Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction - by Adam Jones

by Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Writer of Genocide: A Complete Introduction
(Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2006)

[Note: I welcome suggestions for additions to this list. Please write to]

The Flowers of Guatemala

R.E.M. (from Lifes Wealthy Pageant, 1986)

On a bootleg recording I’ve of a 1986 R.E.M. live performance, singer Michael Stipe introduces “The Flowers of Guatemala” with a single phrase: “Genocide.” In a single
of rock’s most haunting songs, Stipe deploys Amanita, a flower that grows wild on graves, as a logo for the disaster that descended on Guatemala’s
Mayan Indian inhabitants within the late 1970s and early 1980s. “There’s one thing right here I discover arduous to disregard,” he sings, “there’s one thing that I’ve by no means seen
earlier than.”
The tune’s refrain, with its incantation of “The flowers cowl
all the things,” is as evocative an expression of genocidal killing as any in common music.

Redemption Tune

Bob Marley (from Rebellion, 1980; additionally obtainable on Legend and One Love)

Marley’s masterpiece is a lament for the victims of Caribbean slavery, and a testimonial to the braveness of the survivors. (For an argument that Atlantic slavery
constituted genocide, see Chapter 1 of Genocide: A Complete Introduction.) The establishment’s terrors have by no means been so succinctly captured as within the
tune’s opening chorus: “Outdated pirates sure they rob I, bought I to the service provider ship / Minutes of the day took I, from the bottomless pit.” Then comes the
redemption of the tune’s title: “We flowered on this technology, triumphantly.” A candidate for many lovely tune of the 20 th century — as Marley is that
century’s most beloved and influential artist, in any style.

My Nation ‘Tis of Thy Folks You are Dying

Buffy Sainte-Marie (from Little Wheel Spin and Spin, 1966; additionally obtainable on The Better of Buffy Sainte-Marie)

A lot of the protest music from the early and mid-1960s appears dated right now — even a few of Bob Dylan’s basic anthems. However “My Nation ‘Tis of Thy Folks You are Dying,” by the Cree Indian singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, sounds devastatingly up to date. There’s something in regards to the depth of her supply; the freshness and caustic chew of the language; and the post-modern irony that pervades this practically seven-minute epic. Amongst different issues, “My Nation …” could mark the primary point out of the phrase “genocide” in English-language common tradition, as Buffy sings:

Now that the longhouses breed superstition
You pressure us to ship our toddlers away
To your faculties the place they’re taught to despise their traditions.
You forbid them their languages, then additional say
That American historical past actually started
When Columbus set sail out of Europe, then stress
That the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the largest and bravest and boldest and greatest.
And but the place in your historical past books is the story
Of the genocide primary to this nation’s start,
Of the preachers who lied, how the Invoice of Rights failed,
How a nation of patriots returned to their earth?

By the way, I would by no means have heard this tune if the scholar of genocide towards North American Indians, Ward Churchill, had not chosen it as the topic for his essay in my forthcoming edited quantity, Evoking Genocide: Students and Activists Describe the Works That Formed Their Lives.

Civil Battle

Weapons N’ Roses (from Use Your Phantasm II, 1991; additionally on Best Hits)

G N’ R frontman Axl Rose aroused hostility on many fronts, most notoriously for his diatribe towards “immigrants and faggots” within the 1986 tune “One in a
Million.” However Rose partially compensated with this, probably the most titanic songs ever written towards warfare and genocide:

My arms are tied
The billions shift backward and forward
And the wars go on with brainwashed pleasure
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these items are swept apart
By bloody arms time cannot deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And historical past hides the lies of our civil wars …

Lead guitarist Slash’s Hendrix-inflected solos drive the purpose house magnificently. “What’s so civil ’bout warfare, anyway?” Rose mumbles on the finish of the monitor
— an ideal coda.


System of a Down (from System of a Down, 1998)

All 4 members of System of a Down, at present America’s most enjoyable and exploratory rock band, are of Armenian extraction. The Ottoman Empire’s
genocide towards Armenians (1915-21) recurs repeatedly of their music, however nowhere so explicitly as on this closing lower from their debut album:

A complete race genocide,
Taken away all of our pleasure,
A complete race genocide,
Taken away, watch all of them fall down.

Like most SOAD tunes, this one ranges from “abrupt mid-song shifts from speed-of-light semi-traditional thrash to melodies that in all probability sound Central
European to common American ears” (Greg Milner, writing in The Village Voice). Lyrically, it is unclear what’s meant, nowadays, by the reference to
“revolution, the one resolution / The armed response of a complete nation.” However the demand for “recognition, restoration, [and] reparation” rings true. And the
band does not shy from the slog of lobbying for that trigger. September 2005 discovered them in the halls of the US Congress, pushing for formal recognition of the
genocide. (n.b.: Apparently, “P.L.U.C.Ok.” stands for “Politically Mendacity, Unholy, Cowardly Killers.”)


