Tag Archives: ayn rand

The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I’ve said a few things about Ayn Rand on this blog a number of readers found objectionable.  A goodly number found it offensive enough to cancel subscriptions, which I don’t find objectionable at all.

Fact is, I was once an avid reader of Ayn Rand.  Not being a reader of Ayn Rand was a way a person could declare himself a non-pseudo-intellectual, which of course, I certainly didn’t wish to be.  At the time, admitting to the shameful fact of not having read Atlas Shrugged, or Fountainhead, reduced the stature of the person admitting it to something akin to not having seen Gone With The Wind.

In all honesty I found Rand’s fiction tedious, with the exception of Anthem, which nobody’d ever heard of [few Rand admirers probably have to this day] and didn’t win any intellectual points in the 1960s.  So when I came across The Virtue of Selfishness, in 1965, I welcomed the read because I thought it could provide discussable insights into Rand’s viewpoints while sparing the reader all the muscle-flexing fictional heroes.

Which it did.  And having read it I quickly ceased being an admirer of Rand, to whatever extent I might have been previously. 

I suspect those who read, or claim to have read Ayn Rand today probably derive opinions about her, and her work, from the fiction works and admiration for the fictional characters.  The gut-level response to Horatio Algerism with a bit of Paul Bunyan thrown in. 

But the appeal of Rand at the time was located in fictional characters.  The Virtue of Selfishness quickly was to be found on the reduced price shelves at the book stores.  Because, the simple fact is that nobody loves an ego-maniac.  Nobody loves a selfish, grasping, gluttonous, greedy person when the fictional fantasies are stripped away.

And giving it a fancy name, objectivism, rationalizing the state-of-being that goes with it, just doesn’t add anything to the equation.  There might never have been a culture in the history of mankind where greed was openly, admittedly, frankly, an object of admiration.  In fact, the opposite is mostly true.

So today when Rand admirers are justifying their world-views by using her tepid arguments in favor of devil-take-the-hindmost, they rarely use the name of her tour d’force work, where she attempts to explain herself.  They know somewhere inside themselves it’s off-putting to the listener.

So the buzzwords are used, instead.  Short phrases bounced around back and forth that needn’t be defended.

Nobody needs Ayn Rand to justify selfishness and self-centeredness, but she provides an excuse, however lame.

Old Jules

Edit 8:12 am – There’s a mysterious, paradoxical side of the 21st Century fascination with Rand I neglected to mention.  Today admiration for Rand is the unlikely and somewhat ironic focal point where fundamentalist Christians join hands with atheists.  Both quote snippets of Rand, claim to have read her.

All of which makes a certain amount of sense for atheists of a particular sort.  But it’s not easy to reconcile with Christianity.  After all, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, anger, envy and pride have been universally accepted as the Seven Deadly, or Venal, or Mortal Sins since a time long before Protestants.  And I don’t recall any Protestant sect ever declaring openly to repudiate them.

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Philosophy by Limerick: Natural Non-Commie Fulfillment – Ayn Rand

The guy in the doorway is dead
Not as tough as the one overhead
So she smiles and she greets him
With raised hips she meets him
It’s Darwin, it’s fate; it ain’t RED.

Old Jules

Beating Dead Horses – Lynching Poor Old Ayn Rand Again

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I gather from the email forwards that someone’s not satisfied Ayn Rand has been accepted as pathetic enough, wrong enough, dead enough to be left alone.  Subject lines by non-psychiatrists, non-psychologists are taking the trouble to declare her a lunatic.

Poor, sad, bitter woman trapped inside a self yearning for men to be hairier chested, more muscled-up, more knock-em-around, slap-em-down and screw ’em.  More like the good old days, taking what they want from anyone too weak to keep them from it.

I wonder why they don’t just leave her the hell alone.  The 20th Century had no shortage of miserable, confused people, plenty of them writers, submerged in bitterness and misplaced notions of how it could be better.

In some ways every time Ayn Rand and her wishes come up I find myself thinking of Sylvia Plath, similar in so many ways, but with a different slant on the sort of man Rand longed for:

Daddy   
by Sylvia Plath 

 
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You–

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
12 October 1962
 

But nobody ever bothers dragging Plath up out of the grave and horsewhipping her.  What the hell.

Old Jules