Paul Ryan's Epic Drum Solo

Most anyone who follows politics probably already knew that Paul Ryan (R-WI), now the presumptive Republican nominee for the Vice Presidency, is an enthusiastic follower of allegorical novelist turned Nietzsche Misread for Dummies "philosopher," Ayn Rand.  He denies it now, of course, no doubt because the GOP has figured out that Rand's strident atheism and pro-choice beliefs could provoke, at any moment, a teabilly caravan of Dodge Ram 1500s to bear down on the Romney leisure compound and demand that Ted Nugent be appointed Secretary of Ass-Kicking.  Ryan now says he's switched his intellectual allegiance to Thomas Aquinas, a good Catholic thinker that should reassure the GOP base that Ryan is book-smart, but not liberal book-smart (plus, he probably knew the nation would do a collective spit-take if he went full-on Dubya and claimed Jesus as his "favorite philosopher").

This is one of the most fascinating paradoxes of contemporary conservatism. They are profoundly suspicious of intellectuals, and yet remain desperate to produce an "intellectual" of their own to validate their discredited superstitions. When 99% of the world's scientists-- trained at the most elite centers of learning--concur that global climate change is a REAL phenomenon, conservatives dismiss them as "useful idiots" doing the bidding of Obamanation and then proceed to produce the one sheep-skinned flunky fitted with an electronic dog collar--wired by the Koch Brothers--to pop out of bed at a moment's notice to appear on Fox News and reassure everyone that the ongoing disruption in global weather patterns is most likely caused by rice thrown at gay weddings.

Jed Clampett: the ideal GOP Secretary of Energy
Use the country's scientific and technological advantages to lead the way in developing alternative energy, thus helping the environment and revitalizing the long-term economy?  Screw that--instead, everyone should go to Home Depot for some PVC piping, pound it down in your back yard, and hope that "up from the ground comes a bubblin' crude. Oil that is. Back Gold. Texas Tea. The first thing you know, you'll be a millionaire!"

Was the GOP always this stupid, or do they now just embrace stupidity to attract the stupid?  I have little doubt that William F. Buckley, Jr.  actually read Rousseau, Marx, Freud, and other heavy-hitters of western philosophy--if only to better hone his witty bon-mots of condescending rebuttal. A social contract?...oh my!  Today's GOP, on the other hand, is impressed by something as meager as Ann Coulter name-dropping "Robespierre" in one of her weekly screeds.  And they remain blissfully ignorant as she then proceeds to idiotically associate various historical figures, in a series of mind-blowing anachronisms, with "demonic liberalism" (Did you know the KKK was actually a "liberal" organization?  So sayeth Ann, and blondie knows her history, shur' nuff).

So Ryan's love of Rand is not surprising, nor is the GOP's desire to showcase him as the "brains" of the new conservatism. That's just how low the bar has been set in conservative circles.

Now that Ryan has backed off his love for Ms. Rand, at least until after the election, his followers--good authoritarian personality types all--have quickly got the message that they too need to cool it with the whole crybaby John Galt thing. One individual assured me that Ryan has never actually claimed to be a "Randian" or professed allegiance to "Objectivism," Rand's infantile philosophy of narcissistic self-interest.  Sure, Ryan gives out Rand's books at Christmas, makes his interns read Atlas Shrugged, and cites her as the single biggest influence in his decision to take up the cause of "public service" (an oxymoron if ever there was one--it's like claiming your love of arson inspired you to join the fire department)--but Ryan himself is NOT a Randian.  How do we know?  He attended a meeting of the "Atlas Society" (!)  and said so (which is a bit like going to a Star Trek convention to announce you are not, in fact, a nerd).

The Hannity urethra, moments after learning Obama has read the 18th Brumaire
I'm trying to imagine a similar scenario involving President Obama. I've read Marx, I've given Marx as a holiday gift, I have my interns read Das Kapital....but I went to the most recent meeting of the North American Communist Party to announce I'm not really a Marxist.  Sean Hannity's urethra would be ripped like a shredded soda straw, so powerful the ejaculate of orgasmic outrage to issue from his red, white, and blue boxers.

