In the mid-1980s, Bruce Springsteen covered the song War as a protest against the Reagan administration’s aggressive foreign policy in Central America.
The song has a venerable protest history. It was a counterculture-era soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield first produced the song – an obvious anti-Vietnam War statement – with The Temptations as the original vocalists.
It was performed in concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in 1985. Springsteen released the September 30, 1985 performance as a part of his 1986 box set, Live/1975–85. Springsteen also performed the song in the early days of the Iraq War.
I’ve been thinking about this song not because I have a particular war on my mind. The song is preceded by a spoken preamble, which turned up on my random Springsteen shuffle the other day. The Boss says:
“If you grew up in the ’60s, you grew up with war on TV every night, a war that your friends were involved in. And… I want to do this song tonight for all the young people out there, if you’re in your teens… I remember a lot of my friends when we were 17 or 18, we didn’t have much of a chance to think about how we felt about a lot of things.
“And the next time, they’re going to be looking at you. And you’re going to need a lot of information to know what you’re going to want to do. Because, in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed. What I’m talking about here is . . . WAR!”
It was that concluding phrase that leapt out at me:
Because, in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed.
In 1985, in the context of the Cold War, that line makes perfect sense. It meant: don’t trust politicians; don’t trust people who want power; choose your leaders carefully. And that’s a bedrock rule for many people, all over the world, myself included.
But what does blind faith, and having it or not having it, look like in 2021?
The jolt I felt from that sentence pushed me to think about all this a little more deeply. People on both sides of the Covid-19 vaccination debate accuse each other of believing something without thinking it through. Pro-vaxxers say anti-vaxxers take fake news and misinformation and disinformation at face value. Anti-vaxxers say that pro-vaxxers are taking the pronouncements of the medical establishment at face value.
I know which side I fall on (pro-vaccination), but I needed to tease out where my faith in the medical establishment comes from. So I looked up the phrase “blind faith”. There’s a lot of debate about it, much of it religion based. A distinction that resonated with me was this:
Yet you can have faith in someone or something based on experience; blind faith is faith based on no experience. If a friend has never revealed secrets in the past, I can have faith that he will not reveal them in the future. To trust someone I don’t know at all with secrets would be to act on “blind” faith.
There is my answer. I have decades of experience and reading that tells me that the medical establishment (generally) has my best interests at heart. I have been helped by modern medicine, as have many people I know.
I am happy to put my faith in them. Blind faith, in this case, might in fact get me killed.
The Boss, as always, gives good advice.
Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media).
For a simple weekly notification when I write another post like this, subscribe to my newsletter here.