Thursday, April 28, 2011

here's a short and sweet (and right) criticism of atlas shrugged, in case you ever flirt with the idea of reading anything by that gasbag ayn rand

from commenter tewkesbury on gawker


"there are several reasons to hate it, but just to address some of what you're saying:
First of all—and it really bears mentioning every time—the prose is terrible. It really doesn't function well as a novel, forget any underlying messages. The characters sound like automatons, the adjectives are too numerous by a factor of 20, the tone is insanely shrill, and there's not a whisper of dramatic ambiguity.

But that aside, the book doesn't actually advocate hard work, it advocates exceptionalism. Dagny and Hank, et al, DO work hard, but we're never allowed to forget that the work is both a result of and in service to their profound Greatness. And though they do have "enemies," you'll note that present around the edges of the narrative are all these nameless faceless workers who have to accomplish these grand and glorious projects that our heroes want to have done. (And you'll note also that part of the heroes' Essential Greatness is that they're never tempted to exploit the workers to increase their own wealth or status.) And not one of these workers seems to have any ambition for him or herself beyond doing a good day's work in service of the dreams of these Awesomely Exceptional People. Everyone who is good behaves nobly and everyone who is bad behaves shamefully, and there are no humans acting like humans.

So in order to love and believe in the book and get excited about the whole Objectivist line of crap, you pretty much have to believe that you are yourself one of these exceptional people—your ideas are the best, you're the best, and you were born to lead and stand out. It's like a massive dose of ego steroids for those who have always secretly suspected they were awesome. And the other side of this is why corporate welfare recipients are so comfortable letting the government bail them out whenever they do something bone-stupid like ruining the economy—they're not lazy bums taking a handout! They're Exceptional Awesomes who've just hit a little bump in the road on their way to fulfilling their Exceptional Destiny! And frankly, it's the government's RESPONSIBILITY to make their endeavors easier for them, because they're chosen!

Believing in these ideas—and believing that if we're just allowed to implement them in an completely unencumbered fashion, everything would be perfect—also makes it easier to swallow the sight of people struggling and suffering, because you can just tell yourself that it's their own fault, that you would never fall into that trap because you do work hard, and also you're super-special.

I think it's an evil book, I really do."

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