Handlebars by Flobots

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Generally, handlebars refer to the steering bars of a bicycle used to control the direction of its movement. Flobots uses this term to refer to the manner in which the government believes it can control peoples’ lives by controlling the economy. The video begins with two people each controlling their bicycles using the handlebars and later letting go of them. While controlling their movements without the handlebars, the two cyclists eventually reach a junction with two roads joining. One road is marked with a letter ‘C’ while the other is marked by a flying dove. The riders bid themselves bye before taking different routes. The rider who takes the ‘dove’ route begins by narrating how he is happy with the fact that life is peaceful on that side. He seems quite relaxed in the new environment as he strives to attain his dreams. By wearing a casual look, the rider narrates of how he can steer his life to any particular direction without external interference by other forces. On the ‘C’ side, the rider is more serious and formally dressed. He narrates of how he can control a number of things in that space just by talking to the microphone. The degree of his control stretches to the ‘Dove ‘side. It is through the microphone control that the people on both ends are governed. He is so powerful that he can declare war and decides who lives and who doesn’t. In the long run, there is a conflict of interest between the two worlds as those on the Dove side rebel against the C side. This eventually leads to the death of the free rider.

There are a number of symbols used in this song. The writer uses symbol ‘C’ and a flying dove to make a distinction between two worlds. From the dressing of the two cyclists and the routes they take, one might conclude that ‘C’ represents corporate world while flying Dove represents the peaceful, innocent and free world. The ‘C’ side could equally be used to represent the corrupt self while the free side represents the innocent self.  These are two different representation of a person’s self with the free/dove side staying true to itself and the corrupt side opting to take control of and kill the true self. This is evidenced by the presence of the flying dove that is eventually killed and carried away by the blackbird flying on the corrupt side. Blood is visually used by the author in the charts on the corporate side to symbolize the extent to which persons in the ‘corrupt’ self can go to attain their interests. The microphone is also used symbolically to mean policies and laws put in place by leaders on the corporate side to control the innocent.

The song shows the drift between the corporate and the ordinary citizens. It targets the government as well as ordinary citizens and is intended to help everyone see the importance of being in control of one’s own life. It highlights the power of being true to one’s self. After all the control has been exercised and innocent lives ruined, a person’s conscience does not remain clean and one is often disturbed by how awful things turned out. It teaches the audience to remain true to themselves and avoid exerting unnecessary control on other people’s lives. Although it is a very powerful song, it portrays a very sad scenario of how the powerless in the society are continually ruled and their interests discarded. It provokes anger in ordinary citizens who feel used by powerful politicians and businessmen to fulfill corporate dreams. The author employs effective visual techniques that align with the lyrics to make the song more relatable to its audience.

Historically, the author brings out the injustices of the capitalist economy where lower class citizens were continually exploited for their cheap labor. He uses the song to mock middle class politicians and business owners who appear to conform to the capitalist system. This is evident in the following line (A to Z lyrics):

“I know how to run a business
And I can make you want to buy a product
Movers shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the systems
I can do anything with no assistance”

Unknowingly, the middle class readily give their consent to help maintain the capitalist system. In the long run, the system drives the government into building armies that help it control the people so as to attain specific political interests. As is evident in the last scene of the video, the system is itself self destructive and the consequences of its operations are unknown.

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