System of a Down: Toxicity Meaning
No tags, suggest one.
Song Released: 2002
Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub
Eating seeds as a pastime activity
The toxicity of our city, of our city
New! What do you own the world?
How do you own disorder? Disorder!
I'm pretty sure that when they wrote this song that they had Armenia in mind. Anyone who gets to know the Armenian culture would surely agree. I live in the city with the largest Armenian population in the U.S. and in an instant I knew they were singing about Armenia. First off, System of a Down is very in touch with their roots. If you notice they wave the Armenian flag in the background of the Chop Suey video. They also do a concert every year in memory of the lives lost in the Armenian Genocide on April 24th, which is the day Armenians all over the world remember the Armenian Genocide.
Now eating seeds for Armenians is LITERALLY a pass time activity. I've heard that in Armenia most of the men are standing around in the streets, without jobs, passing time by eating sunflower seeds...it's all over the place. Even in the U.S. you can see the trail of sunflower seeds leading to Armenians (specifically Armenians who came from Armenia). In my High School there were many many Armenians and there were sunflower seeds everywhere, in the auditorium, classrooms, and where ever else a group of Armenians had hung out.
There's a lot of disorder in Armenia. There are no jobs, the police are corrupt, the government is connected to the mob, and protesters are brutalized. People in Armenia are apathetic, hopeless, and have given up to some degree. The U.S. Is like heaven compared to Armenia... I doubt System of a Down would be complaining about capitalists when the country they care so deeply about is in that situation. Most who have immigrated here, including myself, think the U.S. Is awesome compared to the country they came from. Plus System of a Down is rich.
Also, in Chop Suey they're asking why God has forsaken them. This is commonly said by those whose people have gone through genocide or holocaust. I've heard many Armenians talk this way. Genocide survivors often times lose faith and try to make sense of the suffering their people went through by claiming God had forgotten about them, or did not hear their prayers.
Although System of a Down may have written their lyrics about the situation in Armenia they do no intend to write songs for only Armenians but for all. They write their songs so that everyone can relate to them in their own way and find their own interpretation but as for what they had in mind was Armenia.
anonymous May 10th, 2006 5:52pm report
Hey good to see a post about this song finally. I agree with your interpretation for the most part, but would like to add a few things and maybe a correct a few things because a few of you lyrics were off. One line you referred to actually reads " more wood for their fires, loud neighbors..." and continues on "Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck". This part I am still thinking of an interpretation myself so I won;t comment on it yet, but thought I should give you the correct lyircs. The hook is what catches my eye the most. It actually reads like this:
"New, what do you own the world?
How do you own disorder, disorder,"
He actually says "New" at the start and not "you". Seems odd initially, but I think he is referring to the New World Order. He is calling out to the "New" and asking if they own the world and then questioning how can you own disorder? (which I think is clever because in those to lines he used the words New, World and Disorder)...anyway. He goes on to say
"Now, somewhere between the sacred silence,
Sacred silence and sleep,
Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep,
Disorder, disorder, disorder."
He is saying that somewhere between the sacred silence (referring to our current passive, inactive and silent voices) and sleep (the end, death) we must have disorder, disorder, disorder. He is basically calling us out that we need to fight back, rebel and not simply take what is spoon fed to us.
I know this was kind of long but I would love to have a dialogue with someone about it.
hmm....reveries 'a day dream or dreamlike state' "flashlight [day dreams] caught in the head lights of a truck"
does anyone have any idea what that could mean??
Opossums just stare at headlights when they are comming towards them and that's a day dream state.
