A blog for people who take books seriously, but little else.

What do Gay Muppets have to do with Ayn Rand?

I post many items like the above on my Facebook–too many, I’m sure, if you were to ask my friends.  I support many causes, and I share about them.   One of the joys of being incognito on the Internet is that my Facebook page accurately represents who I am and what I am about.   This blog is NOT about the causes. If you were to go to this picture as originally posted, you would see in the commentary that two people can look at the same thing and see something completely different.  (By the by, if you’re offended by my offering, this blog is not for you.  There will be reviews touching on this subject area.)  The point is that our world view colors the way we see things and that very little can be done to convince the other side of the argument that it is wrong. This is one of the reasons I give you background on myself in addition to reviews.  I want you to know what colors my world view because what I enjoy, you may not.  I am not here to debate the rightness or wrongness of any issue with you. What I am about to do is attempt to open your mind to some ideas that come from an unlikely source.

I was very ill recently, to the point of literally lying in bed for 3 days.  During and after this time, I could not turn my mind to new books, being mentally and physically exhausted.  So I looked over my Kindle for things to reread, so as not to challenge myself. However, I was with you in spirit, because I got this idea during that time as well.  I am not going to review one book for you today, but make a point from two books that might inspire you to dig a little deeper into what you think you know.  One of the books I reread was Anthem, by Ayn Rand.

Wait a minute, you say? The Right Wing Nut Jobs’ poster child? Really? This is the notion that I am about to challenge.

I read Anthem for the first time when I was 9 or 10. It absolutely blew me away.  I didn’t know a damn thing about politics.  Ayn Rand was just an author who meant a lot to my mom. If you become interested, it’s free on your Kindle, and very short. As an adult, it took me a couple of hours to reread it. I’ve read it 20 times at least. It depicts a horrible dystopian future, where the individual has been subsumed in a nightmare collective, and has lost the word “I”. To a future liberal wing-nut like me, this thought was terrifying.  As when I read 1984 later in my life, I could totally see it happening.  Anthem says very loudly, I am who I am. I will not be a slave to my “brother” nor will I conform for the sake of conformity.

Momma always said I needed to read Atlas Shrugged but never did till last year.   It’s a lengthy tome, which does not ordinarily intimidate me, but it required more knowledge and understanding than I was able to give it when attempting to read it previously.  Ayn Rand was at that point labeled a nut, and her sensible ideas were drowned out by her lunacy. However, she had no use for Jesus, which immediately makes her irreverent, and she lauded ACCOMPLISHMENT, which supposedly led to riches. The fat, bloated plutocrats who were her antagonists are not so far from modern politicians, and if they actually understood what the book was saying, they probably wouldn’t like it so much. Anyhow, I think there’s a lot of good there, in between the craziness.   Do I think that everything she said should be taken as a guidepost for life? No.

Let me give you an example of the idea, similar to that of Anthem’s theme, which I took away from Atlas Shrugged. Have you ever been the only efficient person in an entire organization, or even one of a few?  As a former state employee, I was surrounded by people who did very little, and did it badly.  I cared about my job and so I often felt as if I were standing in a burning building, shouting FIRE at the top of my lungs!  This is central to the heroine of the novel, Dagny Taggert, with whom I am certain my mother felt a keen kinship. I did myself. She is efficient in an inefficient world. She refuses to be mediocre to please others.  She stands up and fights for what she believes in, and ignores the idiots who say it cannot be done.  She is surrounded by slackers and moochers, and does her best regardless.  She is fighting a fire which will lead the world into the hellish future depicted in Anthem, and she’s doing it almost completely alone.

Now the Right, who somehow manage to claim to be Christian, a religion that asks one to serve his brothers (We will not argue here that “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” presupposes that you LOVE YOURSELF.) and to embrace Rand’s ideals, which are diametrically oppositional.  I think they perhaps did not understand.  Rand lauded accomplishment, and neither fundraising nor inheriting Daddy’s money and good name qualify.  They claim Rand supports their avarice, and says they may do what they like, no regulations, no answering to anyone, and on the surface, they are correct.  However, Dagny Taggert ,and the few others like her in her world, ACCOMPLISHED things, built things, got things done.  The politicians who claim to worship her do not accomplish a hell of a lot.  Her heroes were rich, certainly, but they did not live on the backs of others. Rather they similarly rewarded accomplishment amongst employees.  The trouble with this is that Taggert and her spiritual brethren did the right thing and the efficient thing, not due to any ideal of supporting their “brothers” but because that is what should be done.   Real life people cannot be expected to live up to this.  When some 1 percent-er claims to support this ideal, look at how he treats his employees. Look at how he works to improve things.

