John Galt = a “school shooter” writ large

I think I have finally figured out what horrifies me most about the conduct of Ayn Rand’s “heroes” in her various novels (and — to some extent, about Ayn Rand, herself):

Her notion of an “ideal man” is basically your typical ‘school shooter” writ large:

  1. Intelligent
  2. Sensitive
  3. Either ignored or bullied

Think about it: Rand’s heroes are extremely intelligent, perceptive, infinitely more “sensitive” than they let on (like most “nerds”/geeks) — but they are utterly disinterested in the sort of “social” (soap-opera) bullshit that obsessed (nearly) everyone around them.

They don’t give a shit about being “popular”.  They’re not really interested in the “status symbols” related to conspicuous consumption.  (Oddly enough, even the wealthy industrialists in her novels barely even seem to want to leave their own workplaces.)  One of the bones of contention in Atlas Shrugged involves Lillian Rearden being pissed off, because Hank rearden staying too long at the plant working on Rearden Metal, and forgetting that it happens to be their Anniversary.)

So, yeah: Randian heroes are basically the vacuoum-tube era version of “geeks”.

(Remember: Rand’s last novel was published in 1957 — just barely past where solid-state electronics was starting to make any kind of substantive impact.)

Quite frankly, THIS is why Rand’s stuff has so much appeal: at her best, she was speaking directly to her era’s version of “geeks”: intelligent, sensitive (SO sensitive that they have to hide it under a veneer of aloofness), non-“social”, etc.

Unfortunately, her ‘advice” to them amounts to a “manifesto” for school shooters/the people who “go postal” and kill everyone at their workplace, etc.

I’ve never been able to buy into the notion that school shootings etc. are motivated by a lack of “empathy” or “compassion”.  Quite frankly, the fact that most such people have spent years (if not decades) being bullied and shit on before they finally “snap” neccesarily calls that into question:

Quite frankly, Ayn Rand herself admits this:

I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty. If one feels compassion for the victims of a concentration camp, one cannot feel it for the torturers. If one does feel compassion for the torturers, it is an act of moral treason toward the victims.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/compassion.html

In other words: Rand is definitely not “into” the notion of trying to “understand” the dickhead jock who beat you up and stuffed you into a locker.

That’s it:  Rand’s solution to (society-wide) bullying is: get back at the bullies by burning down the school, while they’re inside.

THAT’S why Howard Roark makes his “point” by blowing up a construction-site.  That’s ALSo why Galt & Pals monkey-wrench the hell out of everything within reach, taking special care to ensure as much carnage as possible.

Atlas Shrugged amounts to a civilization-wide Revenge of the Nerds.

Rand’s last (and, tellingly, never written) novel – To Lorne Dieterling – was supposed to center on the  question of what happens to an Atlas who “doesn’t shrug” (IE: no petulant “screw you guys, I’m going home!” tantrum, after which you burn down the bullies house.)

Interestingly enough, someone else actually managed to think that question through, and apply it to advising people how not to destroy civilizaton:

So, how do we retain our sanity in a dumb, dumb world? I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t come prepared with a few ideas.

No. 1: read a fucking book. Something special happens when you set aside the inane distractions of modern culture and immerse yourself in a novel. You open yourself up to new ideas, new experiences, new perspectives. It’s an experiment in patience and mindfulness. The New School for Social Research in New York proved that reading literature improves empathy. It’s true. Reading makes you less of a jerk. So, read often. Read difficult books. Read controversial books. Read a book that makes you cry. Read something fun. But read.

No. 2: learn something. Your brain is capable of so much. Feed it. Learn something new. The greatest threat to progress is the belief that something is too complex to fix. Poverty is permanent. Racism will always exist. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too difficult to understand. The public education system is broken. Educate yourself, so you can be part of the conversation. Learn something scientific, something mathematic. Explore philosophy. Study paleontology. Try to learn a new language. You don’t even have to make fluency your goal, just get a few more words in your head. Listen to an educational podcast. Professors from colleges — such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford — are offering their lectures online for free. Think of what you could learn. One of my greatest challenges as a teacher was convincing students they were smart after someone had told them they were dumb.

