Ayn Rand Discussion 2



Comment by Harold Powell on February 6, 2013 at 11:57am

Jack, "Somewhere in Time" is one of my all time favorite movies too! I agree with you on the "ending"--such as it was; generally I love the subject of time travel, something which we all do, but, thus far, in a linear fashion, everyone traveling in the same direction and at the same pace.

I think Rand did a pretty decent job in Atlas Shrugged of pointing out that government and corrupt corporations--or vice versa--often conspire together. Both are infinitely corruptible and both work hard at corrupting the other.

Capitalism, when operating in a moral vacuum, cannot succeed. But the same is true for socialism. I have yet to see either system--capitalism or socialism--functioning without a privileged "ruling class." 

Comment by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. on February 3, 2013 at 11:20am

Harold, you mentioned "somewhere in Time," which, all things considered, is my favorite movie, notwithstanding what, to me, was a somewhat tawdry ending. The Rachmaninov theme fits the plot perfectly, and the chronological setting also fits perfectly within my favorite period in social and cultural history. Ayn Rand argued that the era from ca. 1880 - World War I was when Western civilization came the closest to achieving what she regarded as "the unknown ideal" insofar as social structure was concerned. I think she would have done well to have acknowledged that there also were some terrible abuses of the capitalist system going on at that time, pointing out that, according to her own expressed views, consideration by all of everyone's right to pursue his/her rational self-interest to the fullest degree possible through honest effort was often woefuly absent, that its absence was part of what contributed to many of the calamities that followed that era (chiefly but not solely the Great Depression), and the resultant swing to the left that reached a high point in the New Deal. She seems to have had difficulty facing the reality of the system that she envisioned facing, like any other system, the challenge of human weaknesses, including deliberate crookedness on the part of some.

Comment by Harold Powell on February 1, 2013 at 9:38am

Gaynor,

When I was in high school we were required to read: Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), Animal Planet (George Orwell), Lord of the Flies (William Golding), 1984  (George Orwell) and The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger). The latter of which, to this very day, I am bewildered as to what it had to do with the former ( social anarchy ?).

I believe every work published by Ayn Rand is still in print numbering in the millions of copies like McDonalds: Millions upon millions sold.

Jack,

I can see you're a wealth of information on this subject!  If Ayn Rand wasn't a "groupie" of Rachmaninov  then at least it would be fair to say she was a "Rach Music" fan!   My favorite Rachmaninov composition is " Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini In A Minor, Op. 43 - Variation #18. " Or, the " Somewhere in Time " theme music. 

Ayn Rand's favorite writer was Victor Hugo. Which says something, I think, about the literature shaping her world view. But real life affected her most. She saw the  Bolshevik Revolution first hand and witnessed her father, a chemist, reduced to abject poverty as his modest pharmacy was seized by the State and her family, part of the despised middle class, was driven into hunger and despair. She felt the pangs of hunger in her own stomach.

I agree that she skewered the "New Deal" in Atlas Shrugged,  but I also think she was skewering fascism as well. Dagny's own brother was willing to subjugate their privately owned company to the State for protection from competitors and favored status (with lucrative contracts).

Comment by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. on February 1, 2013 at 7:23am

If you've not read it yet, and most especially if you've not read any of her works, I'd recommend, as always, _Anthem_. It's easily readable in a single sitting, and it provides an excellent encapsulation of Ayn Rand's views and values. 

Comment by Gaynor Madoc Leonard on February 1, 2013 at 4:08am

The Piano Concerto #2 was featured in the film Brief Encounter and is an extraordinarily romantic piece. I can see that I have a lot of reading to catch up with and wonder which Rand work I should start with. By the way, anyone wanting to know about Soviet life in 1936 might like to read E M Delafield's book "The Provincial Lady: I Visit the Russians"; I think it's still out of print but I got a copy from Alibris a few years back and it might be in local libraries. She, very bravely, spent time on a collective farm and very miserable it was.

Comment by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. on January 31, 2013 at 7:41pm

Harold,

Thanks for the reply. BTW, I'm Jack to friends. It's a long story.

I suspect the reason for Ayn Rand's devotion to Rachmaninov was twofold. First, his music is marked by two qualities: intense passion and the heroic. Both were qualities that Ayn Rand envisioned, admired in a select few real people, and sought to cultivate within herself. Second, like Rand, Rachmaninov left the Soviet Union and emigrated to the West, ultimately settling in the U.S. Like Rand, he had no desire either to have the state telling him what he could or could not write or to use his talents as a lackey or (worse) mouthpiece of the state. I'm not sure when Rachmaninov left Russia, but it could have been before Rand did. In any case, I find myself hard-presed to envision her as a groupie, even as a teenager.

To illustrate the qualities of Rachmaninov's music that surely appealed to Rand, I refer you to the following YouTube link: 

 . It's also one of my favorite pieces of love music. 

As a twenty-year-old devotee of Ayn Rand, I imagined music for the soundtrack of a movie of _Atlas Shrugged_.  I thought of the Rachmaninov as the love theme for Dagny and Galt, but I fear Rand would have been very upset, if not enraged, by my choice of the beginning of Mahler's second symphony ( 

 ) as the main theme of the movie. 

