Posts tagged ‘Fiction’

August 17, 2012

Ayn Rand vs Objectivism: A Critique — An Election 2012 Primer, #Rational, #Politics, #Opinion

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

If you have been following my Ayn Rand / Objectivism series, this the third part and yes I know that these posts are each very long posts. Thank you for your fortitude and open rational mind’s attention. I wrote this article and the other two consecutively so you can just go back one or two blog posts to read the prior articles.

In the first article I criticized Paul Ryan for being a false Atheist, Objectivist and Catholic in his acceptance speech and elsewhere in his political life. I also stated Rand’s stated tenets of Objectivism.

The second article (the one prior to this one) just covered Ayn Rand’s life in a genealogical sense and I included many links which I encourage you to follow those links and examine the genealogical documents to check my validity of my writings on Rand and the context of her life.

In this article I want offer up for your rational and reasoning mind, my critiques of Ayn Rand and/or her espoused philosophy (Objectivism).

Context

By the time Ayn Rand arrived under her real name of Alice Rosenbaum (also Alisa Rosenbaum), on SS De Grasse in the ship’s cabins (not 3rd class or steerage as most emigrants did) on February 19, 1926 she was absolutely “cooked”. From that point on, she was not going to be swayed from her life’s philosophy. The only things she was going to change, would be her name, to “Ayn Rand”.

She was born into a well heeled Jewish family (father owned or was the pharmacist). Rand made it clear that her family was not so “jewish”, definitely not observant jews. I do not know that I believe that (but I’ll save that for later). Rand also said her mother was inattentive to her and her two sisters. Rand also said she taught herself to read in 1911 (about age 6). How about that she actually remembered the year that she declared she was a reader and that nobody else helped her to learn to read? Rand was born the year after her parents were married in 1904 (St. Petersburg, Czarist Russia). So she was the eldest child — no other child to teach her, if her parents did not instruct her in reading. This would be counter to what just about all other Jewish families do, at least so their children can read the Torah (Moses’ Law portion of the Bible’s Old Testament). So again I am skeptical about that self-taught reading business. In high school she reads Victor Hugo (Les Miserables) and discovers Aristotle. She also declares since she is a rationalist, she is also an atheist. Also, there was that Bolshevik Revolution thing in 1917 (right before high school that forces her/her family to move to Ukraine, then Yevpatoria, Crimea). The Communists strip her father of his pharmacy business and they struggle just to eat in the now Communist Russian state (no Czar in control anymore). After graduating from her Crimean high school her family moves back to St. Petersburg (now called Petrograd) and enrolls in Petrograd State University in 1921 where she learns Nietzsche. in 1924 she graduates from Leningrad State University (St. Petersburg is now called Lenningrad) — the same university she had enrolled in, just a new communist name. She almost did not graduate as the communists threw her out, but supposedly foreign instructors fought to have her reinstated so she could finish her studies. We really need someone to go to the Russian Archives and get a copy of her transcripts to remove all of these disputes. Anyway, also in 1924 she enrolls in State Technicum for Screen Arts where she learns screenwriting. She has a love of motion pictures, particularly American/Western motion pictures. In 1925 she gets published her first writing a pamphlet on “Pola Negri” [Polish actress]. Somewhere along the way, after high school and before 1926 she has an affair with a Jewish man, cheats on him with a Communist, breaks it off with the Communist, endangering herself and her family by ending that relationship so badly. This saga is chronicled in her mostly autobiographical We The Living book. Somehow her “destitute”, hardly-able-to-eat family and her scrape together the money for a passport (from Riga) and a ticket for cabin passage on an ocean liner and $50 (USD) and she has a typewriter among her possessions. So Alice Rosenbaum arrives in New York City (Ellis Island) February 19th, 1926 (with the $50 cash required to enter the US). She goes to her uncle Harry Portnoy in Chicago, IL (presumably on the train using some of that $50). So she is now the fully cooked Alice Rosenbaum whose rigidity kept her from changing anything, except her name, which somehow, somewhere, at somepoint becomes Ayn Rand??

Are you with me so far? This age-6-self-taught reader, who knew at age 9 she wanted be a writer, gives up Judaism to be an atheist in high school. She is treated poorly by Communists (her father’s loss of business, kicked out of school, possibly witnessed/knew of pogroms). She hated the Communists, that represented the state taking everything from her/her family. No Collectivism or Self Sacrifice for the State for her. She hated the will sapping, sinking-to-the-lowest-common-denominator that a Totalitarian Economy represented. She entered a relationship with a Jewish man on whom she cheated (with a Communist, no less — conflicted). She studied screenwriting and then left Communist Russia to go to America with an eye to go to Hollywood and be a writer.

