TORCH SONG - SHITTY WATERCOLOUR
BTS help people, it's a fact, they help through their words, their songs their actions and just being who they are. It's also fair to say that they themselves represent the most under supported gender in terms of mental health care. They have never been shy in talking about how they feel, the hardships they have gone through and how they have come out the other side. We at BTS Radio UK wanted to come together with ARMY across the world to support a charity wholly focused on the mental health of men, preventing suicide and supporting the families affected by male mental health. WHAT IS CALM? We are the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and we’re leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK through frontline services, national campaigns, and by building communities. WHY? · 6,507 people died by suicide in 2018 (ONS) · Every day on average 17 people take their own life in the UK and three in every four suicides are male (ONS) · Of men under the age of 45 in the UK, more than 4 in 10 have contemplated taking their own life, but fewer than half these men told anyone how they were feeling (YouGov) · Only 55% of men who’ve experienced depression will tell anyone about it, compared to 67% of women (CALM’s Masculinity Audit 2016). · 84% of men say they bottle up their emotions (YouGov) HOW? CALM takes an active and positive approach to changing this unacceptable picture:
We operate on the front line, delivering services for anyone in crisis or distress, supporting the people around them who are looking for advice, and those bereaved by suicide
We campaign for long-term culture change to help raise awareness of suicide and change a culture where some people feel they can’t ask, or shouldn’t, ask for help when they’re down.
We spread our message and facilitate supportive spaces in workplaces, universities, pubs, clubs and prisons across the country – so that people feel empowered to share their experiences and get the help they need before they reach the point of crisis.
THE CALM APPROACH CALM is a platform for expression and collaboration, where we actively reject living miserably to embrace and celebrate all interpretations of masculinity. CALM PROVIDES Frontline services · Anyone can hit crisis point. We run a free and confidential helpline and webchat – 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems · We support those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP) · theCALMzone.net is CALM’s website, hosting inspiring content alongside information and support Campaigns · Everyone has a part to play. We campaign with media partners, brands and ambassadors to spread awareness of suicide and its devastating impact with campaigns like #Project84, #DontBottleItUp and The Best Man Project. We challenge boring male stereotypes and encourage positive behavioural change and help-seeking behaviour, using cultural touch points like art, music, sport and comedy OUR IMPACT · CALM’s helpline and webchat services directly prevented 675 suicides in 2018 · Since CALM was founded in 2006, awareness of male suicide has quadrupled and currently sits at 45% nationally · CALM supports in excess of 10,000 contacts on the helpline and webchat each month WHERE THE MONEY GOES · £8 Enables CALM to answer one potentially life-saving call · £24 Provides support materials to 4 families who have lost someone to suicide · £109 Equips a volunteer with vital training and ongoing support to spread the CALM message across the UK · £440 Trains and equips a professional helpline worker to speak to people in crisis thecalmzone.net | @thecalmzone We are hoping you will donate towards this wonderful charity and the work it is doing, here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bts-radio-uk-mybtstorchsong To thank you for your support we approached some male army to talk about their experiences of mental health, they have kindly sent us their BTS songs that have become their torch songs, songs that touch you and get you through those moments something CALM knows about through their torch songs campaign. #whatsyourtorchsong Read and share their stories, thank them for their honesty, donate and listen to their joint playlist here: #MyBTSTorchSong in support of CALM As well as comforting comics, 'Shitty Watercolour' has brought to life many BTS lyrics and tweets through their watercolour cartoons. Shitty Watercolour is a British artist who started out on Reddit and has worked for the BBC and produced commissions for CNN, Buzzfeed, and many others. Shitty Watercolour
I can’t speak to the experiences of others, but as a boy growing up in school, male friendships were incredibly one dimensional. Before the bell rang for classes and during breaks, we’d gather in circles and you could expect to be verbally, if not physically, bruised in jest. Insecurities were weaknesses to be pried open for the group’s entertainment, and this manner of conversation was only broken up by fleeting discussion of mutual interests: video games or football. As a teenager I remember having quite bad acne, and this was brought up often. One day, feeling particularly bad about it, I gingerly experimented with some concealer, which was met with a chant of ‘he’s wearing makeup!’ as soon as it was noticed. I washed it off, threw it away, and that was that.
In this environment, the idea of talking to someone about things that weighed on me was so alien, it didn’t even occur to me that it was something people do. In that vein I would like to use this piece to talk about some BTS songs that confront similar issues to those I faced at school, and then take a broader look at their work and what it means to me, in the context of issues such as depression and personhood.
The experience of school described above is a bizarre phenomenon: everyone loses, and yet this way of being was not forced upon us. So we are led to wonder, why does it occur? In the aptly named School of Tears, we are offered a technical, almost game-theory-level analysis of this sort of behaviour, suggesting that we were perpetually stuck in a loss-loss outcome: ‘You know there will never be a victor, everyone will lose’, ‘Victim-wrong’, ‘Perpetrator-wrong’, ‘A vicious cycle that can never end’. Not to get too analytical, but the following table could be drawn up between two players in this situation:
(Quick explanation: Red and blue are two players in this ‘game’, and each cell shows benefit outcomes of their behaviour towards the other: nasty or nice, as indicated by their faces. The best overall outcome is when both people are nice (+10 between them), and the worst is when everyone is nasty (-6 between them). But given that the kindness of others is easily exploitable, we frequently end up stuck in this worst outcome.)
