When I first arrived in my new home state to start treating my Crohn’s disease with medical cannabis, this song was becoming popular and it spoke to me. I felt like I had made my escape from a medicalized torture chamber, that I was going to succeed against all odds to heal myself of an incurable and untreatable disease and that I had “right” on my side — my natural right as a thinking feeling being to follow my own intuition, beliefs and to live my life as I saw fit within the bounds of natural law and discarding male-made laws which were oppressive and above all, unsustainable. Under natural law, the only consequences to any action are natural consequences — meaning cause and effect. There are no punishments for poor choices only logical outcomes, nor are there rewards in a value-laden judgey sort of way. I felt, in a word, free.
As sick as I was, and even if I died from my illness and I may yet, I felt for the first time not just since I had gotten sick but for the first time in my life that I was acting and living as a free person as much as I could. I had enough money to do what I wanted for a couple of years without having to compromise or explain myself to anyone. Honestly I felt like a badass renegade and as a female living in capitalism and patriarchy I had indeed taken an unthinkable and unutterable leap — I said “fuck you” to the capitalistic patriarchal medical machine and jumped off into the abyss. I figured that no matter what was down there it couldn’t possibly be any worse than living with the relentless agony of un- and undertreated Crohn’s disease including my new role as pincushion, guinea pig and torture victim under the oppressive boot of Big Pharma and its dickless lapdogs that were my Western medical doctors.
What they all collectively knew, and which I very shortly found out when I began treating is that the conventional standard of care for Crohn’s doesn’t work to alleviate the complicated array of symptoms and excruciating pain. My doctors, although I think they were good doctors and even conscientious people who spoke to me in code-words and clues practically begging me to figure it out on my own because they couldn’t tell me, were nonetheless tethered by their own professional ambition, greed and at base their very survival instincts to perpetuate on me the wholly ineffective and yet accepted medical standard of care which would protect them professionally from accusations that they had done something wrong when things inevitably went sideways. Well, things were going sideways and the only one who was going to face the consequences of that was me. Having lost my quality of life completely I felt I had nothing left to lose except my sanity which was beginning to buckle under these fantastically oppressive conditions including relentless chronic pain. In that moment, I had my sanity, I had a plan, I had enough money to give it a good shot and I was off. I was absolutely fucking fearless.
I didn’t ask for or want help from anyone in the first year or so, not that I even had the energy to ask and certainly not to beg. I thought and still think that anyone who has much of anything “extra” to offer me only had it in the first place because they were some variation of corporate stooge or patriarchal enforcer and they could keep their patriarchal blood money anyway — I didn’t want it. I was honestly prepared to die from my illness but I was not going to be tortured to death by the medical machine and I wasn’t going to beg corporate stooges and patriarchal enforcers to rescue me from a more or less natural death. Why would I? As a free person, freer than I had literally ever been in my life, devastating disabling illness notwithstanding, a more or less natural death was fine by me and it still is. I had hoped, however, that at some point I would find a like-minded “kid” to run away with me but I never did because that’s just not how it works is it? This renegade business is a particularly solitary affair. I know that now.
Now that you have read the lyrics to this song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors, and seen 2 covers of it, and heard some of my story and why the song spoke to me, you want to hear something funny? This song isn’t about renegades at all — the references to Spielberg and Kubrick kinda gave that one away but I just thought meh, their songwriter just got lazy, or they are just really young and still admire the creators who came before them, it’s kind of cute in a wide-eyed innocent sort of a way. But just wait until you see the “official” video.
Official music videos are interesting because they erase all ambiguity and the possibility of multiple readings of the same piece. Here, the creators make their original intentions known, including the meaning of the words and just what and who they were talking about in the first place. As a music lover, content creator and artist myself, I kind of hate music videos for that reason as I do not think artists should generally explain what they mean and that it steals a potentially universal meaning from artistic work that does not necessarily originate with the creators themselves. Sometimes I think artists channel this shit and that it comes from somewhere else.
As a political thinker though, I appreciate official music videos for reminding me that most creators are, at base, politically both pro-capitalism and pro-patriarchy, and that any alternative meaning I give artistic work is about and because of my own politics and is almost never about that of the creators. In this case, the official video for “Renegades” highlights the struggles not of political renegades, not of some universal spirit to be free of political oppression and to live within the bounds of natural law, no, this song is about perhaps the ultimate corporate stooges and patriarchal enforcers getting more than they bargained for — military amputees. (X Ambassadors are also involved with the Wounded Warrior Project. So there’s that.)
Military amputees, a class of people who, judging by the serious nature of their injuries wouldn’t even be alive today if it weren’t for “heroic” resource-intensive Western medical goods and services, and being essentially government property they likely weren’t given the option to refuse this “care” even if they wanted to. These people became injured and disabled after they allowed themselves to be used as cannon fodder for global corporate and military interests and got paid to enforce patriarchal and capitalistic values on less patriarchal and less capitalistic cultures around the world with violence. Compared to the political plight of women generally, and of the chronically ill abandoning the Western medical machine, military amputees are just not that interesting and are in fact not renegades at all being the very definition of mindless followers. And it kind of gets even worse. X Ambassadors sold this song to Jeep to be used in an ad campaign for the 2015 Jeep Renegade:
I do kind of like this band and the singer is clearly talented and has a falsetto that will knock your socks off. And to be fair, more than most bands probably this band has a decent reason for making milquetoast pseudo-political statements and literally selling out — the singer’s brother who also plays keyboards for the X Ambassadors has been blind since birth. Whenever I see a popular actor, band or artist making it big I always hope they are saving their money and this one seems more interested in financial security than most and they have a good reason for that — a disabled brother and bandmate who needs to be taken care of into the future, perhaps well after the others of them are dead and gone. I can’t really blame them for that.
But where is the cheering section for the real renegades, the pioneers of alternative political thought and action, the mutineers of capitalism and patriarchy? For that matter, where are the others like myself who are chronically ill and who have abandoned Western medicine because they were not going down like that, but who are now going down nonetheless. Where the hell are they? Where are my people? Honestly, I think “my people,” the political refugees of the capitalistic patriarchal medical machine are largely homeless, destitute and dead. That is where the true renegades end up under capitalism and patriarchy isn’t it? They aren’t buying Jeeps, they aren’t Weekend Warriors overcoming fake obstacles and playing in the mud, they aren’t making music videos, they probably aren’t sitting in their living rooms reading blogs, and as far as I can tell, they aren’t talking about their experiences on the internet or anywhere I can access it. I was a fool to think that a cheering section for the real renegades existed anywhere except in my own mind, but to be fair there does seem to be some confusion about that. There are cultural messages everywhere that it’s rather unambiguously positive to be a renegade, for example “Renegades” by X Ambassadors. And this:
Wow ok, that’s not quite what I remembered! I was watching Sesame Street in the late 70s and I was paying attention, or so I thought. Maybe if I were reading or playing football instead of fundamentally undermining the central tenets of my own culture things would’ve turned out differently? Note to self: there has probably never been a positive or even a real representation of a renegade in popular culture and there never will be.