Saturday, April 20, 2013

Atlas Shrugged

One brilliantly written scene in Man in the Chair (man in the flesh? Flash that man, the thing in itself? - but i digress) has the young pupil mention that he heard some guy at school say something that sounded interesting by some guy called... Na-iee-chee? Na-ya-chee? At which the old mentor thinks for a second and then sputters and stammers in incredulous rage:
"NIETZSCHE, you stupid, ignorant fart"
and then adds:
"Nietzsche was full of shit... most of the time."

The value of a thinker is not the value of a saint. Thinkers are not embodiments of perfect adherence to a doctrine, paragons of virtue as defined by a supposedly higher authority. The reverence one holds for the insights of a "Nayachee" should never be wholesale worship and proselytism. They can be full of shit (most of the time) and still prove greater allies in our intellectual development than any number of sensible types who can only regurgitate zeitgeist and bask in acceptance.

The three books i would recommend to any intelligent individual are Stranger in a Strange Land, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Atlas Shrugged and it's not because they offer any great insights into the nature of existence, but because they exemplify the struggle of any mind with the capacity for awareness against the mindless glut of social apes which know only dogma, fad and pandering in their blind grasping for social rank. Those three are by no means the only such works. They simply happen to be the ones which reached me when i needed them.

I stand by Atlas Shrugged in the face of seemingly endless willful misinterpretation. On one hand, Rand's fanbase is every bit as annoying and irrelevant as trekkies, groupies or any other writhing mass of faceless, obsequious proselytes. On the other hand, the people who should have the intelligence to see the worth of objectivism at its purest and most basic seem perfectly content to condemn that work along with its self-serving (pun intended) fanatic adherents.

For instance, here's what prompted this post. This seems like the only attitude the supposed intellectual elite finds acceptable toward Atlas Shrugged, the dualistic assumption that to praise the book at all one must swallow every bite of bullshit Rand dished out. Oddly enough, it's the same attitude taken by the fans themselves.
Ayn Rand was an anti-communist and by all appearances anti-socialist reactionary. Trying to read the book as a treatise on economics is like trying to read Hamlet as a treatise on corruption in the aristocracy. You're missing the point. It's not Rand's conclusions, her Utopian recipe, that make objectivism and its expression in Atlas Shrugged so valuable an ally to a mind struggling for intellectual advancement through the morass of instinct and social protocol of human society, but her observations.

No, the central conflict in human society is not the mistreatment of the rich by the poor, as the book is commonly interpreted. That precept is every bit as ridiculous as it appears on the surface, and it wasn't by any stretch Rand's own central theme. There remains the very real issue however of the enslavement of ability and intellect by inferior beings, and this is what Rand hoped to remedy in her blind reactionary adulation of free market economics. She was wrong. Anyone with half a brain should spot the central fallacy throughout Atlas Shrugged.
She repeatedly portrays the public's idiotic incompetence to make rational decisions. This holds true. The public buys into the most blatant lies. The public is susceptible to advertising. The public makes decisions on products and social policies based on early indoctrination. They choose sex-appeal and vague delusional promises of an increase in social rank to lord over each other. The public has and always will need to be dragged kicking and screaming into a better existence by the few intelligent, progressive individuals who shackle themselves to the idea of progress.
It never gets better, because human society is still based on the idea of power, of competition for influence. The slightest imbalance builds on itself. This is above all true in a free market system. Yes, sometimes the winner truly is more deserving, but overwhelmingly, competition is carried out through the expedients of theft, false advertisement and sabotage. There is no way for the best of us to succeed when one must appeal to the public. They are either destroyed or enslaved. It is the rich, in their efforts to maintain control over the masses, who handicap thought, ability and creativity, who eliminate whatever threats they can't enslave.
Capitalism allows those without ability to use existing power to tear down more competent competition. It rewards, not productivity and quality, but destruction, cut-throat elimination of more intelligent individuals as dangerous rivals.

Rand's social roots and personal limitations blinded her to this most basic flaw in her reasoning but this in no way invalidates her observations on the hopeless struggle of intelligence within naked ape society. It is criminal for the would-be intelligentsia of left-wing politics to denigrate the book in an effort to undermine their adversaries. It is, again, an abuse of power granted by social influence. The greatest flaw in politics is not that there are scheisters trying to brainwash the moronic masses, but that the moronic masses are given the right to determine overall policy because their stupidity makes them buy into the lies of con-artists. Humans are simply not intelligent enough to govern themselves.

You want to sell yourself as a progressive? Stop taking the fashionable easy route of attacking a thinker who is being abused by the American right wing just as Nietzsche was abused by the Nazis. Stop attacking Rand simply because she recognized the inherent disparity in mental level among the human species. Intelligence is better than stupidity. Better minds should not be dragged down to the level of the hoi-polloi. Beer-chugging deadheads and bible-thumping backwater backbirths should not have the same number of votes as university professors and research scientists. Society does not progress. Individuals do. Individuals of superior intelligence are superior beings. The problem with this society is that it's run by the richest 1% and not by the smartest 1%. Smarter people are better people, more valuable people, and should be treated as such. Give that devil her due, she may have been dead wrong about many things, full of shit most of the time, but she was right about the core issue. In her own words:

I am an innovator. This is a term of distinction, a term of honor, rather than something to hide or apologize for. Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo. But the status quo is not a stream, let alone a 'mainstream'. It is a stagnant swamp. It is the innovators who carry mankind forward.

1 comment:

  1. Or, to put it more simply:
    Far from being "free" in the sense that it gives superior individuals the freedom to move upwards, the free market allows for the creation of power bases through the accumulation of wealth which act just as any entrenched aristocracy of any power structure (feudal, national, corporate, what-gave-you) to destroy any persons of ability as perceived threats to themselves.

    None of this however invalidates the existence of superior individuals.