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Neil Peart and Ayn Rand


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#41 SJS

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Posted 01 June 2017 - 11:50 PM

It is such a mishmash of bad metaphors and half assed symbolism. No wonder everyone is confused.

First of all- the Maples NEED sunlight. This is not a case of 'want' but survival. Sunlight is food for a tree. So if the Oaks are going to hoard life giving services then they have to be regulated.


Personally I thought the lyric was well-crafted.

 

Botanically speaking, some plants do poorly in full sun.  Many do best with dappled light.  Some maples do best in partial shade.  Probably you think I'm in the pocket of the oaks when I say that, but I swear, it's true.

 

Earlier I said Peart was channeling Swift, but also Aesop.  Aesop famously told stories with morals involving all sorts of animals displaying human characteristics.  Peart is anthropomorphizing trees with a similar goal in mind.  It's a literary device. 

 

Also, although I think it is clear that Peart despises the collectivist decision to chop everyone down, I don't think it's clear that he's siding with the oaks.  I think he's commenting on the human condition here.  There are maples and oaks, and the maples want what the oaks have, and the oaks aren't willing to give up what they have.  He's not taking sides; he's saying everyone wants to live up to their full potential.  But he is saying that equality is not the highest value if equality is achieved destructively - which was the policy of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and nearly every communist leader ever.


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#42 DaveG

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 12:00 AM

Every time I go to post on a message board, I get called away. What was I going to say again..?

 

Neil's answers to questions in those old newsletters were always pretty succinct. When someone asked him what "The Trees" was about, his answer was "It's an allegorical metaphor on human behavior." But yeah, I never saw "The Trees" as anything but a condemnation of collectivism and of those who resent others' accomplishments - you can't make those who lack the abilities needed to be great in a given field great, so the only way to make everyone "equal" in that sense is to cut the exceptional off at the knees.

 

Btw, a couple of points about Rand sometimes used as examples of inconsistency or depravity or whatever were brought up in this thread again, so just for the sake of clarity...Rand's supposed admiration for William Hickman is something taken out of context from Rand's journals. At one point she was using Hickman as a sort of character study for a character in a novel she was toying with but never finished, a character who was exceptional but found nothing in the world worth doing with his intelligence and turned to crime (sort of a more extreme version of Gail Wynand from The Fountainhead, I suppose). It is possible to be impressed and intrigued with certain aspects of a person but denounce them on the whole as a human being. IIRC, she described Hickman as a "degenerate" or "depraved" or some similar derogatory word. Yeah, she could be an eccentric, odd bird in some ways, but she wasn't putting murderers up on a pedestal. I expect there have been postings on Rand-hostile sites trying to make it look that way (a little context-dropping can be helpful when you're looking for ways to discredit someone), and of course this stuff is just taken at face value by those who already don't like Rand and then repeated to others like a chain of small-town gossip.

 

And yes, Rand collected Social Security at the end of her life. She didn't agree with the system but had to pay into it regardless, and if she managed to get some of it back, she was entitled to it no less than anyone else who has paid into it. She argued for a different kind of society but had to live in the one we have, like we all do. Given the success of her novels, I expect she probably paid more into the system than most of the people criticizing her for collecting SS ever will.

 

She was a pretty extreme, intense person. I expect some of that hardness came from seeing firsthand in Russia during Stalin's rule just how dismal life could become under the antithesis of the social system she advocated, and feeling like it was her "mission" to do what she could to convey that to others and do whatever possible to stop it happening elsewhere. Some who are idly curious about objectivism might find it easier to get their feet wet with some of the podcasts that her successor, Leonard Peikoff, did in previous decades. He came across as more amiable and approachable and loved digging into questions from callers on his show or students in his university courses about everything from the root causes of the school shooting epidemic to his take on three-way sex.


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#43 Saint Ronnie

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 12:01 AM

  He's not taking sides; he's saying everyone wants to live up to their full potential.  But he is saying that equality is not the highest value if equality is achieved destructively - which was the policy of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and nearly every communist leader ever.

 

But that is taking sides. The last line gives his position. There you have your precious equality - at the cost to the great Oak and you hurt yourself in the process. Wonderful metaphor that I ate up when I was 13 and the song was brand new. I also think it's the perfect example of what Peart described as pre-MP Rush being like childhood drawing on the refrigerator. 


Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

— Matthew 6:19–21,24 (KJV)

#44 Saint Ronnie

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 12:51 AM

DaveG, so explain just what did Rand find admirable about Hickman? I mean apart from his despicable crime, he appears to be a man of no accomplishments. His ransom for the little girl that he murdered/disemboweled/dismembered and then sewed back up with her eyes stitched open as to fool the father into thinking she was alive, was for $1500 (approximately $20k in 2017 dollars).  A bit of change but obviously not a fortune. So he was two-bit. He also was 20 years old - a young man who didn't know shit about the world. So what exactly did Rand admire in him?  It would appear he was either a sociopath or psychopath, is this the quality that Rand found compelling? Because there are many of those around, he certainly wasn't unique in that regard. 

