Friday, October 31, 2008

Ayn-ally Retentive

Alan Greenspan is not having much fun these days. Three years into retirement he’s taking a fall for the way things are going now. He’s saying things like, “Gee, maybe I wasn’t right about everything.”
If Greenspan made decisions that affected a lot people, a lot of people went along with those decisions, so I think that if there’s going to be blame, it doesn’t all belong to him, but then I am of the belief that blame is not a helpful thing. I’m talking about the kind where you demonize someone else and don’t hold yourself accountable for your own actions.
I was not aware that Greenspan was a follower of Ayn Rand, but that is one of the things I’ve learned in recent days. He was part of a group that met in her apartment in New York City, where the tenets of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, were hammered out. Rand said in the appendix to the 1957 edition of Atlas Shrugged, "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."
She was born on February 2, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia, as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum. Her family moved to the Crimea at the time of the Russian Revolution, and she came to the United States at the age of 21, changed her name to Ayn Rand, and went to Hollywood to write screenplays. There she met and married her husband, Frank O’Connor. She became a naturalized citizen in 1931. She and O’Connor later moved to New York City, where they lived the rest of their lives.
I read Rand’s novels, Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead, when I was in high school. The scenes I remember most vividly from her novels were the violent sexual encounters, with the woman being brutally taken by the sweaty superior male and loving it, and him. I thought then, and I think now, “Eee-ew.”
Then there was the scene in which Rand gleefully killed off a whole trainload of liberals by asphyxiation. She described with evident pleasure the gasping demise of these poo-poo head do-gooders, one by one.
Also, she had a striking hostility toward soy beans. I’m not sure what that was all about.
A lot of people admired her philosophy and became her followers and disciples. You can see the attraction – the belief that you are superior to everyone else? The assumption that the superior being (you) should lead and triumph? That selfishness was the supreme good and that living selfishly can make you rich, and that’s good for everyone? Hey, sign me up!
Ayn Rand went to her final reward on March 6, 1982. That news may have been buried beneath the news of the death of John Belushi, who was a more popular public figure at the time, on March 5.
Her books still sell. People still buy into her Objectivist philosophy, and occasionally you still see a bumper sticker that says, “Who is John Galt?”
Apparently Alan Greenspan is having second thoughts, though. Ayn Rand was brilliant, no doubt, and she worshipped the rational, but it turns out that the rest of the world, with all its inferiority and irrationality, does not live up to her tenets. Darn.
So perhaps now we’ll try a new philosophy. You thought philosophy was a dusty old subject that had no meaning to the real world, but we have all been had by the teachings of a dead philosopher. It’s a cruel truth, but bad philosophy happens.

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