Recent thoughts in the dark and quiet hours of insomnia led me to consider the phrase, “Rage against the machine.” I have no idea why those were the words that entered my brain, what was the portent to which they pointed, but I wrapped myself around that phrase for the hours of my sleeplessness with some enthusiasm. “Rage against the machine” is such a delightfully over the top expression that it must surely be useful in considering realities that surround us.
Came morning and daylight, I fed those words into Google and discovered that a California band called themselves “Rage Against The Machine” in the early nineties, no idea if they are still a unit, possibly they’re still touring as haggard grey beards. I learned that they were a group that was largely against everything, particularly capitalistic evils that they saw around them. I’m not familiar with their music, but while doing my exhaustive thirty second research, I accidentally hit a play button and my hearing aids were suddenly piping a delightful piano melody into my head. Perhaps I’m a fan.
But that’s doubtful. Rock and roll was powerful and emotional enough for me in the late sixties (think Woodstock) that I was sure that salvation could only be found there. That passion died as the seventies wore on and adult things needed addressing.
Rage against the machine. I suggest that once we’ve completed the necessary reaction to those words, be they outrage, or giggles, discomfort with the “stick it to the man” politics suggested, once that’s done, that we consider how that strong phrase might be useful.
In my circles, often faith based but not exclusively so, a somewhat similar phrase is sometimes employed. The words, “speaking truth to power,” engenders images of fearless folks, standing courageously before powerful structures, and pointing out to those “with” folks that the “withouts” have access to wisdom that they alone hold.
I’m not a big fan of “speaking truth to power.” If I picture myself in that “without” role, it feels somewhat arrogant to assume that I hold the most important facts that need to be at the center of a decision or action that someone else will make. I’m reminded of the Biblical image of Jesus, standing in the house of power, being grilled sarcastically about his identity, his role. The response was quiet humility.
“Rage against the machine” can speak in a useful way about realities that touch us, if we are up to that task of humble consideration. What if we define those raucous words, for the purpose of this essay, as simply “challenging what is.”
I am involved in a number of volunteer organizations, people based, mostly faith based, that live with a mandate to support people to live well, be that physically, emotionally, spiritually. These mandates feel important, and I bring my energy eagerly.
Each of these organizations functions within a structure, a constitution, a listing of goals and how we will move toward those goals. Officers are identified, expectations are set out front.
Perhaps, as this process is carried out, that organization becomes a little “machine-like.” Perhaps there comes a point when the smooth running of the machine becomes a little more important than the messy business of actually improving peoples lives. Perhaps dissenting voices get gently pushed aside, perhaps more paper work will slow down those with too much zeal, perhaps barriers can be introduced to gently but firmly hold “them” over there.
In every structure which I am part of, there are glimpses of this reality. Well meaning folks, unchecked, begin the slide toward easy, toward smooth, toward order. They begin the slide toward creating a machine. Sometimes, perhaps always, this impacts the original mandate, lessens it. At best, mandates are mudified, at worst, harm is done.
As I consider that process, possibly in every place where humans organize themselves, I’m taken back to the “90’s band, “Rage Against the Machine.” I surmise that the rage they expressed, whether real or as an shock generating act, that their “rage” probably had it’s roots in pretty much the same place. I remind myself that if I allow myself to be challenged, prodded, raged against, perhaps we can keep moving toward the holy goals of restoration. Can I be open to the raging?