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Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in Economy, Government, Internet, Media, Politics | 47 comments

Fairy Tales for Adults: It’s Time to Outgrow Ayn Rand and ‘Atlas Shrugged’

Ayn Rand False

Like a lot of people, I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in college, which is probably the worst damned time I could have done so. It was Freshman year, and like everybody else, I was still caught up in the high of being (what we called) free for the first time: Free to skip classes whenever we wanted, free to stay up until 4am wandering campus and climbing trees, and free to make all kinds of sweeping pronouncements about The Way Things Oughta Be.

Now I’m 26, and an adult by most definitions. For better and worse, choosing to read Atlas Shrugged in those formative years had a profound impact on my life for a long time. It gave me its kindly blessing to continue believing the things I’d always believed, but that also meant it removed any incentive I might have had to ask myself some really important questions about how the world works. Objectivism is like most other religions that way.

I won’t tell you that I’ve categorically renounced Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism; I find the whole Secure your own oxygen mask first thing to be pretty on-point. But what I can tell you is that I’ve matured and grown as a person, in some highly surprising ways, since reading Atlas all those years ago — so much so that I now find myself mentally retreating from her uncompromising vision of a society ruled by greed. I’ve seen what becomes of such a country, and it scares me. Actually, I see it every day — we all do — and it is grotesque.

How’d We Get Here?

In case you’re not familiar with Objectivism, I’ll give you a crash course. The more philosophical definition says that what we perceive as reality exists independently of our notion of consciousness. It’s only through rationality and inductive logic that we’re free to attain “objective knowledge.”

But that’s hardly all of it. Objectivism also teaches that self-interest is the purest and most righteous motivation in life and that altruism is the source of all evil. I wish I was making this up. This vile maxim provides the childish logic that fuels concepts like laissez-faire capitalism, and is much of the reason why navigating rush hour traffic is such a consistently horrific experience. When did the Zipper Merge become a lost, arcane art? Right after we decided it was socially acceptable to look after only ourselves, and fuck everybody else.

So Objectivism is a bit of a mixed bag, yes? If Objectivists followed the example of modern Christianity, they could select and adhere to just those principles that don’t sound batshit insane, while casting the rest onto the philosophical refuse pile. (Love they neighbor as thyself, but eat shellfish to your heart’s content. Observe the Sabbath, but let homosexuals attend if they happen to love the same God you do. [Though why they’d want to is beyond comprehension.])

But that’s not how this should work. To cherry-pick your ideals from a supposedly closed system is to betray Dogma and Reason. Even Christians look down their nose at this kind of aimless faith, calling it, among other things, “Cafeteria Christianity” — this, despite the fact that the entirety of the Old Testament is considered borderline apocryphal these days. What we need instead is the courage to throw out these very flawed systems and learn to stand up for common sense and decency without the help of a guiding hand — Divine, governmental, or otherwise.

But here’s the biggest problem I have with Objectivism: For all its talk of “rational self-interest” and institutionalized avarice, Objectivism is a decidedly optimistic system. Its credibility depends on the wild assumption that every “actor” in a system ruled by Objectivism will behave rationally at all times and do no harm to others in their Melvillian search for self-edification.

In case you haven’t looked out the window lately, or turned on the television, that’s a gigantic leap of faith. Almost as gigantic as crediting the Almighty with the design of the fairly unremarkable human body. I’ve always been a pessimist, and I tend to expect the worst from strangers. Greed and stupidity will always exist, so why would we actively encourage them with poisonous strictures that preach more of the same?

In short, I no longer believe that 100% laissez-faire capitalism is realistic, moral, or even possible. And I most certainly don’t believe that altruism is the devil’s plaything. I’m sure some of you are wondering what the hell took me so long, so let me walk you through my process.

What’s Become of Capitalism

So why this about-face?

For starters, it’s because, under the rules of our current economy, the idea of healthy competition is all but dead. A curious thing, given that competition is (ostensibly) one of the immutable pillars of Capitalism, Objectivism, and Libertarianism. But it certainly asks a lot of us, and we frequently prove we’re not up to the challenge.

I’ll remind you of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and the recently abandoned Pfizer-Allergan merger. Is this what capitalism was supposed to be? Survive until you achieve a monopoly in your industry, and then coast to retirement on your stock options? Where’s the competition? Where’s the innovation? These proposed monolithic corporations give us a startlingly clear look at the sort of world we’d live in if we embraced a 100% unregulated free market.