No. 3: stop buying so much shit. This may seem like a non sequitur, but I’m convinced consumer culture and idiot culture are closely linked. Simplify your life. Idiocy dominates our cultural landscape because it sells more Nike tennis shoes and Big Macs. When we thoughtfully consider what we bring into our home, we are less likely to be manipulated by empty impulses.

And finally: protect the nerds. A computer programmer from Seattle is doing more to alleviate world poverty, hunger, and disease through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation than any other person in America right now. Nerds create vaccines. Nerds engineer bridges and roadways. Nerds become teachers and librarians. We need those obnoxiously smart people, because they make the world a better place. We can’t have them cowering before a society that rolls their eyes at every word they say. Ross needs better friends.

View story at Medium.com

The basic dillemma for Non-Fundies: WHY BOTHER?

This is a serious question:

John Shelby Spong has spent (wasted?) the last 17+ years attempting to create a “Post-Theist” version of Christianity.

What this amounts to is: a version of “Christianity” without: God, Jesus, “Sin”, Salvation, Heaven, Hell etc.

As Wikipedia describes it:

Spong’s “Twelve Points for Reform” were originally published in The Voice, the newsletter of the Diocese of Newark, in 1998.[12] Spong elaborates on them in his book A New Christianity for a New World:

  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shelby_Spong#Points_for_reform_of_Christianity

The basic problem with Spongs line of “reasoning” here is: there is absolutely no point to even attempting to do ANY of what he suggests.

For example: Christianity is derived (at least in part) from Judaism — a monotheistic religion.  As such, it “inherited” a (fairly) significant amount what it believes about “God” (Yahweh) from the specific variant(s) of Judaism from which it descends.

Jews can “get away with” the notion that being “Jewish” is a separate “ethnic” identity, distinct from “Judaism” (which is why you find self-proclaimed “Jewish” atheists).

The thing about this is: that won’t work for Christianity.

Christianity has always (at least in part) required — or at least strongly advocated — some fairly-specific “beliefs”:  the reality of “God” (typically defined as: omnipotent/omniscient/omnipresent/omnibenevolent, and having “created” everything else).

Same goes for the reality of Jesus, and the “reliability” of the Gospel accounts.

(This is one reason why Christian theologians have spent centuries attempting to derive something called the “Harmony of the Gospels” — which typically consists of handwaving away what skeptics/Non-Christians readily recognize as discrepancies and/or contradictions between the various accounts.

(One particularly shitty cop-out in this regard is the whole “Snare for the proud” thing I mentioned in an earlier post.)

At any rate: the fundamental attraction of Fundamentalism/literalism is: it is the only approach which actually takes the religion SERIOUSLY enough to genuinely “believe” it.

For example: I submit that “Young Earth” creationists are the only ones who genuinely “believe” the Genesis account.  Everyone else is basically attempting  to excuse the Genesis accounts by “smuggling” real-world scientific knowledge in “under the table”.

For example: the brain-wrecking idiocy surrounding whether the “days” mentioned in Genesis are the standard 24-hour period, or increments of 1000 years.

So, on one hand, you get the “Young Earth” idiocy (which — if taken seriously — flatly precludes its victims from learning anything about biology/paleontology/geology etc.)

The others (if they take the Genesis account seriously) end up — at most — buying themselves an additional 7000 years. prior to 4004 BC.

At any rate, NOBODY who takes the Genesis account seriously would even bother learning about real-world knowledge which undermines doing so (including the fact that even Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 differ from one another, fairly substantially.

(If they DO notice that, they hand-wave it away by dismissing such “seeming” contradictions as “snares for the proud”, and/or their other favorite cop-out, the thing about “mysterious ways”.)

My point is: Fundies take their religion seriously enough TO RESORT TO SELF-INFLICTED STUPIDITY, AND SELF-INFLICTED BLINDNESS.  If the Bible asserts that hares “chew the cud”, then some Fundie, somewhere is bound and determined to figure out some gimmick (no matter how unconvincing, self-contradictory, or just plain idiotic) to ensure that this assertion is “correct” (any and all real-world evidence to the contrary, notwithstanding).

So there’s probably some Fundie lunatic somewhere, giving a lecture on how hares chew a “spiritual” (invisible) cud, and how the prohibition against eating them, as “unclean” animals was really intended to remind Christians that they shouldn’t (mentally) “chew” unclean/worldy ideas, etc.

