July 23, 2008

Atlas (Re)shrugged

This is a short piece.. I guarantee that.
This is something that I noticed in 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand.
The error is self evident. I have copied the concerned text from the book verbatim.

"While you were dragging to your sacrificial altars the men of justice, of independence, of reason, of wealth, of self-esteem-I beat you to it, I reached them first. I told them the nature of the game you were playing and the nature of that moral code of yours, which they had been too innocently generous to grasp. I showed them the way to live by another morality-mine. It is mine that they chose to follow."

I think that the non readers of Atlas Shrugged need a small summary of the situation.
"The main conflicts of the book surround the decision of the "individuals of the mind" to go on strike, refusing to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research, or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world. Society, they believe, hampers them by interfering with their work and underpays them by confiscating the profits and dignity they have rightfully earned. The peaceful cohesiveness of the world disintegrates, lacking those individuals whose productive work comes from mental effort. The strikers believe that they are crucial to a society that exploits them, denying them freedom or failing to acknowledge their right to self-interest, and the gradual collapse of civilization is triggered by their strike." Source: Wikipedia (Go here for the entire article - Wikipedia Atlas Shrugged)

The lines in italics undermines the book and the entire John Galt speech. After all, it does not matter if they choose to live by the laws of the people who wish to use the product of individual brilliance for societal means or the laws of Galt, in the end they are not living their own lives. They are leading lives that is required of them by others. In this regard, the book does not talk completely of objectivism, but of disguised dictatorship for she (Rand) has ended up with a sermon generally associated with priests. It appears that she has crowned herself the high priestess of how to live a life.
In the end, I appreciate what Rand has taught me, 'My life is mine and no one has any right of it other than myself.'
I do not need to be told this no matter by whom- neither Rand, neither Galt and neither any of her other creations, this is something I know. In the event that I do not realize that my life is mine, I guess that I do not have the right to be informed of something that is so fundamentally true.
Neither Galt's nor Roark's
Neither Toohey's nor James'
My life is mine, Mine alone.


john said...

Two points:

1) "Society" does not pay or underpay someone. Individuals trade for their increase. The strikers are protesting that government (in the name of 'society') is confiscating their wealth.

2) Galt had no coercive power. He was a poor brakeman on a railroad. He took them on strike by persuasion only, he "showed them the way". They were free to leave the strike at any time. He had no coeercive control to hold them. How could that lead to a dictatorship?

The power of reason is that someone other than onself can discover a full paradigm, such as a code of ethics, and if I determine through my own reason and choice to adopt it, it becomes fully my conviction.

Some would laugh and say Miss Rand is then an altruist for 'giving away' the price of gaining the knowledge. I am sure she would say "You paid the price; you used your brains."

Besides, I'd probably have purchased the book!

John Donohue
Pasadena, CA

Michael M said...

"... for she (Rand) has ended up with a sermon generally associated with priests. It appears that she has crowned herself the high priestess of how to live a life."

This is a cowardly statement that flaunts an inability to distinguish between the product of rational certainty and the product of mystical faith, not to mention the cheap implication that she wrote and thought for the sake of the effect she would have on others.

aditya said...

@ both John and michael
I guess that I should have replied earlier. Better late than never.

I would agree with point one. Ad in principle with point two. The issue I have with point two is that there are two kinds of reason. One is obtained by listening to someone tell us what they think is right. The other is when one thinks about things and arrives at what they think is right. I am sure that the question arising is what is the difference between the two?
In my opinion, the difference lies in the fact that one is original. It can be arrived at any time, all it needs is a little thought. However, with the second, one needs for the moment to be right. In normal circumstances, one would not listen to him. However, given the situation and amount of unrest and unease present, quite a few people were ready to listen to someone who seemed to have things straight, someone who promised more than what was possible. I am not questioning the underlying, I believe in reason. If you took some time to look at what I write, you will see that I am a follower of reason. However, my tiff is with the speech. Input, though is appreciated.

@ Michael
I am not sure what to say. Would it not be correct to say that being a worshiper of reason myself, the fact that I took a stand like I took, is it not a piece of rationality? However, if it were to be looked at in the view point of a Rand fanatic, I am among the others who try to belittle her thought process. So in the end, all I have to say is, you got your line of thought and I have mine and both are equally right to maintain our individual thoughts. Thanks again for the input. Appreciated.