Man on Fire: A Playlist for Thich Quang Duc

Categories: Miles-tones

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Photographer Malcolm Browne took the above, unforgettable picture on June 11, 1963 when a Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc set himself on fire and burned to death in complete, immobile silence as a protest against Buddhist persecutions by the Roman Catholic Vietnamese government. During the self-immolation, Duc remained perfectly calm, quiet, and still, with many onlookers, including a police officer, prostrating themselves before him in reverence for the act.

The shocking death and image reverberated around the world. Pressure was put on President Ngo Dinh Diem to curb abuses by Catholics against the Buddhists, but Diem failed to handle the situation. His de facto first lady, sister-in-law Madame Nhu, called the demonstration a barbecue, and offered to buy gasoline in the future. Riots and raids continued for the next five months, until Diem was overthrown and assassinated.

According to the Doctor, certain events are fixed points in time, important deaths and actions that are so essential to history that they serves as a anchor points for the whole of infinity. This image, which won Browne a Pulitzer Prize, is surely one of those points. This week's playlist is dedicated to Duc, in honor of his sacrifice in the name of freedom.


Cream, "Anyone for Tennis?": There's going to be plenty of angry yelling in this article, so hold onto your horses. "Anyone for Tennis" may look and sound like a light-hearted tune, but its real meaning is centered around an uninterested world wasting away on frivolities while world changing events happen all around it. Duc is referenced directly as the "yellow Buddhist monk burning brightly at the zoo" in the last verse. Duc was covered with yellow robes after death when his fellow monks took his body away.


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Fear Factory, "Freedom or Fire": Fear Factory's critically-acclaimed concept album Obsolete remains a hard-rock classic that proves that 90 percent of the bands out there trying to go hardcore just don't have the first clue. "Freedom" serves as the last words of a protestor who burns himself alive at a public demonstration, seeing no other escape from an oppressive government regime in the album's third act. There can be no doubt that Duc directly inspired the scene.


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