Or how about the fact that just six companies control assets that amount to 61% of our nation’s GDP? Capitalism has shown its true colors in every single industry it’s touched, which is pretty much all of them: Companies don’t want to compete any longer. That would be really, really hard. What they want instead is to collude with other companies in order to protect their profits, not to mention the lifestyles of their aristocratic CEOs. Comcast and Time Warner Cable are, quite literally, two of the worst and most hated companies in America. You can be sure their proposed merger has nothing to do with creating a better product for their combined 30 million subscribers, and everything to do with securing a greater profit.

Ferengi Charity

In other words, combining two of the most wretchedly out-of-touch, manipulative, and corrupt companies in America would not suddenly result in a single virtuous institution. As they say in the computer world: Garbage In, Garbage Out. The merger would also give an unprecedented amount of control over the telecommunications industry to a single monolithic conglomerate. The US is already home to what are essentially statewide monopolies on the flow of information. Do we really want to make things even worse?

In an unfettered free market, these mergers would be old news by now, and would have dramatically reduced, rather than improved, competition in their respective industries.

How Big Business Bought the Internet

I’ll give you another example: One that has to do with the very purpose of the Internet.

We have already monetized every corner of the Internet. It was originally meant to be a globe-spanning tool for communication and collaboration, and instead we’ve turned it into a tool for greed, and, therefore, misinformation. It’s the reason Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver devoted a significant portion of a September show to taking Corporate America to task for their tone-deaf, ignorant, or downright offensive tweets. One example: DiGiorno’s absurd appropriation of the #WhyIStayed hashtag. What was intended as a worldwide statement of solidarity for victims of domestic abuse instead became a mechanism to sell frozen pizzas.

Twitter faux pas are one thing, so let’s speak more broadly: What is the purpose of the Internet?

In the late 1960’s, when the Internet was known as ARPANet (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), it was only to be used as a research, communication, and collaboration tool. In fact, it was literally illegal to use this proto-Internet for personal gain. In those days, it was used almost exclusively by the US Department of Defense, but the influx of new users over the coming years would see those standards relaxed. Like, a lot. Consider this excerpt from the DoD’s “Etiquette” section of ARPANET’s rules (emphasis mine):

It is considered illegal to use ARPANET for anything which is not in direct support of government business … personal messages to other ARPANET subscribers … are generally not considered harmful … Sending electronic mail over the ARPANET for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal.

Damn, but things have changed — and in only 40 years! It’s obviously a very good thing that the government eventually opened up the Internet for use by The Common Man, but to so thoroughly abandon one of the Internet’s original core tenets is a decision we’ll be living with for a very long time — at least, until we tear down the Internet and build something better where AdBlock Plus, Tor, and VPNs are no longer a daily necessity.

But it’s not just about wading through a sea of advertisements in order to watch an 18-second YouTube video; it’s literally about the spread of information. For instance, if you rely on your cable subscription to deliver truthful news reporting, your credulity comes several decades too late. The mainstream media conglomerations have no interest in the unbiased reporting of facts (and certainly have nothing to do with the fabled “liberal agenda”), and have made it abundantly clear that they equate the phrase “pro-corporate” with the phrase “pro-America.” They regurgitate Conservative talking points as gospel so the teeming masses can nod their heads emptily.

And they’re coming for the Internet, too. The FCC has proposed common-sense regulations that would prepare the way for honest-to-goodness competition in the Internet Service Provider industry, just as they did a generation ago for telephone service in America. Guess who’s suing to protect their interests, and their ownership over the spread of information? AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast — all of the usual suspects, in other words.

Here’s a very simple question: Do you want more companies to provide access to information, or fewer? If you answered fewer, then you tacitly agree with the proposed government regulation (there’s that scary, scary word!) that would reclassify the Internet as a public utility. It’s called Title II, if you’re interested in learning about it.

In the meantime, we see with the Internet, as with everything else, that every system we create, where profit is the Prime Mover, invariably slips toward entropy and chaos. Objectivism is no different.

We Break Everything We Touch

So that’s just the Internet. In its current form, it’s only been around since the 1980’s or so, and what John Oliver described in his segment was only about what happens in broad daylight. So how much more egregious do you think things are behind the scenes?

