can only be thankful for the lack of guns here in the UK. I cannot imagine the damage it would cause in our communities.
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
Some of those that work forces,
are the same that burn crosses
Police brutality has been a common sight in the songs mentioned in this list. This horrifies me as the police are meant to be the ones that protect us and come to our aid in times of need. Racism plays a huge part in the toxic policing done worldwide, with a young police officer being arrested for having close ties to a far-right extremist group here in the UK. Rage against the Machine go straight to the point when speaking of the police in America and how some that control the peace hold extremely racist views and belong to notorious far-right organisations like the KKK. If we cannot trust our police, who will protect us? Profound change is needed, and the conversation has begun.
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers, leave them kids alone
Hey, teacher, leave us kids alone
The last song on the list is the infamous Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd. The band talks about schools' mind-controlling attitudes that aim to mould the perfect, obeying civilian that does not ask too many questions. The school structure that we are aware of actually started as a 100-year experiment to see if it can build the perfect, obedient factory worker. The deadline has now passed, and no review has taken place.
The one thing governments hate more is a society that asks and challenges their choices. I believe that this is a solid reason why cuts to the arts are beginning to become known worldwide. Artists ask the questions that many choose not to and reflect the times they are created in. Theatre, for example, acts as a simulation for democracy and, in doing so, brings many problems to the surface. Pink Floyd understood that the school system needs to build a specific type of worker and crushes creativity. It is time that the structure of the school system is reviewed and adjusted to a model that supports individuality instead of moulding a set type of mindset.
I hope that, just like me, these songs have awoken something deep within you to realise that enough is enough. I cannot stay calm when the country I call home turns into an authoritarian state. The removal of my right to be heard, to protest, is unacceptable. I stand against a government that lets thousands of its residents starve in the streets while multi-millionaires profit from the active selling off the NHS, the only thing that allows Britain to be called ‘Great’, to the highest bidder.
I understand that this may not have been the zen playlist you may be used to and will most definitely raise your heartbeat a little. I ask you to let this playlist light a spark in your heart and remind you that our human rights are under constant threat. We read of the historical movements that have fought for our rights. The Civil Rights Movement, the Stonewall Riots, and the Suffragette’s Movement, and many more that fought for their human rights continue to inspire us today, just like with the Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, and the Kill the Bill Protests. They all remind us that together, we have the power to inflict change.
We are all living through challenging times, and history does not write its victors; we do. We are the ones that will write the future, and we will do it together, so turn on the playlists and do not stay quiet; our democracy depends on it. It’s time to march!
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