As to the others?  the “mainline” denominations who attempt to smuggle in reality-based knowledge, and in so doing end up reducing ever more of their own “Sacred” texts to mere metaphor and allegory?   Eventually, there’s a point where any sane and reasonable person would end up asking: why even bother?

And THIS is the point that Spong (and “Unitarian Universalism”) cannot answer:

Why should anyone other than Fundies/literalists even BOTHER sifting through a morass of “seeming” contradictions, discrepancies, textual corruption, etc.?

There are really only a few answers to this question:

  1. Fundies/Literalists simply ignore any “worldly” evidence/counter-arguments/those pesky “critical thinking” skills etc. and — like Tertullian before them — believe because it is absurd.
  2. Non-Fundies/”Mainline”-types mostly go through the motions of “believing”, cherry-picking the “good” bits, and coming up with (flimsy and unconvincing) “apologetics” designed to demonstrate that the inconvenient bits don’t really mean what the Fundies say they mean.  For example: the (flimsy) cop-out about how Jesus “fulfilled the law”, so Christians going to Red Lobster after church, wearing polyester, committing any other number of what Leviticus designates as “abominations” is super-peachy-keen.  (Oddly enough, most of ’em still get squirmy over the “gay” thing, but…..yes, well.)
  3. The vast majority of the population simply pay vigorous “lip-service” to this stuff, aren’t really that interested in delving into the brain-destroying Doublethink-world of “apologetics”

That’s about it.  The only reason any of this goes on is: the  Geography of religion (coupled with the desire to avoid being “emotionally blackmailed” by “family” and “friends”) results in substantial populations who don’t take any of it seriously, but who pretend to do so, because if they didn’t, they’d feel like they were insulting Mommy and Daddy.

That is also the reason why so-called “Progressive” Christians tend to privilege one collection of fables (“The Bible”) over other such collections: “social inertia” means that some variant of “Christianity” will be the path of least resistance, in many cases.

Again (as I’ve said in earlier posts): IF the vast majority (or even a substantial minority) of any given population actually CHOSE their religious “beliefs” and “practices”, then you wouldn’t expect those professing such “beliefs” and engaging in such “practices” to occur in GEOGRAPHIC PROXIMITY TO ONE ANOTHER.

You *might* expect that such “self-segregation” would develop later (given the “birds of a feather” tendency) but even then, the “beliefs” and “practices” in any given area would be far less monolithic than what we actually see.

 

 

If “Atlas Shrugged” was Rand’s “magnum opus”, no wonder she had no long-range strategy for sociopolitical change

Atlas Shrugged is (supposedly) Ayn Rand’s “Magnum Opus”.

That’s sad.

The first major problem with this is: Ayn Rand stated that her goal with her fiction-writing had always been to project “the ideal man”.

If this is true, then both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged demonstrate that Rand’s “ideal” man was basically a complete schmuck who just happened to have a really bad temper.

Think about it:

Howard Roark spends most of The Fountainhead making exactly the least strategic decision at every turn:

  1. Instead of contesting his expulsion from architectural college, he just shrugs and wanders off, on the assumption that somehow his portfolio will “speak for itself”.

The problem with this is: Rand should have realized that a lack of “credentials” matters — ESPECIALLY under a sociopolitical system dominated by cronyism and collusion.

The fact that he was expelled from college would have effectively frozen Roark out of the vast majority of architectural jobs simply because — to the vast majority of his potential employers/clients, he was nothing but a “credential” with a body attached.

Why do you think certain schools are (mistakenly) regarded as “prestigious”?  It doesn’t have anything substantive to do with the quality of instruction.  If Anything, the quality of instruction is probably much worse than it might otherwise be, given the sheer prevalence of the latest horrible Leftist trends (Political correctness, “Radical” feminism, the whole “social justice warrior” fiasco, etc.)

The unfortunate fact is: in far too many cases, applicants whose credential originates from a “status” school will be given preferential treatment over applicants from a less “prestigious” institution — even if they have substantively identical knowledge-base and ability.

(In some ways, this is the less-publicized equivalent of what happens to job applicants who happen to have noticeably “black”-sounding names.)

The above is why I don’t get particularly incensed about “affirmative action”: the “System” is already so encrusted with “Status”-markers which are not meritocratic, to the point where a (vanishingly few) more “token” admissions don’t really make any difference.