Weirdest of all--in the effort to defend Ryan and Rand, there is apparently no concern that their current "brainiac" nominee for VP has also expressed admiration for Rage Against the Machine, a band so far to the left that they would have had a hard time holding down a Kremlin gig back in 1959.  Nyet! Nyet! Too extreme, yells Khrushchev, making his way back up to the Politburo.  If this is true, and Ryan does indeed love both Rand and RATM, it can only mean one of four things: 1). he's an imbecile; 2). he's clinically insane; 3); he's stroking out; 4). he doesn't pay attention.

Ryan has also expressed a "I'm not your Dad's GOP" love for Led Zeppelin. Perhaps he is responding at an unconscious level to Aleister Crowley's cryptic influence on the band.  "Do What Thou Wilt Shall be the Whole of the Law" is the ultimate form of radical individualism, a credo both Satan and the Heritage Foundation can get behind.

But how is it, in all this love for the rebellious energies of rock 'n' roll, that we haven't heard of Ryan's opinion on the Canadian rock legends, Rush? Here is a band, after all, that shares Ryan's enthusiasm for the work of Ayn Rand, a band that repeatedly makes Randian politics a central concern in their lyrics.  If Ryan isn't actually insane, then I say he must immediately renounce those Godless commies in Rage Against the Machine and take up Rush's righteous call to power-trio Objectivism. Someone please send him a mix-tape, asap. 

Ryan would love Rush.  After all, Ryan's politics, Rush's music, and Rand's philosophy are all targeting the same basic psychographic: 15 year-old boys.  What angry adolescent kid, especially a boy, can't relate to Ayn's underlying message of resentful hope: "You are an extra special person, and you shouldn't have to do anything you don't want to do, like mow the stupid lawn, or clean your stupid room, or pay taxes for infrastructure and government services that you cannot envision benefiting yourself in this immediate moment.  Or, as the Who once sang, "Hope I die before I become eligible for the Social Security benefits this retarded government forced me to pay so that someone's stupid grandma wouldn't be reduced to turning tricks down by the Greyhound station when of course it would be much better to give the poor and senile 'vouchers' that can be denied in an unregulated insurance marketplace." Rock on, GOP!

Now, this is not a knock on Rush per se.  They are all extraordinarily talented musicians, and while as a teen progger I always preferred the ersatz Victoriana of Jethro Tull over Rush's loudly wailed allegories in multiple time signatures, I've got nothing against their basic "sound." They're really good at complicated riffs and dynamics.  But the lyrics!  Lord, what a pile of Randian hooey.

We could sing and dance around / because we know we can't be found
Rush's lyrics have traditionally been written by their drummer, Neil Peart, who like Ryan, has professed his admiration for Ayn Rand. Already, that's a problem. Any band wherein the drummer is the driving intellectual force, the author of the overall sensibility, is bound to run into some problems.  Let's face it, the best drummers are either an unconscious force of nature or tasteful technicians.  But lyricists?  Let us recall, Ringo only wrote two songs for the Beatles--one about his momentary concern that a girlfriend had been in a car crash and "lost her hair," and another about a magic octopus that lived in a garden under the sea.  So drummers essentially have the minds of children, and it is the job of a good record producer to make sure the stickman's "idea" notebook mysteriously vanishes in between sessions.

Whether Peart really believes in Rand is unclear. Perhaps, surveying the 70s rock market and seeing that all the "hey, let's rock, smoke, and screw all night" gigs were taken, Rush wisely positioned themselves to conquer the stoner Holden Caulfield demo (Everyone's a stupid phony but me...I'm extraordinary!).  Whatever the motivation, Peart's commitment to Rand goes beyond just the lyrics to inform the very sound of the band.

