Friday, February 21, 2014

On Ayn Rand’s Novels

So many people have discredited segment by segment of Ayn Rand’s sentimental, naïve, and hateful philosophy that I feel it would be a waste of time for me to do so.  She already gets at-least ten times the attention deserved of a pop-philosopher whose philosophy has less wisdom than can be found in half-intelligent song lyrics, especially considering the Right has a newfound interest in advertising her to the populous with the PBS – which apparently is considered “Leftist” or “Liberal” just because it gets its money from public donations and was until recent not amiable to the point of subservience to the wills and propagandistic views of the Right.  This is to the extent freedom of thought and expression has been demonized on an industrial level.  Fail to conform to the mindset and narrative of corporations and run instead an independent publically financed institution overall devoid, at-least to my knowledge, of political bias and you’re labeled a Leftist.  Good, perhaps this will surely attract some people to legitimately Left-wing sources, just as people actually researched and found in a friendly manner what Socialism actually is because of its recent increase as a vulgar word due-to the Affordable Health Care Act and the Communist-Maoist Muslim Kenyan zombie Anti-Christ from the fifth dimension who enacted it – “documentary” which will essentially be for Right-wing Libertarians what Triumph of the Will was for Fascism. 
I take that back.  As well-as being memorable and notable (of course for its historical context, but it also is a very well-made film in its own right; despite it being a film displaying the Right in a dimly positive light) when this up-coming documentary will be the definition of forgettable, Triumph of the Will is actually somewhat interesting to watch particularly from a historical perspective both in terms of politics and general world history as well-as from a cinematic viewpoint; considering it is used in both the Clockwork Orange and referenced in Lucas work; specifically the ending ceremony where Lea bequeaths Luke, Han and Chewie medals for their services.  Does that mean that the Rebellion is essentially a Far-Right Reactionary Movement?  I know Lucas’ views are to the Right but I thought there were some boundaries of basic sanity.  The closest thing a modern American equivalent could come to Triumph of the Will (“Triumph of the Swill!  Triumph of the Swill!  Triumph of the Swill!  Triumph of the Swiiihll! And yes, I know that song is about the music industry, but the Christian Right is essentially the only group that actually wants to censor music in America, so it’s apropos.) is Jesus Camp where bat-shit Christians send their unfortunate children to be mentally (and possibly anally) raped by a bunch of Jesus Freaks; or those “Founding Father” Glenn Beck Conservative camps that’s essentially the American equivalent of Fascism.  But I already wrote an essay regarding the Tea Party and considering they have essentially bought our Government and took over via legislative coup progressively from the Reagan Era, they really don’t need to recruit children as the Nazis did.  Because why build camps to brainwash the masses when you have Fox News, Churches and a Jingoistic narrative in the classroom to accomplish the same task?
So since I don’t want to spend time rambling about Ayn Rand’s philosophy (I’d much rather ramble incoherently about far-more cogent authors) at-least not directly, I’m going to do essentially that which I said was a waste of time only filtered through her God-awful novels.
First let me say that all you need to know about Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” you can get from a brief glimpse at her novels.  Further reading than this is done at your own peril.  All of them are little more than nickel romance stories (Romantic both in genre and in literary style) with a poorly constructed philosophy imbibing the binary nature of the cardboard cut-outs she would call “characters.”  Every character is either a laughable iteration of the “stupid Altruist and leech” or the herculean Randian hero who is often blonde or blue-eyed if memory serves and always (fucking always) described as having an angular jaw and sharp beautiful features.  For such a supposedly deep and cutting-edge philosophy, it’s incredibly fitting to its true idealistic and psychological nature that the essential essence of each character being known by traits that are skin-deep.  Each novel has a beautiful shallow self-centered girl who is determined but in-spite of all the moochers and collectivists trying to stand in her way (!).  And each one also has said female character whether she is the main character submitting to the true hero who is always male, and frankly would serve as one of the worse James Bond Villains (or as Bill Maher stated, Batman baddies) in their cartoonish nature and utter indifference to human suffering being showcased as quintessential virtue.  This is seen in her quote about the serial killer Gacy she idolized that I’m sure most of you are aware of.  Now on to We The Living.
