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Various articles penned by band-members and published in the music press 1987–1994. If you have any further information pertaining to items featured or omitted here, please contact us.

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Re. "You Call This Nirvana?" May 17, 1993

Editors:

Jeff Giles has written an article on our band, Nirvana, which was not based on the band's view nor on information provided by our representatives. Rather, he pulled together quotes from unnamed sources and "music industry insiders," and misled others into believing the story was on Steve Albini, the producer we recently worked with, and not the record that we worked on together. He quotes Albini at length and never approached our management company to speak to us at all. After stating that Albini will not speak about "the Nirvana fracas," Giles quotes him ranting about Geffen Records (our label) in the very same paragraph. How balanced can any reporting be if the center of "the fracas" cannot respond?

Further, though Giles did speak with representatives at Geffen Records and Gold Mountain Entertainment (our management), their quotes were rendered invalid in his piece by other quotes from unnamed sources. He chose to cite these same sources as more factual than a release sent to him and four editors at Newsweek that completely explained the status of our upcoming album.

Most damaging to us is that Giles ridiculed our relationship with our label based on totally erroneous information. Geffen Records has supported our efforts all along in making this record.

We hope, in the future, information provided by us will be taken literally and gossip will be taken for what it is.

Kurt Cobain
Dave Grohl
Krist Novoselic


Letters

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Hello, fellow Advocate readers. I must say 1993 was a most fruitful year: Nirvana finished another album (of which we are quite proud, although we took shit from people who claimed — before its release — that we were going to commit "commercial suicide"); my daughter, Frances, a cherubic joy, taught me to be more tolerant of humanity (including those right-wing religious terrorists); and I had the pleasure of giving an interview to this very magazine.
Of all the gut-spilling and, uh, whining I did in 1993, I never felt more relaxed and with The Advocate. What can I say? Thank you to the editors. I'll always be an advocate for fagdom.
Can I say hi to Scott from The Kids in the Hall? And speaking of Canadians, The Advocate should talk to Bruce La Bruce. He's made some hilariously erotic films.
Stay gay all the way, and wipe your ass with USA Today. I love you.
Kurt Cobain
Lead singer of Nirvana


Articles

In the last 12 months bullshit has followed NIRVANA's every step. Dodging tales of drugs, dirt and disaster they've emerged miraculously unscathed and defiant. In a RAW exclusive, bass-head CHRIS NOVOSELIC puts down his four-string and digs out his trusty old typewriter to fill us in on the band's recent one-off show way down in Buenos Aires, and spills the beans on what life's really like in the world's most talked about Rock band. This is the whole truth, live from the eye of the storm.

WE KNEW when we agreed to do the show, way down in Buenos Aires, that it was going to be one long-assed flight. The first leg of our 18-hour journey took us through Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Talk about futuristic: long corridors with wavy sheet-metal walls, multi-coloured flashing neon tubing winding thru' the ceiling that, combined with the soothing New Age music, made me wonder whether Brian Eno would be at the bottom of the escalators to greet each traveller personally. Maybe this design will be a timeless monument of our era or maybe, 20 years from now, it will be gaudy kitsch like a late '60s space-age ashtray. Next stop, Miami.

Miami Airport was like most other airports; very utilitarian. The only notable thing being that the carpeting was the same purple as my wife Shelli's coat. While shuffling down the starkly lit hallway, Dave and I noticed a tobacco shop. Dave bought a carton of cigarettes that looked like a giant pack of Marlboros and I wanted to get a box of foot-long "El Presidente" cigars. After a resounding "forget it!" from Shelli, Kurt and Courtney, I ditched the idea. No big deal, because when you're on the plane they ask you to limit your smoking to cigarettes and you know they mean cigars and pipes, but you jokingly think they also mean pot, so you look around and giggle. That's what nonstop travel does to you! Next stop, Argentina.

AT FIRST glance Argentina was nothing special, old sooty buildings surrounded by new sooty buildings. It's amazing how many Ford Falcons are here. If you Brits don't know, the Falcon was a car produced in the States in the early 60s, and is apparently one of the best cars ever built. The reason why this is so relevant is that Dave bought an old '63 a week before we left, and really thought he had something special until he got here, 'cos every other car was a Falcon!

