War is actually very similar to suicide. People voluntarily go where they can hardly be guaranteed anything except death. No heroic scenes, no confrontation or heroism – just a lottery, who will be hit by a shell today and who will go to the next world or to a wheelchair from this.
History of creation
The song was widely known both in the United States and in other countries thanks to the TV series “Damn Service at the MASH Hospital”, from which it takes its name. She played at the beginning and at the end, during the credits, and also occasionally turned on in the middle of the series. The series told about the life of American military doctors who worked in a hospital during the Korean War.
MASH is an acronym for Mobile army surgical hosital. The song itself, or rather, its melody, appeared for the first time not in the series itself, but in the film based on which it was filmed. Which was called simply “MASH”. The composer-arranger, author of the melody was John Mandell, who had previously worked on music from many films. The words to the song appeared a little later, and already in the series the song sounded in full.
Both the series and the movie follow the lives of three army doctors. Made in the genre of black comedy, when seemingly terrible life situations, such as daily work with the wounded and sick, blood, groans and the horrors of war, cause some irony. This genre can be attributed to the so-called “medical comedy”. It very well shows the character and life of people in such a profession as a doctor. Everyone knows their characteristic humor, from jokes about medical students to phrases that can be heard directly from the lips of surgeons, right before anesthesia on the operating table.
Tellingly, surgeons never joke about death and generally prefer not to talk about it. In the series, this is also traced – they talk about death without irony.
However, the song itself just tells us about death as an alternative to life. And sometimes even reasonable and justified.
The meaning of the song
The second name of the song is “Suicide is painless”, suicide is painless. The song is very indirectly connected with the series and the film itself. It talks about a hard life, about the suffering that this life brings. And that suicide doesn’t hurt. There are some innuendos in the lyrics of the song. For example, it remains unclear to the end what is suicide – the continuation of this difficult, unpleasant life, full of pain, or its ending of one’s own free will.
It is about the suffering that this reality around us causes. And that the blade of time inevitably passes through our skin, causing only harm. It also speaks of a brave man who asks what choice he should make, with the answer being given along the lines of “why are you asking me?”
Interpretation of the lyrics of the song (parsing the meaning of the lines)
In the common version of the translation of this song, the author of the translation for some reason focuses on the idea of suicide as getting rid of the suffering that life brings. In fact, the song does not give a clear answer to the question of what is better, to continue living or to end it all. For example, here are the first words of the song:
Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see…
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
and I can take or leave it if I please.
The first four lines are the first verse of this song. They tell us: “Through the mist of early morning I see things as they are and the pain they bring to me I see and realize as reality.” The next three lines are the chorus of the song. They mean something like this: “This suicide is painless, it brings many changes, and I can take it or leave it as I wish.”
Here you can immediately see that the author, rather, tells us about life as a suicide. Slow and inevitable, passing through which a person kills himself. Another phrase from the song confirms this conjecture:
The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger…watch it grin
It means something like this: “The blade of time will pierce our skin. It doesn’t hurt at first. But as he works his way, the pain grows stronger… Look, she is grinning.”
It’s talking about the blade of time that goes through the body and causes pain that grows more and more. Not about a quick and bold step, when a person voluntarily parted with life, but about the slow onset of death. And after this phrase, the refrain sounds, which was earlier: “And suicide is painless, it brings many changes …” That is, we are talking about suicide in its classical sense, but about such a suicide that takes a long time.
Next comes the phrase that a brave person asks to answer, to be or not to be, and then he gets an answer in the style of “are you still asking?”. The song ends with the following words: “And you can do something if you wish.” Again, it becomes not entirely clear what needs to be done, to be or not to be. But given the overall setting of the movie around which the song was written, it’s more about being, rather than ending quickly.
If we take the general meaning of the song, then this is all very reminiscent of an episode from an old Soviet film. When a captured soldier is told, “Shall I kill you right away, or do you want to suffer?”, And he replies: “It’s better, of course, to suffer!” And in the end, the situation develops in his favor, he remains alive and well. The film and series are positioned as anti-war, and the propaganda of suicide does not at all fit either the views of modern pacifists or the views of pacifists of that time.
Rather, there is a protest against suicide, which, in fact, is war. Indeed, from the point of view of any doctor, the fact that a bullet hits a person or something worse is completely unacceptable. Still, God created man in his own image and likeness, and it would be very unreasonable to insult the image of the supreme creator in such a way, sending your own body into the meat grinder of war.