 

Rand seems to be every bit of a loser as Hickman was. Her friends and acolytes nowhere to be found when she could have used some help. A woman who somehow grabbed the spotlight for a brief moment and her 15 minutes lasted way too long. 

 

Here's a bit of reading to balance the Rand Hickman admiration apologist stuff you obviously have been reading 

 

Ah fuck it, here's the Coles notes to what Rand admired in Hickman

 

In her notes, Rand complains that poor Hickman has become the target of irrational and ugly mob psychology:

"The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the 'virtuous' indignation and mass-hatred of the 'majority.'... It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal...

"This is not just the case of a terrible crime. It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. It is the fact that a crime has been committed by one man, alone; that this man knew it was against all laws of humanity and intended that way; that he does not want to recognize it as a crime and that he feels superior to all. It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul."

 

What a sweetheart eh? Also demonstrates how much the alt-right has Ayn in their heart. That's exactly the attitude they have regarding their accusations and disdain for what they call the SJW. 


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Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

— Matthew 6:19–21,24 (KJV)

#45 chemistry1973

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 12:56 AM


Personally I thought the lyric was well-crafted.

Botanically speaking, some plants do poorly in full sun. Many do best with dappled light. Some maples do best in partial shade. Probably you think I'm in the pocket of the oaks when I say that, but I swear, it's true.

Earlier I said Peart was channeling Swift, but also Aesop. Aesop famously told stories with morals involving all sorts of animals displaying human characteristics. Peart is anthropomorphizing trees with a similar goal in mind. It's a literary device.

Also, although I think it is clear that Peart despises the collectivist decision to chop everyone down, I don't think it's clear that he's siding with the oaks. I think he's commenting on the human condition here. There are maples and oaks, and the maples want what the oaks have, and the oaks aren't willing to give up what they have. He's not taking sides; he's saying everyone wants to live up to their full potential. But he is saying that equality is not the highest value if equality is achieved destructively - which was the policy of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and nearly every communist leader ever.

There is no more oak oppression.
And they passed a NOBLE (pun?) law
And the trees are all kept equal
by hatchet axe and saw

Sorry. He supports the collective whole here. He's rationalizing that though you may be born with certain talents that elevate your stature, you also have to consider humanity as a whole. They are kept equal by axe and saw. We cut a section for Oaks and we cut a section for Maples.

It's more King Solomon than anything...

#46 timbale

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 04:16 AM

There is no more oak oppression.
And they passed a NOBLE (pun?) law
And the trees are all kept equal
by hatchet axe and saw

Sorry. He supports the collective whole here. He's rationalizing that though you may be born with certain talents that elevate your stature, you also have to consider humanity as a whole. They are kept equal by axe and saw. We cut a section for Oaks and we cut a section for Maples.

It's more King Solomon than anything...

 

Chemistry -

 

Like you, ( I think), I find this lyric to be one of Peart's worst and silliest.  If the music wasn't so quintessentially classic Rush, this song would be sitting atop the pile with Dog Years right under it.  It feels stupid even to discuss it.  Having said that... 

 

I always felt the tone of the last two lines was derisive - like "this is how stupid society is - the rules have to be made for the weaker ones, and the stronger ones are punished for their strength."   Which seems pretty Randian to me.


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#47 Three Eyes

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 05:58 AM

There is no more oak oppression.
And they passed a NOBLE (pun?) law
And the trees are all kept equal
by hatchet axe and saw

Sorry. He supports the collective whole here. He's rationalizing that though you may be born with certain talents that elevate your stature, you also have to consider humanity as a whole. They are kept equal by axe and saw. We cut a section for Oaks and we cut a section for Maples.

It's more King Solomon than anything...

 

I think he meant "noble" from the perspective of those who wanted the law passed.

 

The lyrics could also be a neutral commentary on the human condition itself and the power struggle for resources between the haves and have nots by any means necessary but I don't know if Neil's ideological '70s Randian could be that balanced. 

 

I always thought the song was a brilliant allegory and still do.


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Hey there goes Alex. He's loaded with money. Wow he's really set himself up great.


#48 fenderjazz

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 12:44 PM

There is no more oak oppression.
And they passed a NOBLE (pun?) law
And the trees are all kept equal
by hatchet axe and saw

Sorry. He supports the collective whole here. He's rationalizing that though you may be born with certain talents that elevate your stature, you also have to consider humanity as a whole. They are kept equal by axe and saw. We cut a section for Oaks and we cut a section for Maples.

