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08 October 2007 @ 09:09 pm
If you read this I'll be very impressed  
“Mr. Reardon,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling, but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders- what would you tell him to do?”

“I… don’t know. What… could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

-Page 422, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

All right class, gather ‘round, gather ‘round. It’s time to discuss whether Ayn Rand was a brilliant thinker and philosopher or a really big bitch. Now, before we actually begin it’s important to understand what Atlas Shrugged is really about as well as understand the basic tenants of Objectivism, Rand’s philosophy.

Let’s start with Objectivism. It’s really pretty simple. Man’s only moral goal is his own happiness or rational self-interest. His virtue is his ability to produce. Free trade allows man to actually use his ability to produce and gain a return on the value of his product. Man’s only means of judging and acting are through the use of his mind and logic. Love is not felt for another’s faults but for their virtues- one loves a reflection of their own mind. By being a good person of value you are able to love, respect, and admire another person of value. All are entitled to the fruits of their labor and the right to do as they please with their property and inventions. Justice is an absolute and no single man may live for another nor require another to live for him. Rand sums it up using Aristotle: A is A.

Look at that again. A is A. Something is itself. Reality is real.

Do not deny reality. Do not deny your personal desire to be happy. Do not deny that others have the right to pursue their own happiness. Work hard, produce, trade, use your money to buy things you like. Be happy.

Now, you’re probably thinking “Hey, that’s not too bad. Actually, that’s really good! I like it!” Good for you- at this point you should like it. The problem comes from application. There are a million good philosophies out there. The problem is how do they work in the real world. How do people really act, think, feel. What do people do, believe, desire. Just think of Communism- it’s a perfect philosophy…. in an ultra basic, not-actually-considered-in-any-real-way fashion.

All right… Let’s think of it this way. A = A, right? Does 7 = 7? Say it out loud. “Seven equals seven.” It would be true, provided you didn’t turn your monitor 180 degrees so it said L = L. Roll your eyes all you want, but the point stands- while reality exists, our perception of it is separate. A equals A equals A equals a, but only by certain definitions. Any first year philosophy student could tell you that (Kant vs. Aristotle) as well as that epistemology and philosophy, the theories of knowledge and of wisdom respectively, are different, so don’t tie them together so casually. It’s precisely because I’m no better than a first year philosophy student that I get pissed that Rand falls so far short. When you tie your own logic into reality, refusing to admit that they are two separate things and that your logic can be straight-up wrong, that reality and your philosophy may in fact crash together hideously that you hit a problem. I guess I can forgive mysticism and religion more easily because they rely on the “beyond,” but when you base your ideas in logic but don’t use logic to reflect on the ideas, well, ummmm, no. Just no.

Atlas Shrugged was released 50 years ago this coming Friday and takes place in “the modern day,” so roughly 1957. Pretty much the entire world has fallen to Communism and all the Peoples States of Whatever are starving and falling apart. The United States is the last hope of freedom, free trade, money, food, everything. The government is giving out handouts left and right to the Peoples States, trying to keep its own businesses afloat, and trying to keep the nation alive. The government is living under a philosophy of altruism- selfishness is bad, the government must work to keep those not producing alive long enough to get back on their feet, and so on.

Enter the question “Who is John Galt?” This is a question of despair. “Why is America falling apart at the seams?” “Why is the government not producing jobs?” “Why are the greedy businessmen and industrialists keeping the rights to their inventions when we could ALL be producing them and making life better?” “Who is John Galt?” You get the idea. The book opens with this question and it’s asked repeatedly. It really isn’t a bad question and I like the ambiguity to it- a name you as a reader can’t know and, quite frankly, nobody in the book really knows. It’s a sign of hopelessness but willing hopelessness- a refusal to accept what can’t be controlled and move past it. The question is an excuse.

The heroes of the book, the bankers and the industrialists and the inventors and the philosophers who praise the mind, who praise the ability to create, produce, and move forward, these are what Rand calls the men of the mind, the men of ability. These are the heroes who work hard as goddamn Hell at their jobs and by God they want their money. They enjoy their work, they enjoy doing a good job, they enjoy producing top of the line product, they enjoy tearing each other new ones to make a profit and getting torn new ones themselves because it’s honest trade and a respect for one another’s ability to deliver. I’m not sure exactly how to describe them to women, but gentlemen, I can describe them to you easily.

Unzip your pants and look down. See that? Theirs is bigger.

In all honesty I’m not kidding. Rand goes to great lengths to describe these heroes in glowing terms constantly. Allow me to describe Ramon and myself as if we were Randy heroes.

“de la Cruz was bored with the party, his mind demanding he get back to his lesson plans. The party-goers spoke of vapid politics, of government policies designed to help the people, each refusing to say who “the people” were. His desire to refine his plans and show his students the power and ability of the mind was overpowering but he had promised that he would attend. It was a waste of time and there was no reason for him to be there, but he was a man of his word. He glanced from the window back to the party-goers and saw James Thorne walking towards him. He knew about Thorne- everybody knew about Thorne. The notorious purveyor and promoter of ‘fine arts,’ post-modern shlock that no man of thought would bother to consider. With a keen eye and a talent for wordplay Thorne promoted only the most ugly and vulgar of films, books and games, only the works that promoted the most treacherous philosophies. He stood erect, his back straight with the confidence of self-consciousness and pride in existing, wearing the tuxedo as a proud soldier would wear a uniform adorned with medals. His casual movement showed little regard for the clothes, his pride in his position meeting with an indifference to his surroundings. He would have looked just as strong wearing oil-stained overalls or the protective equipment required in a blast furnace. His hair was neatly trimmed with a strong efficiency. Thinned hair was cut short, refusing to hide the physical deficiency through a completely shaven head nor a falsely clever hair-cut. His goatee was likewise trimmed with the casual conviction of a man who had, years before, held a razor in his hands and said that he would practice shaving once, that he would learn to do it right and it would only take one attempt to fail, retry, and succeed. It was this powerful talent and ability that showed in his every movement that made de la Cruz hate him. How could a man who so fully knew his own mind and ability be such a traitor to his own humanity? Thorne reached him and smiled. ‘Storm’s coming,’ he said.