We decided to step out for a bite, and piled into our van with the crew, instructing the driver to, "Take us to a good restaurant". After a brief spin we landed at a joint, besides which was a giant charcoal pit with whole sides of beef skewered and roasting. Not a good sign for the vegetarians amongst us! On the cover of the menus was a "mosaic" of meat products—sausages and more beef sides spread out intricately with pork and lamb, enticing carnivores like a zealot to an icon. There was also a diagram of a cow resembling a map, so that you could order any portion of the animal you liked, from tongue to tail. We vegetarians ordered a "Special Salad," which turned out to be boiled potatoes with a dash of vinegar! Bon appetit! After eating the stuff in an unbelievable huff we boogied outside, and noticed that our hotel was just across the street. Talk about adding insult to injury! Room service food wasn't bad… considering.

TIME NOW to make a foray into the city to go "clubbing." We ordered Mr. Driver to, "Take us to a good club," and on our way we noticed that hardly any of the drivers had their headlamps on (parking lights only), but this wasn't as unsettling as seeing a petrol tanker bomb past us. Maybe the high beef intake improves night vision! We pulled up at the Hard Rock Cafe, albeit a counterfeit one. Inside the cafe a New Wave kinda band called Los Pirates Industrial was onstage, consisting of a drummer and a percussionist who played three motorcycle gas tanks. They were cool and played a New Order cover, and the owner gave us free drinks all night. Yippee! Perk city and I don't care! Half our party left pretty early, including Alex, our tour manager, who ordered me five double whiskeys on the rocks as he left. Tipping my glass with a "God bless ya son!", I bade him goodnight.

After watching some crummy bands the music was over… or so we thought! Someone walked up to me and said, "Jew chould jam, man." What the heck, I thought. "Hey Courtney, let's go up there." I played bass and Courtney had to totally coax this guy out of a guitar. He probably thought she should have been at home baking pies. So, I started playing this bonehead two-chord Punk riff and we all kicked in. I sang about Joseph Mengele and the C.I.A., partly because it rhymed and partly because there is some connection. Courtney complemented my wailing with screams of "Pula, Pula!" It was now time for the obligatory hand introductions. On drums was a local named Louis, not bad at all. I introduced Courtney as the most notorious woman since Marie Antoinette! (This in light of all the bullshit press she has been getting lately). A couple more bad songs and it was over. I slept the whole of the next day.

"BE AT the venue at 8 o'clock," we were told. We arrived at 9.30 pm. The first band, Los Brujos, had already left the stage. Next up was Calamity Jane, an all-girl group from Portland, Oregon who play Punk Rock-type Rock with a twang. Part of the deal for having us play was that we could bring down any band we wanted, but Calamity Jane didn't go down too well and were pelted with small objects, and left the stage after about half an hour. The "stay home and bake pies" factor was somewhat in effect with part of the audience. And though I'm sure they'd have met the same reaction in Middle America or, for that matter, many other places, we were nevertheless pretty disappointed with the crowd and went on stage with a had attitude. The first five minutes were a very loose noise jam, then we proceeded with the set. Kurt fucked with the audience between a few songs, starting off "Teen Spirit" then stopping; unfortunately, we were playing with the passion of a cold fish. It's not that I blame it on the few misguided Argentineans who gave Calamity Jane a hard time, it's mainly that the novelty of playing these 30,000 capacity stadiums has worn thin. Sure, at first it was fun and new, but the limitations of such places creep up on us fast.

Talking to Kurt before the show we put our careers into perspective, "We sure got ourselves in a mess," he said. Call me a whiner, I don't care, but all the fame and fortune (not as much fortune as you might think), all the interviews with our screwy perspectives, all the shows we've played (how many times can a person play the same hit song?), and all the rest of the baggage that goes with "success" has nothing to do with the music, i.e. songs we created over a year ago. Yes, these kids did pay they hard-earned pesos to see us, but it just didn't happen. Sorry. We left the stage. Being the people-pleaser that I am, for the encore I suggested "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Kurt said, "I think it's lame to play something just because people expect it from us," to which I countered, "It might be a way to salvage some of this turkey of a show." Dave interjected, "Let's play the noise song," (the secret song at the end of "Nevermind"). So be it. It was actually one of the best versions of that song we've ever done, with us just totally jamming and playing off each other, toying with dynamics. I was in musical bliss. After ten minutes we bade the crowd "Buenos Notches," and we walked off stage satisfied and, more importantly, redeemed. So what if they didn't get to hear "…Teen Spirit." What they and we got during those last few minutes was total expression; something you can't create, something that grabs and affects you enough that you have to release it. Thirty thousand people were shovelled a mediocre performance for an hour-and-a-half, but 30,000 people, I hope, got to share with us for ten minutes the reason why we are in a hand.

