living underground in the real world

The world is mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or how hard the struggle.

…Or so I’ve been telling myself since I was fifteen and first read The Fountainhead and committed those lines to memory.

Well, here’s a shameful secret: I’ve really been enjoying the audio book of this new Ayn Rand bio. I’ll have lots of thoughts to share about it…soon.

Sorta soon.

In the meantime, it’s my busiest work week of the year (making hay while the sun is shining sounds good on paper, but it sure sucks when you collapse from sunstroke…) and after that my sweetheart will be home for a few days and we’ll be raking leaves and petting lonely cats and catching up on Mad Men and generally acting like we share our lives even though our lives seem to be conspiring to make us liars lately.

Until then, here are some peeled chioggia beets and raspberry orange tarts. Enjoy!

While I’m gone please feel free to debate and discuss the philosophy of Objectivism; Ayn Rand’s insanely weird life; the virtues of altruism versus the virtues of egotism; various thoughts on the sexiness or lack thereof of Ayn Rand’s characters (I have soft spots for Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart, myself), whether or not the grassroots left truly is being torn apart by lazyass dreamers who can’t shake themselves out of their idiotic mystical visions long enough to get anything done; and, the topic I really want to bring up: can collectives ever accomplish anything? I’ve been a part of a few, and I think I can make a strong case that Rand-style individual actions get a shit load more done with a shit load less drama. Is there something inherently virtuous in working together, or are we deluding ourselves? No collective I’ve  ever seen is a true collective, all have had a certain sort of hierarchy in order to survive. What’s wrong with that? As long as it’s not a fascist hierarchy that is killing its underlings, what’s wrong with admitting the truth: we are all good at different things, and shouldn’t pretend to be equals at everything.

Also: should an avowed anarchist who describes her political leanings as somewhere to the left of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky be getting as much pleasure as I am getting out of the ideas of a woman who so loved capitalism? Or could it be said that in a certain sense Rand was an anarchist? Her love for capitalism was, it seems to me, really a love of the meritocracy. Money doesn’t have to be involved in a meritocracy, and I’ve always thought that in any worthy anarchist society cream would still rise to the top (which by the way is a totally vegan metaphor if you’ve ever opened a can of coconut milk in the wintertime)—it’s just that everyone, creamy or not, would have a say and a stake in how they live their lives.

Here’s another thought: as much as Rand was an avowed capitalist, I’m an avowed barterer (I GOT THE COAT! IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND! PIX TO COME!!), and it seems to me that bartering is the purest, most anarchic form of capitalism—bartering is capitalism minus governmental and societal bullshit, it is capitalism stripped of anything but the perfect question: “what is it worth to you?”

So basically what I want to say is that lefties shouldn’t ashamed to like Ayn Rand. She made a lot of mistakes and was sort of a giant bitch with an addiction to amphetamines and some serious emotional issues, but! Her sometimes overly simplistic, sometimes shrill ideas have real value. Inherent value, even.

xoxoxo

John Galt

PS: Um. Maybe I just shot my wad on that Rand post TK. Oops.


13 Responses to “The world is mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or how hard the struggle.”

  1. Amanda

    I am so happy to read about someone else who loves bartering. I think bartering rocks and is the best invention ever. There is a great site which might be of interest to you called http://barterquest.com I have been bartering there for a while now you should check it out.

    Reply
  2. brittany

    wow, you just made me puke a little. ok, a lot. thank god for the non-beet pics to make it worthwhile. but srsly? ewwwwww.

    Reply
  3. lagusta

    I mean…I’m not saying she’s perfect, at all. I think some of her ideas and aspects of her personal life are horrid. I’m just saying there is some value there.

    Reply
  4. Erin

    I have been considering reading one of the two new Ayn Rand biographies. And perhaps after reading (or before?) will work on a response to you for why Objectivism falls way short, although I do think Rand’s characters are extremely quotable and my own personal beliefs sometimes match up with certain things she conveys through them.
    And PS yesterday I was formulating a pumpkin pie recipe in my head with coconut milk and agar, and boring Sam with my constant rambling I am sure, and there one is! Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Christy

    Mmm…interesting to find the merits of Ayn Rand being discussed here. If she was ever on my reading list (which she wasn’t really) I crossed her off after listening to an interview with the author of her new biography. She’s been debunked, no? People, and corporations seem to be willing to chase self-interest–profit, off the end of a cliff, and don’t flich at taking everyone down with them, if the case may be. Is objectivism really what you’re talking about, or is it more personal, like being impatient and annoyed by group processes? (I am).