Genealogical Critique

First off, I do not believe she demonstrated self reliance. How could she have afforded to come to America especially in a ship’s cabin and with $50? Her last residence was Leningrad (from her father). Also note that she came over and immediately lived with her uncle in Chicago — not very independent or self-reliant. She lived off her uncle’s largess for 6 months before moving onto Hollywood, CA. I am sure she worked to earn some of her keep and to earn money to move to California to pursue her dream of writing for motion pictures.

Second, why would an atheist identify herself as a Hebrew on the ship’s manifest? She could have put Russian. With a name like Rosenbaum, she could have put German too, but Hebrew?? In Communist (read atheist) Russia, she identified herself as a Hebrew. Was that safe to maintain a religion in Communist Russia — especially when she said she was atheist in high school? Even under the Czars, Jews (i.e. Hebrews) were often uprooted and moved to certain remote countryside towns in the “Pale of Settlement“. Seldom were Hebrews allowed to remain in the cities (unless wealthy or in vital professions — which a pharmacist might be considered on both accounts). She has an affair with a Jewish man after becoming an atheist and before emigrating. What Jewish man would want a woman who was not a Jew to have his children? A child is Jewish only if the mother was a Jew (by birth or conversion). Would an atheist do? Probably not. Not so atheist, I guess. In fact, she continues to identify herself as a Hebrew up to and including her Petition for Naturalization filed in December 1930. For the record, the Kensico cemetery where she (and her husband) were buried has a Jewish section, albeit it is not clear whether they are in the Jewish section or not.

Her Naturalization does not show a name change to Ayn Rand. She signs March 13, 1931 as Alice O’Connor. Her signature is distinctive too. The way Ayn Rand handwrote her captial ‘A’ was the same on on Alice O’Connor (her married name) as it was on Ayn Rand (see wikipedia for Ayn Rand signature). She must have have filed a name change somewhere, some place, at some point, because on her Social Security data (more on this later), her name is Ayn Rand!

Thirdly, if we accept the firsthand accounts of others about Ayn Rand. She had a temper! Witnesses say she slapped Nathaniel Branden (including Nathaniel himself — who is still alive and wrote a book on his relationship with Ayn Rand) multiple times. Then she forced Nathaniel and Barbara Branden out of the Objectivist organization that Ayn Rand founded/owned. So we see violence and force on just this one man — against her own Objectivist Principles of Non-Violence and Non-Force. Of course, we could chalk that up to Rand selfishly making herself happy (does that override all other Objectivist principles?). What was the cause of such violence/force? Branden was selfishly making himself happy with his wife and another woman BESIDES Ayn Rand (whom he had a multi-year affair with, then spurned Rand’s advances when he got serious about Patrecia Scott). All these people were Objectivists until Rand “excommunicated” them from her organization. For the record, Nathaniel Branden who was 25 years younger than Rand lied to her about the age difference being a problem and the fact he was in another affair and that he hid from Rand due to her reputed anger.

Finally, notice from the image that Ayn Rand filed for Social Security in CA before 1951. She did not just fill out the forms. She also took monthly Social Security checks (starting about age 69) and also accepted Medicare health insurance when her health started to fail. So even though she said ‘self-reliance’, no ‘welfare state’ — when push came to shove she took the government social programs’ monies. Did you know her health failed because she was a heavy smoker (who developed lung cancer)? So she made all of America pay for her nasty smoking habit — so much for no collectives of any kind. She took Social Security and MEDICARE which she needed because she chose to smoke (probably because it made her selfishly happy). In Rand’s eyes SELFISHNESS is a virtue. In fact she wrote a paper with just that title (actually twice — the second time to repudiate Nathaniel Branden, her excommunicated lover, to her Objectivist subscribers).

From a genealogical perspective, I maintain even Ayn Rand could not be an OBJECTIVIST and that nobody could, because in my opinion it is not possible due to contradictions with reality as we KNOW it. Rand said the “Attila” (aka Man of Force) was not an OBJECTIVIST. Likewise, not the “Witch-Doctor” (later called the mystic) either because he was guided by his emotions and his blind beliefs and/or wishes. It looks like by her life events, she was both Witch-Doctor and Man-of-Force. Oh, she was also a PRODUCER/CREATIVE too. She did sell 25 Million books, at least 7 Million (as of 2010) of which were Atlas Shrugged. By any rational measure Ayn Rand was a successful writer — ergo we can give her the label PRODUCER/CREATIVE.