I confess I haven’t read the entire thing, only the first chapter or two two or three times.  The Anti-Communism is obvious but expected, what I could not get beyond was the statements of what I would call the “flabby Altruists” or the sniping Mother (or Aunt, I’m not referring to the Mother specifically, though she may very-well be the mother, but the archetype in Any of Ayn Rand’s novel; seen in Henry Rearden’s mother in Atlas Shrugged for example.) character who says things like, “Why can’t you be more like everyone else?  You need to give your life to the whole!  People need you!  Submit to the will of the Borg; resistance is useless!”  This is seen throughout all her other novels perhaps besides Anthem which is by far her best work and the only one worth reading – but I’ll get to it in detail shortly.  We The Living is essentially a book that depicts tragedy, despair and desperation but through the guise of someone only concerned with the Rich.  People were suffering just as much if not more under Czarist rule, and the Bolsheviks especially early on in their reign did make a conscious effort to educate the common citizen and increase their standard of living.  But Rich people are suffering in Rand’s novel.  Gasp!  We can’t let that happen!  And people are being persecuted by their class?  Why, what moral monster could allow such a thing?  Calling an entire group of people something less-than human; like a … parasite?  
Of course I don’t want to paint a picture of the USSR as an ideal place to live, but that’s almost negligible at this point. What isn’t is Rand depicting human suffering amongst sickening romance and only the problems of the rich mean anything.  Also from the description it seems like Leo would need to pay to get medical treatment or stay in the sanitarium.  The Government providing absolutely no financial help to the concerns of its citizens seems like a different kind of system, one that memory recalls Ayn Rand was quite – to put it mildly – in favor of.  I mean really, complete “Government take-over” of the means-of-production and services and they would charge lunatics stay in what I’m sure would be comparable to a four-star hotel at the Ritz?  Ayn Rand having no understanding of Kant or Dialectical Materialism I was aware of for some time, but a Socialist Government forcing the mentally ill to pay for what I’m sure is terrible and in some ways even counterproductive treatment methods and general care – as we see throughout almost the entire globe at the beginning of the twentieth century – is akin to describing Fascism as a movement trying to make Big Businesses accountable for White-collar crime.  At-least that’s the narrative you get from Conservatives when they compare Progressives and Socialists to Brown Shirts.  Oh… National Socialists!  Well why didn’t you tell me that before?  Of course that means that Hitler and the Nazis were Socialist.  I mean, Hitler defines Socialism as a “whites-only” movement but if Hitler said-so it must be true right?  Because Hitler was a mean ol’ Socialist – who backed Big Business and praised Private Property rights – so if he defines Socialism as something then I suppose he’s the Pickard to the meaning of words and “makes it so.” 
Technically I realize it was Number One who “made it so”, Pickard merely gave the order.  Calm the fuck down Trekkies.  Ha, autocorrect wants to replace Trekkies with Trekkers, which if I remember right is the word for a Star Trek enthusiast that they prefer at-least some of the most hard-core ones which is ironic considering they're the biggest Trekkies of all.  Bill Gates must be a huge Trekkie.
As a final remark, it should be noted that this is the only of Rand’s novels where the herculean hero is corrupted (or his true nature is shown considering Irina posited a view of him which I assumed seemed inaccurate of him at the time) and the story as a whole ends in tragedy.  Though I haven’t read it, and it has the simplistic “Communism is bad because sharing sucks” message, as well-as what I assume is an unbearable romance with an added love-triangle and dialogue I know to be atrocious, I confess there are some elements of the plot I found interesting and surpassing her more well-known works.  A final thing that seems insultingly cheap is her being the only “genuine mourner” at Andrei’s funeral.  Was it because he lost his position as Party Member and therefore all worth as a human being to the Altruistic Collectivists?  This is the only one of Rand’s work I know of where a Communist is depicted in anything resembling a positive light – though he does commit suicide in the end which seems like a convenient tie-up and display of weakness – though he only helps the female protagonist when she essentially non-verbally prostitutes herself to him – which is acting on selfish incentives you’d accept from, well… not a Communist truly acting on the notion of class struggle and human solidarity. 
