Sunday, November 25, 2007

MY AYN RAND

A few posts ago I began with the metaphor of choosing appropriate stones to match the look of the wall one is building as an example of cherry picking life experiences and literary inspirations out of a plethora of influences. I got a bit side tracked by the beauty of Andy Goldsworthy’s wall and South America’s rejection of the IMF, but I just got reminded of my original inspiration for beginning that metaphor by reading yet another socialist rant against followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy over at Driftglass.

The chaos of nature insures a variety in individuals that genetic memory is powerless to prevent with its subliminal guidance. The sequence of life experiences is the new thread being woven into the growing tapestry of conscious memories by ones vision of the world and place in it. I find no example more apt than the bible of any religion to show such universal variety of interpretation, except in the area where threats of retribution for nonconformity influences those given to belief. I didn’t chose bibles for their religious aspects, but for their saturated dissemination within the culture from which they arose. From ultra orthodoxy to vehement heresy accounts only for the spectrum dealing with the idea that the books must be believed over all contradictions by ones own experience.

If I may (if I can), I’d like to leave the religious, belief, faith, trust aspects out of the rest of the discussion and get to life as an endless experiment based on the state of ones experiment at any given time. I have mentioned how I can glean pearls of wisdom from fiction and non fiction without a concern for which. Although the source deserves my gratitude for the expression that inspired me, likely as not, what I got isn’t exactly what the author meant. As Japanese golfers have shown me, everyone puts a signature twist to their lives as well as to their picture perfect strokes. And the proliferation of variety in ideas continues as inevitably and as coincidentally as the rest of nature.

When I turned on to Ayn Rand I had just left four years of the Marines and was a freshman mechanical engineer at Mississippi State University and was so inspired by Howard Roark’s courtroom defense of the rights of the creative individual in Fountainhead that it became the pet theory against which all other ideas had to compete in the formulation of a proto-yuppie philosophy that was to stand me in good stead through my first five or six years of realizing the ideal of that theory as an engineer at IBM. Silly me, I had interpreted her opposition to the collectivists to be a description of ruthless capitalists who profit from efforts not their own always out to buy up creations that would put them out of business. When the product I helped design passed all the performance tests and was formally announced, rather than being assigned a new product to bring into reality the next step for the team was to redesign the product to break down as soon after warranty as physically possible to achieve the ultimate bottom line, because a penny saved on five million machines is fifty thousand dollars.

Disgust with the ethics and the assignment combined to cause me to seriously reexamine how I had become part of an elite collective living in an IBM ghetto, confining all social interaction to the company compound and the company of company cronies in ventures to the local bowling alley, links and bars. Only the dichotomy seemed to be that that life was also John Galt’s solution to separating himself from the collective in Atlas Shrugged: secretly form alliances with other creative individuals to establish a community separate from the clueless, needy rabble of the collective!! WTF! You must understand, I had never even had a conversation with a "socialist" to this point in my life and really only knew about communism through American propaganda. Such are the fruits of US American, white, male privilege I have since learned. The blinders of certainty about the unknown.

After my family life moved away, my last justification for making more money than I knew what to do with departed as well. The part of Ayn Rand’s philosophy concerning the idea that the individual must become of use to, responsible for and an honor to ones own self before any action can fully realize the meaning of treating others as one would be treated is still the pertest of pet theories, though I have become bereft of my confusion about which collective collects the money and which collectives want the money and which collectives want never to see money again and how many tribes there are amongst communities who don’t even think about collectives or tribes or money. We ARE in it together, no matter what our attitude toward that little truism is or how little or much we discuss it.

I moved to a communal house, an honest to goddess, grass roots, cooperative collection of kindred souls lasting until gentrification scattered we roaches to our individual parts of the larger tribes of artisans, musicians, writers, surveyors, carpenters, dancers, and gardeners whose contributions to the gestalt are always gifts because none are so needy as to expect or demand them. The levitation trick with five friends comes to mind. Still, that remained my only experience of socialism until I began blogging.

It was like sticking my finger in a light socket. Within my first ten posts I received an invite to be a contributor to the Further Left Forum for reasons I have yet to understand, they sure didn’t want my light in their den of America haters. But the short while I was there I ran into blog friends with which my slant does not clash destructively, while we all hone our ability to express our outrage at the present state of world affairs in ways to better jostle, cajole, persuade, alert the sleepers to the dream, the collective myth of representative government from which we are awakening.

So when I hear otherwise reasonable socialists go off on Ayn for the conscienceless excesses of the collective elite, neocon, fascist, capitalistic illuminati I feel the urge to write this post.

And now I have, and I feel a lot better. Obviously, from where I show up in the political compass map below, her left/right politics didn’t influence me at all, while her championing of the responsible individual, especially in her shortest work, Anthem, definitely influenced my tendency toward anarchy.

Okay, folks, have at her once again.

5 comments:

leslie said...

I always felt refreshed by reading her... like I was not the only idealist left on the earth.
And I don't know a thing about ANY of the politics...

karoline said...

i love the sound your gears make as they spin and grind and chew their way through society...

((mr.g))

gregra&gar said...

Leslie,
Exactly, on the idealism. Although I didn't understand what her philosophy translated to in the world of politics because I had yet to care enough about politics, I could translate the value of ones self-respect in honoring others as one would be honored; the omnipotent guide that works for me when my instincts can't handle yet another of civilizations random, arbitrary trivia quizzes on "the-way-it-is-or-else" protocol.

Sweet Karoline, compared to the mellifluous flow of your words I must seem like roboblogger the verbalcruncher — but as long as you love the sound I must be doing something right. Or did your metaphor stem from my ME education?

Not too sure about the "spin"ning part as I endeavor to get down to what's left after the hurricane of spin society produces and consumes has blown itself out and we're left sitting on the damp, new beach cleared of high rise condos, naked, kin, natural, seeing ourselves as an equal part of the food chain, not its sole purpose.

troutsky said...

I hope I'm not "collected" amongst the screeching ideologues.I have a love for intellectual pursuit which COMPELS me to know about the political, economic, sociological etc implications of works such as Rands.I too have a libertarian streak which identifies with her obvious love of freedom but a cranky need to critique those aspects of her thesis which thwart democracy and justice as I understand the words.It's why I came to blogging and why I didn't last long on Left Forum.I piss off socialists and anarchists nearly every day so I must be on the right track!

I am glad you are still exploring and reading your lifes history and trajectory was fascinating/ enlightening.

gregra&gar said...

Trout, you are the least shrill of poli-sci types I have encountered, with Beakerkin at the other end of that spectrum. I give politics and religion equal space at the nadir of enlightened ways to view the world, but seeing as how the myth of society depends on faith in them both, I treat the believers accordingly if I cannot avoid them. They are both battles for authority in a world about which no one can know a damned thing without faith.

I do wish you would send me your political compass numbers to get you on the map — you couldn't be more outrĂ© than Che Bob.