Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Atlas Shrugged 2

(Thanks, Blue Jean!)


  1. In all fairness, Atlas Shrugged does have the character of Hugh Akston, a philosophy professor disappointed with academia who quits his job and becomes a fry cook in disgust. He could make lunch.

    And the Captains of Industry's weird little commune was portrayed as being self-sustaining. Part of Rand's point was the people who lived in it would rather be farmers and fry cooks than have high-level positions within a system she saw as corrupt. At the beginning of the book, John Galt is a janitor. Later Dagny (the protagonist) works as a housekeeper while staying at the commune because a rule of the commune is that everyone has to work.

    So yeah, maybe Bob should stick to apostrophes. Atlas Shrugged is a long way from my favorite book, but I do think if one is going to satirize a book one should read it first.


  2. For the sake of his joke, Bob may not be true to the book. But he's telling the truth about an awful lot of Rand-fans that I've met.

  3. So what you're saying is that you approve of the "truthiness"?

    Because it sure looks like lying about "Atlas Shrugged" to me. I'm not a Rand fan, but if Bob's points are so great, he shouldn't need to lie about Rand to make them.

    I'm pretty sure that if I wrote a satire of one of your books that made fun of you by lying about the content of your book to make you look stupid, you wouldn't accept "Well, I'm telling the truth about a lot of Shetterly fans I've met" as an answer.

  4. CC, you and I are both in the business of metaphorical truth. I'm sure there are no talking flowers in Atlas Shrugged. Parodies exaggerate to make their point--and here, the point is that Rand's dream of ubermenschen crumbles when you poke at it. Of course there are successful members of the ruling class who would survive if civilization crumbled. But I'd put my money on a higher percentage of blue-collar folks making it.

    I'm wondering what Shetterly fans would seem like in the aggregate now.

  5. *blushes* You're welcome, Will. I'm glad you liked it. Seeing the cartoon in your blog made my day! :-D


    That's true; one of Galt's special snowflakes is a fry cook. However, even the best fry cook on the planet (and Galt's special snowflakes are all the best at everything, of course) needs a stove, fuel, food, etc. to make a meal. Since all the non-Galtians are reduced to using covered wagons instead of planes, trains and automobiles, I think it's safe to assume that fuel is gone, stoves are useless, and almost all the readily available food has been devoured during the collapse of civilization. So even if one Galtian piped up "Hey, I know how to cook!", then the survivors would be reduced to tending the fields sooner than they'd think. Thus, the larger point still stands. %

    It's admirable to stick up for truth, though, which is more than Ayn Rand herself ever did. She claimed the title "Atlas Shrugged" came from the myth that Prometheus stole the fire from the heavens for humanity, and in return, humanity sent the vultures to tear his liver. "AS" was about what happens when Prometheus tells the humans take back the vultures.

    1) It was Jupiter who sent the vulture to punish Prometheus, not the humans.

    2) A human (Heracles) eventually freed Prometheus.

    So either Rand was flat out lying or she knows nothing about mythology. Take your pick.*

    In the real world, Galt would be replaced before his seat cooled and his executive chair stopped spinning. He might be remembered as a Howard Hughes sort of cult leader--and the world would shrug, but keep on spinning. "Atlas Shrugged" is a slightly more mature version of the kid's threat "When I'm gone, THEN you'll all be sorry!" and the kid's Tom Sawyer fantasy "I wish I could see my own funeral!" That's why AS is popular with ten year olds of all ages. :-P

    & I love the idea of a Randian fry cook though. "These hash browns are the finest achievement of humanity! If I can't serve them, NOBODY will! And don't you DARE defile them with ketchup!

    *Though I have to admit, "Atlas Shrugged" is a much better title than "Prometheus Says Call Off The Vultures".

  6. Oh, I don't know. I think Prometheus Says Call Off the Vultures sounds like just the sort of book I'd pick up. Then again, I've always been attracted by ridiculously long titles.

