Friday, March 27, 2009

Delirium tremens

The story about surges in purchases of Rand books (Atlas in particular) in response first to the popularity, then the victory, then the inauguration of Barack Obama has been kicking around the press for a few months now. I can't help thinking of the similar swell in Fox News' viewership (please don't make me link a reference), or the sudden conspicuous frenzy of the batshit crazy branch of the party -- which turned out this week to include the Newtmeister, now warning us of an impending dictatorship.

Who let the dogs out?

Most of these people in the political sphere are not pure Randians; they believe in God, and would insert the Almighty as a projected proxy for themselves into the process of governance wherever they might. (More on this ostensibly unresolvable conflict with the American Right in a later post.)

Yet the Randites share much with the delusional conservatives. Primarily, both groups are proud of not making apologies for their selfishness, proud of refusing anyone out of luck the benefit of the doubt, and positively proud of the fruits of their own supposed initiative in an age where prosperity has become so institutionalized that "initiative" is something we can now only write in lower case: salaried jobs, employer-provided health care, and an all-pervasive corporate presence that clearly defines what it expects of the individual -- all these have taken a toll on the primacy of individual talent and its prospects in America. For outside of a mere relative handful of celebrities, it is the corporate players who have been best rewarded by this setup, speaking solely in monetary terms of course.

Perhaps the Randians sense that this is the case: that it is the corporation, and not the individual, that is pulling the strings today, and maybe this is the background ostinato that is the real reason behind the resurgence; Obama is no more than a catalyst.

Let me leave you with the antidote, the purest refutation of objectivism: beauty for its own sake, brought to you by another refugee from Eastern Europe, born just two years apart from Rand (just to show that this was not entirely a lost generation):