Wow…

August 13, 2012

Just finally got through the end and I’m just…wondering who else made it that far…it’s just…wow…really? That’s it?

Makes one want to shake one’s head and just…walk away…

However, there is value inside. There’s a reason this book sings to some reasonable people…even if the conclusions, the generalizations, the targets are misdirected…there’s a nugget in here I’d like to extract, and I still appreciate the bald audacity with which the work is presented. It opens it up for consideration…

Let’s go…

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On Hope

August 8, 2012

Here’s something that’s been bouncing around in my head for a while now; it’s relevant I believe though it may not seem so much to start:

Have you noticed our lack of spiritual/social inspirations? We have no equivalent of Gandhi, no Mother Teresa, no MLK type. We are seriously walking around a world with no one pointing a finger towards the light of hope. Music? Nope. Art? Not so much. It’s all darkness, not evil darkness, just the reflection of the darkness of apathy. Faith of any kind is mocked or straight out feared. There’s no real compassion but enough apathy to drown in. There’s no hope. It’s like it has been sucked through the mesosphere and the shadow of disregard and hate has descended in its place. Where are our humanitarians of hope? Hell, even the Dali Lama is in exile for god-sakes.

In a world without hope what do you get? Atlas Shrugged.

So, do I overall agree with your assessment that the good guys need to stop thinking, “Hell man, what happened?” get off their stunned asses; stand up; seek hope; find it; and throw it back at the world? Why yes, yes I do!

~ C.K.

(An afterthought: my perception on how bad things have gotten is colored by my location. I have no idea how things are in more populated areas or how people are behaving. I only know here. And it’s bad and getting worse. People are losing their houses left and right, jobs just do not exist, it’s decaying fast. Crime has gone up, theft and domestic violence are going through the roof. It’s falling apart; it’s sad but scary as well.)

Rand is either loved or hated. I haven’t seen a single objective bit of writing on her. Bloody ironic as hell, very good point you have!

There is no perfect world; nor will there ever be. Rationally speaking it is as impossible as “true” peace. Why, some may ask; because people are not perfect. Thus we find another SNAFU in Rand’s synapse; rationally objectivism (by her definition) CAN NOT WORK due to the fact that no human is infallible. Not one of us is omniscient, we can not be; thus any individual “truth” we come to is potentially fallible, liable to change and morph as we learn more (if one chooses to continue learning that is).

Rand refuses the concept of fallibility in objectivism because she is not only arrogant enough but, deluded enough to believe she really has some superior thought process to us mere humans.

It’s as if she believes some humans (most especially herself) are gods among men. While in an individual here and there that’s not dangerous to the world as a whole but with Rand it becomes dangerous because her “true belief” followers pretty much set up shop at the church of Galt.

If mass amounts of people were to begin using objectivism the whole world would break down to anarchy in the newer sense of the word: total chaos.

Hank was perfect because of his imperfectness and that he knew he wasn’t perfect. Dagny was beautifully done, in the beginning. Her and Hank together were the superheros in the story before it fell apart; fighting it all on both sides. What’s sad is in the book they could have won if Dagny hadn’t fell victim to Galt. What’s terrifying is thinking that maybe at our current speed and condition Rand’s ending may well be what we’re heading for unless the “superhero” types, as you so eloquently said; ” <…> make like the cartoon end of Animal Farm and KICK ASS!”

~C.K.

The relevance of Rand’s work is not that she’s proven pure individualism is the only morally right thing, though I suspect that’s what she thinks. She’s actually struggling with that other spectrum — good vs. evil.

It’s not that her philosophy is accurate — [tangent: if you consider philosophy as a science where we have to guess even more than we do in psychology (tangent: this gets to another issue of our blindness to intention — is this person good or evil? We can never see, only infer)]

It’s that she’s got good, hard working people whom the industrious can identify with.

The individualism=good conclusion is wrong, invalid, impremised, etc. You can’t build trains or revolutionary materials alone. That’s silly.

The value is that she effectively communicates the frustration and injustice perpetrated on those who get up and don’t bitch and get the damn job done, every single time, and are leached upon by complete wastes who take advantage of the goodness of their hearts.

The danger is that she effectively rationalizes those people stooping down to the level of the idiots around them. Only these are the strong, the ingenious, the powerful. Basically, she’s duped herself into the part of the almighty Empress, who’s offered justification for all the white knights to make like Darth Vader…

…and a major challenge we have, in society as a whole — mostly because we cannot see another’s intention, only infer — is that we’ve mixed up the Individual-Collective spectrum with a “I’m good you must be evil” mentality, which is what makes our two-party political system so foolishly vitriolic, because each side there’s a critical mass of people equating individual-collective with good – evil.

