Today marks the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s politically-charged 1977 album, Animals. Today also marks President Donald Trump’s first full day as President of the United States. I don’t believe in any kind of supernatural affinity existing in the universe, but if I did, I would have to assume that there was some kind of celestial magic afoot. If existence was dictated by screenwriters, this is one of those “great timing” moments that provide ample fluidity to progression.
But, alas, it is but mere coincidence, but a great coincidence nonetheless.
Animals is, for all intents and purposes, the most politically-mobile album in Pink Floyd’s catalogue, but is forgotten by most casual fans. It has the unfortunate distinction of being sandwiched between 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon and 1975’s Wish You Were Here on one side and 1979’s The Wall on the other. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Animals was a busted record — it still sold remarkably and spurned a successful world tour (during which a spitting incident would provide inspiration for The Wall). But how often does one hear “Sheep” or “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” on radio, compared to “Money,” “Time,” “Comfortably Numb,” and “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2?”
But Animals was more aggressive than the albums it lays between. Described by NME as “one of the most extreme, relentless, harrowing and downright iconoclastic hunks of music to have been made available this side of the sun,” the album draws inspiration from George Orwell’s 1945 allegorical novella Animal Farm, but while the literature is a critique of Stalinism, Animals is a brutal indictment of capitalism — an “uncomfortable taste of reality in a medium that has become in recent years, increasingly soporific,” per Karl Davis of Melody Maker. Both anthropomorphize social classes into pigs, dogs, and sheep, but while Orwell’s novella ends on a bleak note — “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” — Pink Floyd’s album ends with the sheep (the mindless followers under the thumb of the oppressive pigs and greedy dogs) revolting and killing the others.
But the relevance of this album is not merely contained to its ruby anniversary.
On October 1, 2016, Roger Waters was performing a free concert in Zócalo Square, Mexico City. He delivered a rousing performance of “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” where he did the opposite of hide his feelings about the soon-to-be president-elect of the United States. Drawing from the very things that inspired him to write Animals in the first place, Waters’ performance of the side-two opener featured a backdrop that portrayed Donald Trump as one of the pigs, a psychedelic homage to the “joker” whose popularity personified the same vile zealousness of which Waters wrote Animals with galvanized contempt. The Donald’s mouth agape, superimposed with the word “charade,” the 11-and-a-half minute haymaker bled in images of the White House, Trump the bully vomiting cyan, and as if taking cues from the punk bands of the same time period, superimposing whore’s makeup on his face in an effort to deface and emasculate a man who, less than a week after the performance, would be at the center of an outed Access Hollywood video where he joked with George W. Bush’s cousin about how his celebrity allowed him to “grab [women] by the pussy.”
At the end of the performance, Trump quotes were thrown up on the backdrop in Spanish, making the coda even more powerful than just the swirling melodies, shrilled shredding, and the signature thump of Waters’ bass. It ends with:
“Trump eres un pendejo.”
Trump you are an asshole.
On the 40th anniversary of Animals, President Donald Trump got to work, signing a series of executive orders that stand to do more damage than provide benefit to the people they will impact. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which, to be fair, was more symbolic than anything (the deal is practically dead in Congress anyway). But the direct, vicious, and early nature of Trump’s executive order may blacken the United States internationally, as noted by Cornell University’s Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy:
“This abrupt action so early in the Trump administration puts the world on notice that all of America’s traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation. This could have an adverse long-run impact on the ability of the U.S. to maintain its influence and leadership in world economic and political affairs.”
Mr. Trump also instituted a hiring freeze throughout the federal government on all non-military workers. The move eerily echoes the actions of former President Ronal Reagan, who also instituted a hiring freeze immediately after assuming office in 1981. President Trump made this hiring freeze part of his campaign, an action he would take to “drain the swamp.”
President Trump also placed his feet in the shoes of Republicans before him and refreshed the “Mexico City policy,” also known as the “global gag rule,” which stops United States taxpayer money from going to international family-planning organizations that offer abortion services to women, even if the United States’ money doesn’t actually pay for the abortive procedures. This move is significant, considering a bill very recently manifested in the House of Representatives that deems “life” to begin at the moment of fertilization in an effort to equate procuring an abortion as an act of murder and unravel the protections afforded to women under the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. It’s an attempt to napalm a women’s right conservatives have spent decades trying to undo and comes at a time when the American conservative movement has been given a new breath of life by an extremist sect assimilating all who once tended the middle of the aisle and infecting the populous to the extent necessary to grant it firm control of Congress.
The “Mexico City policy” also eerily mirrors recent attempts by U.S. conservatives to undo Planned Parenthood.
Three executive orders, which effortlessly put millions of people in precarious situations, have been instituted with a stroke of a pen by a man who embodies the snobbish, oppressive ruling class in an album that was released 40 years ago to the day. I don’t believe in the supernatural, but even I will admit that this is one hell of a coincidence. But then again, should such a coincidence really be that intriguing? At the center of it is a man whose name could easily have been inserted into the side-two opener and followed by the following lyric:
Ha ha, charade you are.