John Mayer’s Anthem for Apathy

Posted: October 31, 2006 in Music, Socio-Political

I wanted to write about John Mayer’s Waiting on the World to Change when I first heard it two months ago. A friend of mine sent me a copy of the song just recently thus reviving a previous commitment to write a short review.

Musically, the song has an undeniable hook, having a pop and gospel feel to it. First time I heard it on the car stereo, it immediately grabbed my attention. The melody is well-written and the guitar-playing is tight as usual, affirming Mayer’s status as one of the best instrumentalists around.

But the more interesting part of the song is the infusion of politics, something uncommon in Mayer’s previous albums. The song criticizes the war in Iraq, calls for sending the US troops back home, and slams the right-wing media that manipulates information to suit particular interests. The social-commentaries are commendable as far as mainstream music is concerned.

However, the very concept and theme of the song is its own downfall. Despite its liberal social commenataries, the song is sadly, an anthem for apathy.  

I’m not saying that Mayer should adhere to any defined political line or thinking. It’s just that the song tries to justify the prevalent apathy among young people who think they are powerless to change things. It is defeatist and promotes negativity among young people.

Mayer gives a lame excuse for not doing anything in the face of all the problems we encounter today. The song asks understanding from the listener, for the people who know what the problems are but are unable to take any action.

Me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood/They say we stand for nothing, there’s no way we ever could/Now we see everything that’s going wrong, with the world and those who lead it/We just feel that we don’t have the means to rise above and beat it

And so Mayer and his friends merely end up “waiting on the world to change”. As he says, “It’s not that we don’t care, we just know that the fight ain’t fair”.

Of course the fight ain’t fair. Nobody said it would be. And the world wouldn’t be in such deep sh*t if the oppressors always played by the rules, if empire-builders and corporate giants played “fair”. And it is precisely because of these odds that inaction and apathy only reinforce what is already unfair.

Indifference brought about ignorance is understandable, but justified and conscious apathy just plain irritates me.

Mayer goes on to give a false reassurance that “One day this generation is gonna rule this population/So we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change.”

Well, isn’t that just a bit too convenient? Oh, I’m sure some of the pluderers leading the nation today probably said the same thing when they were younger. (When I grow up, I wanna be president and help the nation…)

No, we are not powerless. Individually maybe, but not when we get organized and rise up conscious of our strenghs and aware of our inherent weaknesses. And that’s exactly what the Filipino youth are doing, in the Philippines all the way to North America. We’re arousing, organizing and mobilizing young poeple by the thousands.

We’re not just gonna surrender the initiative and make excuses for the limitations of this generation. We’re here precisely to overcome those limitations, while learning a thing or two from the lessons of previous generations.

The world can’t wait for change. We plan to hang around long enough to make it happen.

  1. cess says:

    Honestly, I haven’t heard the song yet. But, I like your analysis and criticism of the song. Daym right, apathy doesnt serve anyone but the oppressors. And I agree that sh*t aint fair and that’s why its necessary to build a mass movement and take action, rather than just sitting around waiting for sh*t to be right… Oh mayer!

    By the way, just wanted to share this quote with you. I thought it would fit perfectly with your blog entry.

    “Everyday in the street now, i remind myself that Black [Filipino] people in amerika [and in the Philippines] are oppressed. it’s necessary that i do that. people get used to anything. the less you think about your oppressoin, the more your tolerance for it grows. after a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. but to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.”–Assata Shakur

  2. Tommy Shar says:


    Yes, I heard the song from my office at WorknPlay, and I would say that there’s a distinct message Mayer is trying to pass on. It’s really political. Probably it was his way of telling people what he thinks is the right thing to do. And it says something about apathy, which really is a negative plot for today’s already apathetic community.

    Only a few good men are left nowadays.