Im thinking that maybe we are the possums and even though we don't like "the truck" comming towards us (eg. Gov. policies and that taco bell thing)
we do not uprise or rebel against it (this "disorder" -the use of us as guinea pigs) and we just stare in a "reverie" as it happens.
this is a bit messy but its the best I could come up with. anyone else got anything to add to it?
anonymous Jul 24th, 2013 7:08pm report
I think it's about the culture and society of the city of Los Angeles (hence the cover being like the Hollywood sign). If you look at the definition of toxicity, then you can see it as like the city is corrupt.
anonymous Jan 28th, 2012 1:27pm report
I agree mostly with the first interpretation. But I also think this song also serves as a comparison of our world compared to that of Armenia. The first lines of this song are “Conversion software, version 7.0 I feel that this line serves to say that we take for granted the things we have, and we’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our ways of life even if it’s already perfect (mostly in the technology aspect) The second line of the song, “Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub” simply is trying to put the point forward that most people don’t think twice about the people in the world who would do anything to live the life style we take for granted. If you were to literally view the world through a tire hub then everything would be a distorted reflection. This line serves to say that our reality is distorted, in other words it is saying that we close our minds to things we don’t want to know or hear.
anonymous Dec 29th, 2011 12:57pm report
my interpretation is...........................................................they were higher than the heavens(not meant religiously i mean they were druged beyond belief)
anonymous Oct 6th, 2011 10:05am report
Its "Now"what do u own world.. How do u own disorder..ect... So all that crap about it sayin New is wrong.. I love this song
anonymous Sep 30th, 2011 9:59am report
i found the emphasis in the chourus was interesting
"NEW" what do you own the
"WORLD" how do you own
"NOW" somewhere bettwen....
these lyric are easliy louder than the rest of the song
anonymous Sep 28th, 2011 9:02pm report
NEW,what do you own the WORLD?
how do you own disORDER.
notice how he sing louder in those parts
clearliy he is saying NEW WORLD ORDER
They are saying that we are "looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub, which means that we are not looking the world around us the way it is suposed to be looked at.
"When I became the sun
I shone life into the man's hearts": When he say that, he means that one person will become the sun (god) and will rule our life in a way we think is good.
anonymous Sep 22nd, 2011 9:39pm report
I agree with #2 becaus the nwo is real please unite and stop it!
anonymous Sep 5th, 2011 9:04am report
Just another lot of marxist crapola. Its too bad that most great musicians of our time are all pinko imbeciles. RICH, pinko imbeciles.
anonymous May 13th, 2011 5:09am report
I think its basically mean, people die for there country, where you die there is peace, but for the people they fought for, that had power, and try to rule there world, how can they own, something that is not ownable and curupt the world itself is disorder, how can you own disorder, with no true order, you have no order over anything, so you order nothing
anonymous May 3rd, 2011 5:56pm report
more wood for their fires, loud neighbors. think about this... and then the headlights of a truck excerpt
this could mean many different things. the wood is the voices that speak out(loud neighbors)that whatever gov is in power in whatever area uses to fuel their propaganda machine or to deter people from speaking out i.e. making an example out of someone for speaking out.
People just stand in a daze and wait to be taken over and do nothing. ( Not I, No one can take my liberties or freedoms... Because I give myself my liberties and my own freedoms. They cant be given and taken away.)
Another. people who act out in anger and by destroying things just ads more fuel to the fire in favor of the presidents/dictators/Prime Ministers ext..
So they argue that well, hey these people are going crazy we need to crack down and watch everyone and totaly govern their lives and why not let the parents make decisions for their kids. like in New York where kids cant bring sack lunches to school anymore.(I dont think all of new york, im not even sure its new york but on
the East coast this is happening.)
So they use our words and actions against us. Think about what the police are required to say upon arrest...
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in the court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?"
They want us to remain silent, to a point. that point is pissed off! and as a people we get crazy when we find out and stop "sleeping" when the gov is FU****G us. so they use it against us. just wonderful. God Bless America.
System of a Down: Toxicity
It should be noted that the music video both starts and ends with stars. A possible interpretation might be that the stars are contrasted between what society values and what is ultimately important. The first stars are hollywood stars - made in recognition of those individuals in society who are well off.
Conversion software: Version 7.0.
Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub.