The next day we boarded a plane and back-tracked home…


A stunned world watches in horror as civil war wrenches Yugoslavia apart. Nirvana's Chris Novoselic, who is Croatian, traveled to Zagreb, Croatia, to file this report from the belly of the beast.

Martin, 21, sat in his wheelchair watching MTV. “The finest thing that man has invented!” he said. He was a fighter in the Croatian National Guard and got hit in the spine with shrapnel, paralyzing him from the waist down. After the hospital, he went straight to the Varadjin spa, and had yet to go home. Stuck in a limbo of quick edits, flashing lights, and pretty girls — and men in traction and post-battle depression — he remained optimistic. “I've got my whole life ahead of me,” he said. “When I leave here, I'll try to get a job and live as normal a life as possible.” Croatia has over 700,000 refugees on its hands (the country's population is 4.7 million), terrible inflation, and it has to keep an army up and fighting. I sat there looking at Martin, smiling, and nodding my head.
“This war was thrown at us” is what a 19-year-old girl told me when asked what I should tell the world of the plight of youth in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. She fled from Vukovar, a once picturesque baroque town, now a pile of rubble in Serb-occupied Croatia. Who threw this war at her? Greedy middle-aged men with a hunger for power. You know the old song: Remember bastards such as Erich Honecker or Nicolae Ceausescu? Pseudosocialists with large illicit bank accounts, hiding behind an ideology. It's no different with the government of Slobodan Milosevic, the government of Serbia-Montenegro, what one newsweekly called “the rump of Yugoslavia” — in other words, what was left after the country disintegrated.
In 1989, Stalin's paranoid grip finally loosened and the phony regimes of the Eastern Bloc died. From Lithuania to Armenia, political boundaries were replaced with ethnic national ones. In time, the changes came down to nonaligned Yugoslavia. The fall of the Berlin wall instigated the current civil war in Yugoslavia. Milosevic, president of then-Yugoslavia, knew what the breakup of the Federation of Yugoslavian Republics would mean. Slovenia and Croatia were the most prosperous states. Before independence, 70 percent of the GNP was skimmed off to pay for the military (then the fourth largest in Europe), controlled by Miloševic in Belgrade. Breakup would also mean geographical isolation for Serbia. It would be stuck in the dark corner of Europe's backyard with neighboring Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albania. (Remember Albania?) When Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence, Milosevic came down hard.
First Serbia went to war with Slovenia, which lasted six days before Serbia wrote off the territory and pulled out to concentrate on Croatia. Serbia calls this a civil war with both sides committing equal atrocities. But Serbia not only instigated the conflict to preserve its position of power, it also inflamed the situation by resurrecting historic animosities. When Croatia declared its independence, it adopted its former national flag, which flew under the puppet government of the Nazis in World War II. Serbia played on this, terrifying its people that this meant a return to Croatian slaughter of Serbs, as happened during the Second World War.
Since the start of the war in ex-Yugoslavia, around 150,000 people have been killed, 1.5 million displaced, and about 30,000 women raped. An evil phrase has entered our vocabulary: “Ethnic cleansing” is the user-friendly way to say genocide. Mass executions, concentration camps, torture, and rape are being implemented by the Serbian government and local Serb warlords on the non-Serb population of Bosnia-Herzegovina and parts of Croatia.
In Zagreb, I hoped to make sense — if there was any — of all the sound bites, wire feeds, and editorials that I have been devouring over the past year and a half.

