Not everything has to deal with current events right?

I just want to start this post by saying, the greatest band of all time is Rage Against the Machine. The lead singer, Zach De La Rocha is brilliant as is the guitarist, Tom Morello. I seriously love them and everything they stand for. If you’ve never given them a legitimate chance check out these songs:

One of my favorite songs by them, despite it being a cover, is the Ghost of Tom Joad. Bruce Springsteen originally recorded it, but it’s performed MUCH better by RATM. The song was inspired by the novel, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (One of the greatest novels ever written).  The book is about a family that is travelling west to get to California, so that they can find work because Oklahoma is experiencing a drought. The entire quest for the Joad family can be looked at as a quest for citizenship and the song is a great illustration of what it looks like to not be a citizen under Judith Shklar.

Having gone to lecture all month, we all know the requirements for citizenship for shlklar, so I won’t go in depth, but they are voting and earning. Obviously, for the Joad family earning is their issue. Given the fact that they can’t work they can’t be citizens.

Man walks along the railroad tracks
He’s goin’ someplace, and there’s no turnin’ back
The highway patrol chopper comin’ up over the ridge
Man sleeps by a campfire under the bridge
The shelter line stretchin’ around the corner
Welcome to the New World Order
Families sleepin’ in their cars out in the Southwest
No job, no home, no peace, no rest
No rest!

            This verse shows the desperation and despair that these people are facing. Since it’s an extreme case, it’s easy to see the desperation and despair that the unemployed faced. Obviously, it isn’t like that today, but this situation applies to people today.

Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ for a place to stand
For a decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes, Ma, you’ll see me
You’ll see me

            This is where we can begin to apply the situation of the “okies” to people in the modern day. This lyric in the song shows that anytime anyone is struggling, they are the same as Tom Joad, a non-citizen that can’t find work. The people described in the song and novel are obviously comparable to the homeless that are around today, but an even better comparison would be to the unemployed that still have homes. The people that have recently been laid off or completely fired. These people are the people that are similar to the family described in the song. They have recently been displaced, like the Joads and are currently struggling to find work.

This song applies to anyone today that doesn’t have citizenship because they lack the qualifications to be citizens according to shklar. Also, it’s amazing.


Here’s the song!

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2 Responses to Not everything has to deal with current events right?

  1. nmanningham says:

    I like your creative comparison between Rage Against the Machine and Shklar’s definition of citizenship as standing. However, I do believe it is important to think about what Shklar meant by earning. In the case of Tom Joad, he wants the opportunity to work but he does not have that opportunity because of the lack of jobs in the country. Therefore, should he be denied the title of a full citizen because there are not enough jobs created? Shklar states on page 98 of American Citizenship that not working equals not standing as citizens. However, I do not fully agree with this argument. I like your comparison of the “okies” to modern day unemployed individuals who were recently laid off. They are not currently working, and are therefore not currently standing. However, I believe individuals such as these should fall under a different category. I believe they are still citizens because they have earned in the past and would like the opportunity to work. However, there are sometimes not enough jobs in certain fields. I do not believe the title of citizens should be stripped from these individuals because of their unfortunate circumstance.

  2. Courtney M says:

    First off, I definitely think it’s great you connected this stuff to lyrics because I love music, and I always find myself relating song lyrics to things happening in my life. Second, I agree with the comment above that we need to consider what exactly Shklar means by “earning.” In the chapter on earning, Shklar continually draws the comparison between earning and slavery, and as we know, slaves were denied the right to earn in a much different way than citizens today being denied the right to earn. Slaves were working, but not pocketing the money they earned, whereas today’s jobless citizens that we are discussing in this post aren’t working because there aren’t enough jobs, and therefore they aren’t earning. Without knowing what Shklar would think about these particular jobless citizens today, I can only present a hypothetical answer, and I agree with the comment above that citizens who have earned in the past and who are looking for jobs are definitely considered citizens. In my view, they hold citizenship as standing because although they aren’t earning, I think most Americans feel sorry for them rather than condemning them for not working.

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