Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons

Leonard Cohen wrote the title of this post, but many of those depraved on account’a they’re deprived might have first encountered them when Brian Williams wet his drawers on national TV over the awesomeness of US warships launching missiles with big, big fire. For Williams, the awe at the destructive power of the missile was somehow an affirmation that the US was right, that the US was working good.

Of course, Cohen never intended to mean anything like this. Cohen’s the kind of person who might have said this sarcastically, meaning to satirize the Brian Williams of the world, but in fact he didn’t even intend that. Instead, in Cohen’s song First We Take Manhattan he’s talking about changing the world not militarily, but through individual effort:

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Cohen’s weapons are his works of art, songs for the most part. It is when his art is at its most beautiful, most affecting, that he knows he’s on the right path. He is, literally, using the beauty of his weapons as a guide: the closer he gets to beauty, the closer he gets to his goal.

I bring this up now because I want to introduce Ruby Etc. to those who aren’t already familiar with this comic. This particular one is from years ago, but there are many others you can view. As someone who has frequently felt that she is of no value, can only be a source of pain, that she is only waiting to die, this comic felt particularly true, particularly beautiful, and of particular value in the struggle. It is the beauty that makes it an effective weapon, and thus is a perfect exemplar of Cohen’s weaponized wisdom:

With affirmations ineffective for those of us who struggle the most with depression, statements like “I am beautiful” sound more like self-deprecating sarcasm than anything positive. Ruby Etc. strives to remake these destructive platitudes into something more useful for those who need it most.


  1. blf says

    The title reminds me of Jim Page’s excellence song, perhaps best known as performed by Moving Hearts (sung by Christie Moore), Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette:

    They dropped the bomb in ’45 to end the world war
    No-one had ever seen such a terrible sight before
    The world looked on with eyes wide to see where it might lead
    The politics of power, they passed around to see
    It was a time to remember, we never can forget
    They were playin’ Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette
    They arose like the saviours of our modern human race
    With radiation haloes, that hung about their face
    With the key to the sure-cure, the treatment of our ills
    A hot-shot of cobalt, and a pocket-full of pills
    Speaking always of the enemy, who lurked across the sea
    While they crept in among us like a carrier disease
    Deep down inside the bunkers of the concrete and the lead
    Einstein’s disciples working steadily ahead
    Making heavy metal power-plants to fire the city lights
    All you can hear in the underground is the humming through the night
    And the walls of tight security, circle all around
    Where they spill out their poison and bury it in the ground
    Holed up in the harbours hidden secretly away
    Warheads and submarines await to make their play
    The military masterminds improve on their design
    The soldiers get all doped up and stumble through the lines
    While the spills into the rivers get carried out by the tide
    They call this security but we’re not satisfied
    Our statesmen and leaders and politicians pay
    Quick to heed the hand that feeds, they’re careful what they say
    They call out experts to assure us, to wave their magic wands
    This is the power of the future, And the future marches on
    And they call in their favours, all their political gains
    While the spills fill the rivers and settle in the plains
    They’ve caused the death of millions, that’s their stock and trade
    They will be afflicted by the fallout that they’ve made
    They’ve sealed their own inevitable doom, it must surely come
    Not even the moons of Jupiter will be far enough away to run
    When this earth that they’ve assaulted, begins to turn around
    And the unavoidable gravity, sucks them to the ground
    I know the minds behind them, they are riddled full of holes
    Not to be trusted with their hands at the controls
    Their eyesight it is twisted by the glory of their careers
    The heaped praise and flattery is music to their ears
    To listen to them talk about how it hasn’t happened
    Yet’s like playing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette

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