Music Monday: “Hypnotize” by System of a Down

Today’s Music Monday selection — “Hypnotize” by System of a Down — marks the date on which the Tiananmen Square protests were violently ended 23 years ago today in 1989 in Beijing, China by the People’s Liberation Army.

"Tank Man" stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing. This photograph, taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, became one of the most famous images of the 20th century, and an international symbol at the end of the Cold War era.The demonstrations, which had begun on April 15, were inspired by astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi who, upon his return from teaching at Princeton University, began speaking out about liberty, human rights, and separation of powers.

Notably, Fang — who in a 1988 article in the Atlantic Monthly was dubbed “Chinas’s Andrei Sakharov” for his characteristic flouting of norms and outspoken beliefs about thinking individually — died on April 6, 2012. An obituary about him in the New York Times provides an insightful overview of his life and impact.

Fang’s ideas inspired students who initiated protests in December 1986. The chief issues included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law. The Chinese government was greatly concerned by these activities and accused the students of fomenting turmoil.

Unrest finally culminated on June 4, 1989 when the Chinese Army was dispatched to Tiananmen Square with orders to clear the square by 6:00 am.  By 5:40 am — after the Army had wounded and killed several hundred students who had refused to disperse — the Square had been cleared.

One of the more iconic images that emerged from this unfortunate ordeal was a picture (included in this blog post) of an anonymous man dubbed “Tank Man” who stood in front of a Chinese Type 59 tank on June 5, 1989 (the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square).

Hypnotize” — which was the lead single for the System of a Down’s album of the same name, was released on November 22, 2005 — was chosen as today’s Music Monday because Tiananmen Square is mentioned in the lyrics (see below).

Additionally, there is also a portion of the lyrics that proclaim “propaganda leaves us blinded.” According to the Wikipedia article about the song, “Another meaning that can be taken from the chorus is that while reality-distorting political propaganda is rampant, everyday life continues as usual.”

Hypnotize Lyrics

Why don’t you ask the kids at Tiananmen square?
Was Fashion the reason why they were there?

They disguise it, Hypnotize it
Television made you buy it

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…

She’s scared that I will take her away from there
Her dreams that her country left with no one there

Mezmerize the simple minded
Propaganda leaves us blinded

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…
Girl