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Neil Peart and Ayn Rand


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#1 timbale

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:11 AM

For some reason or another today, I got thinking about Ayn Rand, and by extension Rush's connection to her writing.

 

I had certainly heard talk of it, but mostly soft denouncements from the band over the years, distancing themselves from her work as the folly of youth.

 

I'm not sure I had ever actually read the oft mentioned NME article where the writer implied the band were right wing fascists, so I looked it up and read it. 

 

https://www.theguard...rocks-backpages

 

I had always kinda thought of it as a hatchet job, where the journalist took a few lyrics out of context and made the band seem right wing... but the interview with Neil that is the centre of the article pretty much does that all on its own.

 

I had always thought of songs like Anthem and Something For Nothing as simply strong statements of the individual... but after reading that (granted, very old) interview with Neil, it kind of occurred to me for the first time that these ideas are exactly the type of thing a guy like Paul Ryan is expounding right now.  The removal of health coverage for the lower class masses is all in the name of "freedom of choice".

 

In any case, it got me thinking about this aspect of Rush that I've never really considered, despite the fact that it's a pretty well known association.  I'm curious what others think of the Rush/Rand connection.  I know one thing... if there was a new band, circa 2017, that someone told me to check out 'cause I might like them, and I read an interview with the drummer where he was talking the nonsense that Peart is expressing in that NME piece... I would probably end up giving them a pass.

 

Thoughts on Rush/Rand?


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#2 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:19 AM

I actually like Rand's writings. Not sure they should be adopted into some kind of political philosophy though-- for obvious reasons. Objectivism works within the context of her stories, which is fine. Problems arise when you take stories and apply them to real life.

The Fountainhead is a fascinating read and one of my favorite novels.
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#3 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:25 AM

There is no question that Rand inspired Rush to break out of Toronto and to attempt different things- to dare to be different. There was very little inspiration for middle class, relatively centered kids in the early 70s. Those kids were supposed to get jobs- graduate high school, get married and The End.

#4 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:30 AM

Rock writers hate Ayn Rand because they are typically products of educated elitism--Their educations bestowed and given unto them by their parents of higher class standing. Peart connected to Rand because he was self
motivated, albeit a blue collar kid whose best bet for the future was selling tractors for pop. In many ways Peart forged a new reality for himself. Eschewed a "higher education" for actual higher education.

A smart kid. Smart enough to eventually push objectivism away for other flexible belief structures that he gained through new experiences and self realizations.
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#5 timbale

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:48 AM

Rock writers hate Ayn Rand because they are typically products of educated elitism--Their educations bestowed and given unto them by their parents of higher class standing. Peart connected to Rand because he was self
motivated - and in many ways forged a new reality for himself. Eschewed a "higher education" for actual higher education.

A smart kid. Smart enough to eventually eschew objectivism for other flexible belief structures that he gained through new experiences and self realizations.

 

Well spoken, Chemistry.

 

I'm not sure I agree with you on the fact that there was very little inspiration for kids of the early 70's, based on their economic place in life.  I mean, when I think of Peart's love of The Who, I think of Townshend falling in love with Sufism through Meher Baba.  That is probably not a connection that made sense with Townshend's economic place and time.  I think all things are open to those who are open... and Peart was clearly an inquisitive, intelligent kid who had distrust and/or distain for the "system".  And probably with good reason.

 

So I do get why as an artistic manifesto, Rand makes sense, particularly for a guy like Peart.  I was thinking about the lyrics to Anthem - "Well I know they've always told you selfishness was wrong/yet it was for me, not you that I came to write this song."  I get the sentiment... and Rush has always been clear that they make music for themselves - that aiming to make it for others could contaminate them by feeling beholden to the fanbase.  I see the merit in that, for sure... but for me, it's really not what music is about!  It is a shared experience between the artist and the audience... in the NME piece, they make it clear that is not how it is for them.  I do think their opinion on this has changed as they've aged, and realized the fans have continued to support them through all their experiments - that making music for themselves is not going to put their kids through college.  But I do think, even in an artistic framework,  the sort of fear of socialism and collectivism becomes problematic when you're not even performing the music for the people.  That seems extreme to me.