“de la Cruz gasped. His anger and hatred melted and combined with a newfound sense of admiration for the man who spent his time promoting the remake of ‘Alfie’ but who had just now quoted ‘Batman Begins.’ The others at the party did not catch the reference, thoroughly unconcerned with films of intellect and importance and more concerned with promoting and praising the public welfare.”

I could keep going for a few more pages like that if you really wanted me to. And yes, that pretty much happens in the book. Constantly. I described myself in a not too dissimilar fashion to the description given to Francisco d’Anconia, an heir and brilliant businessman who has convinced the world (and de la Cruz/Reardon) he’s a worthless playboy.

Yes, it bears repeating that it really is just like this for the whole damn book. The heroes are described in painfully epic ways. At the very end of the book a protagonist is strapped naked to a mattress, getting tortured by electrocution. I said to myself “I bet he gets described as a Greco-Roman hero.” Sure enough he’s described as being akin to a Greek statue.

Rand herself admits these heroes aren’t exactly realistic and are more accurately humans as she believes humans are meant to be. Kind of creates a paradox when you have a philosophy based on reason and the real world but create unrealistic and perfect heroes to champion your ideas. If you’re going to argue for reality and reason, then you should use reason and reality.

The villains, now. These are the “altruists,” the “theorists,” and so on.

Unzip your pants and look down. See that? Theirs is smaller.

Rand pioneered the Snidely Whiplash villain. These characters are generally men of Washington and business, tying the two together inexorably and fighting for favors while fighting to keep others under their thumb. They trade favors and people rather than goods and services. They believe in the good of the common man but really they’re trying to keep themselves alive and on top. In general Rand refers to them as “looters.” Her belief is that they simply try to live off the efforts of others, forcing others to produce for them while slowly strangling the life out of those same producers, then moving on to a new prey. Basically they’re vampires. Also, they CONSTANTLY CONSTANTLY CONSTANTLY say “it’s not my fault!” “I couldn’t help it!” “No one could blame me!” and “It seems to me,” “Facts seem to show,” “It appears that” and so on. Their cowardice and refusal to take action or responsibility, their shallow natures and refusal to actually believe in their own creeds of altruism and public service are shoved so far down your throat for so long that you’ll be convinced by the end of it all that you could make a fortune sucking dick in porn. Rest assured that the physical descriptions of these characters are far less flattering.

Okay, so it’s a book about heroes who are akin to gods and villains who are only a step away from eating babies. We’re off to a bad start. Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to take a war of ideology seriously when the master of ceremonies makes it so one-sided. Might as well pit Gandhi against Jack the Ripper.

A one thousand, seventy five page novel and I’ve so far really just skimmed how characters are built and described…. *sigh*

You can do this, DK. It’s okay. You can do this.

The book takes place in the 50’s/60’s or so, as I’ve said and follows a world falling apart. We’ve established a basic setting and we have the attributes of our heroes and villains- those who can produce and who believe in making their own way in the world vs. those who leach off of the productive following false gods of altruism that they themselves don’t even believe in. The plot itself follows a few select characters, chiefly Dagny Taggart. Dagny and her brother Jim are heirs to the Taggart Transcontinental railway which was built by their Grandfather or Great-Grandfather or something Nat Taggart. It’s basically the biggest, bestest, oldest railroad in the country. It also sucks. Y’see, times are tough and even the railroad is suffering. What REALLY makes it suffer is its president, Jim. Jim’s one of those altruists. You know, morons. Dagny, being a woman, is relegated to a lower but still exceptionally high position- operating vice-president. Basically she runs the show. She makes shit happen. She makes the trains run. There’s another chief character by the name of Hank Reardon. Hank is a steel manufacturer who’s spent the last ten years producing a new alloy that will be cheaper, lighter, stronger, and more durable than steel which he calls Reardon Metal. Personally, I think the name should have just been a silhouette of his penis. Would have gotten the point across just as well.

Anyways, Jim’s ruining the railroad, the country’s slowly coming down harder and harder on successful businesses, resources are getting limited, nobody’s buying Reardon Metal because it’s untested and the government is discouraging people from trying out this new untested material. Some dude in the Southwest has an up-and-coming railroad that kicks ass and he’s built it straight up to Colorado. Another dude in Colorado, Ellis Wyatt, has figured out a new way to get oil out of shale and suddenly oil shortages will be a thing of the past. Now, Taggart Transcontinental’s rail in Colorado sucks. The other line, called the Phoenix-Durango (I can’t believe I remembered that), is high quality. Jim uses his influence with the Board of Train Guys or whatever they call it to get some rules put in place. Basically, the oldest railroad in an area gets exclusive rights. This way TT gets exclusive rights to the Colorado oil. They can just buy the railroad from the Phoenix-Durango guy and use them! Problem solved! Only Dagny’s pissed- she recognizes that this is bad business. The other railroad man, who’s name escapes me, refuses to sell the line to TT and demolishes it. Dagny comes up with a plan to rebuild the line using Reardon Metal and does so. People say it won’t work. The metal will split. The bridge will collapse. Dagny and Hank build it anyways. As an act of defiance Dagny names it The John Galt Line. It works. Dagny and Hank ride the first trip. It holds. Then Dagny and Hank have a night of crazy abusive sex. I’m almost done, I swear.