Still does not "get" the White Stripes
As Freaks and Geeks captured so poignantly, Peart stands at the apex of a drumming pyramid that treats the trap set, not as a mere musical instrument, but rather as a killing field of kick roll Darwinism.  Peart is revered by his fans as the greatest drummer to ever live precisely because he has accumulated the largest inventory of percussion devices on earth and can play them faster, louder, and more complexly than any other human currently alive.  All he needs to cement his legend among the prog cognoscenti is to conk Meg White on the head during a White Stripes gig, steal her pitiful little snare drum, and then blow it out with a single awesome rim-shot while grinding through "Tom Sawyer" at the Cleveland Munici-Dome. Thus would the manly "maker" slay the weak and womanly "taker," a parasite on the eternal cosmic energy of drum propulsion. 

But back to the lyrics.

Two of Rush's most Randy songs stand-out as worthy of explication, if only to prepare those of us dreading a possible Romney-Ryan regime for what might be coming. 

The first is Red Barchetta.  This is a ditty about a hellish (socialist) future where passage of "the Motor Law" has banned certain vehicles from the road, including the eponymous roadster. Why did the "government" ban the red barchetta?  No real reason is given, but we can assume it was probably because the car 1). goes too fast; 2). wastes precious fuel; 3) presents an ongoing hazard to local wildlife--deers, squirrels, opossums and such; or 4). is simply too awesome for panty-waisted liberal girly-men to wrap their tiny little minds around.  Our hero, a young teen driver, sneaks a banned Barchetta from his uncle's barn for a joyride, which promptly attracts the attention of the "authorities" (i.e. "Dad").  But due to his awesome driving skills and the superiority of the vehicle, he is able to leave these fascist enforcers of the highway safety code choking in the dust.

If ever there was a song more calculated to appeal to the fantasy structure of young boys and rage-aholic Republicans,  I'd like to see it.  I remember in the early 1970s, at the height of the first oil embargo, some wiseacre 16 year-old taunting us younger kids that soon, because of the gas shortages, there would be no more cars!  Ever!  In that moment, enraged, I would gladly have put Jimmy Carter's head on a pike--no namby-pamby environmentalist was going to keep me from realizing my full masculinization behind the wheel of a sweet, sweet automobile. Promises were made, post-war America!

It's a gas-guzzlin', deer smackin', squirrel crushin' machine
Maybe you've had the following conversation:

"It's my right to drive a huge gas-guzzling Hummer a quarter mile and back every day to the store."

Well, sure, it's your right, but do you really need a Hummer for that?  Wouldn't it be better to just walk?

"My Hummer keeps me and my family safe in case of an accident."

Well, sure, but doesn't the huge size make it more dangerous for everyone else on the road, like cyclists, pedestrians, and people in compacts?

"They should get a Hummer and then they'd be safe too.  They need to have the right priorities."

Well, sure, but if everyone is driving a Hummer, wouldn't you soon need to have a Mega-Hummer to keep you safe from all the other Hummers, thus leading to a motorized arms race that in the end only benefits Big Oil and the Hummer dealership?  What if we all agreed to regulate the size or weight of cars--it would save energy and make it safer for everyone.


After Red Barchetta, Rush's other great Randian opus is "The Trees."  A summary cannot do it justice, so I will reprint the lyrics below.  Maybe you'll learn something:

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

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'Oppression!'
And the oaks just shake their heads

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

Now this is Randian bullshit piled high, deep, and ridiculous.  It is a cruel joke of human folly that other humans would actually consider it meaningful social policy.  The message is clear:  Oaks, like John Galt, are inherently superior, and should thus be free to "excel" unfettered by the nanny state's noisome calls for regulation and/or "equal rights." Maples, meanwhile, are the inferior masses, using their mediocre majorities (they even formed a "union"!) to drag the mighty Oaks back down to earth.  It's a conversation aggreived teenage boys and alienated Republicans have running in their heads almost 24/7.  Just wait until all those bogus teachers/elites realize I'm smarter/better than all of them put together...then I can have the principal marry me to my fantasy girlfriend on TV, just like Rupert Pupkin! 