Anthem is the only one of Ayn Rand’s novels – if you can call it that, its typically referred to as a novella with A Clockwork Orange, which is at-least twice the length of this story – that I’ve read in full and is the only one I could or would recommend to anyone.  Despite the simplicity of the story, the general premise being that a second Dark Ages has engulfed the world due-to a “binge of Collectivism” and society has regressed to using candles and believing in a Geo-centric view of the cosmos, the idea of a first-person narrative unable to use the word ‘I’ is quite clever, and is told well despite the instances of “Randing” when she makes Equality 7-2521’s contemporaries either idiot villains or sniveling half-wits who would be able to possess Rand’s ideal virtues of selfishness and other traits if it weren’t for the society they inhabited.  Of course Rand naively believes in free will, so she also would hold that these people chose sometime in their lives to fog their mind or whatever basic generalization she gives to all the people and ideologies she despises. 
It’s been compared to Zamyatin’s We which is much better than this novel in numerous regards.  First-off it isn’t used as propaganda for a naïve view of Hero-worshipping Right-wing Libertarianism, and secondly, though society has gone array in its despotism, utilizing precise time-management similar to Taylor’s time-table, and Bentham’s theory of more efficient prisons were in theory all prisoners could be watched at-all times so all assume they are when in theory none of could be is utilized towards nearly all of society save a few old buildings used for museums among potentially other things.  The logic and ideology expressed in We seems intelligent and something worth arguing against, while in Anthem Rand does what she’s famous for and constructs the most laughable stock and impotent (she herself believes they are utterly impotent and need to convince the “strong man” to relinquish his power, which is an obvious simplification and bastardization of Nietzsche) villains who believe that a street-sweeper creating a light bulb is a heresy and it must be destroyed despite its use-value.  Which is contrary to her argument of the Mystics of Muscle (the ludicrous label she gives to Leftists) exploiting the Men of the Mind for their genius while giving them no reward – which of course is what we see in Capitalist society, but I digress.  Also, society in this world (if what she has described has become a global phenomena like in Atlas Shrugged) is mystical to a point that even the average fundamentalist Christian or Muslim living in the West would find laughable, and these people are supposed to be the logical-end of Communists and Marxists?  Who are arguably the most materialistic in their understanding of Nature, History, and Humanity? 
Also her understanding of Democracy as Mob Rule is so regressive and Reactionary you would have to go back – at-least to my knowledge, obviously many Conservatives and our Government in-general is very anti-democratic, but seldom to the Powers That Be state said views – to Eighteenth Century defendants of the Crown to characterize Democracy as she does.  The tyranny she presents is so childish in its lack of logic and explicit absolutism.  The genius of 1984 is Orwell realizes a fully Totalitarian State could and in-fact does lock up people for drawing things they don’t approve of or the suspicion of Thought Crime, but they are far-more subtle, intelligent and planning in how they achieve their goals and Orwell is a genius in both the expression and explanation of their psychology and ideology.  Comparing Orwell to Rand is like comparing Jello Biafra to a fourteen year-old with a Mohawk screaming into a microphone and complaining about Socialism and Mom telling him to clean his room.
