I was going to post this last year but got sidetracked. I post it now because the other day, a local Teabagger was gushing about Ayn Rand and how she was the animating force behind the Teabagging movement. Here, for your consideration, is I what I think of Ayn Rand.
While we were still dating, Jo handed me a book saying, “Merlin, you just gotta read this!” It was Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. As thick a brick and printed in ultra-small type, it was ponderous and turgid. Dutiful swain that I was, I read it from cover to cover. When I handed it back to Jo, she eagerly asked, “So, what do you think?”
I said, “I think I just read Hell’s blueprint.”
I told Jo I thought Atlas Shrugged was the rant of a constipated, misanthropic old battle-axe. Where Jo, and many others before her, considered Atlas Shrugged a paean to economic self-actualization and whatnot, I saw the world promoted in Atlas Shrugged to be a wasteland of narcissism and sociopathy. Worse than any “law of the jungle,” Atlas Shrugged demanded there be no second chances in life — that should something unhorse you and you did an economic pratfall, there on the ground you would stay. Indeed, it was your duty to do so.
Moreover, not only would Ayn’s disciples deign to grasp your outstretched hand and help you to your feet, they would slap it away. You, pathetic failure that you are, would serve evermore as footmen and serfs of the super-human uber menchen that would rule the world from their thrones in Gault’s Gulch. Perhaps the most disturbing passages in Atlas Shrugged were the harangues delivered by a Latin Lothario wherein he decried all the people (i.e., you, me and everyone else) that were trying to get in his knickers. The rants were perfect studies in paranoid greed. They epitomized the whole Ayn Rand philosophy, which can be summed up as: What’s your’s is mine, and what’s mine is mine too.”
I promptly forgot about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged until the day I went to my Congressman’s town hall meeting to hear about Obamacare. Standing near the entrance to the ballpark where the meeting was being held, I espied a Teabagger handing out flyers and buttonholing the passersby. As he wasn’t wearing a lampshade for a hat, I thought he might be a reasonable sort and went over to talk.
Shrill and loud, in the manner of all true believers, he spewed his spiel. I listened with growing alarm. Finally, I raised my hand, hoping he’d pause and let me get in a word or two. As he was almost out of breath, he accommodated. “Buddy,” I said wearing my best salesman’s face, “I bet you’ve read Atlas Shrugged.” He gave a start. Then, beaming with pride, he thumped his hairy chest and said with pride that he’d read it cover-to-cover not once, but twice.
“I thought so,” I said.
He was still quiet, so I pressed ahead: “May I explain something you may not realize?”
Folding his arms across his chest, he bid me proceed.
“Have you ever seen one of those nature programs about Leopards?” I asked. He wasn’t sure what I was driving at, so I continued. “Well, it seems Leopards are solitary creatures. The only times they tolerate each others’ presence is during mating season. They come together for a brief sexual congress, then go their own ways. They then go around pissing on the bushes to mark out territories and heaven help any stray Leopard that violates the sacred borders. It’s almost as if they hate each other, for should one Leopard come across another, the fur really flies; if one can kill the other, it will. Leopards”, I concluded, “are by nature, hermits. In other words, they live by Ayn Rand’s creed.”
He still wasn’t sure what I was driving at: “OK, then let’s try this,” I said as I turned and swept my arm across the vista of Everett, Washington. “What you see before you is a city. It is a hive of social creatures that are utterly dependent on one another. They — we — are dependent on the social comity that lets each of us be of benefit to all others; and all others be of benefit to us.
“We are not isolated, solitary creatures like the Leopards. No indeed. We are social animals, like horses, buffalo, termites and bees. In fact, we are so social that when a human turns his back on his fellow creatures and goes to hide in the woods (or Gault’s Gulch), he is by definition, abnormal and dysfunctional. Like the anti-social Leopard, such a person will turn on his fellows so he is hunted down and confined — or killed, if necessary. No, my friend, Ayn Rand’s heroes in Atlas Shrugged have more in common with the Barefoot Bandit and the Unibomber than they do with you and me.” The Teabagger simply looked at me with a blank face, then began his rant all over again like a CD on endless loop.
Atlas Shrugged belongs in the trash heap along with Das Kapital and Mine Kampf. Ayn Rand is no more of an economic and social thinker than Joe Stalin or Adolf Hitler. Left unchallenged, Ayn will do as much damage to America as those two did to Russia and Germany.