My knowledge about Ayn Rand’s way of thinking comes mostly from Atlas Shrugged, one of her most influential novels which I just finished reading; the rest comes from a few articles I read & videos I watched on the Internet. What I like in Rand’s philosophy is that it’s built of simple concepts that make sens most of time if applied the right way.
That said, I don’t buy all her ideas; if I did I would be placing her mind in a higher position than mine, which is wrong in her own standards; but what bothers me more are not the ideas themselves but the way she often applies them: Selectively & abusively. While she claims that respect of facts is one of her highest values, & reproaches men for ‘blanking them out’, I find her many times breaking her own code to suit her whims. I’m writing this essay trying to point to some of those blank-outs & analyze them. I divided the work to a few titles that are in fact related to each other.
Spoiler Alert: If you are planning to read the book, I believe I didn’t reveal much of the plot, much less than the back-of-book text of the edition I read anyways. But still I thought I owed you a warning.
Civilized People vs. Savages
Let’s start by exploring one of Rand’s greatest blank-outs: Her deepest convictions that if shown in light would have demolished the image of the righteous thinker she tried to sell to the world, & turned the best of her followers against her.
I was still reading Atlas Shrugged when I decided to write this article: Reading about her claimed respect for justice & freedom, & her contempt for unearned wealth & ‘initiated’ violence, I wondered about Rand’s position on an important issue to me: Occupied Palestine. I hoped to see her sens of justice in action & I was disappointed, but not surprised: I thought after all she’s not any better than most of Jews who are blind supporters of Israel, even those who try hard to distance themselves from their roots. As big in intellect as she was, I thought, when it came to this topic she was lowered to speaking the propaganda language praising Israel & demonizing the Arabs.
The guys at the Ayn Rand Institute Watch website, who are honest followers of her ideas, wrote a nice article analyzing Rand’s position; they attributed it to a lack of knowledge and ‘an innocent misapplication’ of her philosophy. I would have given her the benefit of doubt if – continuing my reading of Atlas Shrugged – I didn’t find similar thinking patterns that made me certain that the source of her opinion was not just ignorance or sympathy for fellow Jews, but something in the core of her code of values.
In part III, Chapter V, Rand mentions some bread of savages who have sold Manhattan for a bunch of glass beads; then, in a following chapter, she writes about a man with a gun who reminds her of a western hero fighting ‘evil’. Later she names the evil: The Indians, she uses the name not to talk about actual Indians but as a symbol of savagery.
In another instance, one of the ‘good’ characters comes to a point when trains carrying merchandise or human beings made no difference for them; they wouldn’t care if any of the trains carrying savages crashed killing them due to the ‘good’ guy’s neglect.
Loudly Ayn Rand praises values like justice & individual rights, but subtly she makes a distinction between:
One: ‘Civilized people’ who are worthy of those values, they are handful of talented people who are necessarily good because they are talented & because their code of values is Rand’s.
And Two: ‘Savages’, people who are not smart, creative, productive enough or have different convictions than Rand’s.
‘Civilized’ people as full (or super) human beings, are supposed to be moral (in their own selfish interest) only when dealing with other ‘civilized’ people; but when dealing with ‘savages’ – the sub-human – they are free of any moral codes that would restrain them from committing acts like: Seizing lands by means of force or fraud (remember the glass beads deal?), demonizing the victims if these last use force to defend their lands, & using greater force against the savage victims & exterminate them if possible (They are savages who prefer to die anyway, according to Rand).
This modern classification of human beings has a strange similitude with the Jewish teachings of the Talmud, which make a racist distinction between Jews as super divine human beings, & Gentiles who are the rest of us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the works of Rev. Ted Pike including THE TALMUD: SCALPEL THAT BLEEDS THE MIDEAST article and several documentaries will be very enlightening.
So when Rand in her novel talks about superior men who long for Atlantis, one might think she is referring to the New World colonists, but she might in fact be hinting to the superior Jews & their promised land.