The Fountainhead is the only one of Rand’s novels I haven’t token a half-serious attempt at trying to read.  Which is shame because I’ve heard and am willing to believe it surpasses Atlas Shrugged, and I somehow managed to read slightly more than two-thirds of that novel, which would be approximately reading The Fountainhead in its entirety.  I have seen the 1949 WB film several times however and is in-fact the main inspiration for writing this essay.  Firstly, am I the only one who realized that his vision of a building when he first sees a board of people contemplating hiring him is the very definition and essence of bland?  I know, I’m one of the moochers, and I just cannot conceive the genius, originality and scope of vision having a plain building and refusing to be paid a large commission if only I allow others to essentially do my work for me and add style and individual features to the building.  There are distinctions between the book and film from what I can tell of a plot summary, which may be why Rand stated that she hated the film, “from start to finish” though she at-first said it was the most loyal adaptation of material Hollywood ever produced.  The novel emphasizes Dominique’s Fatalism and surrender far-more than in the film; also, Keating has a love interest in the book that he abandons in the pursuit of money and reputed success in tabloids and accolades.  This is quite different than the soft timid Keating in the film who constantly is talking about compromising but seemingly for philosophical or psychological reasons other than making it big financially by giving the people what they want.  Which last I checked was a large part of this thing called Capitalism, unless it’s more profitable to produce a type of imitation or to mold public interest so they crave what you make or that they become consumeristic beings.
The movie in-general is passable and I don’t have much to say on it asides from I found Dominique’s desire to not desire anything somewhat profound but not in the way Rand describes it.  The self-abnegation of Buddhism and Schopenhauer to see the futility of most desires not only in satisfaction but in achievement and eradication of desire once satisfaction is achieved is full of wisdom, though I disagree with their views in full.  Rand’s characters however are closer to teenagers who say, “Agh!  Everything is so fucking awful!  Why should my genius and greatness benefit these losers who shun my nobility?” and to that I need only quote a great film which ends with the Marxist message, “He’s the city Gotham needs, but not the one it deserves.”
I must confess that the ending speech in The Fountainhead, which I’ve heard Rand insisted was retained as it is in her novel verbatim, is the main reason for me writing this essay.  It’s just so laughable how destroying a building is handled by not only the warped Roark but everyone else involved; the villain says something along the lines of, “it’s time to decide whether we’ll allow this Egoist to live for his own sake!  We are society and we can demand him to do whatever the fuck we say!”  Not:  “The fucking psycho blew up a building!  Put his terroristic ass in jail.  Oooh, boo hoo Mr. Roark, they added a few balconies to your artistic masterpiece of a building?”  Also what’s this devious "Socialist" who wants to enslave everyone doing writing screeds about buildings in some Populist paper?  “Ha ha, yes!  I’ll destroy society and make everyone obey my will and dictates by calling the new private school built on Fourth and Western ugly!  That’ll show those bourgeois dogs!”
In the speech Roark talks about the lofty ideals of Individualism and how it excuses him to blow up buildings he designs.  He says that the Founding Fathers built this country “To achieve; not the plunder.”  A cute way of looking at the treatment of Native Americans which Rand rationalizes by saying that they were a primitive people who had no conception of ownership, so of course the advanced Europeans who did believe in property rights could come in and claim whatever they wanted at their expense.  He says that his designs were “Token by force by breach of contract.”  ; which obviously they weren’t.  He willingly gave his ideas to Keating who essentially allowed “the mob” or Toohey to change Roark’s ideas rather than enforce the contract if the contract was even made were an agreement of no changes to Roark’s Sistine Chapel was included.  And even if they did “steal your idea” does that justify destroying the building?  If an inventor of weapons is expected to give his ideas to the Government (as many scientists ideas are token not exactly voluntarily) does that justify bombing the manufacturing plant where they’re made.  In this instance, if the Government was murdering innocents and no other discourse was necessary, and the discourse I described would be effective (which of course it wouldn’t because they would just build another factory) then in this instance I believe that one would be morally right to bring harm to those who stole an idea which could be used for good.  But because it  was being used for malicious purposes, the fact that it was once your idea is only a flavoring on this dish of crime – damn, I should write Buddy-cop movies – and I wouldn’t want to run into the man with Ron Paul 2012 tattooed onto his who would see affordable housing for the destitute as a moral crime.  I also find amusing how he constantly uses the phrase “I came here to do such and such,” when he’s on trail and he could – and should – spend serious jail time for serious destruction to property (property rights remember Mr. Uber Capitalist?  That building wasn’t yours.) and yet he’s talking as if he just chose to stroll in and rant at everyone about his conception of Individualism and say see-yah-later afterwards.  I wouldn’t want to be any poor schmo who wants to remodel a house or God forbid a gas station built by the great Howard Roark, otherwise he’ll come in with an Uzi and a copy of Atlas Shrugged screaming, “You’re just jealous of my designs!  Try to copy my majestic marvels in Hell fucker!”  Except taking seventy pages to get across.