A good example of the kind of thing I’m talking about is: the “old money” bullshit, and the preferential treatment extended to “legacy” applicants.  Pure cronyism.

So, at any rate: Roark is portrayed as somebody who basically clawed his way up from “the gutter” only to get expelled from architectural college for failure to kiss enough ass.

So what does he go and do?  Hire on with Henry Cameron — an architect he genuinely admires (who has become a burnt-out drunk, because nobody “got” what he was doing.)

Now, here’s the problem:

At this point, Roark should have realized that – at his first meeting with Henry Cameron – he was basically staring his “future self” square in the face.

But he doesn’t.

The rest of the novel is basically “window-dressing” for the (pathetic) “friendship” between Roark and Peter Keating.

Keating is basically the most empty and vacuous sort of “status”-seeker imaginable.  He doesn’t particularly like architecture.  He wanted to be a painter — but allowed his love of painting to be browbeaten out of him by his mother.

So, he becomes exactly the sort of bootlicking, “Yuppie” scumbag you’d expect somebody like that to become:  the problem is — even the various “Status”-symbols (money/chicks/”Celebrity” status etc.) just leave him empty and hollow — primarily because that is ALL he ever was: empty and hollow.

Dominique is probably the most openly pathetic person in the novel: She spends the entire novel doing the lifestyle-equivalent of “I cut myself to feel alive!”  She has a grandly exalted vision of her “ideal” — but because real life fails to exactly mirror that “ideal” in ever detail 100% of the time she invests her effort into tearing down and destroying everything and everyone who even tangentially echoes that “ideal” in the real world.

Thus, since Roark is basically her “ideal man” come to life, she spends (almost) the entire novel attempting to hobble and destroy him.  Along the way she marries Keating (specifically because she finds him nauseating and contemptible).  Keating becomes Dominique’s version of a “hair-shirt”.

The Wynand/Toohey subplot is nothing but Rand’s (clumsy) attempt to insert “philosophical” speeches.  Toohey is a particularly implausible character:  he’s not exactly a power-luster.  he repeatedly says that he doesn’t particularly like what he’s doing.  he FULLY realizes that the ideas he’s promoting are ruining civilization, and can only end badly.  Yet (paradoxically) he comes off as if he genuinely believes that the best way to ‘serve” others is by enslaving them.

THIS is the pivot of Toohey’s character: He (like Rand) believes that the vast majority of humankind are simply incapable of functioning at a fully human level (as represented by Roark/Galt).  Thus, Toohey’s “solution” to the problem is: get them to function at an EVEN LOWER level.  Horribly enough, his method is to (mis)use his victims capacity for empathy, benevolence and mutual concern to get them to “voluntarily” enslave THEMSELVES.

I think this gives a real insight into Rand’s character, as a person:   She recognized this tactic (IE: the fact that would-be power-lusters/tyrants etc. must appeal to some sort of “noble” ends to justify/excuse their actions.  After all, she’d seen it firsthand back in Soviet Russia (all the slogans about “brotherhood” and the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, etc.)

At the same time, she had also seen the fact that everyone EXCEPT for the new “ruling” clique/their cronies were infinitely worse off.

I’m pretty sure that this experience made Rand distrust empathy, compassion and mutual-aid as such.

At any rate: Rand’s “heroes” in her novels all eventually come to the same general conclusion:

The only to way avoid “enabling” the power-lusters is to BURN IT ALL TO THE GROUND.

So: Roark (stupidly) uses Keating as “front-man” for a project he would never have been able to get under his own name — and wouldn’t even have wanted in the first place. (Low-income housing).  Somebody else other than Keating makes revisions to the plans.

This pisses Roark off to the point where he blows up the building.….even though nobody (except Keating) even KNEW that he was involved.

This is just fucking insane.

Wynand ends up destroying his entire chain of newspapers specifically to deprive Ellsworth Toohey of a means to disseminate his ideas.

The thing is: in both cases, Rand’s “heroes” utterly fail to achieve their stated goals:

Sure, Roark ends up actually being able to parlay the publicity from his trial into an architecture firm of his own: BUT HE DOES NOT PREVENT UGLY/STUPID ARCHITECTURE FROM BEING CREATED BY OTHER FIRMS.

