The song Good People by Jack Johnson is a four stanza piece of work with the same chorus in between them. The stanzas have irregular patterns with different number of lines in each stanza. The first stanza has nine lines, the second has twelve lines, and the third has ten lines while the fourth one has eleven lines. The lines do not have a specific pattern since they have no systemic sound patterns and defined number of syllables. The song is about how the media having been introduced has degenerated information and is now showing sex, violence, lies, wars, bad news and all the negative actions taking place all over the world. Jack laments that the media has left all the good things behind and that is why he uses the question “where'd all the good people go?” (Johnson) repetitively in the chorus. We are advised that it is in human nature that when we keep on doing or seeing the same thing repetitively, one day it will become normal occurrences to us.
The song is a significant piece, because, in all circumstances, television viewing takes our attention away from important things around us. Instead of focusing on love, family, peace, and friends, we tend to concentrate much on watching television. The song explains what the world has become today where we are now interested in watching what adds no value to our lives i.e. watching the latest in entertainment industries and alike. Regrettably, all the people that the television is focusing on are the “bad people.” All the bad things that we are shown have made us develop immunity against the images of suffering and death we always see. Every day we are bombarded by news of war in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. Additionally, fathers, sons, and daughters occasionally are shown taking a stance for killing their own children, fathers, and husbands respectively.
The stories might seem far away, but it will not be long before these negative atrocities knock on our doors, this will prove that we are not necessarily immune to what is shown in the media. Thus, the lyrics go “Sitting round feeling far away/So far away but I can feel the debris, can you feel it?” The two lines sum up the spread of war perfectly since the “debris” will still reach us. When watching, we should always think about what is being aired and who is affected for us to objectively understand the truth behind what is aired on the media. The songwriter tries to find out where good men are, but he fails to find them. He repeatedly says in the chorus that “I've been changing channels/I don't see them on the TV shows/Where'd all the good people go?” (Johnson).
The media has made us switch through channels just to see more lies, stories, and even wars. We often fail to concentrate on channels that add meaning to our lives, for example, most of us fail to listen to documentaries about how men and women have survived cancer. Instead, we are often interested in watching “the bad people” who have done something bad or so preposterous to warrant television coverage. “Bad people,” people who have done something so preposterous that it warrants television coverage, are the ones being shown by the media. In the last stanza, the author of the song tells how he is browsing channels and becoming desensitized to everything happening.
Language used in the poem is simple and full of short forms, for example, he has used “cause” instead of “because,” and “where’d” instead of “where did.” The song majorly focuses on simple vocabulary in order to have its message reach the intended listeners.
The major poetic device used in the song is in the way the stanzas are arranged. There are four stanzas followed by chorus after each stanza. The chorus is repeated word for word in all its application.
We tend to forget the ethics behind what we have been made to believe. We will lose the good and sensitive inherent human nature for other people’s lives only until we experience it closer to us. The lyrics leave us with questions to thing about i.e. “How many train wrecks do we need to see?” and “How much pain and suffering is shown on the media? Is one dead body enough? Or do you need more?”(Johnson) All these questions are a wake up call to the listeners to try and change the way in which they understand the media, especially the television.