Pretty much immediately afterwards the government throws restrictions for how much a single train can carry (this way more conductors and train personnel can have work!) how much oil Wyatt can produce (so other oil producers can get their products out too!), blah blah bah. Infuriated, Wyatt blows his refinery to Hell (destroying evidence of how he could get oil from shale in the process) and disappears. Things keep going further and further into Hell.

Basically, more and more people keep disappearing. The talented, the brilliant, the able; they all just one after another quit their jobs and vanish to who-knows-where. Dagny theorizes there is a destroyer out to somehow trick these people into stopping doing what they love and with every industrialist and producer that vanishes, getting the oil or copper or steel or whatever that they worked to provide gets harder. Things keep getting worse. Also, I lied. I’m not almost done.

Of course, there’re plenty of epiphanies and realizations and blah blah blah along the way. The government and big businesses working together keep strangling the producers for “the good of the people” and Dagny declares with great force that it’s wrong for the many to control the few. Okay, yeah, fine. Whatever. Plenty of little philosophical ideas crop up here and there, most of them not worth caring about. The basic gist is that with the list of people who produce getting smaller, the looters squeeze tighter on those that are left. Slowly but surely things come closer to a total collapse.

Probably the big issue at this point is Starnesville, a town built around a now defunct factory where Dagny and Hank sorta randomly visit. The few people left are all but dead and we learn that the once great factory fell to three siblings who were…. wait for it…. Altruists! Each according to his ability to each according to his need! It was Communism at its worst! Those who worked really well had to work overtime, those who could make up needs got extra money! People learned to work less than everybody else so they had to do less, people learned to lie to get more money, things were awful, things sucked, boo Communism! Rand created three terrible siblings who were not only Communist, but INCOMPETANT. With absolutely NO semblance of oversight, with NO respect for the workers, with NO respect for actual need, with NO concept of reward, and with epic levels of corruption at the very top (one of the siblings embezzled entire fortunes) we’re shown that Communism will fail. Thank God we have a brilliant mind like Rand’s to show us how Communism is doomed to fail, no matter how good the circumstances!

Anyways, the big thing to come out of Starnesville, besides the heavy-handed straw man argument, is a stripped apart motor and a few torn notes beside it. Apparently the motor runs on static electricity in the air and actually worked- a revolutionary design that for some reason the creator abandoned. Dagny sets outs on a personal mission to rebuild the motor, hiring some scientist to try and unlock the secrets of the motor and herself find the man who abandoned it.

I wish I was done. I really do. I’m not. I’m sorry. I love you.

Anyways, Dagny suspects “the destroyer” has gotten to her scientist and follows him. The scientist and his companion get in an airplane and take off with Dagny having rented a plane and in hot pursuit. Thus begins the most boring ass chase ever with the pursued disappearing in the Rockies and Dagny crashing. See, she discovered this hidden paradise where all those talented people have been running off to, hidden by a ray shield that projects a reflection of a mountain over-head. Invisible to the outside world, it is here that everybody has come to run away. Guess who led them here!! I’ll give you a hint- most people call this place “Galt’s Gulch.” Oh yeah, guess who actually invented that motor! Deus ex bad plot device!

This valley, nicknamed Atlantis (heyo Bioshock!), is exactly what you’d think it is- if Ayn Rand was Homer Simpson, then Atlantis would be Germany. Hard working industrialists, Francisco d’Anconia building the basics of a copper mine, a brilliant actress working on her plays at night and running a grocery store during the day, Galt himself doing odds and ends repairs and running the generator that gives power to the entire valley, people working hard at their own projects while brilliantly running basic, run-of-the-mill businesses required for survival. Actresses, businessmen, composers, bankers, philosophers, doctors, judges- the men of the mind. John Galt has brought them here to go on strike. He has simply shown them they were right- the problem isn’t them, it’s everybody else. It’s the world that slowly crushes them, demanding they work for everybody else. The real crime is that it requires consent. So long as they continue to work and slave for the looters, they participate in the crime. Galt shows them that they don’t need the looters, the looters need them. For thousands of years it has been an inevitable conclusion that eventually there would be no one left to drain the life from. Sooner or later, the looters would find no one left to loot. The United States as a concept was the antithesis of this, a country that praised the concept of making money, not simply acquiring it. A country where a man was free to truly follow his destiny, well, for a hundred years anyways. The second hundred years the looters came back in and started using the government to force their will on the industrialists. That’s when shit started going to Hell in America. I swear to God she thinks that.

Anyways, we stay in Atlantis for a few hundred pages and masturbate. John Galt himself speaks in a single paragraph that lasts three pages. The whole period lasts a mere month and in the first week, two, maybe three… well, it’s revealed that Galt loves Dagny and Dagny falls in love with Galt. Please understand that at this point you’re about 700 pages into the book. You should be praying for death, your head unable to wrap around how people could actually respect or admire this piece of garbage. But you KEEP READING. YOU KEEP FUCKING READING BECAUSE YOU THINK THAT MAYBE SOMETHING HAPPENS TO REDEEM THIS BOOK. You are like that little possessed girl in The Exorcist, stabbing yourself and saying “fuck me!” over and over again. You keep going and going and going, and then it happens….. You reach page 923.