Get it?  I can explain it to you if need be.
This is all well and good if you are a 15 year-old boy, or even a rock drummer trying to sell records to 15-year-old boys, but it is a bit frightening as a "philosophy" informing the policies of a 42 year-old Congressman who might actually have to break ties in the Senate one day.  Of course, most trees with any sense eventually realize that the Oaks maintain their inherent "superiority" by making sure that even their stupidest acorns get planted at Yale and Harvard as legacy admits.  Or, that by virtue of their superior position, the Oaks can pass laws that drop Pappa Oak's tax rate down to 1%, while the lowly Maples that must drain the Oak family's sap buckets are getting hit at 20 to 30%.  Sometimes, as in the case of Mitt Romney, the Oaks maintain their position as elite "makers" by having Daddy Oak give his little acorn a million dollars to "make something of himself."

In other words, the Oaks are exceptionally good at networking and legislating to ensure the seamless transfer of their wealth, generation after shady generation.  And if you're a sickly Maple slowly dying in their shadow, tough shit, you're just not trying hard enough.

Ayn Rand's universe is like a protracted, embarrassingly arrested version of Freud's "family romance," the familiar childhood fantasy that one is actually a very special prince or princess, now held hostage by impostor parents, who will one day be recognized for his or her secretly exalted status.  Who is John Galt?  I, a reader of Ayn Rand, am John Galt, obviously.

And who, at this historical juncture in the U.S. still finds this fantasy particularly appealing?  Who believes that, if not for the injustice of Maple laws and regulations, they too would soar as mighty Oaks?

White guys.

It pains me to say it, being one myself, but it's the white guys.

If the world would only recognize their innate superiority, honor all they've done for humanity, and afford them the proper respect for establishing what is and is not "normal,"  then white guys could finally escape the "collectivist" hell that is victimization by feminism, affirmative action, reverse-discrimination, political correctness, socialism, liberalism, Hollywood, academia, gays, lesbians, and Kenyan-born smartypants impostor-Presidents.  Things would be just like they used to be when white guys made America the greatest white nation on earth--all by virtue of their rugged individual selves with absolutely no help from or impact on anybody else living on the earth.  Dammit, we were all mighty John Galts once, until we let a few stray Maple seeds get out of hand, if you get my drift...."

Should Obamacare be repealed? Is access to basic health care a moral imperative that we should provide to all our fellow citizens, regardless of station, or is it a "privilege" that will help sort the strong from the weak, the makers from the takers, the Oaks from the Maples?  The Senate is deadlocked at 50/50.  Enter VP Paul Ryan, strapped into the universe's most awesome drum kit--a million snares, toms, cymbals, and gongs capable of 360-degree gyroscopic rotation.  Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS--all have their Bic lighters held aloft. Karl Rove and Dick Armey have put on their "Romney--Ryan--Rand--Rush: Four "R's" of the Apocalypse Tour 2012" T-shirts.

Rock-hard Ryan is about to rock the chamber so hard that the "takers" will think twice before they ever bitch again about social or economic injustice.  He's going to make it safe for white guys across the nation to take off their headphones, put down their copy of The Fountainhead, emerge from their shag-carpeted lairs, and assume their rightful position as the people who have always been the absolute best at deluding themselves into believing they enjoy no historical privileges and have no social responsibilities.  In short, Paul Ryan is going to kick roll the entire nation back to 1932, right before that FDR bubblegum shit ruined the "natural order" of kick-ass "makers" and loser-ass "takers."

Live for yourself...there's no one else
More worth living for
Begging hands and bleeding hearts will only cry out for more!

("Anthem" by Rush)

If you have the stomach for it, I highly recommend watching the video at top right: "Atlas Society Artist." It reveals all. 

I hope the drummers of the world will understand I am just poking a little fun at them. Older, wiser, and much richer, Peart has apparently mellowed on the whole Rand trip (see link in comments below), nor would I want to suggest that he himself would ever  want to conk Meg White over the head and annex her snare (even if some Rush fans would find that awesome). In any case, I do not expect ideological consistency from rock stars. Ryan's beliefs, however, remain as terrifying as they are baffling. 

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