Likewise: after Wynand destroys his newspaper (to stop Toohey): Toohey simply saunters over to one of Wynand’s competitors.

In other words: whatever their high-minded “philosophical justirications” for doing so, Rand’s “heroes” spend 3/4ths of her novels ENABLING THOSE WHO ARE CORRUPT/IDIOTIC.  When they (finally) realize what they’ve been doing, they THROW A TANTRUM.

That’s what Atlas Shrugged amounts to: John Galt’s giant, civilization-destroying tantrum.

Remember: the “strikers” don’t just leave, and go to “The Gulch”: they actively monkey-wrench the hell out of everything within reach while doing so: oilfields, mines, etc. — specifically so that the “looter” regime is unable to make use of them.

The mass death that would (inevitably) result from the rioting/famine/plagues etc.?   Fuck ’em.

That’s the central thesis of Rand’s whole “fiction” career: NOT merely that human greatness is made possible by the equivalent of Nietszche’s ubermenschen — but that those Ubermenschen should do everything in their power to degrade and destroy the hordes of idiotic sub-animals surrounding them.

Rand’s “philosophy” (at least judging by her novels) really ISN’T about cultivating human greatness: it is about revenge masquerading as “justice” — with no regard for any “collateral damage” (IE: mountains of “bystander” corpses) that would inevitably result.

The worst thing about Rand is: her damnably stupid “mythos”, itself:

To quote from the “Roark Courtroom speech”:

Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light. He was considered an evildoer who had dealt with a demon mankind dreaded. But thereafter men had fire to keep them warm, to cook their food, to light their caves. He had left them a gift they had not conceived and he had lifted darkness off the earth.

In other words: humankind is divided into two (and ONLY TWO) “factions” which are both mutually ehaustive AND mutually exclusive:

These are basically neitszchens “Masters” and “slaves” — excepting of course, that Rand doesn’t even consider non-Masters worthy of enslavement.

Going back to the Roark speech-excerpt above:

Rand’s “heroes” have exactly one method of dealing with others:

  1. Caveman discovers fire (becomes Prometheus)
  2. Tribe fails to kiss Prometheus’ ass sufficiently (which is odd, because Rand makes a big deal about how the “Creators” don’t really give a shit whether anyone recognizes their “greatness”, or not.  Their motive is “self-sufficient”, and explicitly “non-social”.
  3. Prometheus (recognizing that his tribe plans to destroy him (which makes NO sense whatsoever, given that this would be the equivalent of “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”) proceeds to burn them all to death while they’re asleep — down to the tiniest infant.

Atlas Shrugged would have been (somewhat) less horrifying if Galt & Pals had merely withdrawn from the (collapsing and increasingly vicious) anti-civilization surrounding them without monkey-wrenching it to shit, themselves.

Here’s the thing: were the “Looter/Moocher/Parasites” smart enough to keep at least some precarious “cargo cult” version of “civilization” operational, or not?

If “yes”, then Galt & Pals best long-range strategy would have been to infiltrate that society, actively “recruit” more members, and attempt to “steer” the culture in a healthier direction

But, no.  Galt & Pals “solution” is to DO EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO MAKE AN (ALREADY BARELY-SURVIVABLE) SITUATION WORSE.

The “leadership” is corrupt/inept/vicious to the point of uselessness — to the point where they are unable to do anything to stem the tide of rioting, desertion and chaos their own policies has created.

If anything, Galt’s faction is WORSE because they are fully aware that the accumulated achievements of millennia of “creators” before them are going to be smashed to scrap by “civilzation’s” death-throes — and they HELP IT ALONG.

The whole “We’re going back — the road has been cleared!” thing is particularly loopy:

The Road has been “cleared” of what exactly?

Millions of  (un-buried) dead resulting from the famines/plagues you actively caused?

Entire “cities” reduced to burnt-out scrap-heaps?

An entire continent (planet?) REDUCED TO THE LEVEL OF STARNESVILLE?

Let’s not forget:  Dagny and Rearden stumble across the remains of Galt’s prototype motor in the (oddly post-apocalyptic) ruins of “Starnesville”.  In fact, it is the downfall of Starnesville more than anything else, which prompts Galt to want to “stop the motor of the world”.

What genuinely “heroic” individual looks out at what is essentially a localized apocalypse and thinks “Hmmm….how do I make this happen to the ENTIRE WORLD?”

