Radiohead: 2+2=5 Meaning
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Song Released: 2003
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Are you such a dreamer
To put the world to rights?
I stay home forever
Where two and two always makes up five
I lay down the tracks
Sandbag and hide
January has april's showers
And two and...
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Apr 27th 2011 report
The song is clearly a reference to the novel 1984 by George Orwell. In the book the main character, Winston, struggles to break free of the chain imposed by the Party who rules in his society. Winston is watched everywhere but still attempts to mount a chance at rebellion. However, the Party catches Winston and tortures him until they reduce him to nothing but the shell of a human being.
By destroying Winston's reasoning and mind they can make Winston believe anything even 2+2=5 or that April showers occur in January.
"Truth" exists in one's mind, it is all relative. Things exist in our world because we believe that they exist, and the truth is defined by the way we perceive the world. Lets say for example that World War 1 never happened but all evidence that states otherwise was destroyed. The fake WWI would still affect us the the same manner as if it actually happened, so did it happen or not or does it not matter.
The song is the journey of Winston as he is tortured into loving the Party. The Party yells at him to "Pay Attention" and not to "Question their Authority". And finally at the end of Winston giving resistance yelling "But I'm not" he gives in saying "Maybe Not". Winston discovers that everything is relative saying "Maybe", and is on his way to losing it completely under the influence of the Party.
In the end Winston will become a robot of the Party and unconsciously "Hail to the Thief" (the thief being the Party who stole his humanity).
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous Jul 8th 2008 report
From what I see, the whole idea behind this song is brainwashing - and it's absolutely brilliant.
Children are taught that 2+2=4 and nobody thinks any differently because they believe it to be right.
"January has april's showers, and two and two always makes up five" is trying to show how much it lacks logic.
The next verse seems to be depicting the government's control over people. "It's the devil's way now, there is no way out" The government is shown to be the devil, to be evil, and control, leaving no way out to its people.
In the last verse, "I swat 'em like flies but like flies the bugs keep coming back" the government have become a fly - like that annoying little fly in your kitchen that you don't really want because it's going to rot your fruit, but you can't seem to get rid of it.
"Don't question my authority or put me in the box"
This one is pretty self-explanatory - it's about prison, the police and ultimately, the government. Personally, I see it as a riot.
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:anonymous Aug 4th 2009 report
What you all don't seem to get is that this songs is not just a reference to 1984 or to tyrants and other injustices of the past. This song is about each and every one of you accepting the awful world we live in daily and turning away out of either ignorance or apathy. It's about how everyday we all go out and live our lives like the world is normal and all the hate and death and fear is just routine but our society is an abomination to this planet. This song is about you. And I can scream and shout about how you've all fucked up, about how I've fucked up and for thousands of years humanity has fucked up, but really deep down I know it's too late now.
anonymous Dec 4th 2016 report
It's a song about the realisation that you are destined for the underground. Where those with to much consciousness must go.
Check out the incredible book Notes from the Underground. Thom lyrics sound simular to the underground man form that book. I get why people think it's referencing 1984 but Notes came way before
anonymous Sep 12th 2012 report
I believe this is about how being a producer and helping each other to be equals was how the world was meant to be lived, but company's came in promising you more new and exciting things to show of to pleasure your desires and needs, slowly they have edged there way from helping up to controlling and becoming or government telling us what to buy how to live our life's instead of thinking we must obey but lieing to our faces imprisoning us if we resist there laws, but with so many rules whe re is our freedom, safety or sanity I would rather live my life in fear and poverty than live the same life every one around me is living
I think that this song references the process that we go through as we change from dreamers who can see how the world could change for the better to questioning our understanding that brought us to those conclusions (in the face of consistent lies that are fed to us by self interested parties). At first we can see that there is no reason why things could not have evolved differently (and therefore change from now on) but over time this is eroded away as the great majority of people go along with the lies consistently presented by the self-interested parties.
It seems to be implicit that there is no objective truth that can be known by humans in life and in place of this we are fed these lies which we ultimately go along with because to battle the understandings of everyone around you is to isolate yourself whether you are wrong or not and in an isolated place you become weaker and ultimately question yourself more. The other implicit message in this song is that the self-interested parties that masquerade the lies as truth are in fact evil.
