“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”
These are lyrics in a song Tom Sawyer produced for the rock group Rush (Spirit of the Radio: 1974-1987).
Unlike most African-American men, I grew up on rock music. Groups like Journey, Boston, Foreigner, AC/DC and Kansas were a constant part of my listening experience. But there is one group that really stood out for me, due to their edgy themes and powerful lyrical messages; that group was Rush.
Originating in Canada, this musical troupe featured guitarist Alex Lifeson, singer/bass and keyboardist Geddy Lee and drummer extraordinaire Neil Peart. Of this trio, Peart probably had the most thematic impact as he is apparently the the one who single-handedly integrated Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into many of their musical scores. While in recent years Peart has reputedly distanced himself from Rand’s thinking, the legacy of her work still lives on through the music of this iconic group.
2112 – the band’s 1976 album – was dedicated to the “Genius of Ayn Rand.” It was inspired by Rand’s novel, ‘Anthem’, which explores a dystopian world where totalitarianism is threatened by the rediscovery of the guitar. Interestingly, Rush has the distinction of being the only music group ever to be cited in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. “
My First Encounter with Ayn Rand’s Philosophy
Oddly enough, this first encounter took place in 1985 while I was eating at a pizza restaurant in Evanston, Illinois, a North Shore suburb of Chicago. I initiated a random conversation, mid-slice, with a woman across from me who was reading a hefty book called ‘Atlas Shrugged’. When asked whether I had ever heard of the author, I lied to her and said “Yes, I’ve heard of him.” With tears of laughter in her eyes, she informed me that Ayn Rand was a woman and should probably be referred to accordingly.
It wasn’t until years later that I became reacquainted with Rand’s work; this time through the influence of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is an avid fan of Rand’s book, ‘The Fountainhead’. Over the years, he has made a habit of making his judicial law clerks read the book and then discuss it with him.
Rand’s libertarian-infused Objectivist views have remained deeply controversial for a long time. These themes are reflected in the lyrics of many of Rush’s songs, including this extract from their song called ‘Anthem’:
“Live for yourself, there’s no one else
More worth living for
Begging hands and bleeding hearts will
Only cry out for more”
Many have argued that this verse is a jab at Canada, the socialist homeland where Rush got their start. And many fans of the band will also remember these lyrics from the song ‘Free Will’:
“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still haven’t 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”
Here, the essence of Objectivism seeps out, namely, the power to transform one’s destiny, if truly desired. Of course, this requires us to take responsility for our shortcomings, instead of choosing to get enmeshed in ‘phantom fears’ like power and influence, shifts in the economy and social inequality. For these fears are what spur our political leaders to support paternalistic initiatives like Obamacare, Social Security and onerous taxes that keep us locked into the system. By overcoming this ‘Rush’ to judgment, we can set ourselves free from the elements of enslavement that hinder our basic rights of economic freedom and justice.
Michael Scott is a Denver-based independent journalist focusing on the intersection between free markets and economic freedom. He can be reached on Twitter @biz_michael