The US government has been around quite a lot longer than the Internet — some 230 years. And where are we today? I’ll put it to you this way: If you don’t believe that the government now effectively serves as another branch of the private sector, you’re hopelessly naïve.

Lobbying is so rampant in Washington that I’m well past believing either the Democratic or Republican Parties (which, combined, represent barely a third of voting-eligible American adults) have any interests in mind besides those of their corporate benefactors. We are no longer their constituents, no matter how many times we chant our dead liturgies about representation, freedom, and justice.

Failed Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz spent the last few weeks trying to halt the government’s inquiries into Big Oil’s obfuscation of climate data over the last 40 years. Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the wretch who calls herself the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, sold out her constituents to side with the universally hated payday lending industry.

These are the assholes we allow to masquerade as “public servants.” The problem lies not in government, or in the size of government, but rather in a general and widespread ignorance of how the aristocracy has twisted the very idea of Democracy to serve their ends alone.

Who speaks for you?

IMG_0330

Imagine what would happen if unaffiliated and non-registered Americans actually came together and got something done. The quaint fairy tale we tell ourselves about our two-party system being the “only choice” has made it possible for Objectivism to convince those with money and power that the needs of the few should outweigh the needs of the many.

As another example of how crooks in government have sold America’s integrity to the private sector, consider President Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 to look out for the rise of the Military Industrial Complex. In 2016, we’re living in the very future he feared. The American people have, justifiably, never been less sure of their government’s motivations for waging war. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the previous administration’s ties with Halliburton, or Hillary Clinton’s loathsome habit of pushing less developed countries toward fracking during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Of course, our foreign policy is just one example of our leaders putting corporate America’s interests before those of its citizens. We still throw money at destructive industries like coal and oil in the form of subsidies and tax breaks, and thanks to corporate influence in Washington, we can’t seem to gain any ground with alternative energies like solar and nuclear. There is a campaign of fear in this country — and I really wish I could assume it was borne of ignorance rather than pure and desperate avarice — about the purported dangers of nuclear energy. The truth is something else entirely, and until we can separate fact from fiction, our progress — not as a nation but as a species — will continue to grind to a halt.

Nothing that I’ve just described was done in the name of Objectivism. We think of other, gentler names for our shitty Midas Touch. But make no mistake: “Me First” is the twisted logic that has waited, like a stalking butler, behind the scenes of every significant turning point in human history. Do we need to revisit America’s systematic destruction of Native American culture? How about Japanese internment? Or maybe the many spectacular failures of our Supreme Court, such as the Dred Scott decision of 1857, or Citizens United in 2010? And then we have the Deepwater Horizon clusterfuck from a few years ago — an unprecedented man-made disaster for which no man was willing to shoulder the blame.

It would take several lifetimes to account for each time we chose to serve Profit instead of the Common Good. And yet we still pretend that venomous screeds like Atlas Shrugged are morally and literarily worthy of being handed down like precious heirlooms.

Right now you’re probably thinking the government is no better. Why should we trust the government, rather than Objectivism, or the free market, or organized religion, with our well-being? All are very human institutions. The answer is both simple and sad: The government, if it actually answered to Reason first and foremost, would be a totally impartial entity, capable of rationally discussing — and acting in favor of — the common good without the shadow of Corporate America warping the language or intent of the conversation. Government — society as a whole, really — is the engine that delivers consensus. Objectivism delivers tyranny.

Corporate interests — not the working poor — are the parasites here, eating away at the foundation. And the Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, while frequently blamed for our government’s spiral into shameless corruption, was hardly the first step — it was simply the most public.

So What About Jesus?

Ayn Rand is pretty much the only atheist most Christians are comfortable quoting on Facebook.

Those on the Rightmost end of the Political Spectrum conveniently explain away the incompatibility of Objectivism and Christianity by, well, not explaining it at all. While it’s true that Ayn Rand herself was as staunch an atheist as you’ll ever find, she was also so much of an atheist that faith, religion, and the Holy Ghost didn’t actually factor into her calculations. Not even a little bit.

That’s how Conservatives reconcile their two diametrically opposed belief systems: By never letting the two meet. They speak out of one side of their mouth about Christian grace, love, and forgiveness, but out of the other side of their mouth they champion not just greed, but the ugly nihilism of Objectivism. And yes — belief only in yourself still counts as nihilism.

