Contrasting Visions Of 2112: Gail Collins v. Neil Peart

New York Times columnist Gail Collins was, as always, highly enjoyable yesterday as she predicted that, come the year 2112, history students would be reading “on their vaporphones” about the precedent set when known philander and serial husband New Gingrich won the Republican primary in super-conservative South Carolina.

But her ideas run counter to the conventional thinking about what the world will be like a hundred years from now. The definitive source of future-casting for the year 2112 is, of course, Neil Peart, the (totally sick!) drummer and (philosophically ambitious!) lyricist for the great Canadian prog-metal band, Rush.

Thirty-five years ago, Peart outlined a very convincing vision of early 22nd century socio-political culture in the lyrics and the attendant liner notes to the twenty-minute-long title suite of his band’s album, 2112. (A historical document which has grown in importance and influence since it was bestowed upon a group of eleven-year-olds in suburban New Jersey by one of those eleven-year-olds’ older brother, Pat, in 1982.)

The vaporphone, for starters. Should such a thing exist in 2112, it would not, presumably, be called a “vaporphone.” As Peart told us, the citizens of all the planets that will have survived the intergalactic war of 2062 will live under the rule of the collectivist Solar Federation, in the cities that sprawl out around the great grey-walled Temples of Syrinx. Life will be pleasant, if a bit dull, under the Federation’s red-star banners. The populace of one city, Megadon, for example, will spend their time “Just plugging into [the] machine for the day, then watching Templevision or reading a Temple Paper in the evening.”

Vaporphone? Excuse me, “Templephone.”

In fact, it seems unlikely that students in 2112 will be allowed to read anything at all about a figure like Newt Gingrich. Federation life will be controlled by the priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who will ensure equality for all by strictly regulating all information available to the populace. “Our books, our music, our work and play [will all be] looked after by the benevolent wisdom of the priests…”

The priests will frown on the discussion of history in general. They will “have no need for ancient ways.” And they would be particularly adverse to someone like Gingrich, clearly a member of the “elder race of man,” who has heroic ideas about individualist entitlement and Randian concepts of sexual conquest.

If we have learned anything from Peart’s work on the subject, a man like Gingrich, a visionary comparable to say, the light-bringing electrician Equality 7–2521 or the rapist architect Howard Roark, would have no place in the “cold and empty life” brought about by the Federation’s social engineering. “Think about the average,” the priests would say. “The brotherhood of man.” Education about someone like Gingrich “doesn’t fit the plan.”

Gingrich, in Collins’ own telling, is a man of passion! Larger than life, unrestrained by rules of fairness or logic or scientific reality. I mean, he would probably want to colonize both moons over Megadon! He is an ubermensch. Does she actually think that Syrinxian Priests will let impressionable young students read about a man like that on their Templephones? Ha! In 2112?! We should be so lucky.