Ms. Rand, sadly, took these ideas too far. Should we dumb ourselves down for others? No. Should we euthanize every “subnormal” child? Of course not!  As moral beings, I believe we should assist others in reaching their potential, not push them down even further.  I’ve been a teacher, and a social worker, and I still believe this.

Regardless of Rand’s failure to be a human being in the end, there are valuable and noble ideas in her work, and I’d encourage anyone to pursue them.  These works, Anthem and Atlas Shrugged, have both Heavenly and Hellish qualities. Nonetheless, as with our political cartoons, you will take from them truly only what you brought with you.

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3 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Romance Isn't Dead, It Just Evolved.

    July 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

  2. I’m surprised at how well you seemed to understand Rand’s works and then tacked on this statement at the end:

    “When some 1 percent-er claims to support this ideal, look at how he treats his employees. Look at how he works to improve things.”

    The ideal you are referring to is “rational self-interest”. Which the oath on the book states, “I swear by my life and my love for it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask him to live for the sake of mine” (paraphrasing, can’t remember the exact wording). In Rand’s philosophy, the most honest way of dealing with another person is through the process of capitalism (not CRONY capitalism). Which means we trade freely among ourselves, without the initiation of force to arrive at an agreement that benefits us both.

    You claim that the 1%ers don’t “treat their employees properly” and they don’t “work to improve things”. We don’t have slavery in this country unless you are referring to taxation (benefitting from the labor of another by force), and since employees are not slaves, they are free to find employment elsewhere if they feel the current situation does not benefit them. The relationship has to be MUTUALLY beneficial, meaning that if the wages offered are low enough for me and high enough for you, we agree. The lower the company can make your wages and still maintain a quality of work from you that is beneficial to them makes it possible for them to use that money to hire ANOTHER employee. That’s how “greed and self-interest” can help other people. If a company can make MORE money off of a person than they spend to employ them, it creates profit for them, they don’t just stick that money into a vault and swim in it. It gets used to make MORE money for MORE people.

    If Wal-Mart doesn’t want to provide health insurance to their employees, the employees know this when they take the job. there is NO victim in this scenario. Wal-mart has a business model that allows them to keep their prices low and it makes the company successful, which means more stores open and more people are employed. If the employee NEEDS health insurance more than what they are being offered for the labor, they can either pay for it themselves or find employment with a company that is willing to offer it. If enough people think that it’s easier to find employment elsewhere, then Wal-Mart finds it difficult to staff their stores, the business begins to falter and they have to re-work their business model.

    It is not your employers responsibility to provide you with healthcare or a “living wage”. They do not start a business for YOUR benefit or the benefit of the community. They do it for their OWN self interest. They want to make a profit and even get rich by their own ideas or hard work. Some may choose to (as so many of the 1%ers you dislike) donate to charities and “invest in their community”. That is their own free choice to do so, and since many HAVE made that choice, it has become the belief that it is the corporations responsibility to do so. And what do we have now? People demanding that government use their guns to take from those who have and give to those who have not. They are laying claim to someone else’s life due to their “need”.

    It’s a perfect example of what altruism leads to. People become dependent on others to support them and provide them with things that are their OWN responsibility to maintain.

    I completely get the idea of wanting to help people, it’s a noble aspiration and it’s one we all SHOULD aim for. But we are never going to create a society where nobody is poor , or sick or looked down on for one reason or another. All that happens when we follow that path is similar to what you read in Atlas Shrugged, the people who are making all the correct sacrifices and working the 70 hour work weeks to get their business off the ground or put off starting a family until they have cemented their careers are going to stop being productive because the rewards aren’t worth it to them. They will either move the company out of the country or close down and live off of their own savings. Our country has the highest corporate tax in the world. Does that encourage foreign companies to open shop here and create jobs? Isn’t that what we want? Or is it more important to “punish the wealthy”? What is the end game?

    I know these posts between us can get long and tedious. We should hang out and get a drink somewhere and talk. I enjoy it.

    August 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    • Is a decently paid worker not likely to be more productive? Is a healthy worker not more productive. I agree that if there WERE any jobs, workers could indeed take their effort elsewhere. When there is no choice, you take the job you have to take to feed yourself. I personally trained for a job that is not as well regarded even as it was when I trained for it. I understand what you are saying, but the characters in Atlas Shrugged rewarded accomplishment, as they were rewarded for accomplishment. The difference is that the moochers want people to accomplish without the reward.

      August 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm

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