Archive for the ‘ayn rand’ Category

On Saturday, January 7th, 2011, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head while making one of her regular appearances in Tucson.  The shooter, a 22 year  is now in custody and being held for questioning and trial.  In addition to Mrs. Giffords, 17 others were hurt in the shooting.  Six have died including a federal judge and a nine-year old girl.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the tragedy.  We don’t expect this sort of thing to happen in America.  It’s horrific, it’s senseless, and most of all, uncivilized.

It was, sadly, also completely predictable.  You see, for the past two years, the rhetoric from the right has been all about violence, hate and bigotry.  All too often, people seeking public office have deliberately used language designed to appeal to the irrational and the violent.  Don’t believe me?  Let me provide a few examples:

Here’s former senate candidate Sharron Angle blithely talking about “Second Amendment Remedies”:

Translation:  “If we don’t get our way, we’ll start shooting people.”

And here’s Allen West, who was recently elected to the House of Representatives, actually exhorting a crowd of lunatic Teabaggers to threaten his opponent:

Wow.  Domestic terrorism as a campaign strategy.  What a guy.

And here’s a timeless classic:  Faux News gasbag and liar Glenn Beck “joking” about poisoning the Speaker of the House:

Because we all know how funny assassination is.

And last, but certainly not least, here’s a timeless classic from none other than former half-term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin:

Aren’t they cute?  They look just like little gunsights!  And three of them are in Arizona!  I’m sure nothing bad will come of this…

Ever since the shootings, the lunatic fringe right wing has been falling all over itself to distance itself from the event.  Of course it’s not their fault, they can’t be responsible for the actions of a crazed lunatic, and besides, the kid read the Communist Manifesto, so doesn’t that make him a … liberal?

No.  He also quoted Ayn Rand and may have had ties to a right-wing hate group called American Renaissance.  And, he rambled on about declining currency and the gold standard, two obsessions shared by Rand and Glenn Beck.

Besides, if he was a leftist, why did he go after a Democrat?

No, at the end of the day, the Tea Party owns this tragedy.  It was their rhetoric that set the stage for it, it was the irresponsible behavior and speech of Beck, Palin, West and Angle that give lunatics the idea that killing opponents is acceptable.  They made this shit sandwich, and it’s our job to make sure they eat it and the stench clings to them.

Keep them in your cross-hairs.  I’m sure they’ll appreciate the irony of that imagery.

Of course, I don’t mean it that way…

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It’s a month since I resolved to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged before the year is done, I’m only 180 pages into it, and I have only one thing to say.

Do people really read this crap?

I mean, good God, people, if this isn’t the worst book ever written, it’s certainly in the running.  Reading it actually causes physical agony, it’s that bad.  I’ll continue my slog through this meandering, pointless, plotless, soulless pile of steaming feces, but damn it all, someone owes me big time for this.

And remember, like I said before, I’m doing this as a public service.  I’m reading it so you don’t have to.

You’re welcome.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I am currently in the middle of attempting to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It’s every bit as bad as I expected.  Heavy-handed, turgid, meandering, and about as subtle as a brick to the head.  But, it’s a “classic” and so I will continue my desperate sojourn through this literary wasteland.  Perhaps after I am finished I will reward myself with a re-reading of “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Reading this book naturally got me thinking about the myth of Atlas.  While the image of a grand figure carrying the world on his shoulders (and thus being the “prime mover” in Rand’s philosophy) is doubtless appealing to the wealthy and powerful, it is also a misapprehension of the original story.
You see, in the ancient myths of Greece, Atlas was one of the Titans who, along with his brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus, rebelled against the Olympians.  In punishment for his hubris, Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the corner of the world and keep the sky and the earth separate for all eternity.
In other words, unlike our modern-day Titans, Atlas did not choose his fate – it was imposed upon him.  It was punishment for his hubris, an entirely too appropriate word meaning “aspiring to godhood”.  And he doesn’t “move the earth”, he holds up the sky.
Our modern-day Titans would do well to learn the definition of “hubris” and its costs.
They might also, in light of their recent spectacular failures, do well to study works by other authors.  I recommend one especially, one which should have particular meaning in light of the “too big to fail” attitude of some of our less competent captains of industry.  It’s a quick read, so I shall present it in its entirety:
Ozymandius
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Shelley
And a second version, by one of Shelley’s contemporaries:
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
—Horace Smith
Read these words, you Titans, you modern-day Atlases, and ponder the punishment for hubris.  And also consider the true meaning of the concept “too big to fail.”
Atlas aspired to godhood, and was laid low for his arrogance.  Ozymandius built great cities of stone, and reveled in his power and creation.  In his arrogance he thought none could rival him.  Nothing remains of his works.

One thing I don’t usually do is make New Year’s resolutions.  I find they’re largely a waste of effort, since most are broken within the first two weeks of January anyway.  Mostly they’re just an excuse to feel guilty about something for the rest of the year.

But this time I’ve made an exception.  I’ve decided that this is the year I’m actually going to read Ayn Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.

Why am I doing this to myself?  Well, aside from having a slight masochistic streak, there’s also a bit of professional pride at stake here.  This is one of the most influential books ever written, and to really be able to discuss it with its fans and cultists, one must understand it.  And unfortunately, in order to understand it, you’ve got to read the damn thing.

Notice I didn’t say it was one of the best books ever written.  It’s not.  Ayn Rand is an absolutely atrocious writer.  Her prose is turgid, meandering and almost incomprehensible, her characters are cardboard cutouts, the conversations scripted and improbable, and the two chapters I’ve read so far have had the feel of an unedited high school creative writing project.  But bad writing, tortured prose and unrealistic characterization aside, Atlas Shrugged remains a highly influential work of fiction.

Every revolutionary movement has its own sacred text that is required reading for its adherents.  Christianity has the Bible, Islam has the Koran, Mao had his Little Red Book, Communism had Das Kapital and others.  If you want to understand the modern capitalist conservative movement, you must read Atlas Shrugged.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I will attempt to comment regularly on my progress as I slog through it.  Consider it a service to you – I’m reading it so you don’t have to.