Both of my parents were born and raised in Croatia. I was born in Compton, California. My name, Novoselic, means newcomer and is common throughout the Balkans. Our family comes from the small island of Iz, two hours by boat from the town of Zadar. The Novoselics’ roots there trace back to the mid-1700s, even living in the same house, so I guess we're not newcomers after all.
Things really didn't start changing in Zadar until the late '60s. People were poor but hearty. They farmed potatoes, figs, grapes, olives, and fished the sea. It was reminiscent of the novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis’s Greece, but with a definite Slavic-Italian vibe. As a child, I would spend summers there. I remember old women carrying baskets on their heads or standing in doorways spinning wool and gossiping. Now the gossip goes down in front of the Grundig color TV while watching the American soap opera, Santa Barbara.
I can see the changes from the old world to the new reflecting, in some way, the changes in perspective between the fond observations of a child and the brunt of reality that one must face when coming of age.
I walked through the town's main square, stopping young people at random. I came across Elvir, 19. He was just hanging. Nothing was special about his appearance: a rock t-shirt and an S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death) hat, turned around. He told me that he spent most of '92 and part of '91 on the frontline. “It was hot, there was shooting, and I came out alive. That's important!” he told me. “Guys who I went through that year with are no more. I was wounded, someone stepped on a mine, and some of the shrapnel hit me. I recovered.”
He then told me of the kinds of troubles 17-year-olds face when they're fighting in combat. “There were three of us young guys. It was when the Chili Peppers and Nirvana had just come out. We would crank it up and get pumped. This would really irk the older guys.” Irk the older guys? This sounded like a situation that can happen at any car wash in the States.
He still gets shit. “When I was a soldier, I was okay. Now that I am a regular guy, I get hassled about my clothes and my hair from my elders. I come from a small village seven kilometers from the front. To the people there, the war is a fact of life; they carry their hang-ups with them.”
Zrinka, 21, mixed the heartening aspect of music with escapism. She was a nurse helping the wounded; now she studies law in Zagreb. “I am from the town of Karlovac and many bombs fell there,” she said. “My apartment is on the tenth floor and when the kitchen light was on at night we would get nervous because we knew that they [Serbians] could see us.” I asked her why they didn't black out. “This was during the cease-fire, all of last year we fretted!” (Croatia is experiencing a shaky peace through the UN-brokered cease-fire of last year.)
During the bombardment she tended to the wounded. “I had to leave nursing, all that kept me going was my heart, my compassion for people. War is so ugly” — she spread her fingers tensely and held her hands apart, like she was holding a ball — “if you go into the wards with any sense or reason, you are finished because there is none in war.” She took advantage of the ceasefire and left.
Vesna Milac, a college professor and mother of three children in their late teens and early 20s, shares her dilemma with me. “I think they are the lost generation,” she says of her children and their peers. “They are going to inherit all of this. My eldest son’s best friend was killed near Dubrovnik and now he's dealing with that. It is not that they don't care, it is a facade. They are trying to live a normal life as much as possible. It is easier to go and listen to music than it is to listen to news that is frustrating, negotiations that go nowhere, and disparity all around. We parents are trying to give them a normal life, that is our instinct.”

Bosnia-Herzegovina is in a state of chaos. No cease-fire has ever held for more than a few hours. I met some young Bosnians at the Moslem center on the edge of town. The building stood alone, a white modular structure with a dome protruding on the end of it and a tall minaret adjacent. I walked up during the call to prayer, enjoying the Holy Man's beautiful voice through the muffled sound of the loudspeakers. After prayers I looked around, not entering the mosque, staying only in the center part. It reminded me of a bustling YMCA. When I went down some stairs to a sublevel, the scene totally changed. It was crowded. People were on mats on the floor, sitting, talking, sleeping. You could see the family circles, each group had a few blankets, some clothes, and that was it. It was overwhelming. I stood there for a moment then walked out.
Outside I gathered my wits. There were two young women sitting on a planter down from me, so I approached them and said that I wrote for an American magazine that was “youth oriented.” Things were awkward at first, so I told them of the anxieties I had asking people about youth culture during such serious times. I expressed myself with a mock panic and it cracked a smile. Hadjia, 21, did all the talking, while her sister Emcija, 17, stood silent. “We had a good life before the war.” She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head asking, “And now?” What could she say? In her situation, it didn't matter if she was 17 or 70. The tone of her voice had a labored patience about it, cracking with frustration. Her brazen eyes told me of the heavy baggage of injustice she carries around. I couldn't miss those eyes. She was burned and had to swallow every bit of shit that was heaped on her. How many of her friends and family were killed? Had she been raped? I sure the hell wasn't going to ask her. As if her story would make an impact on any of the other hundreds of thousands of stories from this tragedy anyway: Screw my trivial anxieties, she has been chased out of her life and sleeps on a mat in a basement. That's the injustice that stings so intensely, the world's lack of action turns the knife in her.

