This is a guest post by Palace alum SJ, who has been on hiatus from regularly contributing to this and other publications. We are thrilled to have him grace our esteemed halls once more. A cocktail reception in his honor will be held in the bar from now until… well, whenever.
On those rare occasions when I reluctantly get drawn into discussing Ayn Rand with some sloganeering libertarian wackjob – and they’re ubiquitous, I tell you! – I enjoy pointing out that I have actually read Rand’s flatulent, preposterous, egomaniacal, contrived, sophomoric, simpleminded, interminable comic books without drawings. I figure conveying that information might give me momentary standing in an insular, arrogant mind obsessed with deluded, self-righteous resentment over being required to pay taxes in support of the public welfare. I think they call taxation “thievery.” Assholes.
I do not always disclose that my brief exposure to Rand’s one-dimensional superheroes and arch-villains occurred more than 50 years ago, not long after she wrote that rubbish. Fortunately for me, that was in the midst of a two-year, late-teen reading mania when I was devouring mostly good literature, and so I quickly moved on to less tendentious, more nuanced, more human, material. But I never forgot that brutal assault on my youthful, impressionable mind – and I still suffer from remembering far too many details from The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I could sign up to be a subject in a selective-memory-erasing clinical trial to try to get rid of the disturbing imagery imprinted by her much-too-fictional
characters caricatures. But even if I were accepted into a study, it would be just my luck to be assigned to the placebo group; so I guess I’ll have to deal with it on my own. Maybe this diatribe will prove therapeutic.
Anyway, my Randian superhero phase lasted two or three months, at worst. If I had come upon that grandiose drivel at a more mature stage of life, say, 24 or 25, I might have recognized it immediately for what it was and treated it with the mockery it deserves, perhaps something along the lines of this barb, attributed to Dorothy Parker:
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
(Irony alert: Parker supposedly wrote or said that about another novel, The Cardinal’s Mistress, written by another wannabe philosopher with grandiose plans for humanity – the swaggering Benito Mussolini.)
I could have phrased my mockery in the same spirit, directed to other young people who had swallowed Rand’s grotesque version of reality: “This is not a novel to be digested. It should be thrown up with great force.”
It may be of interest that youthful infatuation with Rand’s quasi-philosophy, followed by “outgrowing her ideas,” is a known phenomenon, according to the Wikipedia entry on the philosophy of Objectivism. The conclusion is worth noting:
Supporters of Rand’s work recognize the phenomenon, but attribute it to the loss of youthful idealism and inability to resist social pressures for intellectual conformity. In contrast, [Rand biographer] Jennifer Burns says some critics “dismiss Rand as a shallow thinker appealing only to adolescents,” although Burns thinks the critics “miss her significance” as a “gateway drug” to right-wing politics.
Libertarians’ virtual worship of Rand might therefore be said to betray their chronic immaturity, which would be consistent with my position. Like her, they seem to be living in a fictional world where they envisage themselves as superheroes (Howard Roark, John Galt, Dagny Taggart) fending off the sniveling masses (Romney’s 47 percent) and “collectivist” villains (liberals, moderates). What an irony that one of Goddess Rand’s prime principles – I think she thought she was channeling Aristotle – was, “Reality is real.” Too bad she hadn’t the slightest skill at creating any semblance of reality in her so- called novels. About the only response I can be bothered to make these days to the massive reality-distortion field she created is, “Give me a fucking break!” Objectivism, my ass – she should have been arrested for vandalizing the noble concept of objectivity.
So the only problem I have with this graphic that triggered my rant is that the word philosopher belongs in scare quotes.
Philosopher, my ass. If Ayn Rand is a philosopher, Michele Bachmann is a Constitutional scholar. Rand is the late-night infomercial of political philosophy. In a sane, educated society, she would be a standing joke, à la Bachmann.
As always, in an effort to remain fair and balanced – and if memory serves – I’ll sort of agree with The Goddess Rand on this one thing: she loathed Christianity, chiefly for its insistence on subservience and humility (not that we’re seeing much of the latter these days). That was a position she forcefully expressed in her fictional screeds. So why are her prominent right-wing disciples (Paul Ryan, Alan Greenspan, Clarence Thomas, Ron and son, Senator Rand Paul, et al.) so reluctant to acknowledge her militant atheism? Could it be because their overwhelmingly Christian-right supporters would be turned off??? (Insert a big, fucking DUH here to acknowledge the predictable political hypocrisy. And note that Christians similarly ignore all the nasty, embarrassing stuff in their “Good Book,” like how it supports slavery.)
In case you were skimming and missed the nuance, here are the cliff notes: Libertarians are immature, superficial, sloganeering ideologues. Or as the graphic says, “self-entitled pricks.” For all their intellectual pretensions, they are not serious thinkers and are not worthy of serious attention. Except for this: In the U.S. – and maybe only here, which, when you think about it, says a lot – they have become a political force to be reckoned with, along with their fundagelical™ Christian allies in the “Grand Old Tea Party” clown circus. Those unlikeliest of partners have joined forces to fight a war against democracy, social justice, and inclusiveness; they are poised to seize the opportunity to turn the country into a B-movie laboratory where they can actually run their half-baked, half-assed thought experiment.
Which almost guarantees that this weird marriage of cross-purposes – followers of the Goddess of Greed embracing the minions of Jezus – will appeal to a large percentage of low-information Americans.
How many Americans qualify for that label? I dunno; but as a North Carolinian still reeling from the November mugging, I’m certain it’s a large percentage.