Which of course has me segway into that most soul-crushing repetitive and perhaps worst of all literary ventures, namely Atlas Shrugged.  It’s almost impossible to convey the experience of reading a book so terribly written and so lacking in style, cleverness or any real structure or story development.  All the characters who are innately good selfish people remain so and just need to realize how fantastic they are and that everyone else can go to Hell.  And all the disgusting parasites – who seem to focus on economics rather than religious or spiritual incentives, which to me tells what she truly despised wasn’t “intellectual” or “ideological” in the idealist expressions of faith in God but rather the actual action and event of systematic aid and benefit to those who need it; showing she has very-much in common with the Christian Right as she realized in-part but still loved to contend that her “philosophy” was so unique.  Expressed in her hatred of Nietzsche when she bastardized much of him, and Libertarianism when she is really just a thuggish Libertarian who believes that those who aren’t exactly like her are inferior beings – remain Altruists incapable of change.  Also there’s this disgusting ass-kissing worker, who in the film was black which I didn’t pick up in the novel, though I was at one-point reading every other line to save myself from total mental collapse.  If the character was black in the novel, then not only do we have the repugnance of the worker kissing the ass and being the mindless toady for the businessman, we have the Uncle Tom Negro Allan West figure, complaining about Communism, Liberalism and equating Blacks getting assistance from the Government to slaves working a plantation.  Yes, getting money from the Government which in-effect is subsidizing Big Business so you can feed your children makes you a slave.  Not the Capitalist oppressing you; never blaming the Capitalist is of course a trend Ayn Rand helped push along with her primitive idealist and reactionary views and psychology.
One incredibly Conservative aspect of her thinking is her insane view that “sexual values” come from virtues, that is we have feelings of affection or lust – if we were “proper beings” – for those who share our perceptions and characteristics.  Now obviously when we encounter someone who we connect with, there will almost inevitably and without exception be a deep and mind-altering feeling of longing because we feel we’ve found someone we can truly connect to.  But not as often as one might expect does that person share our “values” or is essentially a slightly altered version of us. Also anyone’s experience of High School when these feelings are often at their strongest, will tell them that very-often we have strong feelings for someone without even knowing them.  We do not even know them even in that realm of uncertainty that we know our friends and family, were we know part of who they are because they have a role they are playing for us much of the time which we may mistake as either their whole self or even their genuine self which it easily may not be.  Rand’s perception of self and psychology is so rudimentary and naïve that it makes sense that she would fetishize her perception of “Reason” with a capital R without even taking the time to critically reason and argue against the philosophers she laughably groups together and discredits as “relativists” or “subjectivists.”
The Wikipedia summation of The Fountainhead is seven paragraphs long; the synopsis of Atlas Shrugged is only four.  The novel itself doesn’t even function as something interesting or unique to critique.  Taking the view that view that History is nothing but evil convincing good to deny its own innate self-serving and creative instincts, one sees precisely why Rand vehemently denies the conception of Positive Liberty:  she thinks it’s a complete waste of time.  The people who are “rationally self-interested” and see her vision due-so for Psychological reasons and the ones who don’t are just “looters” who are either innately weak or have been poisoned by academia, which she shows more contempt for than organized religion. 
