Lord is my shepherd
My holy father
Fitting masochistic whores
Kingdom of my master
Programmed to praise selfless servitude
Serve your God
Serve your country
Downplay your salvation
Bless our dear leaders
Lavish lifestyles tax the poor
Render unto Caesar
My blood flows for you
Programmed to praise selfless servitude
(Serve) the public
(Bow) the company
(Kneel) the patron
Downplay your promotion
The taboo truth
Reverend role models
Worthless lives to be ignored
Bind my mind to symbols
Lyrics © Joshua J. Reynolds 2014. All rights reserved.
This song is mainly about the tendency of society to idealize self-sacrifice and its hypocritical inability to follow that ideal. Just think of how often you hear people draw attention to the supposed ‘service’ they have performed simply in order to get what they want:
- Want to fool the voters into thinking you give a damn about them? Brand yourself a humble ‘public servant’ at a fundraiser (then fly back home to your publicly-funded mansion on your publicly-funded jumbo jet under the protection of your publicly-funded bodyguards).
- Want to graduate? Well, ‘community service’ is required. Just ignore the fact that you’re being coerced into it. It’s a ‘do this or else’ sort of thing. Nevertheless, others will praise you for it. This is the point, right? Or not.
- Want to sell lots of pills or pizzas or health plans? Then constantly remind the public that yours is a ‘service-oriented’ company. Just say it, regardless of what it means or if it’s true, and that should be sufficient to make people like you and trust your product.
- Want to get on God’s good side? Two words: ‘Church service’. I have to admit, however, that it is beyond my ability to comprehend how sitting in a building with others singing songs to a divinity constitutes ‘service’ — unless, of course, we view that divinity as some sort of Medieval Lord who demands song and dance from his serfs for… uh… his own entertainment? Then it almost makes sense, I suppose.
- Finally, what about ‘serving the company’ or ‘service to the profession’? When my father died, the funeral director recommended addressing his ‘service’ to his job in the obituary. I guarantee my dad didn’t see it that way. He had busted his ass for countless years for a paycheck, plain and simple. Nothing wrong with that.
Anyway, the problem with all this is that it’s brazenly hypocritical. People pretend to be sacrificing something important to them as if they’re all noble and admirable, but in reality they are just using the labels ‘servant’ and ‘service’ to benefit themselves. And when they do so, society gives them in return a good pat on the belly. This is, however, exactly the opposite of the self-sacrifice that service really entails. It’s as if people use the words ‘service’ and ‘serve’ simply as passwords to prove that they’re members of the ‘good people’ club. Beyond that, the terms are empty and meaningless.
This brings me to the second theme of the song: symbol worship. It makes sense that society would care only to flash their ‘service’ to others as an empty token of their supposed virtue because society as a whole is obsessed with symbols over substance, the container over content, the image over reality.
Think again of all those dutiful Sunday morning worshipers kneeling before… not Jesus or God, but the so called ‘cross’. Bumper stickers, flags, logos, badges, uniforms, trademarks – none of these really says anything substantial about the thing or person that bears them. But they pretend to do so. If you are a Christian, do you automatically respect those with crosses around their necks? Probably. Should you? Uh, no. No more than a Yankees fan should think he has anything significant in common with some random guy on the street sporting a cap that the Yankees corporation has branded with the appropriate logo. And yet, such senseless solidarity thrives, all at the end of strings pulled by advertisers, corporations, politicians and priests.
Basically, symbol-minded = simple-minded. Symbols replace thought. They are like the crack of the whip a master uses to rouse a slave into action without question. The upshot? Society’s symbol-worship and service-praise sadly reveal most people’s secret desire to be dominated. They obsessively long for a lord and master to command them. They want to be controlled and released from the burden of thought. They desperately desire to ‘turn the other cheek’ like their idol, but can they?
© Joshua J. Reynolds 2015. All rights reserved.