    I don’t know. I’m coming to appreciate the power of people showing up for a cause–I hate to phrase it like this–greater than themselves. Annoyances, judgements are just ripples on the surface. The power is in the current, deeper, sometimes unseen.

    I hope I make sense. I’m kind of high on medicinal herbs (not pot)!

    Reply
  6. lagusta

    Christy,

    I’m sorry to be mean, but everyone (EVERYONE!) who’s been giving me shit about liking Rand has admitted to me that they haven’t read her. If I’m wrong about that, someone please let me know. Of course you can have opinions about something you haven’t read, I do it all the time, I just felt the need to point that out.

    On to your other points:

    “She’s been debunked, no?”

    Well…millions of people adore her, millions hate her, but her central ideas can’t really be “debunked” because they are just theories. They have also never been truly implemented, so it’s hard to tell if they would ever work on a large scale. I’ll tell you something: her ideas about self-discipline, the virtue of hard work, of trusting and believing in your life, and shit like that is pretty much what allowed me to escape a horrible childhood and make a new life, and for that I’ll always be thankful.

    “People, and corporations seem to be willing to chase self-interest–profit, off the end of a cliff, and don’t flich at taking everyone down with them, if the case may be.”

    Totally. But my interpretation of Rand’s politics–which I freely admit she might not like–is that if we all acted out of self-interest our society would be vastly improved in the “rising tide lifts all boats” style because, for example, it is in my self-interest that we do not have people starving to death in this world, because it makes me sick at heart. It is in my self-interest that everyone is vegan because living in a world that treats animals as we do is unacceptable, on the most personal level, to ME. I can’t feel the pain animals feel, but I feel the pain of living in this stupid world. And it’s annoying, and for selfish reasons I want it to change.

    “Is objectivism really what you’re talking about, or is it more personal, like being impatient and annoyed by group processes? (I am).”

    Yes and yes. Objectivism means (again, in my interpretation) simply this: there is an objective right and wrong. I’ll go down believing that until the day I die.

    “I don’t know. I’m coming to appreciate the power of people showing up for a cause–I hate to phrase it like this–greater than themselves.”

    Ah, but is there really truly such a thing? Or is any cause you care about not greater than yourself, but instead actually all about yourself? If you go to an anti war protest, aren’t you there because you don’t want people to die in wars? Isn’t this a somewhat selfish position? I don’t want people to die in wars because maybe they will be people in my life, and that will hurt me, or maybe I will read about it in the newspaper and it will give me nightmares, or, again, just because it’s shitty to live in such a world.

    Reply
  7. lagusta

    Sorry for my annoying response, Christy. I’m worried I was a bit of a douche. Argh, this subject does, I admit, turn people into douches!!

    Reply
  8. Christy

    I left myself a little open there: it was intellectually sloppy to make assumptions about Rand without having read her. My knee jerk response comes from the fact that I believe that Rand provided Alan Greenspan the philosophical justification for having so much faith in the “wisdom” of the market, for dismantling regulation, and neglecting consumer protections. I think that the ideas of free-market sans regulation have been given stage in the last two decades, and been, obviously, disasterous. I think of free-market ideology as being debunked because Greenspan admitted that his ideas were at least partially flawed. Now that I think of it though, his statement was specifically about financial derivitives, and not nearly a wholesale rejection of the philosophical underpinnings of his economic policies.

    That’s not what YOU were talking about! Clearly, Rand is very compelling (and perhaps makes the most sense) at a personal level. That she was so inspiring to you, makes me more curious about her.

    [An aside] It does bother me that the right “owns” personal responsibilty, triumph over adversity–all that. I guess that’s the problem with the two party system that they have to define themselves in total opposition to each other. On a personal level, we should all be responsible for our own destinies, but, when enacted at the public policy level, it often seems heartless.

    Enlightened self-interest. Right. Sometimes explaining things that way seems a little deterministic to me. I have to believe that there are moments when we can transcend that, however rarely it happens, however brief those moments are. That’s me though, and I am noticing a tendency toward a Pollanna uptick at the end of my schpiels.

    So, you’re not a douche. No way!

    Reply

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