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Make everyone equal. It is a common battle cry across the centuries. Just look at the current class warfare that Obama is pushing because we are not all equal. (Or, as Orwell famously put it in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others.) So what does class warfare have to do with music?

It's questionable whether or not most of today's music is philosophically-based (try to find the philosophical tenets of Lady Gaga, a woman who wore a dress made of meat). However, musicians can be very thoughtful in their art. Characterized as the "thinking man's band," Rush is a well-known supporter of Ayn Rand's philosophy and libertarianism (although Rand's influence should not be "overestimated"). For example, their three-time platinum album 2112, released under the Anthem Records label, is a rock opera based on Rand's short, dystopian novel Anthem. In it, Rand provocatively characterized a future dark age of irrationality, collectivism, socialistic thinking, and socialism economics.

Rush is one of those bands that inspires people with its lyrics. How many songs nowadays really do that? For example, a fellow Braincraver wrote about Rush's philosophy on religion. Their lyrics generally have individualistic underpinnings, but they also span the gamut of topics, such as "relationships, fantasy-adventure, classical mythology, European and world history, science-fiction, libertarianism, atheism, science, and technology."

In The Trees, Rush addresses the ideology of egalitarianism, a "contested concept in social and political thought." Egalitarianism promotes the idea that "people should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect." Being a band from Canada, Rush chose to sing about maple trees; although, it's unclear if they were referring to Canadians as being oppressed. What is clear, and consistent with their libertarian leanings, is that the lyrics criticize the forced/legislated authority (i.e., through unions) to create equality.

Surprisingly, drummer Neil Peart played down the ideology years later: "It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, "What if trees acted like people?" So I saw it as a cartoon really, and wrote it that way. I think that's the image that it conjures up to a listener or a reader. A very simple statement."

What gives meaning to music? Is music more enjoyable with philosophy at its base? What do you interpret as the symbolism in The Trees? Which current musicians incorporate philosophy into their music? Is Rush advocating for social Darwinism? What should be universally equal, and what shouldn't? What makes a law "noble?" Does equalization promote happiness or death?


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

Rush - The Trees


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Sep 21, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=648

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