Pink Floyd’s The Wall — A Psychological/Spiritual Classic
Pink Floyd’s album The Wall is considered a classic rock and roll album. But how do you interpret it, and what does it mean? To understand The Wall we use the LP concept of Toxic Socialization. As noted in the SpiritWiki (and in this LP Rod), Toxic Socialization is a socialization process characterized by violence, neglect of our Seven Essential Needs, chaos, indoctrination, parentification, and the systematic destruction of human attachments. If you want to learn more about Toxic Socialization, have a look at this paper).
It is important to understand that toxic socialization is not a random process. It does not arise as a consequence of human frailty, stupidity, or regression. Toxic socialization is intentionally designed and implemented by the Accumulating Class in order to diminish and disempower people. The goal of toxic socialization, the goal of The System, is to create compliant cogs willing to slave away the best years of their lives churning endlessly on capitalism’s wheel of consumerism and work. The toxic socialization process implemented by capitalists is a human grinder that destroys individuals, their families, and their friends. It is designed for one thing and one thing only, to enrich a few while enslaving and impoverishing the many.
Pink’s Floyd’s album The Wall, released November 20, 1979, is a highly personalized dissection of this toxic socialization process. The album chronicles the toxic socialization experiences of “Pink,” an amalgam of Roger Waters and Syd Barrett. Pink’s horrible childhood, adolescent, and adult experiences lead him to construct a proverbial wall of anxiety, angst, depression, disconnection, and hatred towards others and himself. By the end of it all, Pink is a jiggling pool of hatred and loathing with no hope of ever healing and reconnecting.
The chronicle starts with the song the Thin of Ice (lyrics). This song, speaks about childhood innocence and the naive belief that we all have as children that the world is filled with blue skies and warm oceans. As the song points out, the thin-ice illusions of our childhood innocence and hope are easily shattered as the mind matures and finally comes to realize the overwhelming and terror-inducing truth of our collective reality. The song is a lament to a childhood innocence easily destroyed by the toxic, violent, abusive, and neglectful realities of this world.
The first crack in the veneer of childhood hope and innocence is the loss of Pink’s father, who flies off to die in WWI. This loss, which, as indicated in the song Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1 (lyrics) is the first traumatic blow. It leaves Pink with only a picture and a faded memory of his father. Later in school, the ice cracks even more. As the song the “Happiest Days of our Lives” (lyrics) and Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2 (lyrics)) document, his next shattering traumas come at the hands of school teachers and his own abusive and overprotective mother (Mother (lyrics)) . Pink’s childhood trauma is capped, and the blue skies of hope and childhood innocence are completely shattered, when Hitler dropped bombs on London during the Nazi Blitzkreig(Goodbye Blue Sky (lyrics)).
The loss of his parent, the consequent neglect, and the emotional and psychological abuse Pink experienced at the hands of adults in his life damages him in profound ways. This damage is documented in various songs on the album. In the song Empty Spaces (lyrics) we see him experiencing a profound sense of disconnection and emptiness. As we see in the extended version of the Empty Spaces song entitled “What Shall We Do Now,” Pink tries to deal with damage and disconnection by buying things, travelling, drinking, getting info fights, having gratuitous sex (“Young Lust” (lyrics)), and so on and so forth. All of this doesn’t help, of course. It just adds to the toxic burden, thereby contributing to the trauma and the pathology. Pink’s final cut is when he learns of his wife’s infidelity. He brings a groupie back to his hotel room only to trash the room and abuse the groupie in a violent fit of rage (One of My Turns (lyrics)). After that experience, Pink is depressed. We find him thinking about his wife and their toxic relationship in the song “Don’t Leave Me Now” (lyrics). He finally concludes that life is pain and that he needs nothing from nobody–no hugs, no drugs, no nothing. Pink places the final brick in his wall in the song Another Brick in the wall Pt. 3 (lyrics) where he finally and consciously cuts himself off from the pain of the world that surrounds him.
As it turns out, building the Wall does not make Pink happy. In the song “Hey You” (lyrics) he struggles for connection and compassion. In the song, “Is There Anybody Out There? (lyrics), he wonders if there is anybody outside his wall at all whom he might connect with. In the song “Nobody Home” (lyrics), Pink realizes his wife will never return and so he drowns himself in the distractions of television, drugs, cigarettes, cocaine and all the other trash accoutrements of his rock-star life. He tries desperately to retain his sanity, grasping at an idealized version of childhood as represented by the wartime singer Vera Lynn (Vera (lyrics)). In the song Bring the Boys Back Home (lyrics) he makes a desperate plea for both individual and collective emancipation from The Machine, but his efforts do not work. Just as he is about to go on stage, he has a complete emotional and mental breakdown. His handlers shoot him up with some drugs so he can perform, but he becomes “Comfortably Numb” (lyrics). Unable to perform, he regresses to an infantile state (“The Show Must Go On” (lyrics)) but is ultimately dragged on stage where, after years of neglect, after years of emotional, psychological , and physical violence, he finally explodes in a violent, fascist fever-dream. The song “In the Flesh” (lyrics) shows him filled with hatred and homophobic/racist rage. In the song “Run Like Hell” (lyrics), he incites racism, a mob attack, finally holds a Nazi-like rally. The song “Waiting for the Worms” (lyrics) finds him calling for racial and homophobic violence and a “final solution”
You would think that Pink’s descent into fascist hatred would be the end of the story, but it is not. The last few songs on the album deal with the massive guilt and shame that Pink has to deal with when, in the song “Stop” (Lyrics), he finally wakes up to his reality and his horrible thoughts and actions. In the song The Trial (lyrics)), Pink’s mind rolls over the toxic relationships with school teachers, his mother, and his wife. Ironically, despite the fact that he is the victim. Despite the fact that it is the violence and abuse he experienced at the hands of his parents, teachers, friends, and so on, Pink is filled with self-loathing and self-hatred. This is partly because he feels his “sins” have been exposed, but also because, as a damaged and emotionally traumatized adult, he himself participated in the violence and toxicity. In the end, Pink is unable to heal from the trauma. He lives his life in an emotionally collapsed and disconnected state, while those who love him “bang their heads” Outside the Wall” (lyrics)).
As you can see, Pink Floyd’s album The Wall is a genius representation of Toxic Socialization and the psychological, emotional, and spiritual impact it has. The Wall documents Pink’s childhood experiences of loss, violence, and neglect, experiences which ultimately destroy him and turn him into a self-loathing and hate-filled human shell incapable of authentic human connection. His sense of Self is shattered and his inner peace is long gone. He is left permanently disabled by his toxic experiences which, as the album suggests by the famous circular reference at the end of the album, are just repeated over and over and over again all over the world, for each and every one of us, generation, after generation after generation in an endless cycle of abuse, trauma, and violence.