What If You Knew

If you knew that the earth was dying
If they said this on the news
If they would clarify the picture
Instead of seeking to confuse
If you could see the ice caps melting
If you could watch the oceans rise
If you could see the consequences
Right before your eyes
If you knew the kids were dying
If you could look inside
The river where their food comes from
Filled with cyanide
If you could hear the parents pleading
If they were looking right at you
If you could see the anguish in their hearts
What if you knew

If you knew the bombs were falling
If they showed them hit the ground
If you could see the bodies flying
If you could hear the sound
If you could see the rubble
Where the hospital once stood
If you saw the child’s lifeless limbs
Would you hold them if you could
If you knew that they were lying
Every time they spoke
For every laser-guided pinprick
There were lives lost in the smoke
If instead of just the generals
They had doctors, too
To describe the carnage of the cluster bombs
What if you knew

If you knew what they were saying
When they think you cannot hear
If you understood what they do
If for you it was so clear
If you knew they shut down the factory
In an economic ruse
If you could kiss the cheek of the child
In the sweatshop that made your shoes
If every time we went to war
To fight our evil foes
They told you we were really fighting
For the good of CEOs
If you could feel the hunger of the many
And see the riches of the few
If they told it like it is
What if you knew

If you knew that you were living
In a huge conspiracy
Would you leave your suburbs
Get out of your SUV
Would you hit the streets
And fight for all our lives
Would you hold your ground
When the stormtrooper arrives
If you knew that the whole planet
Depended on what you do now
Would you take command
With the speed our times allow
If the pundits told the truth
For just a week or two
And real life was shown on TV
What if you knew

Sheet music for this song may be found in Songbook Vol I (1997-2004).

“What If You Knew” originally appeared on the 2004 CD, Songs for Mahmud.  In 2009 it appeared on Waiting for the Fall — a Retrospective (CD).

It is the contention of many, particularly folks involved with some form of alternative media, that when people are aware of something, they may act on this knowledge.  This is what drives me, too.  And also the understanding that people need to viscerally identify with the subject, to feel something powerful, to be transported emotionally to the story in question, in addition to being aware of it.  This is a big part of what drives me to write songs rather than doing journalism, as a more full-time kind of thing anyway.