R.E.M. Lyric Annotations FAQ
R.E.M.: Document: Welcome to the Occupation



Welcome to the Occupation
A live version of this song is introduced as follows: "El Salvador is a small country geographically located below the United States, the United States is a large country geographically located above El Salvador. El Salvador (breathes? breeds? damn Stipe's mumbling...) in euthanasia." The 1970s and 1980s in El Salvador were marked with conflicts between government forces backed by the U.S. and leftist guerillas; in 1987 (at the time Document was released) these conflicts were still ongoing. [Colin McMillen]

"Hang your collar up inside"
Perhaps a clerical collar, as many Latin American priests were involved in the left wing resistance to right wing (American supported) dictators, and the movement became known as "Liberation Theology" (tying spiritual and political freedom together). [Ron Henry] * Maybe this line refers to the working classes -- as in the white collar worker vs. the blue collar worker. [Christi Rose] * Actually this makes a lot of sense given that Marxist revolutions in some Latin American countries were what the U.S.-backed contras were trying to prevent, and that Marxist ideology is based on the notion of class conflict (white vs. blue collar). [Ron Henry] * Well, no matter what kind of collar it is, a collar is still a collar. Collars have reputations for being uncomfortable and restrictive and are sometimes symbolic of power inequalities and submission. [Christi Rose]

"Listen to the causeway"
A causeway is a raised highway. [Ron Henry]

"Sugar cane and coffee"
These are major crops of Central America. [Ron Henry]

"Copper, steel and cattle"
These are major products of North America. [Ron Henry] * Many of these products, cattle especially, have been involved in the massive destruction of the rain forests, which is not as visible a global issue as it was in the late 1980s. This, I believe, is the underpinning of the lines "The forest for the fire" (i.e., the burning of the rain forest) and "Fire on the hemisphere below", i.e., Central & South America, esp. Brazil. This line literally (for me) conjures up the image of a burning planet. [billg3man]

"the forest for the fire"
A play on "can't see the forest for the trees". [Ron Henry]

"open up the floodgates"
Refers directly to the tactic used by the Netherlands in their war for independence from Spain, when they destroyed the dikes holding the water back and essentially flooded the majority of their country, holding back the Spanish Army, and probably indirectly refers to guerilla tactics. [Colin McMillen]

"fire on the hemisphere below"
May refer to fire, as in gunshots, artillery, etc. [Colin McMillen]

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Lyrics from Kipp Teague's Lyric Archive.