The same sort of person whose response to minor alternations in the plans for a project with which he is NOT EVEN publicly involved is to blow up a building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold: the superstitious reverence for shiny rocks

The notion of “intrinsic” value is a superstition.

Moreover, it is the most blatantly moronic superstition imaginable.

Thought-experiment:

Post-apocalyptic scenario.

I have 12 cans of tuna.  I also have a can-opener.

YOU have an “intrinsically” valuable Krugerand.

YOU are (slowly) dying of starvation.

Probable result?  YOU attempt (via a mix of “libertarian” goldbug boilerplate nonsense which rapidly degenerates into frantic weeping) to convince me to share my tuna with you/”sell” you some of my tuna, in exchange for your “intrinsically valuable” Krugerand.

However (being the sort of person I am): I not only do not “sell” you any of my tuna, but I specifically keep you around for the sole purpose of WATCHING ME EAT MY TUNA, while you weep hysterically.

Bottom line: in any genuine SHTF scenario, (almost) nobody is going to have the spare time/stamina/tools/resources to even function at the level of barter.   The most likely scenario is: scavenging and some equivalent of “gang warfare”.

Moreover, in any genuine SHTF scenario, the ratio between “supply” and “demand” for gold (and any other purportedly “precious” metal) will be drastically altered.

Does anyone seriously believe that (for example) diamonds will retain their “value” when they can be readily scavenged off of corpses?

The real locus of “value” in  any economic transaction is the two (or more) parties engaging in exchange.

Bottom line: given the fact that 99% of the “Libertarian” and “Objectivist” movements are scrawny, (comparatively) well-off WHITE NERDS — the vast majority of their “economic” participation will consist of sucking some gang-bangers dick at gun-point, after which the aforementioned gang-banger will most likely shoot them, strip them of anything of genuine value (clothing/shoes etc.), and leave their corpse for the rats to devour.

 

Self-inflicted stupidity is….annoying:

Some while back, I stumbled across what has to be the most blatantly self-contradictory thing ever: an online article with the heading: “Non-judgement: a key to enlightened living.”

I’m assuming (from the (mis)use of the term “Enlightened”) that the writer is operating from the typical pseudo-“Eastern” paradigm common among “New Age” folks — a dumbed-down ripoff of Hinduism or Buddhism, most likely.

At any rate: the blatant self-contradiction is this: The mere existence of the article itself is predicated on “judgement” (IE: evaluation among alternatives).  Specifically, it pivots on the (supposed) distinction between “Enlightened” and “un-enlightened” living — with the clear (although not explicitly stated) assumption that “Enlightened living” is the BETTER of the two alternatives.

ACTUAL “non-judgement” would consist of  failing to differentiate between the two states (“Enlightened” vs. “Unenlightened”).

Time to dip into the “Ayn Rand Lexicon”, again:  (She may have been a piss-poor novelist, and been too whim-ridden to actually write a single-volume synopsis of “her” philosophy, but….she DID have some damn good observations on occasion):

There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims.

The moral principle to adopt in this issue, is: “Judge, and be prepared to be judged.”

The opposite of moral neutrality is not a blind, arbitrary, self-righteous condemnation of any idea, action or person that does not fit one’s mood, one’s memorized slogans or one’s snap judgment of the moment. Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion. To declare that “everybody is white” or “everybody is black” or “everybody is neither white nor black, but gray,” is not a moral judgment, but an escape from the responsibility of moral judgment.

To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one’s feelings, “instincts” or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involves the moral character of another person. When one pronounces moral judgment, whether in praise or in blame, one must be prepared to answer “Why?” and to prove one’s case—to oneself and to any rational inquirer.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/moral_judgment.html

Hint: The above (in part) is why I take special pleasure in shitting on Ayn Rand.  I simply cannot wrap my mind around how someone with so much potential could be so damnably inept as to:

  1. Fail (on TWO separate occasions) to write a single-volume “introduction” to the philosophy she claimed to have originated.  (Oddly enough, she already HAD the skeleton of such a presentation available: the GALT SPEECH.  Why in hell she abandoned the project TWICE boggles the mind.
  2. Oh wait…that’s right: she was too busy being power-fucked by Nathaniel Branden/throwing a tantrum during their break-up/destroying NBI/failing to even self-publish a newsletter in a timely fashion.

