Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Way the Wind Blows

Track 7: The Way the Wind Blows

Now it’s come to this
It’s like we’re back in the Dark Ages
From the Middle East to the Middle West
It’s a world of superstition

Now it’s come to this
Wide-eyed armies of the faithful
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Pray, and pass the ammunition

So many people think that way
You got to watch what you say
To them and them, and others too
Who don’t seem to see things the way you do

We can only grow the way the wind blows
On a bare and weathered shore
We can only bow to the here and now
In our elemental war

We can only grow the way the wind blows
We can only bow to the here and now
Or be broken down blow by blow

Now it’s come to this
Hollow speeches of mass deception
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Like crusaders in unholy alliance

Now it’s come to this
Like we’re back in the Dark Ages
From the Middle East to the Middle West
It’s a plague that resists all science

It seems to leave them partly blind
And they leave no child behind
While evil spirits haunt their sleep
While shepherds bless and count their sheep

Like the solitary pine
On a bare wind-blasted shore
We can only grow the way the wind blows
In our elemental war


On an album where no song is worse than an 8 out of 10, The Way the Wind Blows is my favorite. The music is sublime, mixing elements of progressive rock with traditional blues rock, and the lyrics are deeply relevant and rife with apt metaphors and double entendres.

It is like we’re back in the Dark Ages. Muslim fanatics on one side, Christian fanatics on the other, both praying to their god to give them the ultimate victory, both believing whole-heartedly that their god will give them the ultimate victory, and both interpreting any success as evidence of their god’s pleasure and involvement. Pray, and pass the ammunition.

Recently, I saw a bumper sticker I had never seen before on a minivan. It had a stickman image on its knees, head bowed, and it said “Prayer changes stuff.”

Indeed, it’s a world of superstition.

I love the double entendre in the line “Wide-eyed armies of the faithful.” It’s a reference both to “God’s Army” as well as the largely brainwashed men and women of the armed forces who think they’re doing something valuable for the world. That’s not meant as an all encompassing slam against soldiers – a country needs a standing army, obviously, and I don’t doubt that many of our soldiers are brave, intelligent people – but it never ceases to amaze me all the young people who are still, to this day, signing up to go be the pawn of a group of medieval-thinking white men in Washington. Then again, 60% of Republicans still support Bush, so what does that tell you? It’s quite unheard of for 40% of a sitting president’s own party to part with him, and that’s more or less evidence of the political suicide that Bush has committed, but it’s the remaining 60% that still shocks me. I was encouraged, at least, last week when I saw that recent polls show more than 50% of the country would support impeachment proceedings against Bush, but we all know that isn’t going to happen, regardless.

And how about that phrase “Hollow speeches of mass deception.” I didn’t pick up on it when I first read the lyrics, but that’s a wonderful little stab at “weapons of mass destruction.” What a mass deception that has turned out to be (not that those of us with any sense at all didn’t recognize it as a deception from the very beginning).

“It’s a plague that resists all science.” “Plague” is a perfect word there. During the Bush years, we have seen everything from a willful attempt to degrade our earth’s environment, to a rejection of valuable medical technology that promises immense benefit for controlling and curing a wide range of diseases. And the latter, of course, is all in the name of wide-eyed superstitious religious beliefs. If I had to name what I feel is the most degrading, disreputable, and despicable legacy of Bush’s domestic policy, it is his stance and legislation on stem cell research. Great strides are being made in other countries, using stem cells to treat and cure disease, and meanwhile the far and away largest resource for stem cell research – the United States – sits idly by with their restrictive laws borne from willful blindness, pseudo-pious hogwash, and medieval belief systems. It is, in every sense of the word, a true tragedy, and the victims are us. You and me.

The only thing I disagree with in the song is that last stanza that starts “It seems to leave them partly blind.” I’ll give Neil the benefit of trying to make the lyrics fit the music, but “they” are anything but “partly” blind. It’s complete and total blindness. And, of course, the line “And they leave no child behind” is another great stab at a misguided, deceptive, and despicable domestic policy of the Bush administration. It’s also another great play on words, as it also refers to how these people brainwash their children, leaving them to grow up with the same twisted world view as their own.

And finally, the line “While shepherds bless and count their sheep” is another great double entendre, referencing, obviously, the Christian concept of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, caring for his flock, his sheep. But it also plays on the idea of the religious and political leaders taking care of their own supporters and counting the sheep who blindly follow them to slaughter.

Yesterday, I saw another bumper sticker (actually, two on the same car) that I think are relevant to this blog post. The stickers were on a beat up green Nissan pick-up truck. At one point, as I was behind the truck, the passenger threw an empty can into the bed, and I’m pretty certain it was a beer can. Anyway, on one side of the tailgate was a bumper sticker with a Confederate flag, stating “THE SOUTH WAS RIGHT!” On the other side of the tailgate was another bumper sticker, with another Confederate flag, stating “I don’t need YOUR permission to honor MY ancestors.” Clearly this was a stab at those “crazy liberals” who have fought against government buildings and properties flying Confederate flags. What this person was saying, in effect, is that slavery is okay, the North should have left the South alone, and flying Confederate flags today is a perfectly reasonable way to honor those who kept human slaves, sent the country into a 4-year civil war, cost millions of people their lives, created a 100+ year legacy of racial tension for their descendants to deal with, and left the country bankrupt, torn, and in shambles for decades to come. I wonder if this person would make the same argument if an American of German descent flew a Nazi flag in order to “honor” his ancestors? What honor is there in displaying a flag that stands for murder, enslavement, economic destruction, and anti-American principles? “So many people think that way, you gotta watch what you say.”

And who do you think this person – who no doubt considers himself a patriotic American – voted for in 2000 and 2004? I’ll give you one guess.

It’s like we’re back in the Dark Ages.

3 comments:

Isorski said...

Hey James - interesting site, and some good posts and observations. You sure struck a chord with the religious folks! Anyway, I caught the band (Rush) in Portland Saturday and posted a review on my blog at http://isorski.blogspot.com/. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Great song. I especially dig the Alex's bluesy intro. I know he's influenced by Clapton and Cream. Nice to see him show that influence.

Question: when Neil writes "We can only grow the way the wind blows," is he talking about the general public? Is he saying that people in general go along too easily with governmental rhetoric (especially after events like 9/11/01)? When he writes "We can only bow to the hear and now" is he really saying that people often fail to see the bigger picture?

Scott said...

Good questions. That's an interesting way to interpret the lines. I think, however, that he's saying that people, in general, can't individually change the system. When you add "like a solitary pine on a bare, wind-blasted shore" to the concept of only growing the way the wind blows, it gives a nice image of a tree bent before the wind, yet it manages to grow anyway. It may not grow straight as an arrow, it may be slanted a little bit, but it still finds ways to grow. That's the message I get from the lyrics. We can't defeat the system single-handedly, but we can grow despite it.

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