 

And what you said about the adopting it into a political philosophy I agree with - which is why that interview with a young Neil was a bit of a shock - 'cause he seemed to think it was a real world solution.


Courageous convictions will drag the dream into existence.  


#6 fenderjazz

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:48 AM

I'm forever thankful to Neil for introducing me to Ayn Rand.

 

As for the band, Ayn's influence on them gave rock critics one more thing to complain about.  That is ultimately why they likely distanced themselves from her work.  They claim some sort of liberation theory from the chains of their record company, etc.  I don't know.  Listen to "Anthem", or "Something for Nothing".  They're not singing about freedom from the record company or from "the man".  There are more subtle later references too, in Tom Sawyer, Freewill, etc.

 

Rush is a product of their environment.  What Neil is reading works it's way into the lyrics and what Geddy and Alex are listening to certainly does as well.  They are sponges.



#7 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:52 AM

Young NP 'got religion' and really knew nothing about the world. But the philosophy was working for him.

NME has always been a vapid wasteland of a rag. Rush made the perfect bad guy.

#8 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 04:03 AM

Townshend is a different animal than Peart. He was born in London- went to art school with Ronnie Wood and Freddie Mercury. He was perfectly ensconced in the British blues explosion of the mid 60s.

Peart was in the sticks. Sure he was a misfit like Townshend was, but the poor kid didn't even live in Toronto which was just a pale imitation of swinging London at the time.

#9 timbale

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 04:17 AM

Townshend is a different animal than Peart. He was born in London- went to art school with Ronnie Wood and Freddie Mercury. He was perfectly ensconced in the British blues explosion of the mid 60s.

Peart was in the sticks. Sure he was a misfit like Townshend was, but the poor kid didn't even live in Toronto which was just a pale imitation of swinging London at the time.

 

 

Oh - definitely... I wasn't trying to imply they were similar animals at all.  I was just using Pete as an example of someone who also reached outside of his "station" for an inspiring philosophy of sorts.  As Peart is supposedly such a fan (I find he talks more about Moon than Townshend...), for me there is something funny in that the philosophies are SO far apart.  Like, what Townshend was trying to do with Lifehouse, in having the audience somehow actually be part of the music, is almost the exact opposite of what Rush was interested in doing.  I find that interesting, being a big fan of both.

 

I was thinking of the opening lines of Roll The Bones -

 

You can state that claim/Good work is the key to good fortune/Winners take that praise, losers seldom take that blame

 

The philosophy worked for Peart, as you said.  But he was also succeeding.  the quote above seems to say the reason people fail is that they don't work hard.  But some people work hard and still don't succeed.  And the reasons for that are complex.  I do wonder if the capitalist system didn't work for him, if he would have been saying the same things back then.  (And yes I know those guys were not multi millionaires back then... but they were succeeding on their own terms.)  If 2112 had bombed and he had to go back to his dad's farm supply shop and maybe it had to get a government loan to stay afloat, would his view have shifted faster?


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#10 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 05:03 AM

Great points Timbale.

#11 Moving Target

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 06:50 AM

I like Anthem, though it is clearly a rip-off of 2112.
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#12 Saint Ronnie

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 12:10 PM

I'm not so sure that RTB POV is wrapped up in the first line. I see it in context of the whole song that people may think that but the message of the tune is "Shit Happens". IIRC Peart explains the lyrics further in the tour book.

 

Rand was a useful philosophy when you're a young person in HS trying to make your mark and staking your claim but it's naive and if you haven't put Rand in her place by the time you're done college -you're just a mean selfish prick.  :D


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#13 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 02:12 PM

To an extreme, Rand did something similar to Peart. She grew up dirt poor, within a broken, communist society that provided no real hope for its youth beyond what the system was supposed to provide. Against all odds she broke through. And she was a feminist 100% - did not take shit and went toe to toe with male intellects of the time (educated men from high social standing whose means were typically bestowed on them).

She witnessed the Russian revolution first hand- so, after she escaped to the States, she made a deadly opponent to American pro commie intellects in the 30s and 40s. She was an anti communist female Russian Jew. The intelligentsia despised her. But it was meaningless derision. She still became famous and successful.

