The magnum opus for the progressive rock band Rush has to be the album and the story in their work 2112.
The story begins in the year 2062, when a galaxy-wide war results in the union of all planets under the rule of the Red Star of the Solar Federation. By 2112, the world is controlled by the “Priests of the Temples of Syrinx,” who determine the content of all reading matter, songs, pictures – every facet of life.
Everything the hero has been “told” comes from “The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx“. The priests—relying on an elaborate set of “great computers”—micromanage every aspect of Federation life: They proclaim, “We’ve taken care of everything—the words you read and the songs you sing. … Never need to wonder how or why,” asserting a “Brotherhood of Man.” But their “equality” is illusory: They control all available information, and as will soon become clear, have little tolerance for individuality or creativity that doesn’t conform to their vision. So are we there yet?
2112 was released in 1976 an age when collectivism still had its hold on the much of the world. America was going through a nervous breakdown of strikes, inflation, unemployment and general malaise that was dealt with in discos.
2112 was a sign of the times in the mid to late 1970s. We do not know who Syrinx is or what the priests believe about it. They apparently controlled the planet’s culture and methods of communication ever since they created a more egalitarian society in the year 2069 in the aftermath of the great war. And now, in 2112, technology is a tool of domination for the priests who monopolize it. So are we there yet?
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, all for one
We work together, common sons
Never need to wonder how or why
Look around this world we made
Equality our stock in trade
Come and join the brotherhood of man
Oh what a wide contented world
Let the banners be unfurled
Hold the red star proudly high in hand
We are the priests
Of the temples of syrinx
Our great computers
Fill the hollowed halls
We are the priests
Of the temples of syrinx
All the gifts of life
Are held within our walls
The Protagonist lives in “the bleakness of Megadon”, reflecting on how “we have had peace since 2062”. He initially believes what he’s been told, thinking he is happy, until he finds, “something that changed it all”—an old guitar from the time before the Federation.
Thinking he has made a wonderful discovery that will be a boon to humanity, he goes to present the guitar to the priests of the Temples who angrily destroy it and rebuke him for unearthing one of the “silly whims” that caused the collapse of the previous civilization.
He goes into hiding and dreams of a world before the Solar Federation. Upon awakening he becomes distraught and commits suicide. As he dies, another planetary battle begins, resulting in the ambiguous ending “Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control.” (This spoken section was created by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson reportedly “messing around with a tape recorder.”) In the “VH1 Classic Albums” series about the album, Neil Peart confirmed that he intended the ending to be a happy one as the people of the Solar Federation are liberated.
I’m not convinced this is America in 2014, but it sure seems to resonate. We are told what we should believe and if we don’t, we are called a myriad of things from narrow minded, to bigot, to conspiracy freaks…we are told what we can and can not say about beliefs and worship at some very strange shrines. Not all will agree, but we all have to agree something is not quite right in our country today.
On the album, Peart credits “the genius of Ayn Rand.” Rand, a Russian-born, Jewish-American novelist and creator of the philosophy of Objectivism, and wrote a novella titled Anthem (itself adopted as the title of another Rush song, from the album Fly By Night) from which Peart borrowed the broad strokes of the plot. This caused the band significant negative publicity, labeling the band as right-wing extremist, the British NME even making allusions to Nazism.
Rand’s Anthem is a dystopian fiction novella written in 1937 and published in 1938 in England. It takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered another dark age characterized by irrationality, collectivism, and socialistic thinking and economics. Technological advancement is now carefully planned (when it is allowed to occur at all) and the concept of individuality has been eliminated (for example, the use of the word “ego” is punishable by death).
“And the meek shall inherit the Earth” are the words that finish the opening piece in 2112 and begin The Temples Of Syrinx. The line is a reference to the Beatitudes of the New Testament and Psalm 37:11. As with all dystopian literature I read (or listen to) as of late… it simply resonates. Is it a sign of the times or a sign of old age? I’m not sure…what do you think?
Note: In Greek mythology, a syrinx (Greek Óõñéãî) was a nymph and a follower of Artemis, known for her chastity. Pursued by the amorous Greek god Pan, she ran to the river’s edge and beseeched succor from the river nymphs. In answer, she was transformed into hollow water reeds that made a haunting sound when the god’s frustrated breath blew across them. Pan cut the reeds to fashion the first set of pan pipes, which were thence forth known as syrinx. The word ‘syringe’ originated from this word.
Temples are ascension symbols and are regarded to be closer to the gods with their height. The computerized nature of The Priests’ system was a concept envisioned by Neil Peart in the 1970s. The syrinx is the vocal organ of birds, analogous to the larynx in mammals.