Sunday, May 01, 2011

Rush: Prophets of the Ayn Rand Revolution?

I suppose it makes sense that Rush - the Canadian prog-rock trio, not the rather zaftig conservative commentator - "got it" before most of the rest of us did.  After all, they were Ayn Rand fans before it was popular to do so - with concept pieces like "2112" modeled after Rand's novella Anthem, about which Rush had written an earlier song entitled...Anthem:

Live for yourself, there's no one else
More worth living for
Begging hands and bleeding hearts will
Only cry out for more...

Well, I know they've always told you
Selfishness was wrong
Yes it was for me, not you, I came to write this song...

Sound familiar? The tune of the Tea Party, but circa 1975.  But I think they were even more ahead of their time with the 1979 song "The Trees", perhaps one of the most (over?) interpreted songs in their catalog.  While drummer and lyricist Neil Peart swore he wrote the song as a lark, very few believe him.  It seems as if some 30-odd years ago, Peart and Rush looked into a Randian crystal ball and saw the future, but like Nostradamus, were forced to utter it only in analogies and allusions....

You tell me.  The Trees:

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.

 But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

 There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

 So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."

 Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw...

You can go here to see some vigorous debate, while noting the absolute hatred and rage from the commentors on the Left.   I think this one in particular, however, does it the point spot-on:

To me, "Trees" a commentary on the liberal concept of equal outcomes, in contrast to the conservative view of equal opportunity. While the Maples have an equal opportunity for sunlight, being less gifted than the Oaks, are not able to achieve the same stature and are thus not able to accrue the same benefits as the Oaks.

In the same way, the expectation of equal outcomes in society prompt the less abled and or less motivated to covet the achievements of the true producers in society. These people attempt to gain through litigation and legislation what they cannot hope to attain themselves through hard work and calculated risk taking.

Rather than inspire the Maples to achieve more, we tear down the Oaks to force equality. Both the Oaks and Maples are worse off in the end.

Much like a certain president, who will create "economic fairness" and narrow the divide between the wealthy and the wretched....making everyone poor.

Equality, liberal-style.  Don't say Rush didn't try to warn you...


LibertyAtStake said...

Just so you know, I never saw much in Rush, or anything else in so called "prog-rock." Maybe it was the "prog" conceit. Upon reflection, actually, that's exactly what it was.

"Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"

The JerseyNut said...

Yeah, but Rush never would have described themselves as a "progressive rock" band.

It was simply the most convenient way for lazy music critics to "label them" and not have to adress some of what they were doing on its own terms.

That being said, I don't want to get too pretentious about it myself. Some of what they did, especially early on, was just aping what other bands (definitely ones would label as "progressive") were doing at the time. But I will say that when the ideas of Ayn Rand began to more fully express themselves in their music, it improved dramatically and finally reached the potential many early fans saw there from the start.

But isn't that what Rand was all about?

Conservative Libertine said...

Awesome. I just bought Anthem a few weeks ago. I haven't started it yet.

I was never a huge fan of Rush like my friends were, but I have to say, their music has stood the test of time.

Their work is greater than I gave them credit for.