The language of a ‘stadium without any referee’ and ‘a mini society… a jungle’ evokes feelings of a kind of Hobbesian state of nature: the theory of how humans existed together before civil society came about. This was a time before moral agreements and cooperation, where everyone lived ‘according to his rule’, and the strongest dominated. Perhaps this is an extreme characterisation, but in the absence of a proper authority or much moral guidance, people learned that being nice wasn’t always the best way to survive.
So what characteristics could have grown out of this petri dish of mean spiritedness? Thick skin, and woefully inadequate tools to deal with the pressures that lay ahead. As the conveyor belt of adolescence shuffled us unwillingly further along, we arrived at our first meaningful examinations. Being the youngest of 3 brothers, my presupposed ascent through education was a well trodden path that I was expected to happily skip down. And considering both my brothers went on to Oxford university, I was preparing to be exposed as a giant academic flop.
With a well furnished catalogue of songs about school to pick from, I have decided to pick N.O. to echo this moment in my journey through education. To me, it illustrates the giant wave of apathy and discontent that hits you when an education system, that failed you in many ways, suddenly demands so much. In this sense it’s also a fitting transition from the last song, because the intervention from adults that was craved beforehand is now answered, but in completely the wrong way: ‘They trap us in borders, the adults. There’s no choice but to consent’, ‘Who will take responsibility?’. It is a jolt of clarity amidst a monotonous work routine in which members see their futures flashing before their eyes; where life is merely the process of being shaped into a cog that can fit into the ‘machine’ for other peoples’ profit. And this process has no room for people to enjoy the present, or seriously evaluate the direction of their lives, particularly in their valuable youth.
So BTS invites us to say ‘No!’, and not to be ‘captured in others’ dreams’, but to follow your own. I think that this tackles a male trope that we are supposed to be unfeeling things whose value is determined by our ability to be productive and have a prestigious job. Instead we should stop and reflect on what we truly want. No More Dream picks up on these themes too, but goes further to address the fact that amongst the push and pull on our lives from so many outside voices, it is easy for us to lose sight of what our own dreams even are, to which becoming the ‘subject of your own life’ is offered as an antidote.
But it’s not all so dire. Graduation Song is the climax of those years, with a light and euphoric feeling of liberation, and the moment of leaving school opens their eyes to the possibilities that are ahead of them: ‘Already I start to wonder alone about what I will do’, ‘I’m confident I’ll be proud of my ambition when I’m 20.’ It is inspiring to hear these lyrics be born from the chapters before, where it was uncertain if dreams could even survive. And it’s true. My friends from then are mostly my friends now, and we look back with a kind of bewilderment that that’s how things worked. And although the freedoms outside ‘the jungle’ have provided new adventures, it is not lacking in enormous pressures of its own, mainly self-authored ones.
Perhaps the point is obvious, but in these songs there is comfort in the fact that they are singing together through their shared issues, offering verses with their own perspectives, and then joining back together. The comfort this brings is a testament to the power of sharing problems with friends, and listening to the points of view of others. And it’s thanks to the insights into their lives that they give us that such a point has merit: the richness of their bond in our minds is fuelled by the lovely flow of joint content across social media.
I also appreciate the way that they do not always approach disheartening topics with a melancholic tone. The trait of assertiveness is often encouraged in boys, through competitiveness (particularly in sport), to the point that it can drift into aggression. Never Mind addresses being lost, not with more despondency, but with determination and well tempered anger: ‘I don’t give a shit, I don’t give a fuck … Never mind … If you feel like you’re going to crash then accelerate more, you idiot’. It’s a perfect oxymoronic blend that would translate well to a troubled younger me: ‘curse at life, idiot, just keep going’. But that energy is positively directed at picking yourself up after a failure, and it’s an energy that is reminiscent of an internal monologue of someone whose thoughts have been kept inside and become frustrated. It also plays on elements of competitiveness, with jabs at those who willed for Suga to fail, and emphasises the point of being the subject of your life: ‘I only lived how I wanted, guided by only my beliefs’. That song also gave us Jin’s fantastic rendition.
To see the other side of the coin, we naturally arrive at some of RM’s songs. Forever Rain, Everythinggoes, and UhGood are my favourites. With a much more melancholic feeling, an interesting observation is the way that RM talks about time. Forever Rain describes an eternal state of sadness, which is then immediately contradicted in the proceeding track, that ‘everything goes’. Depression has a way of feeling like it will last forever, and yet it is usually dissipated entirely or at least broken up with spells of feeling well, we just forget that at the time. The consistent theme in Forever Rain is that of wanting the world to slow down, and to be rid of peoples’ attention. Certainly my school experience was that of trying to get by and blend in like one rain drop in a storm. I’m not very good at describing music, but the atmosphere of these songs is what I most gravitate towards.
And that’s what I like most about BTS. Those same people who wrote those songs about being lost and at the edge of despair are the same people who get up on stage in their nice outfits and smile and dance and sing their truth to millions, across the myriad of genres that we as humans have the capacity to embody. A group of friends who care for each other, and who keep working so hard every day, all while being a model of respectfulness. Their variety of facets show us that you can be more than whatever is burdening you, and that you can endure it and thrive at the same time. And they still share their thoughts and worries, as they always have, even at the heights that they have reached, showing that they are still the subjects of their own lives and have not been swallowed up by the scale of their success. The experience of following BTS’ journey for the time I have has been one of just… overwhelming niceness, and really witnessing what it means to be a well rounded person.
Honourable mentions to Spring Day and Mikrokosmos, I love the way they sound and hopefully my future will give me more opportunities to relate to their meanings. xd
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