Politics & Policy

#1

The most conservative rock song of all time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This week on NRO, we’ve been rolling out the first five and now all 50 songs from a list John J. Miller compiled that appears in the June 5 issue of National Review. Here’s a look at #1 and get the whole list–complete with purchasing links–here.

#1: “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by The Who (1971).

The Who; buy CD on Amazon.com

If conservatism were expressed as one line from which the rest could flow, it might be this: Human nature does not change. This is not pessimism so much as realism: The banners of every war are carried over from the last. Liberation should live between quotation marks, because new regimes are so often similar to those that came before. Thus the French Revolution gives rise to the tyranny of Napoleon.

#ad#Or you could put it this way: The party on the left will become the party on the right–revolutions slide from attack into self-preservation. They begin softly, like the insistent synthesizer that drives the track, and then roar into the main, all power chords and bullet holes. But it always ends in a throat-ripping scream.

Almost without exception, revolutionaries are greedy little prigs, planning utopia while measuring for the office drapes. Sometimes they swear to put the public itself in charge. That’s what Brother Karl proposed to do. But this never comes to pass, since every selfless idealist so far has decided that the populace wise enough to propel him to power is not quite wise enough to hold the reins themselves.

It’s not just the Left. Anyone who has watched our own government has met the new boss and come away with the scent of the old boss in his clothes. Forty years of Democratic rule in the House of Representatives turned to bloat and arrogance. A decade of Republican dominance is now yielding much the same thing. Revolution, where is thy sting?

Power corrupts both Left and Right, hence the deep conservative passion for reducing the power of government itself. Some of us go further, advocating that we smash government into little bits that, if need be, can be crushed under your shoe or dusted off the collar with your fingertips. Better to keep the burden light, since at some point we will have to throw off the burden. We get fooled again and again. We always do.

Civilization that lasts more than a lifetime requires understanding all this: that the world is a place where human nature does not change and where revolutions are coming-out parties for perfectionists with shotguns. The only lasting revolutions are personal and spiritual and they may be the only way–to “get on my knees and pray”–we don’t get fooled again.

Lyrics:
We’ll be fighting in the streets

With our children at our feet

And the morals that they worship will be gone

And the men who spurred us on

Sit in judgment of all wrong

They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come

We knew it all along

We were liberated from the fold, that’s all

And the world looks just the same

And history ain’t changed

’Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again

No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside

If we happen to be left half alive

I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky

For I know that the hypnotized never lie

Do ya?

Yeah!

There’s nothing in the street

Looks any different to me

And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye

And the party on the left

Is now the party on the right

And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again

Don’t get fooled again

No, no!

Yeah!

Meet the new boss

Same as the old boss

–Michael Long is a director of the White House Writers Group and the editor of “Too Tough for TV: Rejected jokes of the late-night comics.”

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