  7. Wait. Atlas Shrugged sucks so badly that even Rand fans don't mind spoiling the plot?

    Wow, with extra sauce.

  8. Sigh, again, the community the Captains of Industry built was self-sustaining and people there were growing their own food. People taking care of themselves and being willing to work rather than have society take care of them was part of Rand's point.

    If Ayn Rand got her mythology wrong, then she shouldn't have referenced mythology without making sure she had it right. I don't have a problem admitting that. Why do you guys have such a problem admitting the inaccuracies of a cartoon flower? If it's not accurate, it's not.

    Claiming that Ayn Rand's characters would be paralyzed without people to care for them because they couldn't stand the idea of cooking dinner isn't metaphor, it is a straight up misrepresentation of what's in the book.

    Rand had many members of the ruling class suffering and dying in her book. Dagny's brother and her boyfriend's wife, for two examples. And the boyfriend had worked his way up from being poor to being an executive. The members of the ruling class who clearly survived were the ones who were willing to do things like farm and clean houses.

    John Galt, the hero of the book, is the son of a garage mechanic who worked his way up to becoming an engineer. After he became disgusted by the way the factory he worked for was being run he quit and became Rand's version of a community organizer, subsequently working as a janitor. He never had an executive chair because he was never an executive.

    As for the fry cook, Bob the flower's initial question seems to be "who will make lunch right now?" and it would be disingenuous not to point out that Rand also had that one covered.

    Again, if y'alls ideas are so great, why do you have to lie about what's in Rand's book to discredit her?

    I can come up with plenty of reasons she's wrong without lying.


  9. Ps. Judging by her treatment of working class characters and characters with working class backgrounds in her books, from John Galt to Dagny's boyfriend to the construction worker who is the only person in "The Fountainhead" that Howard Roark seems to regard as an equal, Rand might well agree with Will's statement that on the whole, working class people were more likely to survive.

  10. CC, it's not lying--it's a *joke* inspired by too many Randians who think that in the new society, they would be the robber barons. Roark and Galt are Mary Sues for right-libertarians.

    Jokes are rarely fair. Humor often comes from exaggeration.

    Rand believes in meritocracy. (I dunno if she ever uses the term; it was coined after she began to write.) What she misses is that under capitalism, meritocracies cannot exist. The fellow who came up with "meritocracy" was being very sarcastic. The idea of meritocracy is designed to appeal to egotists. Well, and also to people who are convinced they should suffer because they're inferior, I suppose.

  11. I've never met any of these straw objectivists who have never read her books and have y'alls oversimplified view of them so you can see why it comes off as unfunny misrepresentation. A guy I used to date was an objectivist. He got me to read the books and they didn't win me over but we had some good discussions about them. (You see, for a reasonable discussion it helps to read the book and argue from what is actually in it. Inventing facts about the characters just wastes everybody's time.) For the record, he wasn't a robber baron and totally got that he wasn't suited to be one. He wasn't sure if her ideas would work on a societal level, though he would be interested to see, but mostly he was interested in some of her ideas about self-reliance and the centrality of reason to one's intellectual life and did his best to apply them personally. He is a mathematician but had grown up working class. His folks were Baptist, so I've always suspected that Rand's philosophy looked especially attractive in the light of the Baptist theology he was raised in. But he really did think she made some good points and he was a really normal person, at least about as normal as most mathematicians get.

    His position was that there were a few objectivists who followed Rand to a nutjob degree, but every movement has its fundamentalists and they are generally the minority. That said, I doubt the true believers would have such a poor understanding of the book, so I am genuinely confused as to who these people who think no physical work would be involved are. Howard Roark spent time in "The Fountainhead" as a laborer in a quarry. Rand was pretty clear about her view of physical labor, and repeatedly so.

    He tended to think that the kind of pure capitalism Rand advocated probably wasn't possible, but greater application of some of Rand's ideas would lead to a more efficient government and greater opportunity for innovations that would benefit everyone. Some of it made sense to me, some of it didn't.

