I have a newly found admiration and respect for Rush, the 70’s/80’s rock band from Canada.
Why, you ask?
The band’s drummer, Neil Peart, was highly influenced by my favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand! In fact, the entire album 2112 was influenced by Ayn Rand’s book, Anthem. Peart even credits Ayn Rand in the liner notes of 2112, dedicating “the genius of Ayn Rand.”
Wow. Who knew? I’ve always loved the song Tom Sawyer for its rebellious political lyrics:
Though his mind is not for rent
Don’t put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day’s events
No his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren’t permanent
But change is!
My sister and I seriously rock out to this song… But I never really connected it to Ayn Rand or thought for a moment that Neil Peart (one of the best drummers ever, by the way) was so heavily influenced by her.
I’ll address the obvious- for those of you who are well versed on this subject. In a recent-ish Rolling Stone interview, Peart denounced his love for Ayn Rand, saying that Objectivism was merely a phase for him. He said he was idealistic in his 20’s and that he now considers himself a “bleeding-heart libertarian”. Okay, close enough… For the purposes of this article, we’ll still celebrate Ayn Rand’s influence on Peart and the rest of the band.
Ah, and now for 2112, Rush’s masterpiece album. It was heavily influenced by Ayn Rand’s novel, Anthem, which is one of my favorites for its short and easily digestible message of individualism and the story of one man’s fight against a totalitarian society.
In the year 2112, the world is controlled by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx, who control all art, media, employment and every facet of life. But, one man finds an old guitar and learns to play his own music. Thinking that he’s made a breakthrough for humanity, he presents it to the Priests for permission, who take the guitar and destroy it, telling him not to waste their time. The man goes home and dreams of a better life. Given what he’s seen in his dreams, he ends up committing suicide. According to Wikipedia, the ending is supposed to be a happy one in which the people are liberated, but I don’t really see how that can be when the story ends with a creepy voice saying, “Attention all Planets of the Solar Federation, We have assumed control.”
Decide for yourself.
So, here are some good governmenty dystopian lyrics sampled from the album 2112:
The Temples of Syrinx-
Our books, our music, our work and play are all looked after by
The benevolent wisdom of the priests…’
We’ve taken care of everything
The words you hear, the songs you sing
The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes
It’s one for all and all for one
We work together, common sons
Never need to wonder how or why.
I know it’s most unusual
To come before you so
But I’ve found an ancient miracle
I thought that you should know
Listen to my music
And hear what it can do
There’s something here as strong as life
I know that it will reach you
Don’t annoy us further!
We have our work to do
Just think about the average
What use have they for you?
Another toy that helped destroy
The elder race of man
Forget about your silly whim
It doesn’t fit the Plan!
Something for Nothing-
You don’t get something for nothing
You can’t have freedom for free
You won’t get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be
And here are some other random Rush lyrics that I think are awesome and very Libertarian/Objectivist:
Know your place in life is where you want to be
Don’t let them tell you that you owe it all to me
Keep on looking forward; no use in looking ’round
Hold your head above the ground and they won’t bring you down
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
Yet it was for me, not you, I
Came to write this song
I mean, really, did Ayn Rand herself write this?
There are those who think that life is nothing left to chance,
A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.
A planet of playthings,
We dance on the strings
Of powers we cannot perceive.
“The stars aren’t aligned
Or the gods are malign”-
Blame is better to give than receive.
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose Free Will.
Even now the intensity of his dread power can be felt
Weakening the body and saddening the heart
Ultimately they will become empty, mindless specters
Stripped of will and soul
Only their thirst for freedom gives them hunger for vengeance
A Farewell to Kings-
The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred Halls of Truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can’t we find the minds that made us strong?
Can’t we learn to feel what’s right
And what’s wrong?
A modest man from Mandrake
Travelled rich to the city
He had a need to discover
A use for his newly found wealth
Because he was human
Because he had goodness
Because he was moral
They called him insane
Delusions of grandeur
Visions of splendor
A manic depressive
He walks in the rain
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
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
The Spirit of Radio-
One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity
When the ebbing tide retreats
Along the rocky shoreline
It leaves a trail of tidal pools
In a short-lived galaxy
Each microcosmic planet
A complete society
A simple kind mirror
To reflect upon our own
All the busy little creatures
Chasing out their destinies
Living in their pools
They soon forget about the sea…
Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best
The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill
They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth
We’ve got nothing to fear…but fear itself?
Not pain, not failure, not fatal tragedy?
Not the faulty units in this mad machinery?
Not the broken contacts in emotional chemistry?
With an iron fist in a velvet glove
We are sheltered under the gun
In the glory game on the power train
Thy kingdom’s will be done
And the things that we fear are a weapon to be held against us…
Like a steely blade in a silken sheath
We don’t see what they’re made of
They shout about love, but when push comes to shove
They live for the things they’re afraid of
But, Rush’s connection with Ayn Rand goes beyond 2112 and the lyrics to their songs.
In the 1992 issue of Rock N’ Roll Comics which featured Rush, one of the comics shows Neil Peart holding a copy of Anthem by Ayn Rand.
Ha! How awesome is that? The Rock N’ Roll Comics are actually pretty cool. Here is the 2112 comic:
Besides the little part where they call Objectivism a “theology” it’s pretty cool! (Obviously the comic writer had no idea what Objectivism was…)
ALSO, I came upon this gem:
If you have an hour or so, watch this Classic Albums documentary. So good. Peart talks about the 2112 story and its connection with Anthem and Ayn Rand, he calls himself an “individualist” and they discuss their real views about Ayn Rand and Objectivism.
And, and, and, the video features John Ridpath- the Canadian Objectivist intellectual historian- talking about the story of Anthem.
I have one small issue, though- Geddy Lee pronounces her name wrong. He says “Anne Rand”. I HATE when people say “ANNE”. It’s AYN. AEEYYNN, I-EEN. Get it right, people.
For more information and a much deeper discussion of Rush’s libertarian/Objectivist influences, visit the blog Objectivish. I got some of my information from there. Plus, he has all sorts of other Objectivist goodies on there too.
Even modern libertarian/conservative heroes love Rush. Apparently Rand Paul loves them a little bit too much:
I like how they emphasize that the issue is completely about copywriting, and not about ideology.
Now, I’m SURE that there are many Rush songs that I haven’t included here, so if you know of any gems that I missed, please let me know! Rush made a lot of music, and spending 8 hours on the internet searching through Rush songs for one blog post isn’t really ideal. So, send me your favorite Rush lyrics!
And, seriously, if you’ve never listened to Rush, go listen! I know they’re super 80’s sounding, but they really are an awesome band. I mean, how could this not be awesome?