Understanding Insane Clown Posse's "Miracles"

22 April 2010

Video | ZJ on YouTube | Subscribe

ZJ: If you haven't seen the video for "Miracles" by Insane Clown Posse, I suggest that you do so immediately. It really is a fascinating song, and not in a good way. For obvious reasons, it's been the subject of a great deal of commentary recently, mostly focusing on its embrace of stupidity in the form of a pervasive scientific illiteracy. The video is not merely dumb, but enthusiastically dumb, endorsing a ferocious breed of ignorance that can only be described as militant. The entire song is practically a tribute to not knowing things.

And while most people have been content to poke fun at ICP's apparent confusion regarding things like trees, cats, snow, heredity, and the sun, there's a certain ideology behind their asinine lyrics that deserves further exploration. The attitudes expressed by Mr. J and Mr. 2 Dope are, sadly, much more common than you might expect. The only reason we've taken notice in this case is because of how vividly and brazenly they've chosen to portray these views. And although it may seem that way, they have not pushed ignorance to a new and frightening extreme. This unfortunate mindset can be seen practically anywhere, much like ICP's so-called "miracles".

Now, it's important to understand that the song can't be taken at face value. They are not referring to "miracles" in the sense of supernatural events. Nearly everything they mention, at least that which is within the purview of science, has a natural explanation, and certainly none of it would require supernatural causes. The miracles of ICP are somewhat like the irony of Alanis Morissette, in that none of these things are, by definition, miraculous. Even the opening lines of the song acknowledge the role of real explanations, saying "If magic is all we've ever known, then it's easy to miss what really goes on". The term "miracles" is instead used to refer to a sense of wonder and awe inspired by the natural world—even the most commonplace phenomena, like dogs. To "recognize miracles", in the ICP sense, means to develop an appreciation for every aspect of nature.

And while this is a valid sentiment, it becomes apparent that Shaggy and J consider any understanding of the actual workings of these "miracles" to be corrosive to their aesthetic value. To them, knowledge is seen as a threat. This is made explicit at the climax of the song, when Shaggy infamously asks how "fucking magnets" work. As if that wasn't enough, he immediately rejects any scientific explanation of magnetism and expresses his disdain for scientists themselves, claiming that they are "lying" as well as "motherfuckers".

The most obvious issue here is why he would be so quick to discard any answer when he doesn't actually know how magnets work. Indeed, why would he even ask in the first place? It seems that perhaps his question was not intended to elicit an answer. It's simply a question for the sake of a question, left open as a representation of the lack of knowledge. An answer is neither requested nor desired, and would likely be met with hostility.

The central theme of the song is the perceived conflict between observation and explanation. The clowns are quite happy with simply observing all the fascinating aspects of the natural world. Later in the video, they're even seen in an observatory. Unfortunately, they seem to think that any rational explanations of natural events would somehow hinder their ability to appreciate these events as "miracles". For ICP, a true understanding of "fuckin' rainbows" would reduce them to, as Keats put it, "the dull catalogue of common things." And so they seek to preserve these apparent mysteries via the wholesale rejection of knowledge.

Of course, this doesn't have to be the case. The world is no less wonderful just because we know how it works, and knowledge can even serve to enhance our sense of wonder. Consider the origin of the matter that composes our bodies, drawn from the unfathomably huge explosions of ancient stars. Think about the elegant processes of evolution, constantly tweaking the fitness of organisms to better suit their environment. Realize that certain configurations of matter are all that's necessary to give rise to something as amazing as human consciousness. Has any of this lost its power to astonish us now that we actually understand it? It certainly doesn't have to.

And yet, there are still those for whom their appreciation of something relies upon their inability to comprehend it. And for someone who isn't very interested in learning things to begin with, the abandonment of knowledge for the sake of mystery can be an easy decision to make. For instance, when Shaggy and J mention how their children have an appearance resembling their own, the structure of a DNA molecule is visible in the background. They may very well be aware of how heredity works, as well as many other things listed in the song. And while they know this, they consciously choose to reject it, preferring a simpler understanding of the world where everything is reduced to "miracles". Thus, the essence of ICP's philosophy seems to be: "I don't know, I don't want to know, and don't you dare try to enlighten me, motherfucker."

This is most emphatically not a song about learning. I still wouldn't describe it as anti-intellectual, considering that most of the subjects mentioned are not especially intellectual in nature and can be understood on a basic level without requiring a great deal of intellect. But apparently even that is too much to ask of ICP. It's not so much anti-intellectual as it is pro-idiocy.

Attitudes like these are, unfortunately, not limited to Juggalos, and the tendency to glorify ignorance has firmly entrenched itself in modern society. The reality is, there are still a great many people who regard knowledge as hostile to beauty, rather than complementary, and view mystery as a stop-sign rather than an invitation to learn.

If there can be any value at all in ICP's "Miracles", perhaps it can serve as a vivid warning of how hopeless and suffocating this ideology truly is. Who knows, maybe someone will be curious enough to find the answer to that timeless question: How do fucking magnets work?

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