Sinad O’Connor (from Common Mom, 1994)

For the English, the Irish had been the primary “indigenous peoples” to be colonized, exploited, and oppressed. As Patrick Brantlinger notes in his e book Darkish Vanishings (2003), English writers within the Americas repeatedly “in contrast the Indians of the New World with the Irish by way of their lawlessness, their nomadism, their treachery, their cruelty, and their cannibalism — briefly, by way of their savagery.” Sinad O’Connor’s highly effective monologue, set to a propulsive hip-hop beat, makes clear the parallels with indigenous peoples’ experiences worldwide: the vanquishing of a way of historical past, the lack of native language, the descent into alcoholism and drug abuse and alienation, the necessity for “grieving … forgiving … data … understanding.” “We’re affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction,” she declares. The tune takes its lead from the mass hunger of the 1840s, which O’Connor depicts as mass homicide: “I need to discuss in regards to the ‘famine’ / About the truth that there by no means actually was one”; meals was “shipped in a foreign country underneath armed guard / To England whereas the Irish individuals starved.” The lyrics sometimes border on the mawkish, however general it is a courageous and potent efficiency.

Beds Are Burning

Midnight Oil (from Diesel and Mud, 1987; additionally on 20,000 Watt RSL)

“How can we dance when our earth is popping / How can we sleep whereas our beds are burning?” After a tour by the outback and small-scale gigs in
Aboriginal communities, Australia’s premier band returned to pen the suite of songs that composed Diesel and Mud. “Beds” and its fellow anthem, “The Useless
Coronary heart,” had been vastly influential in persuading white society to take significantly the claims of the continent’s first inhabitants. They usually eloquently captured the
want to answer Aboriginal genocide and dispossession not with rejection, however with redress:

The time has come
To say honest’s honest
To pay the lease
To pay our share
The time has come
A reality’s a reality
It belongs to them
Let’s give it again

(See additionally my 1986 essay on “The Oils.”)

A Exhausting Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Bob Dylan (from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1962; additionally a beautiful model on The Live performance for Bangladesh, 1971)

Dylan’s epic ballad is constructed round an historical people chorus: “What did you see, my blue-eyed son? What did you see, my darlin’ younger one?” What he
sees, as described in one among common music’s most poetic lyrics, is a world unimaginably laid waste (“the place black is the colour and none is the quantity”). What
he hears is “the roar of a wave that would drown the entire world”: the nuclear apocalypse that got here as shut because it ever has (with the Cuban Missile Disaster) in
the identical 12 months the tune was launched. “Exhausting Rain” serves because the template for all of common music’s subsequent apocalyptic visions, from the Rolling Stones’
“Gimmie Shelter” (“see the storm is menace’ning my very life right now”) to U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” (see beneath). The darkish tune ends, nevertheless, with an
affirmation of the necessity to bear witness:

And I will inform it and assume it and communicate it and breathe it,
And mirror it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I will stand on the ocean till I begin sinkin’
However I will know my tune effectively earlier than I begin singin’ …

Bullet the Blue Sky

U2 (from The Joshua Tree, 1987; dwell model on Rattle and Hum)

Within the mid-1980s, U2’s lead singer (now Nobel Peace Prize nominee) Bono visited El Salvador, then experiencing a savage US-backed state terror comparable
to that of neighbouring Guatemala (see R.E.M.’s “The Flowers of Guatemala,” above). Amongst different issues, he witnessed a authorities bombing raid on
civilians (“I’ve by no means been so scared in my life”). When he returned, he informed the group’s peerless guitarist, The Edge, to “put El Salvador by your
.” The end result could be overwrought, if it weren’t so shattering. Drawing on his Christian convictions, Bono laced the tune with non secular symbolism:

Within the howling wind comes a stinging rain
See it driving nails into souls on the tree of ache
From the firefly, a pink orange glow
See the face of concern working scared within the valley beneath

The lyrics are indirect; however simply as Jimi Hendrix deconstructed “The Star-Spangled Banner” in his basic Woodstock model, The Edge heeds Bono’s
directions with a distortion-ravaged guitar solo that conveys the horror and ache of a number of the worst crimes ever inflicted within the western hemisphere. Then
there’s Larry Mullen Jr.’s stentorian drumming, and Bono’s personal surreal monologue, which ends with the tune’s topics “run[ning] … into the arms … of
(See additionally “Moms of the Disappeared,” from the identical album: a mournful paean to the “Soiled Battle” in Argentina, and the ladies whose weekly
demonstrations introduced it to the world’s consideration.)