So yeah, you’re DAMNED RIGHT I’m going to “judge” Ayn Rand — and I’m going to do so in the harshest, least “charitable” way possible.

She doesn’t get a free pass.  She knew the consequences of trying to live by “whim” (IE: unanalyzed desire) — but she did it anyway.  There is NO excuse for having thrown the tantrum that destroyed NBI.

There is NO excuse for having “excommunicated” the two people who were really responsible for whatever coherence and validity “Objectivism” ever had (the Brandens).

Above all: there is NO excuse for creating the notion of “legal and intellectual heir” — for the attempt to create an Objectivist Papacy.

Quite frankly, there was no excuse for her (deliberate) failure to consider that Frank O’Connor/Barbara Branden might be at least somewhat less than ecstatically happy about N.B. and Ayn Rand’s attempts to reenact the “Benevolent” rape scene from The Fountainhead on a weekly basis — while their respective spouses sat around in the other room, making awkward “small-talk”.

Am I saying that the Brandens’ respective “tell-all” books are completely Objective?  I’m not sure that’s even possible under the circumstances:   Barbara Branden was attempting to document the NBI days something like 20 years later.  Same goes for N.B. — who, in addition, had a fair amount of “damage-control”  at stake.

Having said that: I cannot personally hold The Brandens or Frank O’Connor to as stringent a standard as Rand.  She positioned herself as the arch-apostle of “Rationality”, and the arch-opponent of “whim-worship”, and then proceeded to dive head-first into exactly the sort of self-inflicted stupidity against which she claimed to be fighting:

  1.  Emotions are not “tools of cognition”: She may have WANTED to be power-fucked by Nathaniel Branden, but given the (inconvenient) fact that both of them were married, at the time — she should have realized that the “Affair” was likely to get really emotionally charged.

Frank O’Connor “coped” by means of getting blackout-drunk on a fairly regular basis.  Barbara Branden ended up with what really sounds like some sort of chronic anxiety disorder (AND, admittedly, a “Mommie Dearest”-type “axe” to grind).

Which is NOT to say that N.B. wasn’t a stupid dickhead about the whole thing, as well:

He didn’t give a shit about Frank O’Connor/Barbara Branden, either.

Nor did he give a shit about Ayn Rand.  (Hint: he was bored with fucking her.  The “age difference” was an excuse.  (Google “Granny porn” — you’ll see what I mean.)

At root, N.B. was a narcissistic shit-swine who got off on Rand’s weird “Hey!  Y’know what would be hot?  BDSM in a construction site!”.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it: he was bored with Barbara, and “hot for teacher”.

The thing is: he should have had the common decency to be straight with all of the women, instead of all of the evasive bullshit.

Then again, the double-standard exhibited by Rand and N.B. explicitly “forbidding” their respective spouses from fucking other people also strikes me as — well, a double-standard.

I am NOT saying that the Rand/Branden sexcapades were necessarily and unavoidably problematic:  in a situation where ALL OF THE PARTIES INVOLVED had previously agreed to “open” (IE: non-monogamous) marriage, then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so weird.

However: the Rand/Branden thing had an extra layer of complexity: they were also co-running an organization ostensibly dedicated to promoting what they described as “a philosophy for living on Earth”.

How short-sighted/blinded by rage did Rand have to be, to systematically destroy NBI, and then LIE ABOUT HER REASONS FOR DOING SO, in that shitty “To whom it make concern” puff-piece?

Didn’t she figure that the Brandens’ would respond?

So: in one fell swoop, Rand managed to:

  1. Set the Objecttivist “Movement” back decades
  2. Give those opposed to the points espoused by Objectivism ‘proof’ that it “doesn’t work”.  (“Hahahaha!  See?   Ayn Rand couldn’t even manage to be rational! Hahahahaha!”)
  3. Elevate Leonard Peikoff to a wholly-undeserved position of “authority”.  (Hint: by his own admission, his best book — The Ominous Parallels — for which he had originally contracted with his publisher in 1968 — was finally published in 1982

That’s FOURTEEN YEARS late — on a book that (by my count) only contains around 315 pages of actual content (IE: not counting the Table of contents/index, copy’right’ crap, etc.)

Assuming that the book was “only” 12 years late, that totals out to approximately 26 pages per year.