Back in 1989, my wife and I made a trip through the Krajina region of central Croatia, on our way to the coast. I noticed how much the terrain looked like Southeast California. There were low shrubs, sparse trees, rocks, and dirt. It was surprising to see a desert in Europe. Our train clanked along on rickety tracks, past small stations no bigger than bus stops, in the middle of nowhere. The only thing that distinguished this place from some Mojave watering hole was the Cyrillic alphabet that marked the stops' names. This is where a lot of the Serbians who ran from the Turks settled, over 200 years ago. Knin is the main town here. The old town is a hill made into a fortress. Tall stone walls surround the top. Croatian kings were crowned here back in the Middle Ages. A lot of Croats left Krajina, over time, for the more prosperous coast, leaving the remaining ones a minority.
A few months down the road nothing much would pass through there. The newfound Republic of Croatia brought changes as to who was going to call the shots — Serbian policemen and party apparatchiks lost their jobs to Croats, who were now ex-commies, singing the praises of democracy and discarding the old ideology now that it was quite convenient. The Serbs weren't about to see their prestige and influence taken away by these Boris Yeltsin wannabes, so they turned to Milosevic and the JNA (Yugoslav Army). Mayhem started when ethnopolitical animosities transformed into genuine ethnic hatc.
Now with its ranks devoid of Croats, the massively armed JNA, whose pride was bruised after being kicked out of its garrisons around Croatia, helped Serbs to take Krajina and as much of Croatia as possible. The coastal region of Dalmatia was hit hard. Beautiful historic towns such as Dubrovnik, Split, and Sibenik were shelled. The port city of Zadar, Knin's link to the sea, was especially singled out. The bombs rained for months. There was no electricity and running water was scarce. One time during a raid, my aunt said “f–k it” to racing down ten flights of stairs to the shelter. She stood out on her balcony smoking a cigarette, watching the bombs fall. Zadar held fast. Its fall would have meant cutting Croatia in half and isolating lower Dalmatia.
The region of Slavonia, in northeast Croatia, experienced the same onslaught. The fall of the town of Vukovar, in the autumn of ’91, could be seen as a prelude and an example of the events that are taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina. World leaders turned a blind eye to the sign and let this cancer grow out of control, to who knows what horrific conclusions?
The pattern of madness usually starts in the same fashion. Towns that are predominantly non-Serb, especially those that show resistance to Serbian expansionism, are shelled heavily by the JNA. This is what is happening to Sarajevo. Bombs fall relentlessly. Nothing is spared. The red cross on the Vukovar hospital was more of a target than a deterrent. Hospitals, schools. churches, and even cemeteries are hit. My grandmother told me of a funeral in a village near hers that came under fire. The pallbearers dropped the casket and everybody ran. Not even the dead are spared!
This can last for days up to months, depending on the town's size and resolve. People who have somewhere to go, flee. Those who stay, refusing to give up their homes, flee or hide in basements and shelters praying for help that usually never comes. Eventually, the town succumbs. The JNA has now laid the groundwork for the Chetniks to make their move.
Forty-five years after the communists executed Serbian monarchist Draza Mihailovich, the Chetniks are back. Serbian paramilitary, they are a revival of a group of monarchists who slaughtered Croats during World War II, in response to the Croatian Utasha. Known for their black beards and sadism, they flush out townsfolk in a reign of systematic terror. People are shot on sight or severely beaten, often in front of their families. Mike Persson, our photographer, was nearly done in last year. He was covering the fall of Vukovar. A Chetnik, upon checking Mike's papers, noticed he had a Croatian middle name. He was promptly marched up to a wall. A French journalist, also condemned, stood next to him, sobbing. They were about to get it when Mike ran up to one of the Serbs and grabbed him around the waist, pleading for his life. It started pouring like crazy and the Chetniks said, “Forget it, let's get out of the rain,” and let them go. Shows you how much life is worth.