The funny thing, of course, is just how similar Objectivism and Christianity really are. The former prescribes a myopia so complete that we cannot envision a world beyond our own blood, flesh, and money. Meanwhile, the latter is almost belligerently incompatible with most civilized definitions of social justice and scientific due process.

There’s a scene that keeps playing itself out in my head. It’s completely fictional, of course, so you’ll excuse the anachronisms. It takes place thousands of years ago — early on in the development of humankind. It involves a group of older white men (because of course they’re white) gathered around a table, drinking Old Fashioneds and fiddling with their Blackberries. They’re coming up with ways to steer the course of human development.

One of them gestures grandly to a whiteboard where, on one side, he’s drawn the symbol of the Almighty Dollar — and on the other side is a bad caricature of Jesus Christ.

The focus groups are still looking at these, he begins. But gentlemen, he says, now looking slowly around the room, between the two of these icons, we’ll have them all right where we want them.

We Deserve Something Better

You should know that I’ve fought a difficult battle for a long time. I’ve already rejected my childhood fear of all things supernatural, and I’m now beginning to outgrow the notion that self-interest ought to be the primary driving instinct in our lives. Trust me when I say that it’s been difficult.

But isn’t every part of our emergence from childhood?

Yes; you still need to look out for Number One. Secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to assist your neighbor. But we are, right this moment, living in the troubled world fashioned by our taking that philosophy to its absurd, and sadly inevitable, extremes.

Serve thyself, fuck over thy neighbor, and store up treasures for thyself on earth. Don’t we want something better?

This essay also appears on Medium.

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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • JSpencer

    Excellent post, should be required reading by the voting public, as should viewing of the movie, “The Big Short” (especially those with short memories). I had my own crush on Ayn Rand while in HS, but it didn’t even last as long as my party phase. People who cling to her philosophy are showing off their inability to learn from experience and grow as people.

    “That’s how Conservatives reconcile their two diametrically opposed belief systems: By never letting the two meet.”

    That explains the systemic hypocrisy we’ve been suffering from as well as any other explanation I’ve seen. I hesitate to dignify it with the phrase, “intellectual dishonesty”; that’s what it is of course, but it’s also something much worse. The GOP needs new role models, and so do many democrats, but they aren’t about to switch unless voting public forces them to, but that’s another problem altogether.

    • I don’t usually wade into the comments section, JSpencer, but I saw your thoughtful reply and wanted to drop in to thank you. I believe the phrase “intellectual dishonesty,” as you call it, is completely appropriate for naming this phenomenon.

      • JSpencer

        Thanks Dan. : )

    • ELIJAH SWEETE

      JS,

      Partying was supposed to be a phase? Who knew?

      • JSpencer

        Point taken Elijah, I should amend that to “partying hardy” phase. 😉

  • Add my kudos to those of J. Spencer.

    Look forward to many more like this one, Wilhelm.

    Thank you!

    Just wanted to note that sometimes it is a good idea to secure one’s oxygen mask first, before helping others, as adults should do in an aircraft before securing the childrens’ .

    But that may be the only exception and your analogy is well taken.

    • Re-reading your article, Wilhelm, I realize now that the second part of my comment (on oxygen masks) is kind of innate.

      My apologies for detracting from your excellent post.

  • KP

    “… he’s drawn the dollar symbol — and on the other side is a bad caricature of Jesus Christ.”

    “….But gentlemen, he says, now looking slowly around the room, between the two of these icons, we’ll have them all right where we want them.”

    Brilliant. Just Brilliant.

  • Bob Munck

    I’m not crazy about your ARPANet => Internet example. A defining characteristic of the old ARPANet was that those fantastically-expensive high-speed data lines and the equipment at their ends was all paid for by the Department of Defense. The changes in usage rules didn’t come from any slackening of ethical or moral standards, they came from the change in the source of operating cash.

    I myself never contracted the affliction of Ayn Randism; I was inoculated at an early age with the powerful vaccine Robert A. Heinlein. This seemed to be true of many of my cohort who went into science, technology, and mathematics.

    • JIM SATTERFIELD

      By the time I read anything by Rand I’d read everything Heinlein had written at that time. As well as a lot of other SF writers since back then you could easily read everything being printed in the field. My guess is that my personal collection was at least 500 books by then and then there was of course the library. Being exposed to the ideas of lots of other speculations on future societies helps you not take her vision too seriously.