You see, Dagny isn’t ready for the valley. She still wants to work to save her railroad, no matter what. She still believes that the pathetic men of the world want to live. Galt and the others smile, asking “do they really?” They tell her she’ll see and let her leave. Things continue to go to Hell and we reach this epic climax. Mr. Thompson, the…. the…. God, I don’t even know, a real big shot from Washington, is going to make this huge radio announcement on a new way forward (see, little Iraq humor there) and is going to address to the people on the state of business and the economy, ie. he’s going to lie a lot. So the radio broadcast starts and is immediately hijacked by John Galt. He starts speaking on page 923.

His speech is every girlfriend or boyfriend who’s never deserved a second chance but that you gave one to anyways. His speech is every forgotten birthday, every forgotten anniversary. His speech is every time somebody told you they loved you when you knew they didn’t mean it. His speech is the embodiment of every undeserved chance you’ve given- you knew this book was terrible, you knew Ayn Rand was full of shit, you knew you deserved better, you knew to put it down and never pick it up again, but you thought that maybe, maybe there was something there. This is the price you pay.

The speech ends on page 979. 56 pages of pure, philosophical garbage. It’s not actually organized, it doesn’t actually flow- this very entry I’m writing has far superior structure (no matter how much it sucks) simply because you can look anywhere at it and know whether you’ve gotten that far or not, you can know if it’s a concept or an idea that has been addressed or not. Galt’s speech constantly changes tone; one moment it will insult the listener and the next it will appeal to their humanity and speak of their virtue (no, it doesn’t tie them and talk about the virtue IN the insulted). It talks about logic and then refers to those who don’t share Galt’s same logical conclusions as having the minds of babies. It. Just. Keeps. Going. For. Fifty. Six. Pages.

Let me put it this way- there isn’t one person from Guilford I would wish that speech on. That is the extent of my hatred for this speech.

Anyways, we’re in the final stretch. All you really need to know about that speech is that the gist of it is “we’re on strike. We don’t need you. You need us. You want us? Get the Hell out of our way and let us do business our way. Until then, enjoy your rotting society.” Blah blah blah, Hank quits and goes to Atlantis. John Galt is hiding in New York and Dagny knows it. Having not seen him and being terrified she tracks him down just to see if he’s alive. Being tailed the government finds him, kidnaps him, tries to get him to work for them. He agrees to do anything they explicitly tell him to do but not unless it’s an explicit order. “Fix it” is not an order, so he refuses. Ultimately they torture him (!) The generator used to torture him breaks down. Unable to fix it, the tormentors are in a pickle until Galt himself tells them what the problem is and how to fix it. What’s left of their false pride and minds now shattered, the tormentors run away. Dagny and crew come in and save the day (Dagny kills a guy!) and Dagny realizes these people don’t want to live, they want to kill others to bring them down to their own level. They all escape and go to live in the valley, ready for the day that is fast approaching when they can return and build their fortunes.

Okay… We’re done. We can start the deconstruction.

I cannot remember who says it, but someone in Atlantis (I believe the philosopher Dr. Akston) says that in Atlantis people show, they do, they don’t just say. He then, on page 721 points out while telling a story that a 16 year old John Galt asked a question about Plato that he would be proud of hearing in a graduate thesis. “It was a question pertaining to Plato’s metaphysics, which Plato hadn’t had the sense to ask of himself” (-p.721). Would you like to know what the question was? I would too. Akston doesn’t say. So let’s see… Rand’s heroes show, they do, but Rand doesn’t? She doesn’t show us that Galt is smarter than Plato, she SAYS he’s smarter than Plato. Christ, let’s be honest- she just straight up insults Plato for not questioning himself without explaining what he didn’t question himself about.

For the record, I didn’t spend last night writing this and playing Lunar Knights. I spent it fully pleasuring three Asian supermodels. It was awesome.

This is the paragraph where James asks a question about Rand that Rand didn’t have the sense to ask of herself. Damn he’s good.

The example I really want to use to demonstrate Rand’s sucktitude is that at the top, the conversation between Francisco and Hank about Atlas. It pertains to a quote, John Galt’s vow and the oath of all who live in Atlantis. “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine” (-p. 670-671). It is immoral, wrong, and a betrayal of morality to say that another man should live for you, ergo it is wrong to encourage another to suffer for you. Should they desire to, well, it must be for the sake of their own benefit or pleasure. Atlas should not hold the world and suffer for all mankind. Atlas should not live and suffer for us.

It’s a powerful statement and idea but, well, it isn’t logical on any level.

The implication of the statement is that the world must be held up like a building so that it doesn’t fall on the heads of the inhabitants. It implies that without Atlas we will die. Catch is, in Galt’s speech to the masses he makes it VERY clear- we don’t need you. Galt IS Atlas. Francisco IS Atlas. Hank IS Atlas.

You are NOT.

Let that sink in. It’s the core of Rand’s philosophy and it is the idea from which all of her betrayals and logical insults stem.

What would Francisco’s response be were he himself not Atlas? Imagine the conversation went something like this.

“Mr. Reardon,” said Francisco, his voice solemnly calm, “If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling, but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders- what would you tell him to do?”

“I… don’t know. What… could he do? What would you tell him?”

“To shrug.”

“But why?”

“I cannot let another man live for me. I cannot deny him his right to seek happiness.”

Reardon’s brow lowered in thought. “Francisco, I’ve heard you’ve traveled the world and learned a great deal. You’re showing me now the value of thought and logic. Did it ever occur to you to ask what Atlas was standing on?”

Francisco smiled. “It’s only a story. Don’t worry about the ridiculous facts of it, consider only the implications.”

