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Category: Ayn Rand

“I like sunset at 4:30, said no one ever”

by Andrea Elizabeth

Cept me, I spose. I saw that on a Facebook meme.

1. Some people look forward to the end of the day. The end of the day is the end of the traditional work period. It is a time to rest from labors.

2. Daylight Savings Time is about conserving artificial light. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, I use light bulbs, and a backlit computer screen. But as Ayn Rand says to charges of hypocrisy in taking social security, ‘you created this ubiquitous, all-encompassing mess, making my lifestyle impossible or at least activisty, so I must use your fix.’ But I think she liked artificial light.

2. Starting an hour earlier also makes the workday get over-with quicker.

3. Maybe a lot of American anxiety and stress comes from working too late. Extra toys and work-saving devices don’t seem to make it any better.

4. Work-saving devices make it worse because you’ve artificially prolonged the work day so there’s nothing to do but feel like you should be doing more.

5. Nighttime, candles, and fireplaces make people feel less stressed.

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I doubt Ayn Rand would agree

by Andrea Elizabeth

from the Golden Age in Book 1 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

The mountain-trees in distant prospect please,
E’re yet the pine descended to the seas:
E’re sails were spread, new oceans to explore:
And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more,
Confin’d their wishes to their native shore.

Then past the Silver and Brazen Ages, the Iron:

Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew.
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new:
Trees, rudely hollow’d, did the waves sustain;
E’re ships in triumph plough’d the watry plain.

Then land-marks limited to each his right:
For all before was common as the light.
Nor was the ground alone requir’d to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share,
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg’d from her entrails first the precious oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring ill, to sight display’d.
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold:
And double death did wretched Man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray’d,
Now (brandish’d weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain:

But if God placed it there, albeit next to hell, is He tempting man, or just accommodating his free will?

Ayn’s selfishness discussed on Diane Rehm

by Andrea Elizabeth

We were in the middle of nowhere (around Archer City, where Larry McMurtry is selling out) last Monday when the Diane Rehm show was mixing parts of sentences about Ayn Rand with classical music. Today I listened to “Ayn Rand and the 2012 Presidential Campaign”in full. ‘Jennifer Burns, assistant professor of history at Stanford University and author of “Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right”‘, was probably the most balanced and coherent of the three guests.

pro: selfishness is explained as a learning process involving the difficult process of finding out what is truly in one’s best interest.

con: Rand doesn’t seem to realize successful businessmen are not always good.

But is the success of bad business long lived? And should bad business be put up with instead of regulated if it is short lived? And what if bad business is usually replaced by more bad business?
If good business is better, wont it win out in the end? I think regulation may be based on the premise that good will not win, and may not truly be recognized as better. That people are too dumb and powerless to tell? But slavery lasted a long time. But it was because the constitution was not properly enforced, which the founding fathers dropped the ball on. What about sweat shops? They may be illegal here, but we buy goods from other countries that have less favorable working conditions. And how exclusive to one’s country should big brother be? Should America be so “selfish”?

Perhaps selfishness involves fixing onesself before fixing others. Putting the oxygen mask on yourself before even your children. Working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling before presuming to save others. But Ayn Rand didn’t have children. There’s probably a reason for that. Children can teach a person to be unselfish, but that’s not so simply said either.

Then apparently in Atlas Shrugged there’s troubling rape scenes. I’ve gotten to the part where the Latin guy hits Dagny in the face. Jennifer Burns explained that Ayn may have had some troubling desires. But if one believes in the steel industry, which has treated the earth pretty brutally, isn’t she just being consistent? I think her selfishness is short sighted. How you treat the earth/women will catch up to you eventually.

“It’s not my fault I’m the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”

by Andrea Elizabeth

Finished with Chapter 4 of Atlas Shrugged, which is not where the title quote came from. Some things you shouldn’t have to attribute.

The railroad alliance has just voted for the Anti-dog-eat-dog proposal, which will stifle a better run railroad for the common good of the other railroads. Because of Dagny’s brother, Jim, the Taggert railroad is not as well run, but will profit from the stifling. Dagny is very angry because she respects her competitor and thinks he’s being treated unjustly. She wanted to save the Taggert line from her brother and beat Dan fair and square, not this way. Hello, bank bail-outs.