There are many processes involved in this phenomenon. In fact the only way to alter the course of these neverending lies would be to unpack and rearrange everything that we know in which case we may say that 2+2=5. Certainly those who ridicule this are standing on the shoulders of those that went before them and desparately clinging to the notion that 2+2=4 and that that is some kind of objective truth (which we have no ability to know). It is certainly a shared truth (and a relatively harmless one) but of course there are other widely accepted 'truths' that are far from harmless and if we cannot recognize that we do not have the ability to know objective truth then we will be yet another person who gets manipulated by the evil self-interested parties.
BTW - my recollection of 1984 was that the 'evil' self-interested controlling class were the one's that threatened to change 2+2 from equalling 4 to 5. I find it interesting that Thom now alludes more to the idea that it is actually the clinging to the notion that 2+2=4 (symbolically) that gives the control to the self-interested parties. It is the self-interested parties that create so-called normality...normal beliefs...normal understanding...etc and continually flood us with ideas of what this 'normal' should look like that are playing us for their own purposes.
anonymous Jul 20th 2011 report
the lyrics are very strongly linked to Orwell's works. As many have said, 2+2=5 refers to "1984" in which the unorthodox main character believes that the government is not perfect and remembers its lies etc.- he believes, metaphorically, that 2+2=4 in a world in which everyone submits to the government and accepts that 2+2=5. Also, in the music video, a cartoon depicts pigs abusing cows, acting as humans and teaching the cows that 2+2=5. This, i am sure, is a reference to Orwell's "Animal farm", in which animals revolt against their human oppressors, and form an equal society, which turns sour in a totalitarian leadership which resembles that of the humans. Orwell's works are critical of totalitarian leaderships and I believe this songs is agreeing with this.
anonymous May 8th 2011 report
anonymous Dec 26th 2010 report
I think that this song is saying that now is the 11th hour to change our ways (world government-wise). Now is the time for dreamers to "put the world to rights", instead of "stay[ing] home forever." We cannot let government tell us that "January has April showers" or "two and two always make five," or it will be too late, and there will be "no way out" no matter how much we "scream or . . . shout," only because we "weren't paying attention." The sky will fall, and we won't know because they told us it wasn't.
anonymous Mar 24th 2010 report
I think this song is about the effects of industrialization and progress.
Here is a music video of it:
"I'll lay down the tracks. Sandbag and hide... and two and two always makes five" I think the "I" refers to all of us who find ourselves in this modern day life style. A kind of life style that is deceiving and brainwashing. We believe in materialism, wealth, and that some how these will all bring happiness. But it doesn't.
"Sandbag and hide" seems to me that we are all scared of confronting it. We are too used to our life and can't leave it.
"It's the devil's way now. There is no way out"
Refers to the same idea. "There is no way out" I think refers to us as being trapped in cage. Not being able to be free.
In the beginning he says: "Are you such a dreamer? To put the world to rights"
I think this refers to the people who are trying to get away from modernization. But again the majority of us will "stay at home".
The overall chaos of the song I think reflect the chaos of our lives right now today.
Well that's what I think.
Ever heard of Ruth Cowan...read his "The Early Decades of Industrialization" and see how it relates to this song...it says industrialization has changed much of our way of life and very life consuming...the cows in the video are being consumed by work and the demands of industrialization ...which the pig is the industrial age or...the modern government...guess they decided to put cows as people cuz we follow the sheperd as long as we get fed..and cuz of ruth cowan's name... :)
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Apr 9th 2009 report
I think its about the idead that ""Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. ""
or like the normal people (us) are controlled by the big man ( some political man) and we cant do anything without being controlled..like the Germans keeping jewish guys into concentration camps and they tried to change things but they couldn't
anonymous Apr 3rd 2009 report
I think it is a story about the government becoming too powerful and controlling anything, like making 2+2=5
anonymous Sep 5th 2008 report
2+2=4 if we go by what we know and have learned. you can use your fingers to prove this, but it all depends on what "two" actually is, the learned individual knows what the number 2 means to society, therefore they know it equals 4. but what about those who aren't learned, 2 might as well be what we know as 3, therefore 2+2 would = 6 =P
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