Rand is often held up as a conservative manifesto, but clearly the greater problem, is that society as a whole seems to be lost in this fallacy.

…which is why it’s relevant and important to consider Rand differently than she ever seems to have been — See, Rand’s one of the most well-known and polarizing figures in pop philosophy. People either love her or hate her…

Noone ever looks at her objectively.

Ironic, right? It’s high time we practiced some Objectivism.

Let’s attempt (humbly, please) to inject some rationality. Shall we?

Indeed!

The idea that’s been running around my head is this:

These are not “perfect people” in a “perfect world”….And the only people close to perfect in the book are Dagny and Hank. Hank maybe moreso, but neither of them are perfect.

They are gifted doers of reasonably pure heart who are surrounded by awful people. Cronyism, paternalism (Dagny is not in charge simply because she is the sister, not the brother), hypocricy, dishonesty, ingratitude, on and on…

…And one of the most irritating things about all of it is that they are the only ones trying to make everything work. Everyone else — at least the trolls blocking their paths — are indeed mooching. They have very little experience of honestly altruistic people. Heck, it’s possible that they may have such big walls up from being constantly obstructed and maligned that they couldn’t see a “good man of the cloth” if he came up and took their confessions.

These are not “perfect people” in a “perfect world”. These are fully frustrated people in a highly imperfect world who are fully isolated long before they finally give up and abandon society.

This is the story of what happens when the movers and shakers finally give up and decide to be as selfish and petulant as all the worthless idiots they are constantly holding up the walls for.

Ayn Rand THINKS she’s the only one thinking. Really she’s a frustrated, lonely, frigid witch who might earn some compassion if she wasn’t so cold.

She very astutely identifies a LOT of real problems. She generalizes WAY too far, and, idealizes her characters WAY too much, but she’s very good at identifying a whole boatload of wastes that deeply frustrate, and often undermine and gaslight awesome people.

She effectively leads us to the argument as to WHY purer socialism can’t work (the jerks will take over, please don’t give them that kind of mechanism/machine with which to control people, it’s better to decentralize so we can deal with the assholes in smaller, less powerful concentrations) — which she’s well positioned to deliver, being someone who left Russia right as they entered into that grave error, where corruption of her kind certainly continues to hold sway…

HOWEVER, WE now live in a world where the opposite side of that story can be told — crumbling cities, lost faith, apathy, fuck it all, not because of socialist croniess, but because of industrialist barons who have effectively been allowed to more or less take over the world, buy the government, shirk regulation and create their own machine…

Ayn Rand is such a problem because her characters say SEE YA! and abandon the whole lot. What we need in this world — as you mentioned — are SUPERHEROS. People who don’t give in and give it all up to the fools, but who — if they are ALL THAT — should stand up, inspire the masses, and make like the cartoon version end of Animal Farm and KICK ASS. Not the book version. That doesn’t end well, either…

Journal Excerpt Response

August 7, 2012

I don’t want to go off on a tangent about my thoughts of her mental prowess at her imagined ability at rigorous original thought and forget to actually hit the fine points of so much insane bullshit thread through some valid ones … contradictions everywhere.

First of all Dagny; she wasn’t running a railroad single handedly, Jim was running the railroad. Dagny was trying to run it over him. She also had Eddie and in the story it’s made pretty clear the rail workers followed her say so, not Jim’s. The rail workers would do what she wanted because they had faith in her, which um yeah doesn’t that show they had a pretty good handle on logical reasoning skills? Just asking …

Also, I’m thinking in the time period of this book half of Dagny’s problem in “owning” the railroad is that she *is* a female, this would be back in the day where a woman would have been having just the problems Dagny is having in taking over the business.

I’ll agree with her on reason not being automatic. But the “omnipotence of reason”? Wow. I’m moving along now …

Dagny did not fail, Rand wrote her to fail. She wouldn’t have had a story based on Objectivism if Dagny didn’t fail though, would she have? Dagny started off as one of the strongest characters in the story. She ends up as a follower. And why? Because she loves (and apparently loves her way to the highest power but, I digress). So, technically by the laws of Objectivism, Galt should have left Dagny on the train with Eddie by the end because she lost her ability to objectively reason when she changed her logic based upon which man was her current love interest and what HIS views were.

