Revolution by the John Butler Trio

Staff Pick from Science News Editor Justin Karter: “I appreciate how the revolution being called for here includes mental and spiritual components. It asks us to attempt to decolonize how we encounter ourselves, others, and the world.”


“Revolution,” a 2010 track from Australian roots-rockers the John Butler Trio, is a growling rebuttal to the evils of unfettered capitalism and a wake-up call to people everywhere of every stripe.

Watch how the scum it rises to the top
Don’t you wonder when it’s all gonna stop?
Sometimes I wonder how we do sleep
Serving the dodgy companies we keep

The lyrics are broad and open to interpretation, highlighting the state of the world and a widespread need for redemption on every level. The video casts an equally wide net, featuring a sequence of everyday folks from all walks, races, ages, and ilks as they take the stage, stand for the camera, and in two cases — with a ballerina and a breaker — dance.

One clear take on the song’s meaning and message: The world is messed up, so be who you are. Do what you can do. Be the redemption we need by being true to your own self.

So tell me when you think we’re gonna rise?
Wake from this slumber, wipe the tears from our eyes?
Yes from this nightmare yes I must now wake
Open my fist my destiny I take!

In interviews, Butler has talked about the human costs of rampant mining and “the insanity…this craziness, this madness of destruction, whether through war or killing people through the economy.” He’s also discussed his own anxiety on its impact on mind and body (the tightening of the chest, the shortness of breath) and the links between who we are and how the world unfolds. As he puts it: “The war within is the war without.”

In a more recent song, “Coffee, Methadone & Cigarettes,” Butler touches on a formative family experience: the death of his grandfather in an Australian brush fire. The effect on his father was a lifelong struggle that led to his standard breakfast every morning (“You can bury that head and try to forget / He’s still waking up with coffee, methadone and cigarettes.”)

What’s your own take on “Revolution”? What do you hear in its lyrics, and what does it have to say on authenticity and the path to empowerment and redemption? What does it mean for those with lived experience? Please share your thoughts below.

– Amy Biancolli

Check out past songs here.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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