Questions

Does laissez-faire economics lead to monopolies? Standard Oil story says yes.
What’s so bad about monopolies? Too much money for one person?
Does breaking them up make too much money for 5 people?
Should the strongest be stifled to let the weaker have a chance?
Will the weaker think he deserves his success when he doesn’t?
Does it matter if he does?
Will he actually be successful, or will standards decline?
If standards decline, will that open the U.S. up to be beat by foreign goods and services? Like happened with the car industry.
Does the U.S. need to stay the biggest and strongest? All other world powers have fallen over time. You get to relive their pasts when they host the Olympics, not for profit.

The tyranny of niceness

by Andrea Elizabeth

End of Chapter 3 of Atlas Shrugged

“She had always flet that the concourse looked like a temple. Glancing up at the distant ceiling, she saw dim vaults supported by giant granite columns, and the tops of vast windows glazed by darkness. The vaulting held the solemn peace of a cathedral, spread in protection high above the rushing activity of men.

Dominating the concourse, but ignored by the travelers as a habitual sight, stood a statue of Nathaniel Taggart, the founder of the railroad. Dagny was the only one who remained aware of it and had never been able to take it for granted. To look at that statue whenever she crossed the concourse, was the only form of prayer she knew.”

Con, of course, idolizing a business.

Pro, she can be used as a parable of true, committed worship. How often does Jesus compare seeking after the kingdom of heaven to how committed people are to business ventures, whether investment or agricultural? How does the one parable treat unprofitable servants? Even what they have will be taken away.

Rand’s belief in freedom over coercion: “Dagny regretted at times that Nat Taggart was her ancestor. What she felt for him did not belong in the category of unchosen family relations. She did not want her feeling to be the thing one was supposed to owe an uncle or grandfather. She was incapable of love for any object not of her own choice and she resented anyone’s demand for it. But had it been possible to choose an ancestor, she would have chosen Nat Taggart, in voluntary homage and with all of her gratitude.”

Again she’s being fluid in her reactions – regret turns into voluntary homage. Or is Rand unknowingly contradicting herself? I wish she had said why she initially regretted him. I don’t think you can take it for granted that she didn’t like his end-justifies-the-means behavior described earlier.

Rand seems to want permission to admire the people she admires, and to not admire those she doesn’t. To call a spade a spade, as it were. I believe there is room for her blantant honesty and belief in freedom. So, lets go ahead and call some people enemies, instead of all the pc feel goody language many believe is the Christian way, which I believe is the tyranny of niceness. People are afraid to hate the sin nowadays. That isn’t true love. True love desires perfection. But what to do with those enemies? How to love enemies is the hardest thing. Not so much because we don’t want to, but because of the how’s involved. Like what do you do if he’s endangering your children, spending your money destructively, causing havoc in the marketplace, lying about God, etc? It’s not so simple. Placing someone in time out, at least, and calling out the wrongness of the behavior isn’t hating them. The tyranny of niceness spoils people, and that isn’t love.

Progress and masculinity

by Andrea Elizabeth

Chapter 3 of Atlas Shrugged is very painful to read because it is difficult to totally vilify technology and efficiency. If something is ineffecient, it is usually because of negative reasons such as poor construction, poor planning, or misguided goals. Rand goes too far in saying that nature is less efficient than technology. Slowness isn’t the only criteria for inefficiency. Tolkien provides the antidote for this mistake of hers, but even he gets impatient with the Tree Ents. Still, I can’t help but find this passage compelling:

“What she [Dagny Taggert] felt was an arrogant pleasure at the way the track cut through the woods: it did not belong in the midst of ancient trees, among green branches that hung down to meet green brush and the lonely spears of wild flowers – but there it was. The two steel lines were brilliant in the sun, and the black ties were like the rungs of a ladder which she had to climb.”

