Leonard Cohen wrote the perfect anthem for our times

I first heard it in Pump Up the Volume, a severely underrated movie about kids and rebellion that was always in my mind while I wrote Little Brother.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

The first time I heard it, it didn't just galvanize me, it skewered me. That first stanza, telling the eternal social truths that Piketty affirmed with 300 years' worth of data 25 years later. The dice are loaded. Meritocracy is a delusion. Inequality perpetuates itself.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows

They tell us the housing bubble will never burst; that the stop-and-frisk is reducing crime; that the economy has bounced back; that industry can regulate itself; that the climate problem will be fixed before it goes too far. We know it's a lie, but we just want a moment's comfort and respite. That isn't too much to ask for. Self-care is not selfish.

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

The stress and sorrow taints everything. Our loves, our friendships, our alliances, and we either forgive each other for our mutual stains, or we splinter into a thousand factions. We can only forgive, in the end, because none of us is pure enough to find fault with another.

"And even though/It all went wrong/I'll stand before the Lord of Song/With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah."

RIP, Leonard Cohen.

(Image: Leonard Cohen 2179, Rama, CC-BY-SA)