First things first: A great song by Arcade Fire! I definitely hear an early 1970’s Pink Floyd “Meddle” era vibe in the song. I am continually impressed by their artistic and musical productions.
Secondly, the story of Joan of Arc. Rather than retelling what is generally the well known story of Joan of Arc, I will proceed assuming that the reader knows that story. If you want to read a great book telling her story I highly recommend the one by Mark Twain, yes that Mark Twain!
Now, what the song might be about. I think that some of the songs on Reflektor by Arcade Fire are about the problems that exist in our culture due to the collision of different forces and factors.
I think that one aspect of this song is about the collision of the traditional voice of authority that in the past has been considered to have the sanction of God with new prophetic voices that by their existence challenge that older authority. Through the lens of the collision that centered on Joan of Arc, Arcade Fire seems likely to be calling attention to the collision of “traditional authority” and new voices challenging that today.
In this collision there can be following and love of the new voice by the people at large, or censure, hatred, and even silencing from the authority. In the course of history, justice can prevail as the new voice is eventually recognized.
The song also seems to say that the traditional authority is patriarchal (which means bad), without heart, and cruel. The new voice by implication is democratic, and has heart and kindness. It seems to be the way that many characterize the Republican and Democratic parties.
Whether Arcade Fire thinks they are part of a new voice challenging the traditional authority is hard to know for sure, but it seems likely to be the case. If Arcade Fire, or other artists are consciously seeking to be a sort of new prophetic voice, they need to more clearly discern what is the true operative authority in our culture. I don’t think the answer to that question is so easily identified.
It could also be that Arcade Fire is using Joan of Arc as a backdrop for their own collision with the fickleness of the establishment consumers and critics who “love” and “kill” artists like Arcade Fire. In light of this possibility, it may be that Arcade Fire has identified one of the main actual authorities in our culture, namely consumerism and affluence. Is that the real authority for us? Well, any actual authority would necessarily be something that does exercise real power over us. In other words, if we really want to identify what is the “hidden” authority that actually drives us and our collective culture, we should ask ourselves what makes our culture “go round?” Is it the Church, or the Judeo-Christian ethic? Is it money? I think we’re getting closer. (By the way money is the only false “god” that Jesus ever named. He called it “mammon.”)
It is probably without question that we need a modern day crusading Joan of Arc that we hopefully would love and follow, but what precisely would her crusade be against?
Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.