It's more King Solomon than anything...

 

I always took The Trees as a pot song.  Natural Science too.  Just deep into these little microcosms.  I never saw it as a Randian influenced song.


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#49 DaveG

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 02:52 PM

If we're going to quote passages from her journal entries about the Hickman thing, let's quote the rest of them that more fully illustrate what she was thinking at the time. I haven't read or talked about this particular stuff in forever so I had to look it up.

 

 "[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me."

 

 "Yes, he is a monster - now. But the worse he is, the worst must be the cause that drove him to this. Isn't it significant that a society was not able to fill the life of an exceptional, intelligent boy, to give him anything to out-balance crime in his eyes? If society is horrified at his crime, it should be horrified at the crime's ultimate cause: itself. The worse the crime - the greater its guilt. What could society answer, if that boy were to say: 'Yes, I'm a monstrous criminal, but what are you?'

"This is what I think of the case. I am afraid that I idealize Hickman and that he might not be this at all. In fact, he probably isn't. But it does not make any difference. If he isn't, he could be, and that's enough. The reaction of society would be the same, if not worse, toward the Hickman I have in mind. The case showed me how society can wreck an exceptional being, and then murder him for being the wreck that it itself has created. This will be the story of the boy in my book."

 

Sounds to me like it was largely just a real-life situation that was a jumping-off point creatively to something else. I expect the Hickman case caught her imagination because it was what happened to be a big news event at the time. Artists find the seeds of ideas in seemingly unlikely places sometimes, and it seems pretty clear she realized she was projecting qualities onto the guy he didn't possess in the process of forming a fictional character. Looks to me like what she took away from it all was basically, what if a man wasn't a murderer and his "crime" was standing against the masses and asserting his individualism in a way people didn't like, would society vilify and despise him just as much? Possibly the early seeds of imagining a Howard Roark type character.

 

These are journal entries made when she was very young, by the way, and still grappling with the man-versus-the-masses ideas that would be incorporated into her novels many years later. It's a bit like you going to see Silence of the Lambs when you were in college, developing a short-lived fascination with Hannibal Lecter and writing in your journals that it got gears turning in your head about human psychology which later led to you writing books that have nothing in them that would suggest you venerate his kind...only to have people digging up your old journal entries decades later to claim you're a sociopath who admires murderers who eat their victims in order to discredit you as a writer.

 

I'm not Rand's public defender. It's been over a decade since I read any of her books and this is probably the most I've talked about her in years. But damn, what a silly thing for people to continue perseverating on and trying to use as proof incontrovertible of Rand's evil depravity rather than attempting to provide a logical refutation of the ideas presented in her writing as a fully-formed adult who had gotten her thoughts together.


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#50 bartok

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 03:07 PM

Of course, in reality, you need laws to protect trees/forests from all getting cut down.

 

It's not capitalism or libertarians that protect all those National Parks Peart loves to go to.

 

And I think the Canadian Broadcasting analogy is perfect.  Rush, as a band, actually was one of the smaller "trees" and was given a leg up to compete with the popular bands.  Without that socialism, there would have been no Rush.


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#51 The Macallan

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 03:18 PM

There is no more oak oppression.
And they passed a NOBLE (pun?) law
And the trees are all kept equal
by hatchet axe and saw

Sorry. He supports the collective whole here. He's rationalizing that though you may be born with certain talents that elevate your stature, you also have to consider humanity as a whole. They are kept equal by axe and saw. We cut a section for Oaks and we cut a section for Maples.

It's more King Solomon than anything...

 

 

Great thread!

In reading everyone’s take, it seems the general interpretation of the final verse is that only the Oaks suffer the blade, hence making everyone equal when they’re cut down to size. Maybe I have that wrong, but that’s what I think folks are saying. I have always thought this more of a post-script as if to say, despite all these squabbles and perceived struggles, ALL the trees are made equal when the lumberjacks swoop in and cut down trees indiscriminately. The allegory being, we’re all human thus on the same playing field despite social status. I think this is what you were going for as well, Chemistry?

 

 

 

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neil-presto-scarf.jpg


#52 bartok

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 03:24 PM

The Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged are really the 50 Shades of Gray/50 Shades Darker of the 1940s/50s.


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#53 chemistry1973

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 03:43 PM

Great thread!
In reading everyone’s take, it seems the general interpretation of the final verse is that only the Oaks suffer the blade, hence making everyone equal when they’re cut down to size. Maybe I have that wrong, but that’s what I think folks are saying. I have always thought this more of a post-script as if to say, despite all these squabbles and perceived struggles, ALL the trees are made equal when the lumberjacks swoop in and cut down trees indiscriminately. The allegory being, we’re all human thus on the same playing field despite social status. I think this is what you were going for as well, Chemistry?



