Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Words I Learned from Bad Religion - #1

Southern California punk rockers Bad Religion not only changed punk music, they educated a lot of people in the process. The band's lead singer, Greg Graffin, is also an evolutionary biologist and a phenomenal writer. He's a student of the English language as well, and has amassed quite a complex and unique vocabulary.

I started listening to Bad Religion when I was thirteen. When I was fifteen I smuggled their albums into a missionary boarding school in Germany. Their guitar riffs and melodies sustained me. I continued buying every album during my teens, into my twenties, and even now. This band has always thrilled me, and I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot from them.

Plus, they just put on great friggin’ shows.


Words I Learned from Bad Religion

The Word: Prescience

The Album: “The Process of Belief”

“It’s a matter of prescience,
no, not the science-fiction kind.
It’s all about ignorance,
and greed and miracles for the blind.
The media parading disjointed politics,
founded on petro-chemical plunder,
and we’re it’s hostages.

If you stand to reason
you’re in the game.
The rules may be elusive
but our pieces are the same.

And you know if one goes down
we all go down as well.
The balance is precarious
as anyone can tell.
This world’s going to hell.”

Prescience, derived from the Latin word praescientia, means foreknowledge.

But isn’t the word prescience just awesome? Pre-science. It practically defines itself. It’s such a great word, and I’ve used it many times over the years in my own writing.

In the Bad Religion song “Kyoto Now” the word references the coming disaster of global climate change. Their album “The Process of Belief” came out in 2002. I remember 2002. It sucked. But this song was a bold, albeit melodic, call for the United States to join the world in curbing carbon emissions that cause climate change. It was a direct call for action to implement the Kyoto Protocol.

“You might not think it matters now,
but what if you were wrong?
You might not think there’s any wisdom
in a fucked up punk rock song.”

But the way it is
cannot persist for long.
A brutal sun is rising
on a sick horizon.”

It’s somewhat depressing to listen to the song now, in 2011. It’s still unbelievably catchy and powerful, but it also reminds me of how little progress we’ve made on climate change.

“Kyoto now.
We can’t do nothing
and think someone else
will make it right.”

What a great song, and what a great message. Unfortunately, singer-songwriter Greg Graffin’s warnings have proven to be prescient.

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