    But he was a lot more respectful and thoughtful about my views than y'all are about his.

    Most "jokes" (all the jokes about how Bill Clinton *had* to cheat on his wife since Hillary was obviously so physically hideous come to mind) that get their "humor" from distorting the subject of the "joke" nearly to the point of unrecognizability to make a "joke" at their expense for a negative quality they don't have, aren't funny to me.

    I know what a Mary Sue is and I get why Roark and Galt (and I'd say Dagny and Dominique) qualify. You want to make fun of that, go ahead, because those characters are actually in the book and they actually do Mary-Sue-like things.

    who thinks with a few changes in the opening panels directing the flower's anger at the AutoPilot, you could make the comic about "five minutes after the end of 'Wall-E" and it would actually be funny. Because "not having thought through the physical labor aspect" is an actual flaw in the logic of the human characters there.

  12. CC, the smug and simplistic Randians that I have met online and at science fiction conventions have read her books, just like members of any other group with treasured writings. The one thing you can't say about Rand is that she's impenetrable (for any reason other than redundancy and didacticism).

    I'm a bit of a loner. I agree with some of the self-reliance strands of Rand's thought.

    I don't think anyone is dissing everything she said--we're mostly dissing the Alan Greenspan robber baron dream that may be responsible for our current economic situation. (I don't think she created Alan Greenspan. He would've found another rationalization for greed if the works of Ayn Rand weren't available.)

    I'll give an update on my opinion of her writing when I read The Fountainhead.

  13. http://mcsweeneys.net/2008/11/20tucker.html

  14. Ack. Managed to remove and delete a post when I meant only to remove it and reword a few things.

    The high points:

    -I can't do better than say "If you say so" in response to your insistence that you know people who both love Rand and see themselves as above manual labor. Especially where Atlas Shrugged is concerned, it is a major theme of Rand's work that no one is above manual labor. Several characters in her books give up middle class or better jobs on matters of principle and take construction, cooking, or janitorial work and the book always treats this as a noble and reasonable thing to do when the alternative is to continue to give your talents to a corrupt system. So anyone who sees themselves as above that sort of thing and supports Rand anyway SERIOUSLY missed her point in a way that I think it is almost impossible to do.

    - I don't think you're dissing everything she said. I certainly don't agree with everything she says and never have. My objection was that you were dissing things she didn't say as if she'd said them.

    -Both books are kinda nutty but The Fountainhead is at least more interesting.


  15. Oh, I don't know. I think Prometheus Says Call Off the Vultures sounds like just the sort of book I'd pick up. Then again, I've always been attracted by ridiculously long titles.

    In that case, may I recommend The Incredibly Strange Creatures That Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies? *

    "Marat/Sade"# is a lot of fun too, especially if you're lucky enough to see it in live theater, like I was.

    *but be sure to watch the MST3K version on YouTube, because the original's a waste unless you like to do your own riffs.

    #Yes, it has an even longer title than the "ISCWSLABMUZ". No, I'm not going to print it here because I don't have that much time on my hands tonight.

  16. I've actually read "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade"* and I watched a community theatre production of it once.**

    I'm not familiar with "The Incredibly Strange Creatures That Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies", however. Clearly I've been neglecting the long titled science fiction horror genre.

    *I didn't really type all of that out. I just cut and pasted. ;)

    **My conclusion was that there are some plays community theatres probably shouldn't do... but it was interesting, anyway. Heh heh heh.

  17. Clearly I've been neglecting the long titled science fiction horror genre.

    Nah, I think you just have better things to do with your time than snark at incredibly bad movies (like I do. ;-)

    Hmmm...I saw "Marat/Sade" at KU's theater-in-the round, where the inmates could scamper over steel catwalks above you, pop up behind you, and scream right next to you, so I thought it was far more entertaining than the move version. Of course, some of my classmates were in the cast, which influences my judgement. ;-)