Manifest Destiny and Immanent Domain both seem tied to the above. There is something inevitable about “progress”, at least to the western mind. However stone age cultures quickly adapted when they were introduced to iron age tools.  But they were content before that, and didn’t seem to sense the importance of progress.

The above passage also makes me ponder the idea that nature is feminine and progress is masculine. Villifying progress seems to vilify masculinity. Indeed, one might characterize the expansion of the railroad as rape. But does that make men in “uncivilized” cultures feminine? No, they exert their energies towards territorial disputes and raiding. The same characterization can apply there too. What is the difference between the Genesis command to “fill the earth and subdue it”, and that characterization? The former requires permission from the feminine first, I suppose. Can you ask a tree what it wants to be used for? I believe so, but it takes an artist and a poet to properly hear the answer.

And there is also the issue of communication, which is a very human and natural thing. We crave access and sharing, which technology makes easier. Too easy in some cases, I’m sure. But to be against it is to close oneself off and make oneself unavailable. One may not like the invasive nature of railroads, telegraph and telephone lines, and highways, but even the pony express cut through Indian lands requiring the building of forts in the western frontier to protect them. White man’s communication trumped the preservation of Native American life. We should have befriended them and asked them to send smoke signals for us. And paid them for it. In higher technology?

This chapter also gets into international trade with Mexico. The argument for being our brother’s keeper is criticized very strongly. Again the vagueness of who our brother is is brought out. As is the amount of state control instead of free enterprise said brother is under. I believe in private property, so in that way I agree with Rand. But her heroes don’t come across as greedy, which I think is a side effect that needs to be addressed. They may say they only care about money, but their lifestyle is much more spartan. Resentment and envy is the greed of the less fortunate. Characterizing the less fortunate as lazy and inept sounds too harsh, but I wish the left would sound more like they valued hard work and that they believed laziness is a vice. Laziness and ineptitude alone do not account for poverty, however. There are tons of other variables in the equation. But to blame it all on rich people’s self-serving policies sounds too deflective.

How to give?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Another quote from Chapter 2 of Atlas Shrugged.

“He paced the room, his energy returning. He looked at his family. They were bewildered, unhappy children – he thought – all of them, even his mother, and he was foolish to resent their ineptitude; it came from their helplessness, not from malice. It was he who had to make himself learn to understand them, since he had so much to give, since they could never share his sense of joyous, boundless power.

He glanced at them from across the room. His mother and Philip were engaged in some eager discussion; but he noted that they were not really eager, they were nervous.”

Oh, the arrogance of the strong. But what of the angry judgmentalism of the guilt trippers? I say let them each work at their own faults.

And what of that joyous, boundless power? Is it either that or nervous social consciousness? What Rand seems to be criticizing is the sense of obligation toward unnamed masses. Reardon gives to his brother’s charity, not because of the beneficiaries whom he does not know, but to make his brother, whom he does know, happy. But it doesn’t work. They just keep criticizing him. They want so badly for him to feel the same burden that they do.

Charles Dickens surprises me in his social consciousness when he is so critical of vaguely and impotently magnanimous people who neglect their own families and end up mismanaging “others”. It seems to me that his fix is personal adoption of the unfortunate, not detached check doling.

Quotables from Chapter 2 of Atlas Shrugged

by Andrea Elizabeth

“The red glow of the mills breathed in the sky, a sight as life-giving as a sunrise.” There she goes again. As if smelter’s fire can cause photosynthesis and prevent rickets!

“words were a lens to focus one’s mind”

“His motive in the relationship seemed to resemble the need of an anemic person who receives a kind of living transfusion from the mere sight of a savagely overabundant vitality.”

This last after another motivated by money person, Henry Reardon, feels alienated in his own home by his socially minded family. He has retreated to a distant chair where a friend, Paul Larkin, has approached him and is described above. The reactions are very fluid in this book. Like when Dagny Taggert is listening to music. First you think it’s peaceful, then she describes the same piece as violent. Reardon, in approaching his home, wanted affirmation for the success of his new, extremely ascetically accomplished, metal alloy. He was needy at that point, not savagely vital. When his family only offered him criticism for missing dinner, he turned off towards them. He wasn’t concerned about their priorities either. So if you don’t care about what others care about, and think they are wrong in caring about them, what are you supposed to do? Indeed, the way the mother guilted him about the “parish school, and about the classes in metal craftsmanship, and about the beautiful wrought-iron doorknobs that the little slum children are making all by themselves” sounded exaggeratedly self-aggrandizing.

