Tuesday, 10 March 2015

intellectual heirs or non-aggression axiom

At the risk of courting controversy and inviting trollish commentary (I think that those risks are acceptable), I’d like very much like to recommend Dangerous Minds’ toppling treatment of Ayn Rand. The essay, including three “trash-compactor” digests of the film adaptation (conveniently plucked out of forty plus years of “development Hell”) of Atlas Shrugged meant to placate the new generation of Tea-Partiers really resonated with me because I too, as a teenager, was an avid fan of this sort of pseudo-intellectual fervor and it took quite some doing to disabuse me of this allure and get out of that phase.

I am really mortified to own up to that much, but even today I still carry around an onerous reminder of that period in the form of a passkey that’s an obscure reference to Anthem (a plagiarized novella, oh nos, about the assault against science—ostensibly, but really a critique of collectivism and supporting the luddites in the end anyway) that I am made to plug into my (work) computer every time I turn around—lest I forget. I guess that this was a fairly common rite of passage, growing pain, though not defensible like a bad sense of style that takes some time to mature. Screenwriter and comedian John Rogers observed once, “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” On balance, we all tend to gravitate towards creative, selfless fantasies, I think, but when the impressionable aren’t given to being particularly well-read or well-informed and have a limited library, this sort of sophistry becomes a masterpiece. The idea that prompted Rand to writing Atlas Shrugged, a great lump of a tome, was toying with the idea of declaring herself on strike from her publishers for their difficult demands—I wish she had, rather than creating a dystopian world where all the supposedly talented and ingenious and indispensable people picketed in order to make her ideas and agenda seem legitimate.