As I said and I will state again, Rand has some great points. Some highly valid points in some of what she says and thinks. I see it, I hear her, hell I’d send her a “you go girl” for them if she were still around. I just do not see how she comes to the conclusion of her characters behaviors. They do not fit. She is trying to make mere humans, who regardless of what she believes are incapable of omniscient rational thought 24/7, gods among men.

 

A lot of what I’d say here is going to come out again during the chapter by chapter breakdowns, in the interest of not repeating myself and boring the hell out of everyone I’ll leave it go at that small rant …

 

~C.K.

What Think Ye?

August 6, 2012

All right, lady, I can comment on that until the cows come home. Figure I’ll let you eat it all up and sink it on in first, though, especially as you have to scroll up so far from here to get to the beginning of it — by the way, the book is the 50th Anniversary edition, and the journal excerpts come from Leonard Peikoff’s September 1991 forward. This is the most relevant part — though she also reflects on what John Galt means to the other characters. The rest is her going on about why she wants to use her philosophy to create fiction rather than offer straight knowledge to the world, and her suspicion that she’s the only original, rigorous thinker out there…

…She of little, little faith…

” Therefore, he must never feel confident that he can do anything whatsoever to, by or through others. (He can’t – and he shouldn’t even wish to try it – and the mere attempt is improper). He must not think that he can. somehow transfer his energy and his intelligence to them and make them fit for his purposes in that way. He must face other men as they are, recognizing them as essentially independent entities, by nature, and beyond his PRIMARY influence; [he must] deal with them only on his own, independent terms, deal with such as he judges can fit his purpose or live up to his standards (by themselves and of their own will, independently of him) and expect nothing from the others..

Now, in Dagny’s case, her desperate desire is to run Taggart Transcontinental. She sees that there are no men suited to her purpose around her, no men of ability, independence and competence. She thinks she can run it with others, with the incompetent and the parasites, either by training them or merely by treating them as robots who will take her orders and function without personal initiative or responsibility; WITH HERSELF, IN EFFECT, BEING THE SPARK OF INITIATIVE, THE BEARER OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WHOLE COLLECTIVE. This can’t be done. This is her crucial error.

This is where she fails.”

“It should not matter to a creator whether anyone or a million or ALL the men around him fall short of the ideal Man; let him live up to that ideal himself; this is all the ‘optimism’ about Man that he needs. But this is a hard and subtle thing to realize – and it would be natural for Dagny always to make the mistake of believing others are better than they really are (or, will become better, or she will teach them to become better or, actually, she so desperately WANTS them to be better) – and to be tied to the world by that hope.

It is proper for a creator to have an unlimited confidence in himself and his ability, to feel certain that he can get anything he wishes out of life, that he can accomplish anything he decides to accomplish, and that it’s up to him to do it. (He feels it because he is a man of reason…) [But] here is what he must keep clearly in mind: it is true that a creator can accomplish anything he wishes – if he functions accordingly to the nature of man, the universe and his own proper morality, that is, if he does not place his wish primarily within others and does not attempt or desire anything that is of a collective nature, anything that concerns others PRIMARILY or requires primarily the exercise of the will of others. (This would be an IMMORAL desire or attempt, contrary to his nature as a creator.) If he attempts that, he is out of a creator’s province and in that of the collectivist and the second-hander.”

“The error is this: it is proper for a creator to be optimistic, in the deepest, most basic sense, since the creator believes in a benevolent universe and functions on that premise. But it is an error to extend that optimism to other SPECIFIC men. First, it’s not necessary, the creator’s life and the natur of the universe do not require it, his life does not depend on others. Second, man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only to him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. The decision will affect only him; it is not (and cannot and should not be) the primary concern of any other human being.

Therefore, while a creator does and must worship MAN (which means his own highest potentiality; which is his natural self-reverence), he must not make the mistake of thinking that this means the necessity to worship MANKIND (as a collective). These are two entirely difference conceptions, with entirely – (immensely and diametrically opposed) – different consequences.

Man, at his highest potentiality, is realized and fulfilled within each creator himself…Whether the creator is alone, or finds a handful of others like him, or is among the majority of mankind, is of no importantce or consequence whatsoever; numbers have nothing to do with it. He alone or he and a few others like him ARE mankind, i the proper sense of being the proof of what man actually is, man at his best, the essential man, man at his highest potentiality. (the RATIONAL being, who acts according to his nature).”