To sell you a product, advertisers make it look a little better than it really is, & make the alternative look a little worse than it is; it’s the contrast they create that would make you buy the product.
Ayn Rand in her novels sells her ideas the same way: She creates two sets of characters: The first composed of perfect almost super human beings who are the ‘Good’, & the second is made of lazy almost retarded men who are the ‘Bad’ a.k.a. ‘Savages’. The contrast is emphasized even physically: The ‘Good’ are all blond with top model bodies; the ‘Bad’ are ugly.
When Rand speaks or acts in the name of the ‘Bad’, she often blanks out the intelligence most human beings have in the real world; here’s how Javier J. in Why I Hyte Ayn Rand phrases it: “Her whole writing process is absurd. Gee, I wonder – how should I structure my characterization. How about I introduce 5 characters that believe everything I believe in and are always right and are just constantly showing up a bunch of strawmen who always lose and who’s arguments make no sense.”
Sometimes even valid points are made to look bad in the mouths of the bad guys, For example when Dr. Ferris tries to convince a ‘good’ guy to do a work that lives of millions depend on, he starts: “You seem to have talked [...] about nothing but sins of commission. But there are also the sins of omission to consider. To fail to save [...] is as immoral as to murder.” Hits a point doesn’t it? Especially that – as I demonstrated it above – the ‘good’ guys in Atlas Shrugged don’t care the least about savage lives. But Dr. Ferris now has to demolish his argument so the reader doesn’t have time to consider the good point, he adds: “… For instance, in view of the desperate shortage of food, [...] it might become necessary to issue a directive ordering that every third one of all children [...] be put to death, to secure the survival of the rest.” Oh how evil is that! If only it was realistic…
I’m not sure if her Talmud inspiration was intentional or not or if it was just a coincidence, but Rand claimed that she was an atheist & that she ‘disapproved’ religion.
In Atlas Shrugged, you read about Hank Rearden, the industrialist who was giving a party to a number of ungrateful hosts who enjoyed the food & the warmth under his roof, but hated him as a greedy enemy of society. Rearden was suffering silently because of the gratitude he deserved & wasn’t granted. Later you read about Eddie Willers who was wondering about the chances “for primitive men … to hit the right combination of parts and re-create the motor” of a locomotive engine.
Rand regards as evil men who enjoy the effects & ignore their causes, & yet she accepts the world but denies its creator. She concedes that a locomotive couldn’t exist without intelligence, but she takes galaxies, a living ecosystem & her own sophisticated body & functioning mind for granted.
In her appearance on the Donahue show soon after her husband died, she was asked what would she do if she knew his consciousness was somewhere still living, & maybe being judged by God; her reply was that she would try to go & defend him & tell God how much the guy was good, even though he & she were both atheists.. Well what makes you think you’re good? Living in a world & using a body & mind you didn’t create just for your selfish enjoyment? Have you expressed your gratitude toward God for all those ‘values’ as you like to name them? Since all your deeds had as sole purpose your happiness on this earth now you are bankrupt, because nothing you did was invested in the afterlife.
Abdur Rahim Green speaks well about the topic in an interview titled Do Good people go to hell?
I have two points here: One, I respect atheists who weren’t convinced by any organized religion & stuck to their own responsible way of life, but not the extremists who deny categorically the existence of God; Rand belonged to the second group. Two, nobody is really an atheist: To be able to live men must put their trust in some kind of deity (or deities), love it & do things to please it; the purpose of life is only about choosing one’s deity: The creator of the universes? Power? Money? Your own desires? And judging by how she believed in the infallibility of her code, words & actions & how she despised her opponents & critics, Rand must have above all worshiped the Goddess she thought she was…
Who are they? Men in Atlas Shrugged who started to work at 12 or 14 & owed nothing to nobody: “self-made in every sense, out of nowhere, penniless, parentless, tie-less.” in Rand’s own words. What she did blank-out here are those early 12 or 14 years of their lives in which they depended on others for everything. One of those ‘self-made’ men for example, thinks that he owes no respect to his mother who hates him – if we concede that a mother can hate her son – ignoring that he owes his life to her.