Ayn Rand is laughable and not worth a serious intellectual critique.  I’ve already mentioned her inability to understand other philosophers, but this is seen incredibly well in her defining the History of Philosophy as a history of whims, when Kant as actually giving a more accurate picture of the objective she couldn’t understand.  She herself in some ways is a Kantian, especially in her Ethics, except she alters the notion of Duty to duty to the self as some grand ethical ideal, and keeps the notion of “Goodness” being the main form of ethical conduct in itself.  That is beings who possess these Aristotelian virtues are just intrinsically grand and would naturally find what the nature of ethics and all other fields are, and everyone else who doesn’t have these traits are inherently lesser-beings.  Once again an incredibly simplistic view that has no conception of the complexity of individuals and psychology, and that one may be incredibly brilliant but lacks the psychology and personality to perform certain goals or functions; also of course it lacks the understanding of human beings as biological organism.  Though Rand rants about how we humans are animals and not spirits so we need to have a productive life or die.  How profound.  And as for Plato, it is in the Gorgas I believe where he examines the notion of what is good being so merely because it is what the Gods claim is so, or because it is in itself a Good dependent of them and they are merely wise enough to understand the Good.  Plato decides that the Good is independent of the Gods, taking a stance in direct contradiction to Rand’s perception of the history of Philosophy.  Though Ayn Rand’s understanding of human understanding is similar to Plato, and her John Galt is very similar to the Philosopher King even though Galt claims he wishes to command no one he as many boot-licking supplicants who worship him.  Rand also is similar to Hegel in terrible writing, Idealism (though she continually stresses that reality exists independent of the mind, most points of her philosophy seem to fail to recognize this point.  She seems convinced in her view of free will and human weakness that reality is what it is because – both her view of human nature and its relation to human history – because people took what she considers the wrong ethical action.  For her reality is almost entirely a thing of the propagandistic construction of a idealist creator God, namely her, seen in her bold pronouncement of A=A, and using it as an ad-hoc defense of her entire point of view.), anti-Materialism, and-Democracy, simplistic rationalistic view of consciousness and view that the end of Philosophy was seen in her Philosophy, though Hegel was much kinder and accurate to other philosophers than Rand.
I recommend the Partially Examined Life’s critique – or hilarious bashing might be more accurate – of Rand and her “Epistemology.”  I actually found an original edition of the book in my library and read perhaps the first fourth, but had to stop out of rational self-interest.  Also I think it’s amusing how she calls the work “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” as a way of saying, oh yeah, this mind-numbing eye-glazing work is just me getting started.  I do find it suspicious and a fine example of the business culture’s perception of Philosophy or Intellectualism that the only known episode of PEL with advertisers is the Rand episode.  Now it could be the guys thinking, well if we have to examine this shit we might as well make some money out of it, when they would treat Plato, Hume, Kant and Marx with more respect by not putting ads in the discussion.  However, it could be that this is the only episode advertisers were friendly to, which shows the major reason why Rand persists today. 

Her arguments are terrible, just as is her writing and just as is her personality, psychology and temperament.  However she must always be passingly rebuked whenever she is mentioned because as the Age of Religion dies poorly educated Atheists who have never been properly given access to Nietzsche, Hume, Schopenhauer or Marx might find this Pop-philosopher a figure worth respecting, as I did to some extent in my youth; thankfully my Leftism, psychology and sanity prevented me from drinking the Kool-aid of this occultist.  Some may criticize me for analyzing Rand’s novels when I myself haven’t read them.  But clearly Rand hasn’t read significant amounts of Wittgenstein, Kant, Marx, Plato or essentially any of the other philosophers she makes sweeping generalizations of as relativists and subjectivists.  Her criticism of Feminism is Conservative and Reactionary – as well is her view on women overall – rather than Materialist.  She believed that the Capitalists should hold all the cards and make all the choices, and this is what we see in the world today.  Before we can have effective change in this country, we must cancel-out through education, introduction of proper ideas and increase in material welfare and environment the effects which have the people dissatisfied by our system run towards the idealists, reactionaries, Nationalists and Capitalists which caused the problem in the first place – which of course is the major narrative for and psychology of Fascism, and one of the major reasons why Socialism has failed to take route in America or the world.

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