The first line is a reference to AOL - they sent that software upgrade to literally everyone. It symbolizes big business and people's agenda of trying to get ahead and do everything faster. The version is to show it is excessive; imagine a movie that had 6 follow-up movies, for example. If you imagine yourself as a tire hub, you can't make sense of anything you see because you are being driven around in circles. Life would be a dizzy blur because you were spinning so fast. There is also a lack of control, as a tire has no say in what speed or what direction a car takes. The overall interpretation might be that because people are so concerned about getting ahead and doing everything faster that they can't really see life for what it is.
Eating seeds as a pastime activity.
The toxicity of our city, of our city.
A pastime activity is something to pass time - something you do when you're bored. Eating seeds is something specific to the band's background, but the point is that boredom is another result of society. The music video at this point shows prostitutes on a street. This is a display of "toxicity of a city," which is basically dysfunction of society. They are also just standing around, as are the homeless people described and shown later. Also in the music video, the band is sitting on a couch eating seeds - wasting time. A possible interpretation is that while a select few enjoy the benefits of our society, the many are left out and have no purpose.
You! What do you own the world? How do you own disorder? Disorder!
At this point, the song shifts gears and begins a new theme: The reason our society is dysfunctional is because everyone is trying to conform to an idea that control is everything. The singer is asking a rhetorical question, because the world can't ultimately be owned. No matter how much people try to control life, it will inevitably be filled with the unexpected. The song is suggesting that each person do their own thing and let others do theirs (within reason) - that in fact if we don't, our society suffers. It is about glorifying individual expression that might otherwise be seen as just being disorderly.
Somewhere between sacred silence and sleep: Disorder!
The song is saying that disorder is fundamental in the universe; that to try to snuff it out is to snuff out life itself. Sacred silence is just that - what you get when there is no disturbance at all: sacred peace. Sleep is a form of consciousness that we don't fully understand, but it is another sublime peace. Disorder is somewhere between these - without it, all we would have is silence and sleep.
More wood for their fires, loud neighbors.
Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck.
The music video is important here, as it shows pictures of homeless people standing around a barrel of fire. Flashlight reveries is a reference to stories told around a campfire with a flashlight under the chin. Reveries are daydream fantasies that will never be. The interpretation should be that these people will never amount to anything; instead of their stories being told under a flashlight, they are recorded in time in the headlight of someone's truck driving by. They are loud and have fires; these are strong appeals to sight and sound that are difficult to ignore, though society wants to forget these neighbors exist. One should note that this is another reference to a car part, similar to the tire hub in the first verse (cars/toxic/city). Both truck and hub have a "yuck" and "ugh" u sound to them, setting the tone.
When I became the sun,
I shone life into the men's hearts.
The final lines of the song play into the universal theme that disorder is fundamental. Light itself is a disturbance of peace, and without light there can be no life. The light/disorder shines life into people's hearts - it creates life, emotion, love, and everything we experience. The music video ends with a picture of the galaxy, supporting the conclusion that the song is making a universal point. A possible interpretation of the singer becoming the sun at some point in time is that we are all made of the same stuff and intrinsically connected. In the broader picture, hollywood stars are no more important than the homeless people, or anyone else.
anonymous Mar 17th, 2011 3:43pm report
I started listening to soad when I was like 9 lol anyway I always thought this song took place in the future in a post apocalyptic waistland.
"convertion software version 7.0 looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub" i guess the government created a software that converts things into other things and that somehow converted most of the people in the world into wierd zombie creature things and the singer has been changed into a tire hub.
"the toxicity of our city of our city"
Everything around them is toxic and deadly.
"now somewhere between the sacred silence sacred silence and sleep" he is a tire hub in the middle of nowhere and it is always silent.
I no I'm completely off but that is what I always thought it was lol
mcpherson_dot_brandon_at_yahoo Jan 17th, 2011 1:48am report
This is my interpretation of the lyrics of the song, one of my favorite songs I might add. It is extremely long but very thorough, as it covers every lyric in the song. It's a very long read, but I think it will be worth it if you are a true System fan. I typed all of this very sleep deprived at 5 in the morning and finished at almost 6, I worked hard, so haters, don't hate.
