If there are any two causes that are not ‘en vogue’ in the overtly simplistic neo-liberal cult that is much of the western entertainment industry, Palestine is one and Syria is the other. Of course paying lip-service to ‘peace in Palestine’ and paying frighteningly dangerous lip-service to those who pretend dangerous Takfiri terrorists in Syria are something they are not is generally acceptable, it is much easier for politically inclined entertainers and artists to ingratiate themselves to the establishment elites for causes as vague as they are ‘safe’ in terms of public relations.
But when it comes to taking on issues of incredible magnitude, hardly anyone in the arts or entertainment goes where Roger Waters goes. In many ways, it is not surprising that Waters has become an outspoken voice for justice in Palestine, Syria and for a wider global movement of respect and human dignity based on a commitment to ethics, reason and a just rule of law. These broad concepts were in fact themes of Waters’s lyrical poetry for decades. Long before the terms ‘alt-media’, ‘fake news’ and ‘Putin troll’ were part of the increasingly fractious vernacular, as the lyricist and primary composer for Pink Floyd, Roger Waters explored the relationship between personal violence and war, social isolation and psychosis, political corruption and a decline in geopolitical ethics and of course in 1979, Pink Floyd’s The Wall drew from Waters’s personal experiences as a child whose father was killed at Anzio during the Second World War and how this shaped his opposition to war and injustice. Subsequent works including the 2014 film Roger Waters: The Wall juxtaposes an updated performance of the original Pink Floyd album with footage of Waters and his children travelling to the gave of his grandfather who died in the First World War, before driving on to the Anzio beachhead where his father died decades later in the Second World War.
But the anti-war message that runs through much of Pink Floyd’s and Waters’s solo catalogue, particularly the 1983 album The Final Cut, is not limited to the wars of the past. Waters continues to use his musical performances and other public speaking events to draw attention to the war of occupation against Palestine.
Water’s particular association with Palestine began in 2006 when he was booked to play a concert in Tel Aviv. Waters was immediately urged by Palestinian activists to withdraw from the gig due to the brutality that the regime inflicts on Palestine. Waters subsequently toured the occupied West Bank and became appalled at conditions he felt were more deplorable than those in Apartheid South Africa. As a compromise, Waters performed his concert at an inter-communal farm where he was told that he would play before an integrated audience. However, when he offered his young audience a plea for peace, he was met with a stunned silence. He realised then that his audience were mostly Israeli citizens with hardly a Palestinian in sight.
It was from there that Waters began to dedicate himself to the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for a cultural and economic boycott of the occupier regime until the Palestinians receive justice. However, while in the 1980s many artists joined the boycott against Apartheid South Africa, Waters is often derided for his pro-Palestinian position.
Ironically, while one can point to more Pink Floyd and Waters solo songs critical of fascism than any other ideology, certain lobbying groups have attempted to smear Waters as antisemitic – a charge so preposterous that it doesn’t even merit a response.
During a recent interview with RT, Waters explained that since becoming increasingly vocal about Palestine, he has been effectively blacklisted by western mainstream media in spite of the fact that Pink Floyd remain one of the top selling bands of all time.
If taking on the cause of Palestine wasn’t enough to get Waters blacklisted from so-called mainstream corporate media outlets, during a concert in Barcelona, on the eve of the illegal US, UK, French missile strikes on Damascus, Roger Waters took aim at the pro-Takfiri propaganda group White Helmets and encouraged people of the world to stand in opposition to war on Syria and embrace a reasonable approach to learning about the reality of the conflict which has inflicted destruction on the country since 2011.
While Waters continues to fill arenas and football stadiums across the world, his political and moral philosophical leanings have nevertheless cost him air time, sponsorship deals and exposure in the outlets where artists of his stature usually get endless coverage. Yet none of this has deterred Waters. If anything he continues to speak at greater length about the issues he cares about more than ever before.
While the man responsible for masterpieces like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, The Final Cut and Amused to Death could easily rest on his laurels, Waters refuses to do so. On his latest album Is This The Life We Really Want, Waters encourages listeners to “picture a leader with no fucking brains”, in a reference to a certain recent election in the United States. It goes without saying that Waters’s assessment of the American leadership has been vindicated by recent events.