#14 Saint Ronnie

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:07 PM

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). The fact that she ended up a welfare bum * is just the ironic cherry on top

 

* - I don't believe collecting SS and receiving medicare makes you a "welfare bum" I'm just deriding Rand for doing something she based her life's work fighting against.


Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

— Matthew 6:19–21,24 (KJV)

#15 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:18 PM

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). The fact that she ended up a welfare bum * is just the ironic cherry on top

* - I don't believe collecting SS and receiving medicare makes you a "welfare bum" I'm just deriding Rand for doing something she based her life's work fighting against.

Its the problem with trying to extole a philosophy that only works within the confines of a story(see: the Bible)... But who isn't a sociopath these days?

There are Peter Keatings in this world though. And Howard Roarks. There are lessons to be gleaned from her work. Just don't let a story run your life.

#16 bartok

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:44 PM

Rand, was, ironically kind of a parasite recycling other people's ideas (Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig von Mises, Aristotle) but twisting them into her own agenda. 

 

I think the problem is her own central idea "selfishness is good" is, well, dubious and often leads to misery, regret, etc., both personally and on a societal level.  The problem with the belief that there is some workable "enlightened selfishness" is that people tend to be biased and unenlightened/unreliable narrators when it comes to themselves. That selfish thing that seems rationalizable before they do it, is too often regretted after it's done.  After all, the consequences of selfishness are usually not as obvious as the reward, and always felt afterwards.

 

I think if you're really truthful, the best you can say is "selfishness is sometimes good" (and, of course, the corollary - sometimes bad).

 

I think this is probably what happened with Rush (or perhaps just Peart) too (to some extent) -> they rationalized selfishness on the way up, and then felt the consequences of it...and were forced to back away/disown it/became ashamed of it ...

 

For those interested in a sort-of reverse Roark character in literature - check out Ibsen's play The Master Builder...and the character Master Builder Solness, whose selfishness pretty much cripples himself and everyone around him.  The interesting question is - is Ayn Rand herself more like Roark or more like Solness?


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#17 Three Eyes

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 03:48 PM

Rock writers hate Ayn Rand because they are typically products of educated elitism--Their educations bestowed and given unto them by their parents of higher class standing. Peart connected to Rand because he was self
motivated, albeit a blue collar kid whose best bet for the future was selling tractors for pop. In many ways Peart forged a new reality for himself. Eschewed a "higher education" for actual higher education.

A smart kid. Smart enough to eventually push objectivism away for other flexible belief structures that he gained through new experiences and self realizations.

 

Nice. Peart is what happens when a driven autodidact avoids university indoctrination. 


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


#18 Bones

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 04:06 PM

I WASNT TO FAMILIAR WITH HER SO I LOOKED HER UP.  i SEE SHE DIED IN 82,  What a shame.     ♥


♪♪♪♪♪♪♪


#19 DaveG

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 06:49 PM

The last time I can recall Neil mentioning Rand was in a Rush Backstage Club newsletter circa 1985 where someone asked "How do you feel about Ayn Rand and Objectivism?" And Neil replied, in his customary brief fashion, "Pretty good. How do you feel about them?" He might have dropped her name subsequently, but that's the last time I can recall.

 

There were little bits after that that I suspect might have been sparked from her books. I remember someone saying to the heroine in Atlas Shrugged, "We don't tell, Miss Taggart - we show." "Show Don't Tell?" Maybe, maybe not. And I remember Jim Taggart or someone in the book always going on about his "finer feelings." "This civilized veneer?" Maybe.

 

By and large, people hate Rand because she advocated laissez-faire capitalism and thought the government should consist only of the police, military and law courts and keep their hands out of everything else. Such a system has of course never existed in pure form in any country in recorded history. Even the United States was a mixed system right from the start. (Consequently, the US's failures can't properly be called failures of a capitalist system, but rather of a system that's trying to be two things at once.) But yeah, that's the main thing that bugs people and which made Rush's association with her in the early days an occasional point of controversy.



#20 chemistry1973

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Posted 31 May 2017 - 08:33 PM

She posited that forced altruism was bogus and harmful. And she arguably experienced the extremes of that.

That argument continues.




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