Perhaps, the single most important text that I have ever encountered is Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The album has been constantly listen too, thought about and felt throughout my childhood; and now my adult life. I cant quite remember why I found the album attractive in the first place. I started listening before I could fully understand what the album was about but I knew that is was, and would be even more, significant as I learned more about myself. As my life went on it became clear why I had these feelings. The main character, Pink, mimed me; and my emotions were what was signified in the film.
The Wall is a concept album that was released in 1979 and was accompanied by a synonymous film a few years later. The text features Pink, the protagonist, as he grows up in post World War I England. The war claimed his father and he is now raised by his overprotective mother and put through a disconnected education system determined on breaking the spirits of children forcing them to conform to society and function as a cog. Pink, now an adult has reached a self isolated stardom as a musician and finds himself in an estranged marriage.
Every occurrence that has caused Pink pain is now another brick in his ever expanding wall of isolation. Now seeming to stretch indefinitely in either direction Pink realizes the wall he has constructed is in fact a prison. Pink, now helpless, lets his fragile, damaged and fragmented mind spiral into an insane persona similar to the one that brought about the very war that killed his father, scarred his country and caused his pain. During the first few minutes of the film we witness the death of Pinks father, a ranking member in the English military.
As the film unfolds it is made clear that his fathers death in combat is not as simple as it may seem. The connotation of his fathers death is that government, the highest held social construct, is to blame. My father too died while I was still too young to know him; and just as Pinks father, he also died as the result of an armed government conflict. The conflict of which I speak is The War on Drugs. In the wake of loss Pink is raised by his mother. She is full of fear, phobias and treats Pink as if he would die at any moment. Her over protective nature provides the groundwork for the wall which Pink would later build.
In a similar fashion my mother was deathly afraid of the decisions I made as a child so she took away my ability to make them. She, just like Pinks mother, was convinced that by doing so improved my safety while in reality it made a hard situation more difficult to deal with. This alienation towards our mothers caused us to not be concerned with social norms, the absence of affection left a hole that was hopelessly filled with experimentation. In the song “Mother” Pink asks his mother a series of rhetorical questions, including “Mother should I build the wall”?
This emphasis the disconnection he has with his mother unable to ask questions he is forced to navigate life on his own. Pink faced certain difficulties in school, he wanted to write poetry and explore the world but this eagerness to explore was met with suppression and corporal punishment. The governmental institution that is school, left a lasting impression on Pink. Here he was at a crucial stage of his relatively ‘new’ life and he was met with hostility and the inability to express himself.
This was expressed perfectly in a song ironically named “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” When we grew up and went to school There were certain teachers who would Hurt the children in any way they could By pouring their derision Upon anything we did And exposing every weakness However carefully hidden by the kids But in the town, it was well known When they got home at night, their fat and Psychopathic wives would thrash them Within inches of their lives. ” By pouring there derision the kids were unavoidably mocked, the very weakness that kids were susceptible to were exposed and exploited. It is this exposure of weakness which causes Pink to view the school system as the systematic execution of personality, safety and freedom.
Pink knew this was cruel and flawed. Going through school as an excited and curious young boy I was met with similar opposition and my feelings about school soon deteriorated into distain. Pink, like myself, deviated further until he was on the fringe of society. The feelings that Pink now holds toward school are portrayed in the next song “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” with the repetition of the words “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control” and “All in all its just another brick in the wall. ” At this point in The Wall that the theme of perpetual distress appear.
When the teachers that were responsible for the humiliation of the children went home at night were also greeted with a malefactor the punishment that these kids face is most likely the result of a the teachers themselves purging emotions. Similarly to how the pain that Pinks mother feels causes her to overtly protect him and consequently push him away. Once the film jumps to Pinks adult hood and we are introduced to his wife we begin to see how isolation, the effort he puts forth to protect himself, perpetuates his distress.
His wife offers help but cannot break through. She becomes distant before leaving him and while she is in the arms of another man Pink tries to reach out to her but she does not respond making him feel more alone than he ever has. The end of his marriage marks the hight of his depression and following the climax of mental illness he descends into madness. He watches as his thoughts, feelings and emotions rule him while he does nothing to fight back. It is at this point he uses drugs to fill the void and the song “Comfortably Numb” plays.
He uses drugs to numb himself because feeling nothing is better than the life he lives. He isolated himself so that he could not be ruled by an unwanted entity causing him pain but the theme of perpetuation once agin rolls around and he is tormented without the ability to escape his prison. Although the very cause of his problems are governm institutions and discrimination Pink is reborn into a persona connotative of Hitler. He is shown enforcing totalitarian rule and discrimination as gays, blacks and other ‘inferior beings’ are executed at his command.
The symbols on the flags and his jacket represent the swastika and the stage on which he preforms is indicative of the rallies in Hitlers Germany. After his reincarnation in a dictator Pink say “Pink isn’t well, he stayed back at the hotel” indicating that his former self has been left behind. His isolation has now destroyed his identity, again backfiring and the killing force that took his father resides in himself. Eventually Pink is overwhelmed with his persona doing so much destruction that he cannot take it anymore.
During “The Trial” he answers for his action, to himself. Nobody is more aware of the pain that his actions as a “dictator” caused and it weighs heavily on his mind. It is the summary and climax of the film, putting everything into perspective. His childhood teacher, wife, mother and a representation of war all make an appearance as he evaluates himself. The song ends with “I sentence you to be exposed before your peers,Tear down the wall! ” It is here that he realizes that he is crazy and that he should be harshly punished but in a way that helps him.
He tears down the wall and is now ‘out side of the wall which allows him to reconnect with the world and make personal connections; the foundation of humanity. When I was young and watch The Wall I thought I was the one that was isolated and hunted by society but the whole time my father was the protagonist. He was a damaged person who felt the need to use drugs and dull the pain. It was him that society isolated for his personal actions, he was the one that had lost. He lost the ability to enjoy life, he was sick, he needed help but we live in a society that doesn’t like to help, we only like to go to war.
The issue with The War on Drugs in not in any logical or rational argument, its in the syntax. We cannot have a War on s because we cannot go to war with an inanimate object. The War on Drugs is a war on citizens who have been terribly misunderstood. The War on Drugs perpetuates drug use. People don’t use drugs because they are evil, they use them because they are in pain. By going to war with my father they denied him any sort of recovery and left a baby boy to figure the world by himself. This cause that baby boy pain and that baby boy was drawn to drugs because of it.
My whole life I have had to deal with emotional problems and for a long time could not operate as a stable person. I didn’t have a father that was there to show me how and my mothers effort were seen as intrusive. The problems I had with my parents followed me, as I entered the world I didn’t know how to have relationships. The inability to have relationships left me lonely and when I was hurt by people who I tried to trust its seemed like the end of the world because, to me, it was end of human interaction. I almost followed my fathers actions but was able to save myself by breaking down the wall.
The Wall has influenced my rebellious nature, not because I wish to act out, but because I know that we must question society. We live in a society that perpetuate mental illness, that largely has to do with the War on Drugs. Not because drugs cause mental illness but because mental illness causes dependancies, we fix this with a helping hand not war. I am now more aware of propaganda and individuality. Due to The Walli choose what I believe in, and consequently, the media I consume scrupulously. I question everything and i am wiser because of it.