When I look at the world, what is it that I see? The world is full of violence, both religious and nationalist, it is full of poverty and hunger, and it is full of repression. I see many things the world should be ashamed of. I also see many things the world should be proud of, like the falling of walls, the freedom that we have in many cases, the very fact of the internet. I was thinking this morning about communication, and that people all around the world could read these words if they wanted to, whereas just a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago that would not have been possible. My dream would be for that communication to spread friendship, not hate and fear, and for the voices of darkness that are so loud to be drowned out by the voice of the common people.
Yesterday I reviewed Levitate, and by coincidence today I get another song from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind era. In the Levitate review I said that it could replace several of the songs on the album, that they were all similarly rated and all similar sounds. When I Look At The World is one of those songs that could easily have been replaced by Levitate and not missed a beat.
I think this is actually a positive song, and I think this is about looking at the world through the eyes of a child. Bono is pretty clear in showing that he is talking about someone who is positive at anything they see, and that he wishes he could see the world they do (“I try to be like you… I can’t see what you see when I look at the world”). He also points out that children will look at someone with some kind of injury, whereas an adult will look away, not necessarily in shame, but not trying to be rude and staring. And somehow he ends it with “what do you see? … What’s wrong with me”, as though it is his problem that he can’t look at the world in this way.
Obligatory religious reference: “I think of you and your holy book while the rest of us choke”, something I think of now and then when I think of the pope in his fabulous gold-plated castle, while poor people everywhere can’t even eat. This leads to the alternate explanation for the song, that instead of it being a child it’s some religious person who is so wrapped up in their faith that they see everything as good, whether it is or not. I happened across such a person online last night, while I was foolishly reading a comments section somewhere. This person was so full of their faith, they were essentially blasting other people for worrying about things like death, destruction and politics, because after all in their view this world is just a transient one. Leads again to my anti-religious argument that people are happy to let others live in misery because of their supposed future in the afterlife. Myself, I’d think you’re more likely to get to that afterlife if you actually help people.
My rating for When I Look At The World: 4 / 10