The term _tiddlywink music_ appears to have been coined by Rand herself. Certainly it's not a recognized generic label, but it's appropriate. It denotes the light-hearted song and dance music of which she was also fond. One of her favorites was the old satire on the early motorcar, "Get Out, and Get Under," a reference to the way that almost any car trip of any length involved impromptu mechanic work by the roadside on the driver's part. To me, this singlehandedly dispells the popular image of Ayn Rand as a cold, humorless person. For more on Rand and "tiddlywink music," see   http://dismuke.org/aynrand/selections.html  .

You could be partly right about sexism and the resistance to Ayn Rand. However, much of her writing was aimed at growing socialistic trends in the West and was despised by academics who did their best to portray her as unintelligent, clumsy, and ignorant for daring to question their often markedly leftist leanings (not liberal at all, given their typically ferocious intolerance of dissent).  _Atlas Shrugged_ was practically a cannon aimed squarely and at point-blank range at Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. Several of the characters are obviously based on real figures associated with that movement. "Ma" Chalmers, for example, seems clearly to be a representation of Eleanor Roosevelt, especially the description of the annoying, whiny, self-righteous voice that sounded like large, splattering drops of falling molasses (or was it mayonaise?). By time _Atlas Shrugged_ came out, the New Deal was history, but many of its institutions remained, some even stronger than before, and many Americans still practically worshipped Roosevelt. Hence they regarded Rand's writings in general and _Atlas Shrugged_ in particular as heresy and sacrilege.

I think Dagny was in part representative of Rand, as was Gaea ("the Golden One") in _Anthem_. Galt was her ideal of the perfect man. I'd guess that the model for Galt was Nathaniel Branden. Rand's physical description of the fictional Galt was in fact a very accurate description of Branden.

I hope I've done justice to your earlier comments that seemed almost to be questions. This exchange has been thoroughly enjoyable, and I hope informative to others as well. 

Comment by Harold Powell on January 31, 2013 at 7:15am

Thanks J,

I had not heard about her  Rachmaninov bias, LOL. That is very interesting! Rachmanivov  might have been like the Beatles for Russian school girls in her day. I had heard that she loved a certain genre of music that she called "Tiddlywink."

I have not read as much of her collective works as you. But I can't help but think that many of her detractors are motivated by sexism. The nerve of that little Russian girl--young, beautiful but mostly smart rising to challenge the male dominated political realm of her day! I may be wrong but I've always felt the character of  Dagny Taggert was partly autobiographical.

Comment by Gaynor Madoc Leonard on January 31, 2013 at 2:49am

Crumbs, I'm learning something already  - thank you!

Comment by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. on January 30, 2013 at 7:44pm

Sorry about the typos below. I was typing fast while reclining in ... would you believe? ... a recliner!

Comment by J. Marshall Bevil, Ph.D. on January 30, 2013 at 7:31pm

First, I totally agree with the previously stated view that Ayn Rand was neither narcissist nor savior. She's always been controversial, but the controversy has heightened recently as some on both the right and the left seek either to champion what they understand (often incorrectly, or at least incompletely) to have been her views or to vilify her, distort her actual message, and, in at least some cases, use a variation on the old argument from intimidation in the effort to shame their more right-oriented (including center-right) opponents into silence. A careful reading of her writings - and I've read most of them - makes it aparent that the selfishness she advocated could better be called by the name she gave it, _rational self-interest_. She was careful to draw a distinction between that and the sort of brute selfishness whose adherents have no qualms about trampling the rights of others in order to pursue their own often unreasoning self-interests. For example, both Kip Chalmers and  Cuffy Meigs in _Atlas Shrugged_  belonged to the latter group. They claimed to be the friends of the proverbial little guy, but all they cared for was power, power, and more power for themselves. Galt (and Daneskjold and d'Anconia, and later Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden) sought to create a society in which each person would be allowed to pursue the calling of his or her choice to the limits of his/her ability and drive, so long as that was honorable, without a government stepping in, either to limit that person's ability to pursue his/her goals or to seize any of the earned benefits of those pursuits to give to those with less ambition, less ability, or less drive -- OR to their political friends. Galt recognized that there are ranges of ability, and he saw both the importance and the personal worth of those who had limited ability yet had the will to give their best to their efforts - for example, Eddie Willers. The ones with whom he had no patience were those who chose not to honestly make the most of their abilities and oportunities, preferring instead to sanctimoniously claim that the more successful owed them for things that they'd done nothing to help create, or to whine about their needs without making effort to address those needs themselves. Is the view of Galt, et al, really all that far removed from what mainstream America has believed since before the country's founding, of from what most people in the West, if not the entire developed world, now think? Ayn Rand even went so far as to make it clear that whatever one wanted to do with is/her wealth, including making generous donations to charitable and philanthropic causes, or even simply giving it away to street folk, etc., was that person's business and no one else's. Further, she abhored racism, calling it the most primitive form of collectivist thinking, and she and Leonard Peikoff, one of her followers, often took aim at neo-Nazi and other fascist groups along with communist and socialist groups. Peikoff, in fact, wrote a series of essays titled _The Ominous Parallels_, in which he compared the ever-growing power of the Federal Government not to the growth of communism but to Hitler's earier rise to power. 

I once was an ardent follower of Ayn Rand, until I learned of the huge disconnect between her advocacy of unfettered, free thought on the one hand and, on the other, her exclusion from her circle those who didn't share all her views, including that of Rachmaninov being the greatest composer of all time. Such cult mentality I cannot "go." Thus, while I still share many of her views, especially those about the sanctity of the individual and freedom of thought (as stated, although alas, not really observed), I no longer regard myself as a follower.


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