I've seen pictures of dead bodies in the street with white flags lying beside them. The scene gets more gruesome. Ears, noses, limbs are hacked off. Dormant Byzantine passions reawaken to a grim avail. Imagine a pair of glowing hate-filled eyes staring right in your face, then having your head jerked back and your throat slit. Victims are burned alive. Sheer terror. It is one thing to hear that these things are happening, it's another to comprehend them.
Chetnik brigades such as “Arkan” or “White Eagles” have gained a reputation for ruthlessness. Even fellow Serbians are not safe. One Serb, sympathetic to his Moslem neighbors, was made to kneel in the Islamic fashion of prayer then had his head blown off with a shotgun. What kind of person would do such things? A lot of thern come from primitive, isolated villages. Booze flows freely within their ranks. Belgrade propaganda fills their heads with twisted ideology, fueling the hate. Ultranationalists, they revel in the dream of a “greater Serbia” being realized.
Survivors of the raid are segregated by sex, then sent off to “detention centers” — concentration camps. Neglected prisoners turn to skin and bones, shades of a past era of systematic genocide. I read a testimony where a man told of having to relieve himself wherever. He said they were awakened from the shit-covered floors they slept on by a guard, calling out names. A few men got up and left. A while later, the muffled gunshots heard from outside concluded the fate of those beckoned to that fatal roll call.
I have also read official accounts of Croatians killing Serbian civilians. This cannot be excused or condoned, either. Belgrade's angle is that this is a civil war and both sides are at each other's throats. It has been hiding behind this distortion quite successfully for over a year. But Croatian human rights abuses pale when compared with the sheer scale of Serbian atrocities.
A lot of Serbians are against Milosevic. Those who dare speak out are shut up.
The historical and contemporary images of death camps aren't hard to conjure. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, women have special camps. Throughout the history of war, women have fallen victim to rape. What makes this situation even more notable is that rape is part of the policy of ethnic cleansing. In the camps or “bordellos,” as they are referred to, girls as young as ten and women as old as 50 are gang-raped constantly. Truckloads of soldiers pull up and are ordered to rape by their superiors. A couple of guys will hold the girl down while a smelly grunt does his thing on her. Then they switch off. It is the ultimate macho victory to be able to say to your enemy, “And we fucked your women, too!” Many women do not survive the ordeal of being raped day in and day out and die. Many become pregnant and then are released, carrying in their wombs innocent testimony to a so-far successful policy of terror and suppression. Young girls who were virgins before wander through the woods, the burden of conservative cultural norms inhibiting them from returning to face their families. Those that make it to refugee camps in Croatia find out that abortions are restricted after the tenth week of pregnancy. A hospital review board must decide if any abortions are to be conducted after this period. The victims are too emotionally traumatized to endure such a spectacle, many are too embarrassed to come forward. Those who have to carry through with the pregnancy refer to the fetus as “it.” Things came much slower to Eastern Europe. Croatia got Yugoslavia's first hotline for battered women only back in 1989. Women just aren't used to speaking out.

In its quest to catch up with the rest of the world, a Hard Rock Cafe has opened in Zagreb, complete with all the Americana and the rock memorabilia. Smarmy, half-assed sophisticos sip imported booze and converse with each other — Italian sweaters and loafers the uniform. I ordered a plum brandy and it made a scene. Those prepster f–ks laughed at me — only a hillbilly would order plum brandy when there was such fancy western liquor. They thought my Dalmatian accent was “bumpkin” and my 99 cent polyester shirt unsophisticated. I raised my glass to them and clicked my heels. “Cheers, assholes, the Greater Serbia wants to come and eat you alive. I hope you get what you want in the MasterCard International, so worldly, so ‘now’ lifestyle.”
I left but I wasn't discouraged. You're bound to come across riffraff like that wherever you go. Isn't that what cracked the Berlin Wall, the aspirations to go live in the west, to have the “good life”? But most of the people who will live through this won't even have that dream. Just injustice and pain.