      • Bob Munck

        My guess is that my personal collection was at least 500 books by then

        (I just sold approx. 5,000 SF paperbacks to a little hole-in-the-wall used bookstore in Falls Church for $0.25 each. I’m down to the 650 books on my Kindle.)

        • JIM SATTERFIELD

          I am working on selling part, maybe most of my collection. It now stands at probably 5000+ books. I think it might be as many as 7000. There are lots of hardback SF books. Lots of signed first editions. But of course there are also tons of paperbacks, mysteries, science fact and history. I was more than a little floored at seeing that my extra signed first of Game of Thrones could go for as much as $1200. I was selling books at a table at an SF convention when Paris, George R.R. Martin’s wife came up to look around. George and Paris have been “convention friends” of my wife and myself for decades now. She saw what I was selling and walked away with a stack of Heinlein first editions for Christmas presents for George.

          • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

            Cool. Heinlein rocks

      • JSpencer

        “By the time I read anything by Rand I’d read everything Heinlein had written at that time. As well as a lot of other SF writers since back then you could easily read everything being printed in the field.

        Likewise Jim. I burned through all the SF in our school library, the local public library, and all the paperbacks I could find in local stores. Somehow Rand got digested along the way, but I was voracious reader at the time, often hiding novels inside my textbooks while in class; I only got caught doing that a couple times. 😉

    • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

      “I myself never contracted the affliction of Ayn Randism; I was inoculated at an early age with the powerful vaccine Robert A. Heinlein. ”

      You did right friend. Many of us want the hours back we spent reading ‘required’ reading bs. Heinlein — I read him when very young and never forgot his description of a woman he loved. It was rock bottom honest and real. Plus he was a great storyteller… Remember how soft edged those paperbacks would get after being passed around so many times? Cracked cover, chipped and torn; hey but look what’s inside, this is a good book!

  • Slamfu

    Ok, first off, great article. I feel like I could write a comment almost as long as it, but I’m at work, frazzled, and getting ready for a meeting soon so I’ll boil it down.

    Second, it really is sad to me today how many people mistake Ayn Rand’s take on things for the Free Market system proposed by Adam Smith, who unlike Rand, was a philosopher intending to figure out how people work to make things more equitable, not less, but instead somehow got only the Cliff Note’s version of his work to most people and now 90% can’t tell the difference.

    It just astounds me these days how voters, the media, pundits, and basically the entire public these days just takes corporations giving money to politicians in stride. I know in legal terms, money has been considered equal to free speech ever since that awful ruling in the 70’s, and then massively reinforced with Citizens United, but the fact of the matter is that private or publicly traded companies are flat out bribing our leaders to the detriment of the public and no one seems to care or even acknowledge this basic reality of human nature. The example of Comcast and Turner is perfect to showcase how corporations undermine the free market by consolidating to eliminate competition and provide crap service for maximum pricing. Not unlike Smith said would happen. There is absolutely no logical reason for a corporation to give money to a politician unless they expect some tangible ROI, and if they are, then that is bribery. The fact they give to both parties in roughly equal amounts is one of several dead giveaways to their motives, as if even a topical knowledge of human nature wasn’t enough to get that. If there was a powerful third party, they’d be giving to them too even if their platform was centered around human sacrifice. Drives me nuts.

    I’m a mere 40 years old, but it seemed to me at one point in time there was such a thing as anti-Trust efforts from the govt, and also a thing called “conflict of interest”, but then that might just be my rose colored glasses talking.

    • JSpencer

      “but then that might just be my rose colored glasses talking”

      Also known as having your sh!t together . . . . . . . . imho.

      • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

        Ditto JSpencer

    • JIM SATTERFIELD

      I imagine that almost none of the people who think they understand Adam Smith would dream that he wrote a book titled The Theory of Moral Sentiment. They also probably have no idea that in The Wealth of Nations he said “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.”.

      • Slamfu

        Man, you got that right Jim. So many people, both pro and anti-capitalists, seem to think Adam Smith was like Gordon Gecko. Theory of Moral Sentiment is a tough read, just like Wealth of Nations, but man he gets to some insights about how people work, even if he does paint with a pretty broad brush. But the man was a philosopher first, and sorta backed his way into economics, and his system is so amazing I rank it up there with Maxwell’s work in EM and Einsteins work with Relativity in terms of providing practical insight to how the world works and the difficulty involved.