Philosophical Critique

I am not a professional philosopher, so I will leave philosophical arguments to others. I will say any foundation based on:

Man as Heroic is unfortunately flawed. I wanted to believe it. Certainly, I have seen numerous “heroic” examples from men, women, children, and even animals. But to say man is heroic 100% all of the time is just not believable. There are just too many counter examples to enumerate.

Non-Violence / No-Force – is also a flawed assumption. There has never been a year without violence in the history of mankind. Even if we limit the definition to be just global or civil wars, or genocides then we would see 90+% of all years are violent. Obviously the more violent acts you add in, the closer the limit approaches a violent act happens almost every minute (or is it every second). Force occurs more frequently than violence especially if you view force to be a superset of violence.

Rational, Only Rational – Is there such a person. Even Mr. Spock had his AMOK time where his reason failed him. I have never seen a human be rational at all times, every day. I also have never found a man who was not ruled by emotions. Has there ever been a man/woman who was never happy/sad/fearful/angry/… ? If so then he was probably violent (as in a psychopath).

The Witch-Doctor falls in in the rational area, as he is ruled by emotions or has wishes or blind beliefs. Ergo, he fails to be rational. The Attila man is found here as a failure of rationality too since he/she would use violence/force to get his way. I agree there are Witch-Doctors and Attilas. I would have to say that some Attilas are Producers. How about Julius Caesar for example?

Producers / Creative – OK. Here is one where we find the basis is not flawed. Not all men are Productive/Creative. Even if a man is Productive/Creative he is not that every waking moment. Still I do nto find Rand require Producer/Creatives to be so at all times. Just that they be so. But how much make you a Producer? Is there a threshhold below which man is not to be considered not a Producer?

No Intellectuals before the Industrial Age? Ayn Rand said in a Jan 1st, 1961 interview with James McConnell (University of Michigan) where she said emphatically that there were no intellectuals before the industrial age. That is patently false. This shows Ayn Rand to be ignorant of the classics. There were the seven sages (Thales, Solon, Chilon, etc.) who were intellectuals and capitalists and sometimes soldier and politicians too. I simply offer people to read books on Socrates, Aristotle, Plato or Pythagoras minimally. But I am thinking of the book, Diogenes Laertius, “Lives of Eminent Philosophers” from the Loeb Classical Library Vol I. translated by R.D. Hicks. These men made their living from their intellectual property.

Selfishness is a Virtue, Altruism is bad, No Collectives – I think any sensible person would agree these are wrong. For good examples of collective enterprises I offer: Social Security, Medicare (the two weakest), Airports, Harbors, Road, Trains, Schools, Hospitals, Dams, Museums, Zoological Parks, National Parks, Insurances (Health, Life, Disaster, Business), Military (this can be good/bad) & Defenses, Savings & Loans/Credit Unions (again good/bad), Helping Your Neighbor in a Disaster, Food Coops. Are not any of these good? I think they all are in some fraction. These are my counter arguments to collectives.

By the way I think only being motivated for your own happiness without regard to others is fundamentally in opposition to violence and/or Man-As-Heroic.

Being Self-Reliant is a good thing and I accept this. But I think people needed to band together from the earliest hunter-gatherer clans, to early agriculture/non nomadic and group defense are the proof there have always been collectives and that this is an evolutionary survival technique that created a possibility for man to survive and master the world.

Laissez-Faire Economics – Businesses are people who just want to be happy without regards to others (i.e. humankind). I think the current worldwide “Great Recession” proves that to be a flawed economic model. Also it leads to business that pollute the environment or think that creating asbestos products is ok even if businesses knew it would kill many people. No need for ethics? Come on. These things lead to violence. These things are obviously wrong. Why are there people who cannot see this?

By the way, if you read books on game theory (the mathematics, not real games) you will see that defection is almost intrinsic. Where is the nobility or heroicness in “Everyone For Themselves”? I know violence is there.

These to me say OBJECTIVISM is flawed. Let me also cite here Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem which says any system (even philosophical ones) will have truths that are outside of the system. Also conversely, there will be falsities inside any system. OBJECTIVISM is not the only ISM with this problem all ISMs have this as a problem — including ATHEISM, any religion (i.e. Catholicism), etc. Did Ayn Rand not know about Bertrand Russell or Godel??