“No, it’s not just a story. It’s a logic puzzle. To hold something up you must apply an opposing force. Otherwise Atlas would just be a giant doing a handstand. You don’t ask what he’s standing on. Likewise, the story’s thousands of year old. How could he continually stand for so long without food or rest? Imagine he should drop the world as you suggest- it will fall on your body. Perhaps you would then discover that the real curse of Atlas is that he cannot die. Your body will not shatter nor bruise nor ever fall asleep. Instead you will live for eternity with a body suffering from an agony you could never have imagined. Will your little philosophy comfort you then, during the endless millennia of Hellish torment? Not only that, but you’ll discover that the world HAS to be held- that’s the irony. Atlas is off watching a giant TV and sitting in a giant recliner drinking a giant beer living off of your torment just as you lived off of his. Somebody will suffer this fate. You didn’t consider this, did you? Instead you just used a silly myth to try and make a moral point but you didn’t consider all sides of it, you just made a one-sided version of it to make yourself sound so damn superior.

“And not only that, but you screwed up the myth. Atlas doesn’t hold up the Earth. After the Titans were defeated by the Gods, Zeus sent Atlas to the edge of the Earth to hold up the SKY so that the Sky and Earth would never mate again, thus producing more Titans. Now until you can come up with an actually applicable allegory that functions as more than a simple catch-phrase of an idea, get out.”

What about a respect for property? It’s a huge theme in the novel and in Rand’s ideas. A man must have all rights to his inventions, his creations, his materials, his industry. You see this in Atlantis as pretty much everything is named after the owner. So And So’s General Store. That Guy’s Groceries. Things of that nature. Reardon Metal. She never lets us forget who invented what. Reardon Metal by Hank Reardon. See, Hank ran steel mills by trade and used his knowledge of steel to help him create Reardon Metal. Any idea who created steel? I have no idea. I mean, it’s been invented all over the world. Over two thousand years old in Africa, I know. You better bet your ass that Rand doesn’t know who invented it. You better bet your ass that the concept of property rights for things like steel, which should be called Steel in this novel but isn’t, are ignored.

Who invented nails? Or screws? Who invented the process of irrigation? Who invented the plow? The steam engine? The diesel engine?

Do you think Rand bothered to look this shit up? Do you think she bothered to care? No. If she really cared, then she’d recognize that she had- has- no right to use them without permission. Think about it. If you were an Objectivist and refused to live for another, even for a moment, would you give the world the right to your invention? I suppose you could, provided it gave you pleasure. That is the highest requirement, though. It must give you pleasure to give to the world. What would the world be like if the person who invented the spear, or the bow, or who discovered the process used to grow wheat decided not to give it to the world?

Society would consist of one giant stone tablet with all copyrights scribbled on it. We would not be allowed to hunt using a spear because the inventor had long since died, not bothering to sign a will giving it to everybody else. We would be hunting using rocks and sticks, fighting the weather and hoping that lightning struck some brush because we’re not allowed to rub sticks together for fire, the process having previously been discovered. We would never advance because the basics of human civilization would be denied to us. Without those foundations we would never be able to build on top of them.

Laugh. Roll your eyes. It’s a stupid example, but it’s right there in the book. Ask yourself why Rand capitalizes Metal when referring to Reardon Metal but doesn’t when referring to steel. Go back to Atlantis.

“’Francisco,’ she asked, pointing, ‘who designed the machines?’
“’They’re just adaptations of standard equipment.’
“’Who designed them?’
“’I did.’” (-p. 727)

Standard equipment? Rand, don’t do this. You go to such lengths to describe Reardon metal- I’m sorry, Reardon Metal. You go to such lengths to describe the ten years of work and effort used to invent Reardon Metal, you go to such lengths to describe property rights and the work of the men and women who truly make the world what it is- those of talent and vision who create new, superior methods of working. Then you go and you talk about equipment the history of which is COMPLETELY unknown to you and you IGNORE your ignorance. You live so completely in the present that you refuse to acknowledge the efforts that are now “public domain” or “standard” or whatever the Hell you want to call it. Francisco should not be allowed to use “standard equipment.” Nobody should be allowed to, according to your tenants. All efforts should be rewarded and the creators of these “standard” pieces of equipment don’t even get so much as a nod of appreciation from your heroes, from your champions of owners rights and justice and all that drivel.

What a ho bag.

By the way, yes, she really thinks it was the second century of America’s existence that was so awful. She says the first one focused on our rights to create, produce, and live, when in reality it focused on making vast numbers of compromises so that we could survive as a nation that respected individual, states, and national rights. She says the second one was the one where the government started coming down on the industrialist and butting in, in essence screwing everything up…. Last time I checked that was the century where we ended slavery and where those industrialists we were so Goddamned nasty to started working together to monopolize human lives. Factory owners would own not just factories but homes, forcing people to live on just enough to survive by controlling how much they earned AND how much they had to spend to survive. These were the same men who forced people to work all day, who forced children to work, who would throw employees out on the street to starve if they complained about dangerous conditions…. Of course, it was that big mean government that said “no” to that.

Stupid altruists, screwing things up.

“Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade…” (-p. 1073).

Sigh. Let’s hope we have another world without income tax and where big business really is allowed to do whatever the Hell it wants provided we have the right to say “no.”

Rand would LOVE the Druuge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Druuge

It’s also worth noting that Rand’s characters, like most heroes in fiction, undergo journeys. They screw up, they realize their mistakes, they improve. The problem is they’re allowed to improve. For instance, after their first night of passionate and abusive sex, Hank and Dagny give little speeches to each other. Dagny praises her screwing of Hank saying it’s a reflection of her effort- she has earned it. Hank degrades himself and her, saying it’s made him a liar (he’s married!) and that it has made her less than the perfect creature he had long imagined her. Eventually he realizes he was lying to himself and to her, that he was like her and that he loved the virtues in her that he saw in himself. I can respect that. What I can’t respect is that this is a novel about how people who convince themselves to throw away their convictions are Bad and blah blah blah, but when somebody like Hank does it…. well, it’s just a mistake that’s a part of the journey of life.