But his shutting down with them was self-protective. “Did he like them? No, he thought; he had wanted to like them, which was not the same. He had wanted it in the name of some unstated potentiality which he had once expected to see in any human being. He felt nothing for them now, nothing but the merciless zero of indifference, not even the regret of a loss. Did he need any person as part of his life? Did he miss the feeling he had wanted to feel? No, he thought. Had he ever missed it? Yes, he thought, in his youth, not any longer.”

But his wife’s defense of him was patronizing. She started treating him like a child. ‘Thanks for the ugly bracelet, dear.’ As if he meant it to be an ornament. It was a symbol that she didn’t get or care about. Patronizing isn’t the answer either. It’s too fake and condescending. Withdrawing in prayer seems the most genuine thing to do when one feels helpless in relationship. Or some may say he should have been honest and used feeling words. “I feel undervalued by your criticism.” Part of me says Oh Brother to that approach. But the other says it’s incarnational and non-gnostic to go ahead and say it, instead of maintaining the strong, silent approach. Even though some seem to teach said approach.

And a word about the bracelet. If Henry Reardon was only interested in money, then he should have agreed with the criticism that his present should have been a diamond bracelet, instead of a crude, sample piece. It seems that instead of money, Dagny and Henry are really concerned with quality. Diamonds are said to have quality, but the kind Dagny and Henry appreciate is the efficient capability of steel, not the aesthetic beauty of diamonds, which is ironically stronger than steel.

To care or not to care

by Andrea Elizabeth

(from the last half of the first chapter of Atlas Shrugged)

“Ellis Wyatt is not asking anybody to give him a chance. And I’m not in business to give chances. I’m running a railroad.”

“That’s an extremely narrow view, it seems to me. I don’t see why we should want to help one man instead of a whole nation.”

“I’m not interested in helping anybody. I want to make money.”

“That’s an impractical attitude. Selfish greed for profit is a thing of the past. It has been generally conceded that the interests of society as a whole must always be placed first in any business undertaking which…”

“How long do you intend to talk in order to evade the issue, Jim?”

My, she sounds cold. But he sounds impotently vague. Hmmm.

efficiency as the highest ideal

by Andrea Elizabeth

Still in chapter 1 of Atlas Shrugged (ibooks free sample), I am thinking of how the two sympathetic characters, Eddie Willers and Dagny Taggert, insist on efficiency. Everything depends on the trains running on time. I am usually an efficiency fan too. Having 6 kids and not very much energy has made me sort of good at it. But now I’m thinking prioritizing efficiency can foster impatience and frustration with others. When you are used to and expect 70mph uninterrupted interstate smoothness, next day free delivery, and 30 minute, tops, meal preparation, anything slower feels like someone is sabotaging your day. Since my husband and I spend a lot of time commuting, these things have indeed become necessary to us or we would not be able to spend as much time with our families and at Church. But I believe these modern conveniences are a necessary evil for the lack of the type life we have prioritized. It is not available locally. But to move closer to work or Church would be to give up our lovely rural setting, and the roots I have put down since my eldest (who is now our third born) was born 21 years ago.

But back to sabotaged days, what about 2 hour traffic jams, on the negative side, or more primitive, less efficient styles of travel and of acquiring food and shelter? While reading, I was wondering if Ayn Rand experienced what I have heard about conditions in Russia where things break and are left broken for long periods, and the fix is by Jerry-rigging. Should one get so upset at this? It goes against American ideals, but could it be an alternate good where people learn to do without what they think would bring them our expectation of happiness? Other cultures are labeled as lazy for not emphasizing efficient, high production. But Russian Churches are prettier, and their people seem tougher.