Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"This god, this one word: 'I'" Writing the Right


A friend sent a link to an article by Gore Vidal in a 1961 Esquire. (h/t Eileen)

In it he offers up these tidbits of lunatic wisdom from Rand's book "The Philosophy of Ayn Rand"--it appears she had pulled these things out of her own writing to gather them in this tome:

• “It was the morality of altruism that undercut American and is now destroying her.”

• “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society. Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequence of freedom…or the primordial morality of altruism with its consequences of slavery, etc.”

• Then from one of her arias for heldentenor: “I am done with the monster of ‘we,’ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: ‘I.’”

• “The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself.”

• “To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.”

• “The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral….”

This is really unbelievable stuff. I don't need to say anything more than Vidal does to dismantle its wrongheadedness.

And recall, this is 1952, and as Vidal notes, it was already INFLUENTIAL in the world of "real politic".

Ayn Rand is the popular "thinker" of the Right--this is the internal voice of their inner demons.

What can you say to this level of sheer self-interest? This is a group that wants government only to protect the institutions that allow them to protect their business interests. This is the group that hates a government that tries to protect the people (each and everyone) from the "inequality" of wealth.

This is the creed of the "educated" among them--the leaders among them--our giants of commerce; it has been so thoroughly propagated as the idea that is the MOST American of American IDEAS--the drive to wealth for the self (ie, "rugged individualism"), that the common and downtrodden among us BELIEVE this idea--they too can MAKE IT (if only there weren't Affirmative Action and Bleeding Hearts), can be mega-wealthy; that they don't realize the mega-wealthy are PROPPED UP by the very Government they disavow as protecting the "welfare state".

The game is rigged, of course, the house always wins; Ayn Rand has, for them, given this idea the veneer of the claim to a Moral Right.

As Vidal points out, however, it is deeply immoral at its core.

Not surprisingly, there is another common ideology which makes this world so sublimely Orwellian--the use of the Bible as text for financial salvation...greed can be moral apparently.

Utopian/Dystopian literature has given us two visions that are more "true" than the Randian one-sided story--Huxley's and Orwell's: one gives us our hedonism--we are made politically docile by our drive (while being driven) to pleasure; the other shows us the way we are convinced via image and rhetoric (and terror) that the immoral is moral, the unethical ethical, that what is wrong is oh so Right.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dance of Citations

Listened to, on a walk to school with the boys, a discussion with Nicholson Baker on his book Human Smoke. He is asked by an audience "why call it Human Smoke"? He then said that it was a phrase uttered by one of Hitler's Generals Fritz Halder made in an interview captured in some kind of Nuremberg Journal or diary. So I looked that up and found not a direct link to that quote or primary source but rather a review of Baker's book here wherein I found immediately a quote of Aurelius found by the author of the review in an early book of Nicholson Baker's called the Mezzanine.

Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice and ashes.

Circuitous to say the least...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


To build on the last post--this piece in the NYRB Blog.

We live in an age of erasure and even the mammoth nature of our erections will not stand as the pyramids have. We will not create monuments; we are not the authors of great myths. We are digital and prone to instability and data loss.

The library at Alexandria WAS the human mind...the ability to know and recall erased by our tools. We no longer transmit mind--our minds are transmitted and we merely passive instruments funneling data.

Monday, February 1, 2010

House of the Lifting of the Head

Again, from Olson:

"...MASONRY is especially associated with MYTH in man. The tale of the Great Tower is as ultimate a legend as the Flood, Eden, Adam."

"...this need of man to persist in monument as well as in myth."

"If it had been possible to build the tower of Babel without ascending it, the work would have been permitted."