At the end of the novel, Dagny points a gun at the chest of a soldier and gives him a choice between his own life and his own death. If a “logical” man like Hank took years to come to a “logical” conclusion and the recognition that he had been lying to himself about his love of life, why should we not condemn Dagny for expecting a random soldier who’s never really used his brain to come to the same conclusion in a minute or two WITH A GUN POINTED AT HIS HEART?

She shoots him, as I had earlier said.

There is a section of the novel that made me want to vomit. It’s got a huge buildup that’s actually pretty thrilling but it ends with a coal-powered train going through a several-mile long tunnel where ventilation systems are breaking down to appease Washington- better to let the people die and pin the blame somewhere then refuse to make the train run and take the blame yourself. 300 people are on that train and 300 people die. The few employees on that train who realized that it was literally suicide get off, not telling anyone. Then…. one by one, Rand describes passengers in the train. She describes, I believe, 15 passengers in total. She describes how each has a different element of philosophy that is against Objectivism. Some are pretty nasty, some not so much. She then said that every single person on that train shared at least one of those 15 views. 300 people die and Rand refuses to outright say, but so Goddamn heavily implies that they deserved to die. They supported a government that forced trains to run dangerously is her implied argument. They deserved to die.

I hope you feel as sick as I did.

Such little things happen all the time in this novel. Intelligence should be rewarded, stupidity should be punished- it’s not a hard idea of Rand’s to follow. But consider Francisco. He’s a genuinely talented businessman described as turning to gold everything he touches. Several of the “altruists,” under fake names, recognize his talent and invest in d’Anconia Copper. That’s a smart move, right? They may have nasty motives but they’re still intelligent moves. Francisco punishes them for it by destroying his own company. The one smart move the looters make and they get punished for it? Little things like that crop up all over the place. The rules get bent constantly, but only for the statue-esque heroes.

Let me go over the list just to make sure I know where we are…

1) Despite praising respect for reality, Rand can’t bother to use realistic characters.
2) Rand uses Straw Man arguments against other philosophies, like Communism.
3) Rand can only say Galt’s better than Plato; she can’t show it.
4) The name for her novel and the embodiment of her philosophical questions is an inaccurate, illogical idea meant to sound compelling rather than ask a real question.
5) Property rights are important, but they weren’t important and they won’t be important. Rand can’t bother to ask where we came from and where we’re going, opting instead to make broad generalities about the history of the world and the United States that show a complete lack of historical research.
6) America is bad when it starts telling businesses how to run business because business, when allowed to do its own thing, will treat its employees fairly. Rand can’t bother to open a history book, instead relying on Truthiness.
7) Rand gives ridiculously unfair opportunities to people of already impeccable moral integrity (according to her own standards) while refusing to give these same opportunities to those who don’t share her views.

I can think of a few more points, but really there’s only one left that I think needs to be addressed. It’s also, in my opinion, the biggest. Love and sex. Really I could just say happiness but I think it’s more important to show what it’s meant to represent and what, unfortunately, it really does represent.

Love is a reflection of the mind, therefore loving another truly and completely is the truest way of respecting one’s own mind. Sex is a way of expressing love and as such becomes a hybrid of both pleasure of the body (the physical act of sex itself) and pleasure of the mind (respect for one’s partner and one’s self). Okay, I suppose I can dig that. The problem is, well, I suppose I should give you an example instead.

Dagny Taggart, while a teenager, loses her virginity to her good friend Francisco. “Don’t ask” are her thoughts (eh, somewhere around page 80), wanting him to grab her and take her. Years later, she sees Francisco turn into a playboy (just an act, remember!) and it breaks her heart. She finds Hank and falls for him, the sex being similarly forced and desired, Dagny resisting only to add glory to his triumph (-p.236). Eventually, she falls in actual love with John Galt and much later they have sex that’s, wait for it…. forced and abusive but thoroughly wanted.

Francisco talks about how hard it was to leave her behind, recognizing she wouldn’t wait for him and saying how glad he is that she fell for Hank, a man he genuinely admired (Dagny had not yet fallen for Galt). Hank talks about how it’s okay that she fell in love with somebody else, that somebody she’s always looked for (not knowing at this point that it was Galt). Hank specifically says he’ll always love her, that she is the greatest reflection of his mind.

Okay, time to think about ability. Galt is not just the creator of the greatest scientific invention ever, this fancy new motor, but he’s also the creator of a new philosophy that will allow men to live as they should. Suffice to say he is, in Rand’s little world, number one. Likewise, Galt recognizes that Dagny will be the last to join his cause, the one who will hold on longer than anyone else, who will fight tooth and nail beyond all others. Dagny and Galt as such become the highest reflection of each other. In this way their love is understandable and predictable.

Now, why do Francisco and Hank still love her if they are in a tier a bit below them? I think we can consider this a bit of cross-tier/cross-class love. Why is it acceptable? I believe it’s because ability and understanding are two separate things. I may not be able to DO what a given woman can, but I can at least understand and respect it and, as such, fall in love with it. By working my best and hardest, I can respect her effort. By understanding the degree of her ability, I can fall in love with her ability. It’s just like Hank, who cannot do what Galt has done but who says he completely understands and doesn’t blame Dagny for falling in love with him.

