Sunday, September 16, 2007

Elites Schmelites

The New York Times: Ayn Rand's Literature of Capitalism

I'm not writing to comment on the main subject of the article--a subject which I've now realized isn't worth the time or effort or emotional inolvement it takes for good and decent people to comment on it (but if you feel like being a little queezy, go ahead and read the whole article).

This post is just for a few gems that appear in the article that showcase what I already knew, which is that even vice presidents of companies and university benefactors--wait, maybe even especially some of those--can be as incoherent (or more directly in this case, full of BS) as some of their self-centered children as seen on "Laguna Beach: The Real O.C." (think of those kids getting a copy of Atlas Shrugged and deciding to base their worldview on it!).

Anyway, without further Ayn-du, here are the offenders:

“She wasn’t a nice person, ” said Darla Moore, vice president of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc. “But what a gift she’s given us.”
Ms. Moore, a benefactor of the University of South Carolina, spoke of her debt to Rand in 1998, when the business school at the university was named in Ms. Moore’s honor. “As a woman and a Southerner,” she said, “I thrived on Rand’s message that only quality work counted, not who you are.”
Rand’s idea of “the virtue of selfishness,” Ms. Moore said, “is a harsh phrase for the Buddhist idea that you have to take care of yourself.”

I shudder for (and probably along with) any of the Southerners or Buddhists, both of with which I identify, who may have been there for that speech, and for the women, too. Does this lady have any idea what she's talking about when linking or applying Rand's ideas to any of these? I can only think that maybe she wasn't counting on any Buddhists, feminists, or intellectual Southerners being at the dedication of the business school (maybe because those people all major in humanities, of course), so she didn't have to know what she was talking about?

Or how about this thoroughly thought-out assessment of 60's and 70's radical student culture:

James M. Kilts, who led turnarounds at Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft, said he encountered “Atlas” at “a time in college life when everybody was a nihilist, anti-establishment, and a collectivist.” He found her writing reassuring because it made success seem rational.

Of course anti-establishmentarians, liberals, progressives, etc. are nihilists. Why else would those people fight so much for values and causes, such as people, the environment, and the planet itself, unless they don't have those values and causes, and don't care about anything?! Yes, look at a photo of any march on Washington--do you see the apathy in their faces? Hey, maybe I shouldn't go against a Rand-inspired juggernaut, who is rich and successful and therefore more enlightened, in the arena of "rationality," but isn't he confusing the activist student culture of of the 60's and 70's with the post-80's burned-out cynical Gen-X culture that was the result of over-commercialization?

The perpetual punch-line that is Objectivism, like I said, is hardly news fit to blog. What is worth pointing out is that 1) some the people who say things like this actually run our companies and educational institutions! and 2)many people give heed to the things they say because they are in these positions. Maybe they hear it so much they actually start to think these are the American values--the values elites use to justify and maintain their control of people and society, the rationale that those with authority are authoritative.

As for me, I find my American values are expressed better in some other American voices, like those of Thoreau, or Emerson, or Twain, or Whitman--you know, who wrote things worth actually being passionate about.