  • dduck

    My youth may have been misspent as I skipped AR and dove into books by Dreiser and other classics.

    • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

      You made a good choice DD

  • Slamfu

    That reminds me, wasn’t whatshisface* that used to come here doing a chapter by chapter breakdown of “Atlas Shrugged” just to remind us all what a terrible piece of fiction it was? He got like 4 or 5 chapters in and then nothing, but then I didn’t see him here anymore either. Perhaps that was all he could take, which I understand. Like many I enjoyed the book when I was 19, then horrified at my 19 y/o self’s taste when I reread it, or tried to, at 33.

    * – Dean Esmay I think was his name

    • Slamfu

      If you’re reading this Dean, I thought your breakdown was awesome, significantly a better read than the source material 🙂

  • KP

    I have never read any Ayn Rand. I went straight to Saul Alinsky.

    “I’ve never joined any organization—not even the ones I’ve organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology ….” One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as ‘that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right.”

    • KP

      Just found my copy sandwiched between don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” and author Bryce Courtenay’s novel “The Power of One”.

      I have never read “Hard Choices” or “The Art of the Deal”.

      I can’t imagine donating money to or voting for either.

      Never, ever going to happen.

    • dduck

      You, Groucho and me.

    • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

      im with you kp

  • There’s very little engagement with Ayn Rand’s actual ideas here. A quote or two (aside from the graphic) would help ground this criticism in the reality of her ideas. It might prevent such egregious and embarrassing errors as implying that Ayn Rand thought it was OK to “ fuck over thy neighbor.”

    And to anyone who (despite the lack of content here) buys the idea that Ayn Rand’s ideas are childish and that mature adults have to leave that stuff behind, I highly recommend this piece.

    • dduck

      Interesting link. As one who has NOT read AR, the professor throws out some appealing snippets that I, and I think Groucho, could go along with.
      It is the independent streak that most of us lose as we get older. But I smell cultism in the morning air also. Just saying.

      • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

        cultism. You called it right dd

    • JSpencer

      The best thing Rand does in her books is to encourage people to question dogma, and to think, to examine why they believe the things they do. The problem comes in when the intent is read to be an embracing of law of the jungle mentalities (unfettered capitalism, etc.) which don’t take into account the need for cooperation among people, societies, nations, the world – without which we end up with varying degrees of anarchy. So yes, the ideas are immature when not tempered with maturity.

      • dduck

        That’s why we all loved Don Quixote.

      • JSpencer

        Addendum (since we don’t have an edit function): “extremes of individualism” would go behind the comma following “unfettered capitalism”.

        • JSpencer

          P.S to the addendum ; ) Needless to say, I differentiate between extremes of individual thought and acting out on those thoughts.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I read ‘Atlas ‘Mugged”‘ as we called it, back in high school. [I’m old, ok? Lol] We thought it was a novel, not a way of life in any way. We thought it was about selfish old fat guys and young soon to be selfish old fat guys, who anointed each other with booze and high living in their version of ‘tree house’ and who let a few women who pretended to agree with them and ‘talk’ ‘intellect-shoo-al’ in for purposes of sex.

    We thought it was sorta interesting about what lengths wanna be moguls would go to try to be ‘important’ but actually Atlas Mugged in terms of number of pages was more often used to put on floor outside college guys’ dorm rooms to say, ‘We’re er, busy in here, dont come in.’

    That any ‘upper class econ] grownups took rand’s weird fiction stuff seriously, was laughable to us. And not original at all in thought. Just more of the same of old mogul, dominate everything, seek a slave labor population to do your bidding, keep them poor, enrich yourself and your buddies only. Old story. Esp in Russia, as across the world. Since forever.

    Then by the time I was in my late twenties, I was exposed through psych classes to nathaniel brandon, whose real name is Nathan Blumenthal. He was the much younger pan-esque lover to ayn rand [her actual name is not Ayn Rand, it is Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, and she was born to well off Jewish parents in Russia under the Tzar.

    We felt her Tzarist upbringing [b. 1905] and her bourgeois background during a time when millions of Russians were starving, and murdered, the millions not leading her privileged life, definitely besotted her Fountainhead [which I’m sorry, but we called ‘The Dunderhead’ for her preening and pretentiousness] and Atlas Shrugged.