Cortez the Killer

Neil Younger (from Zuma, 1975; definitive model on Reside Rust, 1979)

“He got here dancing throughout the water / Together with his galleons and weapons …” Younger’s tune describes Cortés the conquistador‘s destruction of the Aztec empire in
Mexico. The lyrics are kitsch at factors (“Hate was only a legend / Battle was by no means recognized” — oh, actually?), generally maudlin (“And I do know she’s dwelling there /
And he or she loves me to this present day …”
). However the grandeur of Aztec civilization is vividly conveyed; and what the lyrics do not fairly specific, the center of the tune —
Younger’s keening guitar strains — exquisitely do.

Sleep Now within the Fireplace

Rage In opposition to the Machine (from The Battle of Los Angeles, 1999; additionally on Reside on the Grand Olympic Auditorium)

This ferocious tune, from Rage’s strongest and constant report, builds itself round Tom Morello’s blazing guitar riffs, which Mexican-American
singer Zack de la Rocha overlays along with his screaming indictment of génocidaires in every single place:

I’m the Niña, the Pinta, the Santa Maria [Christopher Columbus’s ships]
The noose and the rapist, the fields overseer
The brokers of orange
The monks of Hiroshima
The price of my want
Sleep now within the hearth

No million-selling band of the ’90s staked out such radical territory as Rage, and with such verve and funk. See additionally “Folks of the Solar” (from Evil Empire,
in regards to the Zapatista rebels in Mexico), and “Guerrilla Radio” (from The Battle of Los Angeles: “Flip that shit up!”).

Name It Democracy

Bruce Cockburn (from World of Wonders, 1985; additionally on Ready for a Miracle)

A tune so indignant that it threatens to drown in its personal bile — however Cockburn’s poetic aptitude retains it afloat. For these of us who really feel that structural and institutional
violence can represent genocide, and for anybody skeptical of claims that democracy inures a society to mass atrocity, this tune is a touchstone. No matter you
make of it, you may’t accuse the Canadian songwriter of mincing his phrases:

Padded with energy right here they arrive
Worldwide mortgage sharks backed by the weapons
Of market hungry navy profiteers
Whose phrase is a swamp and whose forehead is smeared
With the blood of the poor
Who rob lifetime of its high quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning nations into labour camps
Fashionable slavers in drag as champions of freedom …

(One should hear that final line sung, to understand the cynicism in Cockburn’s slap on the “chaaaampions of freedom.”)

Six Songs In regards to the Jewish Holocaust

Contributed by Benjamin Madley, Ph.D. Pupil
Dept. of Historical past, Yale College

(1) Woody Guthrie’s 1948 “Ilsa Koch” in regards to the horrors of the Buchenwald
focus camp: “The prisoners stroll the grounds / The hounds have killed a
lady / The guards have shot a person / Some extra have starved to demise / Right here comes
the prisoners’ automobile / They dump them within the pen / They load them down the chute /
The trooper cracks their skulls.” The primary English-language people tune about
the Holocaust?

(2) Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Aspect” from his 1964 album The Occasions They Are
made reference to the Holocaust and the Chilly Battle: “When the Second
World Battle / Got here to an finish / We forgave the Germans / And we had been pals /
Although they murdered six million / Within the ovens they fried / The Germans now
too / Have God on their facet.”

(3) Captain Beefheart’s 1969 “Dachau Blues” is growling, atonal, and sharp:
“Dachau blues, these poor Jews / Dachau blues, these poor Jews … One madman, six
million lose.”

(4) Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys’ 1973 “Journey ‘Em Jewboy” is a haunting
country-and-western tribute to Holocaust victims: “Useless limbs play with ringless
fingers / A melody which burns you deep inside / Oh, how the tune turns into the
singers / Might peace be ever with you as you journey.”

(5) Rush’s “Purple Sector A” might be the best-known Holocaust rock tune. It
appeared on the band’s 1984 smash album Grace Beneath Strain. The seeds for
this harrowing rocker had been planted by the liberation of lead-singer Geddy Lee’s
mom from the Bergen-Belsen focus camp: “I hear the sound of gunfire
on the jail gate / Are the liberators right here? / Do I hope or do I concern? / For my
father and my brother, it is too late / However I have to assist my mom arise

(6) The Indigo Women’ 1994 “This Practice Revised” careens like a hell-bound
specific: “It is a fish white stomach / A lump within the throat / Razor on the wire /
Pores and skin and bone / Piss and blood in a railroad automobile / 100 individuals / Gypsies, queers, and David’s star / This practice is sure for glory / This practice is sure for glory …”

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