Every now and then a song comes along that savages the sterility and banality of modernity and its cookie cutter institutions.
Malvina Reynolds' classic “Little Boxes” did it in 1962, with its allusions to the “ticky tacky” conformity of residential tract housing and the sanitized roles that our social order tries to stuff us into. A half-century later the tune holds up all too well, as Walk Off The Earth brilliantly demonstrates.
This song identifies SO many easy targets: our barren, highway-glutted, carbon-wasting, soul-choking suburban sprawl (which is arguably the biggest contributor to climate destabilization); our assembly-line industrial-era educational factories that produce obedient citizen-workers who (too often) “come out all the same”; and our personality-crushing, spontaneity-killing, Dilbert-imitating corporations that strangle the creativity out of its boxed-in cubicle captives.
As former Hallmark employee Gordon MacKenzie wrote in his wonderful book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving With Grace...
Society appoints its clandestine cartel to put a cap on imaginative brilliance…an originality-suppression agency that permeates our lives. It tyrannized Galileo into recanting the fruits of his own scientific genius. It handed Socrates a cup of hemlock, put a match to Joan of Arc, and fomented the crucifixion of Christ…From cradle to grave, the pressure is on: BE NORMAL.
Maybe "thinking outside the box" isn't such a dumb metaphor after all.
For my interview with WOTE's irrepressible Sarah Blackwood, check here.