    Brandon, under the guise imo, of ‘original work’, wrote incessantly about psychology of ‘self esteem’ borrowing imo wholesale from the Buddhist sutras, the premises of Jung, and others who far predated him. Back in the day it appears that “rand’ and ‘brandon’ didnt think people smart enough to see their huge ‘borrows’ without proper attributions.

    “rand’ eventually got mad at ‘brandon’ as he [tho married to one of his four wives] no longer wanted to be ‘rand’s’ lover. She was apparently a not very nice and unattractive aging matron who was all caught up in being ‘the one’ about something she called objectivism. And in fact, she wound up being the object of revulsion as at age 63+/- when she sought to revive the sexual relationship with “brandon’ who was 38 years old at the time, married and also having a sexual affair with a young model- he turned her down flat.

    When the truth of the ‘young lover’s true ways’ suddenly reached ‘rand’s’ ears, she condemned, dismissed, ranted, raved, severed, screeched and otherwise made public her rages at brandon [and his wife] who were supposed ‘supporters’ of her fame and reach re objectivism, etc.

    I remember the time. It was truly ugly on rand’s part, painful to witness through the media– though I was young– to see an old woman [as in the movie with rosalind russel and bill holden, wherein the young man has to literally fend off the unwanted physical grasping of the much older woman who cannot see herself for what she is in his eyes. To him she is only opportunity, advantage, but in no way a sexual or love interest, for she is old and crabbed, and he is young and vital, and repulsed by her.] grabbing at a man, any man, in this case a very young man, who does not desire her, nor want her sexually or otherwise. [Have seen in my long life some cases in both directions, old men left by young things, old women left by whom they thought was ‘theirs’– not to mention people of all ages leaving one another. As one of my friends says, ‘many of us are lucky to have with us those who will have us.’ Lol

    In that utter mess of a personal and sexual conflagration from being scorned by lover 25 years younger, ‘rand’ to those of us watching at that time, lost any shred of credibility she had in her ‘fictive’ approach that actually [for those educated in philosophy] was actually rip of of Aristotle and other philosophers, again without crediting sources precisely and directly.

    We thought she held the same dunce stool as L Ron Hubbard, having written fictions that then the author[s] decided was somehow their ‘reality’ not just personal but orders by the megalo-ego of Hubbard and ‘Rand’ to be whipped and proselytized over/onto others, for this reason: to make oneself famous over, to garner money and influence with their stilted narrowminded ways. Their fictions were not a way of life for those of great heart or mind or soul or spirit. They were cults at which Hubbard and “Rand’ placed themselves on the throne for others to bow to. Theirs was praise re unbound ugly greed without regard for family life, the souls of friends, animals, air, water, land, resources, cultures, human beings.

    Imo, it is unlikely ‘rand’s’ works would have seen prominence if they had not often been required reading in many colleges early on. I think, just my 02, that it cannot be overlooked that she was steeped in deadly imperialist Tzarist ideals, was a Soviet citizen in her formative years, eventually couldnt even keep her own life straight, died in a tangle of disappointment and rage for not being accepted by various in the ways she had written were ‘the only right way’ of those who MUST use reason, and only reason, to rise over all others. She rose over no one. And in the end, her huge, ongoing emotional issues of possessiveness, controllingness, dictatorial efforts to shame or enfold others against their wills… not reason– typified her life.

    Just my .02
    Grew up in the backwoods where farmers still say Dirt is more honest than a lot of human beings. Horses more loyal than some humans. The sowers and the crops strive against the elements to feed all. Nourishing others is the goal, but the daily striving toward good outcomes isnt accomplished by talking only.

    • dduck

      Thanks for the insight and the story behind the story.
      Dickens was supposed to be a bastard and many other authors were also not too nice.
      But, I have always read for entertainment, so I enjoyed books by people like Mailer and stuck my head in the sand over their personal lives.

    • I never had the opportunity to read Ayn Rand’s works. Either my school system did not approve of it and/or I was not inquisitive enough to find such myself.

      However, after reading your comments, Dr. E., other comments and Dan’s excellent article, I seem to have a much better understanding of her works and her philosophical system.

      Nevertheless, you have all piqued my interest and I’ll try to find and read a c couple of her novels.

      BTW, from this very sketchy synopsis of “objectivism” am I correct to detect such in the Self-centeredness presently displayed by the GOP presumptive nominee?,

      s;sand I seem to however it or

      • Ignore the gobbledygook at the end. That is the “leftovers” of some hasty editing.