7233e228b56dfa6c1609d3d3d63eb54c.jpg

I'm actually glad you posted that because it's actually given me some clarity with the end of the song. That perhaps the squabbling is unimportant in the face of other dangers- in this case with the lumberjacks.

But yeah that's what I'm trying to hit on. That everyone has to suffer for justice or equality. To be honest the song has always confused me because it felt so unfinished- it could've used another verse.

It should be noted that Lifeson's playing is also what makes the end of the last verse more hopeful than sad. The guitar playing is uplifting and major. You feel like balance has been restored to the forest.

I just gave the end another listen--and perhaps I'm listening to a remaster on Spotify--but at the very end we hear wind chimes and birds. Implying that the creatures have returned.

Balance has been restored. Balance is also the main theme of Hemispheres.

Thanks SJS now I'm starting to like this fucking song.

But that's me. Of course other libertarian takes make sense too.
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#54 The Macallan

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Posted 02 June 2017 - 04:43 PM


Balance has been restored. Balance is also the main theme of Hemispheres.

 

 

 

 

Yep

The more that things change

The more they stay the same


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#55 A Rebel and a Runner

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 02:09 AM

I think it was her admiration for William Hickman that says all we need to know about Ayn Rand and her philosophy (she was a sociopath).

I was a pretty hardcore Randroid in college, until I read a collection of essays, and in one of them, she talks about the "ideal human," and she described a sociopath. That struck me and was the start of my awakening to how much bullshit was in her "philosophy."  
I mentioned before I'm an Epicurean, and from that perspective, it's funny that "objectivism" is actually NOT objective. 
Both Epicurus and Rand, when looking at morality, ran into the same problem. Both follow an hedonistic philosophy, meaning ethical "good" is synonymous with "pleasure."  As a result, "good" is subjective to all people. What is "good" for one person is neutral, or even bad, for another, because we all receive, as different people and at different times, pleasure from different things. What is pleasurable to me may not be to you, or even to me at another time.

Rand's answer to the problem of finding objective morality was to claim that "objective" good is what is desired by the individual. Every single person pursuing their pleasure is "objectively" good, even though by definition, that's subjective.  She effectively GAVE UP on finding objective good, and claimed she had anyway.

Epicurus had a more creative answer to the problem. For him, he looked at the opposite of pleasure: suffering. While what brings us "pleasure" is different for everyone, a vast majority do not derive pleasure from pain, and so, to Epicurus, the only thing even close to objectively good is the absence of suffering. Epicurus found ACTUAL objective morality, or as close to it as we can approximate.  So to Epicurus, an immoral act increases the net amount of suffering in the world, while for Rand it denies pleasure to the self.



#56 A Rebel and a Runner

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 02:47 AM

Chemistry -

 

Like you, ( I think), I find this lyric to be one of Peart's worst and silliest.  If the music wasn't so quintessentially classic Rush, this song would be sitting atop the pile with Dog Years right under it.  It feels stupid even to discuss it.  Having said that... 

 

I always felt the tone of the last two lines was derisive - like "this is how stupid society is - the rules have to be made for the weaker ones, and the stronger ones are punished for their strength."   Which seems pretty Randian to me.

Yeah, that's how I always interpreted it.
Which is why I despise it.



#57 chemistry1973

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 02:59 AM

Rand also cucked her husband so she could pork Alan Greenspan.

The irony.

#58 chemistry1973

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 03:03 AM

https://www.reddit.c...ting_the_trees/
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#59 SJS

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 03:36 PM

But that is taking sides. The last line gives his position. There you have your precious equality - at the cost to the great Oak and you hurt yourself in the process. Wonderful metaphor that I ate up when I was 13 and the song was brand new. I also think it's the perfect example of what Peart described as pre-MP Rush being like childhood drawing on the refrigerator. 

 

What I mean is he's not saying the maples don't have a reasonable gripe.  That's my point.  The maples are clamoring for light, not necessarily for the chopping down of the oaks.  One can say "The maples have a right to complain about not getting enough light" and at the same time say "The solution of chopping down the oaks is not a just response." 

 

Don't you know that Fenderjazz would just say we need a bigger forest so there's more light to go around?


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#60 JBsDWdrums

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 08:51 PM

Ayn Rand couldn't even live up to her own fictional world standards.... I've read many of her books because they are cited so often but as a real world application??? Nope.

Pretty sure Peart feels the same

Paul Ryan is a sickening individual who is truly showing his craven tendencies




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