While perusing some like-minded bloggers, one of them mentioned Venom, an insert-qualifier-here metal band from the 80s. Specifically, it was praising their 1984 album, At War With Satan, which appears to be a retelling of Paradise Lost, albeit in insert-qualifier-here metal form.
This isn’t the first time I’ve run into the metal side of anarchism, though it’s unnerving when it does occur. It’s not that I’ve got anything against metal as music, I just can’t get down with the “yay for satan” side of things. So the purpose here is to organize my thoughts.
I don’t remember the excerpts of Paradise Lost that I was forced to read in H.S., mainly because I didn’t do a whole lot of thinking or analysis in my literature courses. Since I went to a “christian” school, the near pathological hatred for legitimate forms of egalitarianism prevented them from teaching methods of literature analysis, so I’m not suprised that without any seemingly viable avenues of thought at the time, I chose not to think. Now, I’d not be surprised if public school students would respond with blank stars or textbook recitation when asked “what assumptions does Milton appear make about morality and freedom,” but at least they don’t (in my limited experience) actively preach against the few decent frameworks available for answering those questions.
Combined with the Ben-Hur-style “dum-dum Read! dum-dum Read!” schedule of enforced parsing of centuries-old tomes who’s very wording requires thought to plow through, it could easily be a truism that the difference between the “slow” kids and the “smart” ones is that the smart kids are the ones who figure out they need to regurgitate either what the textbook or the someone else says back on the test — and thus take copious notes. But that’s a whole other can of worms.
What I can glean from what other people have said about Milton is that he was saying that Satan was the quintessential rebel, “reign in hell…” blah blah blah. Thus, assuming I haven’t been misinformed, at the core of Paradise Lost is the extremely reactionary philosophy that one finds common to the elitist scumbags of the world, as far back as one cares to go in history: the belief that the morally good being is one who knows his place, and the morally evil being is one who wants freedom — and the most evil being (satan) is the one who wants freedom even if it means a measure of personal hardship.
It appears as though Venom, and likely the fan in question, agrees with that, and therefore says that since they consider themselves pro-freedom, and according to Milton, satan is pro-freedom, they cry “yay for satan” (over metal riffs).
The fundamental logical error that a lot of modern day “christians” make is that they accept Milton’s philosophy as their own, without questioning the logic behind it, or the consequences that follow it. Ask any fundamentalist their thoughts on benevolent dictatorship and they get all misty-eyed and wishful — it’s actually kinda frightening. It’s looking at Milton’s given choice of “satanic freedom vs. moral tyranny” and attempting to answer it, rather than calling “bullshit!” (or the more academic “false dichotomy!”).
Why should anarchists, that group that prides itself on radical free thinking (even in language — “radical” from the greek, “to the root”, “anarchism”, from the greek “no authority”) make the same fundamental error and answer the question the other way? What kind of nonsense (as in, the negation of sense ;-)) is this?
Of course, the two-hour exercise in logic I went through to come to the above conclusion could very well be the point behind Venom’s choice of lyrics, or the fan in question’s tastes. In other words, the real point could very well be “think, damnit!” rather than “yay for satan” regardless of what the album reviewers say — though I don’t think my response to an album who’s content is “yay for satan” would be “doesn’t get any better than that,” even if it did get the wheels turning.