Let’s be honest: that level of “productiveness” is insufficient to even make a dent in the broader sweep of cultural trends.  Same with his “DIM Hypothesis”.  Same goes for basically anything Peikoff has ever done.

Throw in the endless,, pointless “schisms” provoked (inevitably) by pseudo-intellectual Randroid shitstains “principled refusal” to “morally sanction” one another and…..well, you get the idea.

The ‘Objectivist movement” would be funny — if it wasn’t for the fact that every new shit-show they put on ends up giving even more ammunition to their own enemies.

Because quite frankly, Ayn Rand espoused some damned good ideas.  I have serious doubts as to how many of them were genuinely “hers” (IE: by her own admission, she was operating from at least a quasi-Aristotelian framework, and arguing against (her understanding of) the Platonist/Kantian “lines” of philosophical thought.

At root, Objectivism is (merely) a modern form of “Neo-Aristotelianism”.  As such, the most rational line of “outreach” would seem to be among other Aristotelian/Neo-Aristotelian variants.

Burgess Laughlin’s book The Aristotle Adventure appears to be at least a preliminary “stab” in that general direction.

Of course, the millisecond you acknowledge that Rand was merely a (particularly angry) midget standing on the shoulders of giants, you run the (very real) risk of simply “shrugging off” Rand entirely.

The fundamental question I’m asking is: Can”Objectivism” ever become more than mere ideological window-dressing for the “Ayn Rand cult”?

Quite frankly, that is up to each individual to judge form themselves. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leviticus: the delicate art of cherry-picking:

Some while back, I happened to stumble across a “discussion” where a specific individual stated that he “doesn’t care for” tattoos, specifically they are prohibited by Leviticus (since “pagans” supposedly engaged in tattooing).

Now, what’s fascinating about this guy (and millions just like him) is: he has admitted to eating both ham AND shrimp — which are also against the same “law” mentioned in Leviticus.

I can’t really wrap my mind around this:  failure to observe Kashrut  is ignored (because they likes them some Red Lobster!), but Tattooing is (supposedly) “pagan” — as are pierced ears, evidently, but…..”Cafeteria” Christianity, etc.

Doubtless there is some obscure (and not entirely plausible) theological “explanation” for this discrepancy.  Given the sheer multiplicity of “Christian” denominations, there are undoubtedly a myriad forms of such “hand-waving”.

I honestly can’t bring myself to take that level of “debate” seriously — first, because it is utterly futile (such discussions are a “snare for the proud”), and also because I realized long ago than each and every piddling little sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-“denomination” is based on the notion that they — and only they — happen to have picked the “right” bucket of theological cherries.

*Yawn*.

 

The “Atlas Shrugged” movie trilogy:

I made the mistake of actually watching the Atlas Shrugged film trilogy (I’m pretty sure they’re still available on Youtube).  I honestly have no idea why: maybe the notion of seeing an abysmally-bad “philosophical novel” turned into an unforgivably bad “epic trilogy” elicited morbid curiosity, I honestly don’t know.

What I do Know is: Ayn Rand was a horrible novelist — but whoever was behind these godawful cinematic travesties is infinitely worse.

Really: Battlefield Earth was a far better film than Atlas Shrugged.  Then again, The same can be said for  the respective novels.

(Which is not to say that L. Ron Hubbard’s novel/the movie version of same were actually good — just that both manage to be somewhat less egregiously bad than Rand’s shitty schlock — in ANY form.

The truly horrifying thing about the “Shrugged” trilogy is: Leonard Peikoff had to OK the movies to be produced int he first place.   This wasn’t some “fan-film” situation.   That’s the horrible part: there is literally no way to make any of Ayn Rand’s novels “good” — not even with Patricia Neal and Gary cooper.  Although admittedly, THAT was at least half-way watchable.

Horribly enough, until I saw the “Shrugged” trilogy, I thought the 2002 movie “Teenage Caveman” was the worst thing I had ever watched:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teenage_Caveman

I was wrong.  Teenage Caveman is a work of transcendent cinematic grandeur as compared to the “Shrugged” trilogy.

The actors can’t act.  The dialog is awful.  Even if you had competent actors/a competent screenplay, you would still be producing Atlas Shrugged.  “Snuff porn” for yuppie scum is….unappealing.