My interpretation of the first two lines (Conversion, software version 7.0, looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub) is SOAD's way of saying that the United States government is watching all this bad stuff happen in plaeces like Armenia and aren't really doing anything about it. SOAD is heavily influenced by their roots in Armenian culture and Armenian immigrants and natives would eat sunflower seeds as a pastime activity because of disease, famine, and unemployment. It is all they have to do to pass the time. The next lyrics (The Toxicity of our city, of our city) really means to me, The Toxicity of America, of America (or of our government). Then next (New, what, do you own the world? How do you own disorder? Disorder?) means you might think you own the world, but you can never own the people inside it (disorder). Also I think he may be citing the "New World Disorder" theory of the lyrics listed before me. Next (Now! Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep, Disorder, disorder. Disorder!) Means now stop being silent (Sacred silence) and act before you die or it's too late (sleep). And that all this toxicity in our culture and government can only be changed by revolt, reform, or anarchy (Disorder, disorder. Disorder!). Then next, (More wood for the fires, loud neighbors) be nice to your neighbor no matter how disruptive or annoying (loud) you may think they are. then (Flashlight reveries, caught in the headlights of a truck) Means that the governent is taking our small (flashlight) ideas or dreams, (reveries) and replacing them with their own large scale (truck headlight) ideas, maybe brainwashing but I'm not sure. Being caught in the headlights may also mean that we are being "run over," by our government. The rest of that verse and the chorus is already explained above. The only part left is, When I became the sun,
I shone life into the man's hearts. And to me this means when our government was created, (When I became the sun) it gave us a new hope to be free from the tyrrany of Great Britain (I shined life into the man's hearts, in other words bringing us to life, but into a life full of suffering.).
anonymous Dec 27th, 2010 12:47pm report
this song is so obviously about the nwo engineered genocide in armenia and it goes 'you why do you own the world how do you own disorder. its virtually all nwo driven 'a tired hub could be outdated forms of control, ie media music tv scare mongering and toxicity has too be about aspartame poisoning and creating ms,lupus,and adhd. just a few thoughts
The Armenia interpretation is almost certainly correct. I was unaware of the sunflower seed thing and it didn’t occur to me to consider SOAD’s origins, so my original interpretation was completely different. I guess what I did was apply the song to myself, and what’s closest to me; instead of the social disfunction of a foreign nation, I thought of the social disfunction of a certain small, middle-class mountain town.
Even though this almost certainly isn’t the TRUE meaning of the song, it fits, and makes for a good allegory/alternate interpretation. So here goes:
In my town, modern middle-class society has created a sort of black-hole for the socially troubled child. They are in pain but in a sort of hiatus, with nothing important to be done, everything made perfect for them already, and without the care to strive for self improvement. So, what do these kids do? Simple--they trip balls.
A common drug in my town is LSA, found naturally in the seeds of the Morning Glory flower, available at virtually every Walmart and Safeway in America.
Night adventures and crimes are also common among kids of all ages, both the druggies and the clean ones. Drugs or otherwise, night adventures are very dangerous, and it would be all too easy to imagine one’s self standing scared-still in the lights of an oncoming truck, flashlight in hand.
Suicide is not uncommon, either.
So, in spite of (or even as a result of) our elders’ attempts to establish a controlled, peaceful society, chaos and disorder lie silent in the children, especially those in pain. And are the ones in pain not the most important of all?
How can those who try to administer control think that they own this world? Can’t they see the disorder underneath? Modern technology and advancement in civilization has made this world possible, and perhaps that is the greatest irony of all.
It seems to me that the city is quite toxic.
More System of a Down song meanings »
Submit Your Interpretation
|It Was Always You||anonymous|
|Storm In A Teacup||anonymous|
|Drive By||Carmen Erisman|
|Back Door Man||justnaddict|
|Father and Son||anonymous|
|Hearts Burst into Fire||anonymous|
|Down with the Sickness||anonymous|
|My Last Breath||anonymous|
|I Me Mine||anonymous|