23 July, 2012

Brothers In Arms // Dire Straits

But it's written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We're fools to make war
On our brothers in arms
Brothers In Arms, written by Mark Knopfler, performed by Dire Straits, 1985, from the album “Brothers In Arms”

A powerful melodic combination of poetic symbolism and meaning with intertwined instrumentation and emotion that soothes in its quietness and tranquility, yet inspires a larger meaning and for a new outlook in one's life. If each individual part is taken on its own, the song still remains beautiful and strong. The lyrics read like poetry. The emotions remain with you after the song fades. The music sets you at ease.

Brothers in Arms is inspired by the Falklands War, a 'limited war' between Argentina and the United Kingdom during 1982 lasting 74 days. It was a result of an endless dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands near the southeast tip of the South American continent. The ruling military government, the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional or National Reorganization Process, diverted public attention from poor economic performance in the nation (a possible sign of poor leadership, thus the people would lose faith in their leaders) and exploited feelings of the Argentinians towards the islands.
Map showing the British route south toward the Falklands
This, compounded by the United Kingdom's reduction in military capacity in the South Atlantic, encouraged the invasion. On April 2nd, 1982 then-dictator Leopoldo Galtieri gave authority for Argentine forces to invade and overtake the Falkland islands, which were still under British authority at the time. After fierce naval and air battles, the British were able to secure the islands and cause the Argentinians to surrender. A total of 904 people were killed in the conflict, with 649 casualties on the Argentine side. By June 14th, 1982 the status quo ante bellum or "the state in which things were before the war" was restored. To this day Argentina still maintains that the Falklands are Argentine territory and have included this claim in reformation of the country by adding it into the new Argentine constitution on 1994.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division pose at the end of a patrol near Wynot, Iraq
But interpreted more broadly, this song tells a story of any soldier fighting for something he may or may not believe in. It speaks of the uncooperative nature of humanity and our innate desire to have more than our fellow man and to be filled with greed. The poisoned souls of greedy men would rather threaten, maim, or kill their own people in the name of believed progress or to maintain a status quo instead of working with one another for a common goal. We wish to hurt and fear those whom we deem different than the norm, yet it is often the case those who are different than us are those whom we choose not to understand because psychologically throwing a punch is easier than extending a hand to shake in agreement. Firing a rifle is cheaper and easier than working with one another past language barriers and cultural contradictions.

A peaceful life in the country or a quiet small town must ask of a young man his life and his body to fight for his country, his fellow man, or to save people in need. This journey into an unknown and deadly world of conflict may arise from voluntary enlistment or through a government conscription program that tears able young men out of their homes, family and friends. A communication breakdown between two parties causes armed conflict in which man is set against man, brother set against brother. A gun is thrust into their hands and they are sent to a country they've never heard of to kill someone who may have done them no wrong. They fight because they know what they are doing is right. To think otherwise of the reality of the situation and what they have been trained to do, to carry out an agenda of power through murder and destruction, would set a man against himself and cause untold amounts of psychological trauma and self-hatred. Both sides fight for the same reasons, yet neither often knows exactly why, but fight with the same diligence and gung-ho attitude as their supposed enemy. It is not uncommon for these young men to disagree with the reasons for conflict and the actions their government may take. Nonetheless, they are forced to fight or face both legal detention and societal repression should they abandon their country to return to the simple life they had before there was conflict and aggression by laying down their weapon in a time of war.

To me, this is a song that has the entire package. It is both intellectually and artistically valuable and tells a story while presenting an idea of peace that will endure over generations, while not being too preachy in its message.

Check out this cool guy playing a piano cover:

The lyrics in full:

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you'll no longer burn
To be brothers in arms

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

There's so many different words
So many different songs
We have just one world
But we live in different ones

Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it's written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We're fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

Image credits:
Department of History, United States Military Academy
Department of the Army

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