Friday, February 11, 2011

Sadly accurate

Came across this as I was reading a pretty amusing takedown of lunatic would-be philosopher and eugenicist Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's worth a read:
After Constantine decided he needed support from the semi-literate multitudes, Christianity saw a rapid transition from the religion of hicks to a mainstream institution. And why not? Its followers were encouraged to shun worldly possessions, exhorted to deprive themselves of comfort and enjoyment. They considered poverty a virtue, strife a condition of salvation. They condemned themselves to hardship, and embraced a disenfranchised loserdom — which the powerful were more than happy to oblige.

Not only were the pious driven toward their paradise through a gauntlet of misery, but they were smug in the assurance that it was a reward of which their masters would be deprived. I’m sure the wealthy cried themselves to sleep, on their featherbeds, next to their mistresses.

It suits our modern ownership class that the average, the mediocre, should aspire to an opulence as distant and unlikely as a magical afterlife, while undercutting themselves and the rest of us in the interim. Affluence is the new Heaven, and for most it’s as much a fiction as the old.

And this:
For centuries, the superiority of the “Anglo-Saxon race” (honkies, crackers, WASPs; those neither brown nor Catholic) was a “scientific fact.” It wasn’t just “obvious” at the time that human evolution was a progression toward some ideal end (whiteness), but coincidentally, the researchers who’d determined this found that they belonged to the very ethnic group they’d concluded to be the apex of all life on earth. Bully for them! Likewise Rand pictures herself among the capitalist chosen ones. All the manufacturing and transportation executives are gonna need a terrible novelist to play minstrel, and serenade them with affirmations. The elite’s — and presumably Rand’s — big gripe about the masses is that they refuse to know their place.

Incidentally, since 800K copies of this stinker are sold each year (barring those folks either coerced by collectivist teachers, tricked by the glassy-eyed zealots in their lives, or overcome with paroxysms of morbid obligation — i.e. me), there’s apparently an enormous chunk of humanity ready to join the select few — the elect, so to speak.

Which raises the question of what constitutes “superiority,” since so many people are burdened with unwarranted confidence in their abilities. Here on Earth, the economy is complicated, and fucking with regulations can create opportunities for an economic minority to game the system; regardless of the bill of goods Randroids are being sold about merit (by billionaires growing fatter on subsidies and tax breaks). Our economy collapsed partly in thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall; a law meant to protect the hard-earned money of the middle and lower classes — while it appreciates at a miserably slow rate in commercial savings accounts — from the risks surrounding the disposable capital wealthy dick-heads stick into investment banks.

The top 25 hedge fund managers make $800K an hour, while the purpose of their jobs remains largely obscure, apart from their — and their clients’ — bottomless avarice. It’s like a video game; it happens because it can, because of bugs, loopholes and mistakes, not because it makes sense. A person can have a billion dollars, but I don’t believe anyone can earn it — unless they squirt fucking cancer vaccine.

And finally:
The justification granted to Rand’s characters is totally predicated on the ideas that: (a) the collateral benefit to society, which is incidental to the heroes’ solipsism (e.g. transportation, affordable and quality goods), outweighs their antipathy to that same society; and (b) that these few could do it all themselves if they wanted to, relying on an interchangeable workforce solely for menial labor (justifying exploitation). I gather that in Ayn’s view, most people scarcely deserved to live, let alone earn a wage that’d grant them opportunities to pursue ambitions beyond mindlessly grinding away their lives for the rich.

But this isn’t Gattacca; career counselors don’t scan fetal DNA to determine job potential. As soon as the playing field is skewed by things like class, race, and geography, the pure ideal of a meritocracy flies out the window. Reality is messy, so she tries to force it into the architectural planes that get her so hot and bothered.

If Rand is wrong about how the world works, her heroes are just assholes, rather than assholes with a supposedly just cause. Unfortunately for us, people take this drivel seriously, and we’re living in her world now.

You won, you morons.

Rand's ideal man: Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman - Michael Prescott

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