Just over a year ago the Occupy Wall Street protest movement began; with the main goal of addressing the prominent economic inequality prevalent around the globe. Since its inception the movement has become something of a global phenomenon, receiving a lot of support from numerous celebrities. Of those celebrities, Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello has arguably become the most prominent supporter of the movement; playing several shows and most recently writing the song "We Are The 99%" (The OWS slogan).
Since becoming such an outspoken supporter of OWS, Morello has come under a fair amount of criticism; with most critics pointing out the fact that Tom Morello himself, with a reported net worth of $60m, is in fact part of the 1% that the OWS movement staunchly opposes. These critics are particularly quick making the unfounded assumption the just because Tom is part of the 1% that he cannot be allowed to support the 99%... What? Can someone please explain this "logic" to me? Just because he is wealthy he is prohibited to support the needs of those less fortunate than him? This assumption seems to extend from the fact people seem to completely miss the point of the OWS movement. Most people don’t seem to realise that OWS is not just about the wealth of the “1%” but also the corruption, greed and influence of corporations on the financial sector of the government. As such, the 1% that the OWS opposes is not simply composed of all those in the planet who are rich, but rather those who attained their wealth though extortion and exploitation of those with less wealth.
This leads me directly to my next point. Another common criticism of Morello’s support is that he was made rich by “the Machine” that he has spent his entire career opposing through the medium of music. Wait, are you telling me that the government bought all the records that Tom Morello has released? Because if that was the case then yes, you might be right. Although as far as my understanding goes a musician makes money by creating and selling his music. And who do you think buys the politically charged left-wing music that Tom has been associated with his entire career? My guess would be the same people who would support a politically charged left-wing protest movement...
The aforementioned “We Are the 99%” has also seen its fair share of raised eyebrows with people questioning Tom’s use of the “we” when referring to the 99%. To this I simply have to say: stop being so stupid and taking everything at face value. It’s a song for God’s sake, not political manifesto. Not everything you hear in a song needs to be taken literally, it’s called poetic/artistic license.
As a rather pertinent example; consider the song “Township Rebellion” from RATM’s eponymous debut album. The opening verse of the song goes as follows:
“Rebel, rebel and yell
'Cause our people still dwell in hell
Locked in a cell
Yes, the structure's a cell
Mad is the story I tell
How long can we wait?
Come on, seein' what's at stake
Action for reaction
If your mind's in a somewhat complacent state
Get a check up
This is a stick up
Our freedom or your life
Lord, I wish I could be peaceful
But there can be no sequel”
Notice the use of the personal pronouns “I”, “we” and “our”; does this mean that Zachary De La Rocha is trying to say that he was a part of a township rebellion in South Africa during the Apartheid era? No of course not. It’s poetic license for f--k sake. Analogously, just because Tom Morello uses the word “we” doesn’t mean he is necessarily referring to himself. It’s a protest song and the use of these personal pronouns adds power to the song and allows those who are in the 1% to relate to it on a personal level. Being a successful artist includes relating to one's fans and that is exactly what Morello is doing.