Manufacturing Dissent Since 1996
New interviews throughout the week

Moment of Truth: April 8 2017

Objectionable Objectivism

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

I'm reading the biography of one of the most famous surfers of all time. I'm going to be cryptic about his identity, for no reason in particular. He was nicknamed "Da Cat," among other things, including "a-hole." He's dead now of pancreatic cancer. The cause of his death probably had little to do with how he lived his life. He used a lot of lotion, even on his pancreas.

The biography opens with three quotations, only one of which did Da Cat employ habitually: "I do not recognize anyone's right to pilfer one minute of my life, nor to any achievement of mine, no matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need." That's from Ayn Rand's classic hunk of airport toilet paper, The Fountainhead.

Allow me to share with you my feelings about Ayn Rand. She was a pig, and I'm not referring to her appearance. It could be said, however, that she resembled what one could imagine Howard Cosell might look like after a six-month juice fast and a hanging. Among her sycophantic followers there were several who had sexual intercourse with her, and many others who wished to. If there were a sex act that could justifiably be abolished by law, it would be any type of intimate congress with Rand. I wouldn't schtup her with Ann Coulter's wang, but that's beside the point. She was a repulsive thinker and a lousy writer. And I say this as someone who forgives a great deal of lousy writing and lousy thinking, some of it even by authors other than myself.

Rand was such a lousy, doggedly crappy writer, that the fact the quotation in question is not from an essay but rather from the mouth of one of her characters makes no difference. Howard Roarke, the incendiary architect played in the slightly less crappy movie by Gary Cooper, is the mouthpiece for Rand, uncleverly designed to represent as well as spout her idiotic, self-serving philosophy of Objectivism.

I will now maliciously misrepresent Rand's philosophy. After all, whether she recognized my right to pilfer it for these purposes or not, the fact is, in a very real sense, cosmic and fundamental, I have that right, whether she choses to recognize it or not. That she didn't recognize it is simple proof, cosmic and fundamental, of the weakness of her ideas. What a dumbbell.

Objectivism is the notion that the world is made up of objects which belong to whoever finds them first, and its first and most important postulate, from which the entire cascade of bullshit tumbles, is, "Finders keepers, losers weepers." "Find" is a term of art, or part of the rarified jargon of Objectivism, and can mean to discover, to purchase, to invent, to secure the legal means to profit from, or to pilfer.

"But wait a second," you might rightly object. "If Objectivism doesn't recognize the right to pilfer, how can it begin with a statement supporting the ownership rights of the pilferer?" And well you might object to this Objectivist contradiction. It's one of the things that makes Objectivism so objectionable. The answer is even more so: although the world is full of nothing but objects, there is one subject: Rand herself. Everyone else is just a thing.

You see how jerky this so-called philosophy is? I believe the clinical term for someone who views the world this way is "narcissist." The political term in the United States is "Republican."

"I do not recognize anyone's right to pilfer one minute of my life, nor to any achievement of mine, no matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need." Oh, okay, well, nobody has the right to pilfer things. Pilfering is against the law. It's also contrary to one of the Judeo-Christian commandments. So, y'know, what you're suggesting is hardly revolutionary, in any case. Especially in a capitalist wonderland.

Getting back to our surfer, Da Cat, he was known for using people, and for knocking them out of his way when they got between him and a wave. All he cared about was surfing. He was always looking for the perfect wave. He traveled the world looking for it. He had a grandiose idea of the connectedness of all life on Earth via the ocean, and felt one with this ecology when riding the waves. He resented any time he wasn't surfing, and thought nothing of stealing from his friends or anyone else in order to fund his pursuit.

He hated what people called "work." And he resented the encroachment of other surfers and surf-enthusiasts who began to proliferate on the beach at Malibu with the advent of the movie "Gidget." He hated the commercialization of surfing. He hated surf music. He stole jewelry from Dick Dale, whose recording of Miserlou started the surf guitar craze. He positioned himself philosophically as a lone rebel against the civilization that made all these sacrilegious offenses possible, to justify his doing whatever he deemed necessary to maintain his freedom from the bondage of labor.

Of course it has occurred to me that he's a lot like me, at least in his aggressive laziness. And quoting as he did from The Fountainhead, I have begun to wonder if there isn't something Randian about my own way of being.

I have come to the conclusion that, no, there isn't. Let me explain:

I don't believe that people are objects among which I am the only legitimate sentient creature, or that my needs come first regardless of anyone else's condition. To be fair to Da Cat, he was a lot more of a humanist that Rand. And a lot more of a transcendentalist. And I believe I'm more like him in that way. Were I better looking and great at something I might have turned out like Da Cat, but thankfully I have been spared those socially marketable virtues.

I don't hold my principled laziness up as something to which only I am entitled. Slowly, lethargically, I commence my founding of the Socialist Leisure Party, with the intention of spreading abundant opportunities for blissful laziness equally among all those in the world who would care to indulge in them. From each according to her inertia to each according to her torpor.

The sickening thing about Rand's pathology dressed up as a philosophy is that it doesn't acknowledge the contributions of all of humanity, and in fact all of existence, toward her so-called "minutes of life" and "achievements." They are not, in fact, hers, and it was only by diligent denial of her surroundings, spatial and temporal, that she could arrogate to herself ownership of anything at all. It is an illusion that we "own" things, that our time belongs to us, that we are the sole agents in determining our destiny or even narrating our memories. We are connected by history and destiny to everything in the world, to some things more than others, but with particular affinity to other people, who resemble us in their desires, needs, triumphs and tragedies.

The Randian delusion has infected our economic and political discourse, and in fact our entire national epistemology, to our detriment. From behind whatever label it advertises itself, be it capitalism, neo-liberalism, austerity, property, individualism, nationalism, ethnic supremacy, tribalism, Washington consensus, vanguardism, or the American way, its limits are limiting our ability to solve our direst problems, and its fallacies are dividing us for its own survival. Yes, an opportunistic idea has evolved opportunistic survival strategies, its main one being to paint all competing ideas as delusional.

This is why every truly progressive policy sounds impossible right now. And yet the contradictions in the Randian-infected status quo are forcing the impossible into the discussion. I would urge everyone to continue their delusional behavior. Keep demanding free universal health care. Keep demanding a universal basic income. Keep demanding an Economic Bill of Rights. Keep demanding we set aside half the Earth for nature, E. O. Wilson. Keep demanding equality. Keep demanding peace.

The dominance of Randian-infected individualism has become such a lesion on society that, rather than such ideas falling further out of fashion than they were in, say, the 1980s, they have swollen with a vengeance. The tighter the grasp the proponents of inequality have on our society, the less likely these ideas would be to emerge, one would think. But because of the constriction caused by the tightening grasp, and the demonstrable inefficacy of what currently falls within the frame of the possible, the only persuasive remedies come from nowhere else but the realm of the impossible.

I embrace the impossible. I foresee a future without the threat of starvation and homelessness keeping the workforce in line. I foresee a future without a workforce. I foresee an economy that acknowledges the inherent generosity and playfulness of the human mind and spirit, able to rely on those things to keep it going, rather than enforcing first and foremost the Randian right of the elite individual to guard his property.

My flag is the hammock.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


Moment of Truth


Share Tweet Send