It's not just religion that's the opiate of the masses these days. In fact religion's long gone as a manipulator and a muscle relaxant of any influence. What do we have instead? It depends on the culture, I suspect, but in the developed world, it's going to be popular culture, be it radio, television, newspapers, you name it. From New York to Tokyo the kids will be tuning in to MTV and getting all their references, their wardrobes, their slang updated. But what about those places where religion places more restrictions on what people are allowed to see?
Go anywhere in the Middle East or northern Africa and all you hear is radios. Hanging from the rear-view mirror of a taxi, leaning against the mirror in the barbershop, propped up against the open doorway. Cranked up till their tiny speakers overload, they broadcast a mix of keening music, frothing diatribes against the Great Satan, the call to prayer. They're the mouthpieces of the state, the cracking whip of the clerics and the closest thing most people in that part of the world get to MTV or anything nearly as exciting.
Not only is radio the placebo, but it's the virus: American learned early on in its engagement with the rest of the world that media was a great way to get its message across. Hence this song: "Everybody's restless and they've got no place to go/
Someone's always trying to tell them/Something they already know/So their anger and resentment flow." But then comes the warm rush of calm, of insidious guilty pleasure: "But don't it make you want to rock and roll/All night long/Mohammed's Radio/I heard somebody singing sweet and soulful/On the radio, Mohammed's Radio."
One can only wonder at how the warm flow of sweet music and soft, caressing reassurances can calm the restless spirit, the yearning soul. And how simple it is, has been, to sneak in a message of hope and revolution among the crowded airwaves.