      • dduck

        Seek and ye shall find. 🙂

      • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

        honestly Dorian, I dont think trump is influenced by “rand.’ I think he wouldnt read such a long book that is bloated like a romance novel following the lives of seven generations [used to be a big hit in publishing, prob couldnt sell but a handful today]

        Any more than he is influenced by l. ron hubbard. Although all three may be character disordered, that is, dishonest in their everyday petty and large dealings. Manipulative and not shrewd, rather, cunning. On purpose. All three wanting fame more than anything. Not to help. Just fama.

        I think trump is cut from same cloth as someone else in history, dare I mention his name, who was inflated also, a braggert also, made claims that were not true about how much he loved everyone [except for whole populaces he claimed were ‘unclean criminals, crooks and deviants] took pains to look a certain stylized way with his hair and dress, loved the rock star life of regalia and secret service men watching over him’, lived for people to adore him, cut them down without a thought if he thought them in any way disloyal, talked a lot about making x great again, and wound up bringing to ‘his people,’– and all others across the entire globe– absolute and total devastation and rubble. Utter rubble that took near a century and is still not rebuilt.

        Sure, like that guy, trump is. Rand looks like a drooling incompetent in comparison– she had a lot of fantasies about life, was incredibly unhappy in her chosen life, but her fantasies, prob to offset her seeming chronic depressive states, were totalitarian and Tzarist in nature. The “Only we are special, and you are not,’ is right out of the Tzar’s playbook and back to his antepasados as well.

        Her claim about admiring Aristotle, well let me put it this way… she took the totalitarian view that aristotle carried utterly carved into his patrician, world domination of his time, psyche… and that is, old dusty Aristotle also believed that the masses were unfit, unfit to govern, that ONLY the elitists were not only capable, but Gods-meant to quash and dominate all others==because the ‘elite’ were so f’n civilized, so reasoned, so bs booshwah. That’s why the elitists of Greece held slaves, slaughtered people left and right, amassed booty beyond belief, stole from, lied to, in order to gain their little pod of power over others. BEcause they were SO civilized and SO reasoned and SO elite. Right.

        The same sick philosophy is rand’s, mainly I think, from her flouncing about growing up in the upper class in Russia with her elitist back turned on purpose away from the grisly murders and starvations going on right in front of the rich… who didnt care. You can read about the ethnic cleansing so called, meaning murders of tribal people in the Russia of her time. She never made a sound. You and I know how that goes and where lack of conscience causes the person without conscience to speak of the world as if all persons have choices, while the mogul/dictatorials do all they can to dominate so others have NO choices but to slave for ‘the man.’

        • KP

          Three comments here by dr. e. are more valuable than most four years at university when it comes to the mind and behavior.

        • Sorry for not being more clear, Dr. E.

          I did not mean to say that Trump has been influenced by Rand. Just that I detect a lot of the narcissist traits displayed and promoted by Rand in him.

          As to comparisons to Mr. “y” who talked a lot about “making x great again,” amen!

          • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

            we’re on the same page, thank dorian

      • Her works “borrow” from the idea that reason is man’s basic and primary advantage over the “beasts”. Thus, In “Atlas Shrugged”, she suggests that producers will use their reason and that destroyers will go against their reason. For her, the Hamlet question is paramount. (to be or not to be)

        Ironically, although she claimed that truth and reason were paramount and that violence to obtain things is always wrong:
        1) Big supporter of Richard Nixon
        2) Dr. E’s observations about her private life (and not recognizing reality)
        3) Believed that Native Americans had their genocide coming to them because, “they did not believe in individual land rights.”
        4) Wanted a strict “gold standard” (which Nixon ended, btw) which would make the head of Russia our Chairman of the Fed (since Russia produces the most gold)

        She seems to be a contradiction in terms. Her conclusion of “to be” reasoning is that altruism is antithetical to capitalism (and that capitalism was the only reasonable economic system, of course). The most glaring problem with her “logic” is that her entire argument is based on the premise that violence is unacceptable. She seemed to think that a super-small, elite, upper-class could easily defend itself from all those barbaric hordes. Not an a priori assumption that I would make…

        • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

          good insight Robert P. I saw the quote about Native Americans and just thought, she would be a good pal to Trump who also disparages Native Americans.

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