How large were the gaps in here knowledge. Good thing she was a successful writer. I’ll skip further analysis here. Go to these links below:

Where Alice Rosenbaum Went Wrong

Guardians of Ayn Rand

Literary Critique

As I said, Ayn Rand sold 25 million+ books so she was an unqualified success! Rand did make it to Hollywood. On her 1st day she meets Cecil B de Mille and works as an extra actor on King of Kings where she meets her husband, Frank O’Connor [she tripped him on set to get him to notice her -- I am sure that made her selfishly happy]. Dream come true.

Her two works for which she is well known are fictional works. FICTION. Atlas Shrugged , Rand’s magnum opus, was a Dystopian Sci Fi novel. It was 1168 pages and included a 60 page monologue. Roundly criticized and yet also popular. But did anyone ever read it completely — every word? I think more people read the complete War & Peace than read Atlas Shrugged. Many synopses exist on the Internet — help yourself. I do not think it was as well written as L. Ron Hubbard (another sci-fi novelist cum philosopher-organization-builder). If you want a Slavic sci-fi writer with more heft how about Stanislaw Lem. Of course, the great Russian-born sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov is even accorded an even better standing as a writer.

If all you want is a good totalitarian critic, go for Slawomir Mrozek or the Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. Both were authors of such heft and deep thought and yet provided entertaining criticism of totalitarianism. Very literate writers.

However, I am not planning on running for Vice-President with an idea to implement the Foundation Trilogy economic ideas. These books motivated at least one Nobel Prize winning economist (Paul Krugman). So why should we elect people who want to implement Atlas Shrugged ideas? FICTION.

Do not forget that all NON-PRODUCERS are just supposed to die. This seems a lame literary idea for implementing in real life politics/economics.

Paul Ryan & Faux Objectivists

So why does Paul Ryan so prominently promote himself as an Ayn Rand devotee? And why, oh why would we want to elect someone, much less a whole caucus of Tea Party people who espouse Ayn Rand’s OBJECTIVISIM and Economics? They belie themselves by working on social issues which are EXACTLY what Ayn Rand would not have done (She was correct in this concept of not taking rights from a minority by a ruling majority). They did not concern themselves with economics at all. They even stone-walled raising the debt ceiling until it ruined the once perfect credit rate of the USA making everybody pay more for everything — including the debt they were against. Yet this one act guaranteed that debt would grow exponentially.

Let’s see whether they do it again this year and let sequestration throw the US Economy into a depression.

Either way, these are NOT OBJECTIVISTS. They are merely anarchists determined to minimize the US government to a size where they can strangle it in the bathtub. Did you do that Google assignment from article one? Are they really trying to bring about the chaos from Atlas Shrugged? Do most of the Tea Party actually think they are PRODUCERS? Clue to Tea Party caucus, you actually have to work (no sign of that in D.C.) to be a PRODUCER.

Only one Tea Party caucus member turned down the Congressional Health Insurance — he may have actually been an Objectivist. The rest of the TEA Party Caucus complained they had to wait one month for the health insurance to start (NOT Objectivists). Didn’t any of those idiots ever work for a company who provides health insurance? They ALL make you wait 30 days before your health insurance starts — more proof these people were NOT Producers.

A couple flaws from that FICTION. The other 99% will not just die. They may become violent or forceful. Also, who among the 1% of producers are going to pick up the garbage or fix the sewer pipes? Some more useful collective endeavors. I guess they will die from disease these faux PRODUCERS. Who will defend these non-violent, now-disease-weakened producers? Who will heal them or nurse them back to health from their illness? Maybe, just maybe almost everyone is of use and a PRODUCER in some way — even the bloggers. Everyone who works is a PRODUCER. Let’s manufacture/motivate some more PRODUCERS. Isn’t that what real PRODUCERS do?

We still need to work on the US Economy. Let’s use New Keynesian economic ideas and bury the Laissez-Faire economics in a garbage dump. Hey, isn’t that Paul Krugman guy a New Keynesian economist? We may not want to elect Dr. Krugman either, but perhaps we should utilize his economic suggestions of June 2012. After all he is a member of the G30.

Oh, Paul Ryan, just so you know Friedrich Hayek had strong reservations against Laissez-Faire economics. So either make your staff read Ayn Rand or read Friedrich Hayek but not both as they are in direct conflict. Hayek believed:

Hayek was prepared to tolerate “some provision for those threatened by the extremes of indigence or starvation, be it only in the interest of those who require protection against acts of desperation on the part of the needy.”

“[Hayek] advocated mandatory universal health care and unemployment insurance, enforced, if not directly provided, by the state.”

Aren’t you Tea Party types against those policies? Perhaps you should actually read books and not just say you read them.

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