This is why it’s important to know about one character in particular- Eddie Willers. The book pretty much starts and ends with Eddie, the poor bastard. He was a childhood friend of Dagny’s and Francisco’s. Francisco had actually said that Taggart Transcontinental would be Dagny’s and Eddie’s. They were the ones with the wills needed to make the trains run. Now, Eddie isn’t Dagny nor Francisco nor Hank. He’s not really a man of the mind. He can’t make the trains run. He can’t build a railroad. Eddie, by God, Eddie will still work sunup to sundown for that railroad. He won’t lie. He won’t hide. He won’t blame others. He will come Hell or high water work. The book specifically praises him for it. Francisco compares Eddie to Hank, calling him a man of equal moral integrity and a man “….who would do [his] best, work as hard as you did, live by [his] own effort.…” (p.419). He works the railroad. He knows what it needs. So who is the reflection of his effort? Hank, Francisco, Dagny- they’re all good reflections of effort. Still, seeing what the railroad needs, day in and day out, however, would give him a unique insight to how important Dagny is. She is his reflection. Indeed, he falls in love with her.

Wanna know what happens to Eddie? In the end he says goodbye to Dagny, telling her he knows she’s going to quit and disappear. He tells her he’ll stay behind, that he cannot make the railroad succeed but that if he can hold it up for even an hour he will. He goes to California to work and riding a train back to the East Coast it stops. The train breaks. Nobody can figure it out. They can’t call the station- it’s been abandoned in the past few hours. A wagon-train comes and offers lifts to everybody, acting half-hearted in their feelings of superiority. Eddie doesn’t bend his moral integrity, refusing to abandon the train for the sake of survival with people who cannot respect the need for human progress and who rely on the bare minimum (“He felt like the captain of an ocean liner in distress, who preferred to go down with his ship rather than be saved by the canoe of savages taunting him with the superiority of their craft” –p.1067). The second to last page of the novel shows him alone in the desert, crying on the train. He is the last of Taggart Transcontinental. No “destroyer” comes to liberate him. Only the “savages” are a way out but he, by Rand’s reasoning, loves life and will not betray his morality. He may very well die in the desert. Even if he doesn’t, well, he loves Dagny. According to Rand’s logic, he can’t ever have sex with another woman because that would be a betrayal of his mind. By that logic, he can’t even masturbate to thoughts of another woman. By being an Objectivist, a man who loves the greatest reflection of his mind, who works hard as Hell- as hard as ANYBODY else, who refuses to ask for more than he will give, will if nothing else die a virgin. By pursuing the greatest joy he has been condemned to never attain it.

Dagny has four men love her. If everybody worked as hard as her or Hank or Eddie, far more would fall in love with her. If they had sex with somebody else, well, they’d be betraying their minds. Imagine just how few generations it would take before there wouldn’t be enough people left to have anything that resembled civilization.

Sarah and I were talking about Rand about a week ago, she having read Fountainhead and Anthem, I believe, and myself most of the way through Atlas Shrugged. There was one principle point on which we disagreed, which was about Rand herself. Sarah said she believed Rand was not a happy woman and I believed she was.

Rand believed that reason is man’s only real absolute, but the problem is that reason is based on premise and perception and as such an absolute becomes a non-absolute and is instead simply a conclusion. If man is allowed to change his actions based on these non-absolutes that pose as absolutes then it no longer becomes a matter of being right to take action; instead it becomes a matter of being faster and more convincing in saying that your action is right. For instance, I could have a girlfriend, cheat on her, and go back to her simply saying that I found greatness in the other girl and was giving her pleasure and my respect. Having discovered she was not what she seemed I went back to the girlfriend- because my action was logical and fair there is no reason for an apology. Should the made-up girlfriend (any hotties out there single? I’m logical!) be upset, well, provided I can out-maneuver her I can simply deride her logic and be the victor by default.

The Objectivist heroes are simply looters with an exceptional talent for justification.

In Atlantis we see a few examples of illogical thought and straight-up lies meant to hide how Objectivism works. The young scientist who studied Galt’s motor, having been helped a bit with the math and theory by Galt himself, exclaims to Dagny that he’s going to be rich! Rich from… what? He couldn’t make that motor- Galt could. What could he do that Galt couldn’t do first, faster, better? He cannot be the inventor, the creator, the mover, Atlas. A man of the mind, certainly, but at best a repairman, a technician, an assistant. Another man proclaims that his business is threatened by one man- Hank Reardon. When Hank arrives the two will certainly compete and while he himself will work to the best of his ability he expects to lose. He smiles, saying it’s okay and that he’d happily lose to a man like Hank. “I know one man who could and probably will [beat me], when he gets here. But, boy!- I’d work for him as a cinder sweeper. He’d blast through this valley like a rocket. He’d triple everybody’s production” (-p.664). Yes, you’d rather be decently well off with a higher production value than rich as all Hell when your own rational self-interest and happiness are your highest moral priorities. I’m sorry, but does nobody else see that this is hypocritical?

In Rand’s world happiness is our highest priority, but she just sits silent on the issue of how anybody but the top fraction of a percent can find happiness. In Rand’s world no man can live for another, but just like the girders of a building cannot just disappear without causing the building to collapse, she stays silent on the issue of how it’s perfectly fair and acceptable for one man to withdraw his support and kill others. In Rand’s world the brilliant and heroic can err, improve, change, and become God-like. For the rest of us, we have a gun barrel pointed at our chest and a minute to answer to their philosophy. Agree or die.

Fuck you, Ayn Rand.
 
