Use Your Illusion II
1991 | Rock
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“My hands are tied. -- The billions shift from side to side. -- And the wars go on with brainwashed pride."
- The song hit #4 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
- The song was first played at Farm Aid 1990, the first and last time the song was played with original drummer Steven Adler.
- Slash stated that the song was an instrumental he had written right before the band left for the Japanese leg of its Appetite for Destruction world tour. Axl wrote lyrics and it was worked into a proper song at a sound check in Melbourne, Australia.
THE HOT TAKES
The war machine is rolling forward. This same sad song could be from the middle ages (if you take away the electric guitars, of course!) But war never changes. Lies, fearmongering, and lives that either end early or stretch on in a wretched, ruined way. "Everybody's fightin' for their promised land," after all. What we see as "enemy territory" is the land where others grew up, raised families, and buried their ancestors. It's a brutal cycle that needs to end. We need to oppose war wherever we can, as often as we can.
If you're like me, you probably don't think of Guns N' Roses as a particularly political band. I'm not sure what I thought this song was about but even being titled civil war I never would have guessed its meaning. This song is yet another "hidden in plain sight" gem that I've discovered for myself over the course of this project. Ultimately the song is about the ways those in power pit the rest of us against each other for their own gain. Like pieces on a chess board. The money changes hands as the elites essentially gamble human lives on high-stakes games that just volley money back and forth. It's like the most awful version of the bet from trading places. Inconsequential to the wagerers and terminal to the pawns and the board alike.
Even before I was a libertarian I loved this song, but after my transformation it meant so much more to me. Over my years as a libertarian I have come to understand just how devastating war is on people, and not just soldiers and civilians that are directly affected. War is not only a way The State keeps building its power, and stealing resources, but it is a vehicle for transforming culture and creating boogeymen for the public to fear and the government to then step in as the heroes that can keep you safe. It all comes at the cost of the humanity of those who support it. People who are otherwise kind and compassionate will, in the name of protecting their country and their comfort and their way of life, support the most atrocious actions of wholesale murder, pillage, and embargos. The moral injury of that is a stain on the souls of all those who support it and cannot be easily washed away.