And how about their education? Self-made too? Could they have become engineers or inventors or plain English speakers depending only on their willpower?
On a wider scale Rand insinuates that America & its skyscrapers were made from scratch, forgetting the knowledge & money the colonists brought with them from Europe, & before them that Europe itself wasn’t built from scratch but based on knowledge accumulated for centuries mostly outside Europe.
The only case I can imagine close enough to the legend of a self-made man, is the case of a baby in a jungle who is raised by wolves or monkeys & who grows up as a complete … savage!
In her attempt to treat everything as a deal between traders, this is what Rand came with regarding attraction between men & women: One should only engage with the ‘greatest’ partner they can find, & if afterward they find a ‘greater’ partner they have a moral duty toward themselves to go for them.
In the Atlas Shrugged universe there were many great men but only one great woman (actually not that great compared to them), the great men all loved the one great woman; & the great woman had to make her way sleeping with the great then the greater then the greatest leaving the first & the second forever wanting her & not getting her & not able to love any woman that’s ‘less great’. Rand’s view of sexual relationships is interesting too: They are the physical form of one’s value & they have one’s selfish enjoyment as their only motive & purpose.
In Atlas Shrugged, Nathaniel Taggart & Sebastian d’Anconia had several generations of heirs, & I wonder how they could have done that if they followed Rand’s teachings? How could they have the stable relationships necessary to build families & raise children if they kept longing for ‘better’ mates? & would they have had the desire to have children at all? Fortunately for Rand, Nat & Sebastian didn’t follow her to the letter, or there couldn’t be neither Dagny nor Frisco nor Atlas Shrugged nor today’s world, made possible by people who – unlike Rand – didn’t blank-out the main purpose of men-women relationships & of sex: The human race preservation; people who were better traders than her by accepting their part of the deal: You were given life, it’s your turn to give life.
To live as long & as happily as possible is itself the purpose of life in Rand’s eyes; that would make of taking care of one’s health a sacred duty. Yet all Rand’s Hero characters in Atlas Shrugged smoke; maybe because the unwholesomeness of smoking wasn’t well known at the time she wrote the novel, but still every smoker – & Rand was one – can recognize the negative effects of smoke on their body. It looks like Rand blanked that out too, & in her book she seems to be trying to convince herself before her readers that her addiction for a substance harming her body is in fact a ‘good’ thing… Oh & did she blank out that smoking was a ‘savage’ invention?
And if I believe an article from Slate.com based on recent biographies about Ayn Rand, she had worse addictions than cigarettes, & her death was due to lung cancer…
How about boldly blanking out the actual definition of a word?
Sacrifice according to Ayn Rand
- to give up the good for the bad.
Sacrifice in a dictionary
- the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim. – dictionary.com
- an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. – oxforddictionaries.com
Let me borrow the words from Why I Hyte Ayn Rand: “I love how she says altruism is evil, and then goes on to completely redefine altruism in terms of hypothetical situations of things no one has ever done or would ever do.”
There is a lot of good in Ayn Rand’s philosophy & I enjoyed reading Atlas Shrugged. There are honest people among her followers who apply her ideas much better than she did; but there are also her real ‘spiritual heirs’ who inherited both the good & the bad then mixed them up to come up with a disgusting monstrosity of thought; just take a look at what the ARI Watch guys gathered about them.
Rand made herself spokeswoman for the great minds in the world, industrialists & scientists in particular. Just like she didn’t give the political leaders & pseudo-philosophers in her novel a right to rule them, I don’t think she deserves to be their spiritual guide; after all she was not the faultless mind she thought she was, but only an average savage like the rest of us.