 
 
drackodracko on October 9th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
Put this shit behind a cut.
thespacetaxithespacetaxi on October 9th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Yeh. Fuck her in her bony ass.
Well, Lightbunny's just this guy, y'know?: duck hunt doglightbunny on October 9th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
you're thinking of Ann Coulter.

Again.
thespacetaxithespacetaxi on October 9th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC)
Like havin sex with a bag of hammmeerrsss
Well, Lightbunny's just this guy, y'know?: omg power pellet haxlightbunny on October 9th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
bags of hammers don't lie as much

OH YEAH, I WENT THERE
dkhdkh on October 9th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
Also, Ann Coulter is more blonder.
dkhdkh on October 9th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
I prefer cushin' fer the pushin'
Well, Lightbunny's just this guy, y'know?lightbunny on October 9th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
tl;r
dkhdkh on October 9th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
Whu?
Losurthona on October 9th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)
Jesus Christ, brother. How long did it take you to write that? That was grand and the best part? I really feel like I don't have to read Atlas Shrugged now. So thank you for suffering so I wouldn't have to. It took a few Bonobo songs and an eleven minute Coltrane for me to read it.

It really doesn't sound like a good time, and I'm impressed that you had the determination to finish it. I wouldn't even have made page seven hundred if I didn't like the first one fifty.
dkhdkh on October 9th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
There's a TON of stuff I didn't even go over, like gold. In Atlantis, people use gold for money. It was a casual statement about how paper money is worthless, it should have been gold. How can gold be our standard of money if America's greatest trait is that it is a country where money is MADE? I mean, you can't make a finite substance... So many things like that.

There's a lot of good in Objectivist philosophy and in many ways it reflects me. I'm much more honest about what greed I have then most, for instance. Likewise, I also suffer from the flaw of having standards that, while they may be good, are too esoteric and impossible for other people to follow. Still, the book constantly talks about how force is the method of the looters- the looters use a gun. Then at the end of the book Dagny holds a gun at a soldier, demanding he make a logical choice or die. She takes away his mind, Rand's absolute, demanding obedience or death. It's a huge reversal but it's meant to show Dagny's triumph.

I will tell you though the one guilty pleasure I had writing every single line of that rant. In the absolute worst way possible, I felt just like Pat would in every moment spent typing. http://journeyintoreason.blogspot.com/
Benfranzferdinand2 on November 29th, 2007 01:23 am (UTC)
http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard23.html

After reading this (yeah, I read the whole thing), I went looking and found that link.
dkhdkh on November 29th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
Man, every time I come back to this essay it hurts how much I left out and how badly it's written... Thanks for the link, though!
Benfranzferdinand2 on November 30th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
Honestly, even if you say it's badly written, it was entertaining throughout, and helpful. I tried reading Atlas Shrugged in high school, but stopped after 50 pages. Now at least I know that there was nothing worthwhile in there (although I am a looter by her definitions).

But then I wanted to go online to see if I could find any honest-to-Rand objectivists, and that's where I found that story about her little cult. Sure it relies on a lot of anecdotal evidence, but man if it doesn't sound true.
dkhdkh on November 30th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
Well, I appreciate the kind words, and believe me- I left a LOT out. I could pretty easily write twice as much had I taken the notes and had the genuine desire to. And people who follow Objectivism, at least to a degree, are around. Shit, I think Alan Greenspan is an Objectivist....
Amandamschitchat on April 24th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
wow. i, too, now feel like i don't ever have to read this book (though i was already pretty much against that idea, you know).

i also think you should write cliff notes. i would have read more cliff notes if they had side notes about porn and how fucking stupid the author is.

:D
dkhdkh on April 24th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)
I can't believe you read this.
Amandamschitchat on April 24th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
haha um, i'm sorry? :p i kinda liked it...i can't put a finger on what exactly it said about you but it said something! maybe that something is that you can string thoughts together in a linear fashion, and make points with your writing. which sounds lame, but you'd be surprised at the people who can't (or maybe just won't) do it.
dkhdkh on April 24th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Ranting like a lunatic for a dozen pages rocks my world.
Amandamschitchat on April 24th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
lol i dunno, it's like structured ranting, though. my ranting involves substituting "fuck" for 75% of adjectives and about 50% of nouns :D
Amandamschitchat on April 24th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
oh and ALL the verbs.
dkhdkh on April 24th, 2008 04:45 pm (UTC)
Personally, I don't think I use "fuck" enough.
Amandamschitchat on April 24th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
that's generally a true statement for everyone ;)

oh wait

USE "fuck"...mmm, maybe not. you could try to set a daily goal for yourself
dkhdkh on April 24th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
I like it!
(Deleted comment)
dkhdkh on September 16th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
Ahhhhhh, this response is precisely why I'm writing "A Brief History of Steel." It's designed specifically to address these very issues!

:D
(Deleted comment)
dkhdkh on September 16th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
Indeed! Here's the thing: it's a matter of degree. When I first read about Objectivism over a year ago on Wikipedia I was very interested in the idea. It honestly seemed like a great idea to me and I do, in fact, share many of its ideas. The problem with it is I haven't exaggerated the degree to which this is a story of Gods vs. Baby Eaters. For an easy reference I'd like to point to.... ahh, here it is. This recent entry.

Isn't it strange, silly, etc. that the greatest metallurgists, the greatest oil men, the greatest actress (literally), the greatest banker, the greatest composer- none of them disagree with this extreme philosophy? You must trust that Rand's beliefs in the ABSOLUTE ownership of design, technique, property, etc., is there. If you don't trust it, then you'll have to wait a few months while I continue reading, researching, and writing, though I should be able to throw together some supporting arguments pretty quickly with what notes I have.