Images of riot police, burning cars and water cannons have been everywhere lately - Tahrir Square, downtown Damascus, Beyonce's new music video...
Beyonce has brought the revolution to MTV, waving red flags and raising an army to Run The World. In a striking example of art mirroring life, the revolutionary fever that has made 2011 the year of 'anything is possible' has now infected pop music.
Of course there are obvious flaws with this video. In particular there is the fact that Beyonce has pitted men against women rather than rich against poor.
In Run The World (Girls) the division has been drawn between the sexes rather than classes. It would be interesting to see where Beyonce would place herself in a real revolution. She earned $35 million last year and $87 million the year before that - marginally more than is earned by your average working American woman.
Recent world wide uprisings and demonstrations have done what is needed to bring about real change - combine the power of men and women. While women only demonstrations have their place within wider movements, the pitting of men against women is a reactionary move. Working men and women have far more in common than a working woman has with Beyonce whose astronomical wealth shields her from oppression.
There is clearly a great deal of hypocrisy involved when a multi-millionaire artist uses revolutionary symbolism to enlarge their bank balance, as is discussed further in this article. However the fact that this video has even been made is a sign of progress. There would have been numerous storyboards discussed for this video - a myriad of concepts vying for position. Beyonce could easily have done the video in a bikini from the back of a limousine but the bosses at the record label instead went with a revolutionary theme. I like to think that the thought of the revolutionary dispossessed invading their offices had them squirming in their seats a little, so they quickly dreamed up the man vs woman angle instead.
But the fact remains that the idea of revolution is now mainstream. Its hot. Officially. And even if you don't like Beyonce - or her corruption of what was once a great track by Major Lazor - she remains an aspirational figure to many young people. (In the time it took me to write this article another million people watched the video.) If the idea of charging riot police - and being victorious - can be popularised then so much the better.
This is more than just a fashion or a passing phase, because it is backed up by millions of people fighting to change the world. It can only be a good thing if more and more people start yearning for Revolution. We want the idea of Revolution to be popular - that's the whole point.
For artists that have been singing and rapping about revolution for years - providing the soundtrack to the struggle - this is the time to take things one step further, if Beyonce is treading on your toes then its time to take musical militancy to a whole new level.
Rather than hate on this video and on Beyonce, Run The World should be taken as a sign that Revolution has never been so fashionable (sorry Tariq Ali) or possible. Not because of Beyonce but because the struggle has become too big for anyone to ignore.
More articles from this author
- Stitched up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion
- Tears in the Fabric: a portrait of grief and struggle in Dhaka
- Rana Plaza: It is not consumers who have blood on their hands
- Introduction to Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion
- Miley Cyrus – race, class, and gender in the pop world
- Swaziland: Striking teachers sacked
- Clara Lemlich and the Uprising of the Twenty Thousand