Achieving an Objective
This is going to be a politico-philosophical post, I'm sorry.
Back when I was a freshman in college, I read "Anthem". This was back when I was a communist, and I haven't touched Ayn Rand since. This is the kind of choice that strikes one as a rational decision, particularly as hating Ayn Rand is in vogue among a certain group of intelligentsia, to which I belonged and in which many of my peers still reside.

Because it passes the time, and because I figured "well, what the hell, it's important to be literate," I picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged and started reading it on the train. Interspersed with it, I've also been reading Rand's philosophical essays, as well as—for unrelated reasons—rereading the story of Stalin's great purges. I feel unclean, but perhaps writing can as a form of absolution serve:

That book is dangerous.

The point at which I realised a truth about myself which I'm no longer actually terribly uncomfortable with was the point at which Francisco d'Anconia was saying things that I had said, and in near to my own words. This was, in a fashion, intensely liberating. I began to devour the book, because I found that when I got off the train in the mornings I was inspired, like the world suddenly made sense again.

So I suppose I'm an Objectivist, which—as a fiscally-conservative/socially-libertarian neoconservative—I suppose I've always been, essentially, since I realised the destructive, ridiculous folly of communism. It's not really life-changing—supposedly people list Atlas Shrugged after the Bible in terms of books that change their lives—but it has made me... strangely happy, I suppose, for a rational conclusion? Odd.

It's not something I wish to proselytise, of course; I think the book is readable, but it's not something you "have to read". It's not particularly well-written, as it's not really even a terribly good work of fiction. Ayn Rand, like George Orwell, saw the ills of the Soviet Union and wrote about them. It's not exactly clear to me why Rand is so widely derided when Orwell's frankly juvenile attempt at political commentary is allowed to stand.

My first inclination would be to chalk it up to Orwell's writing talent, because Orwell's short writing is quite good, but neither Animal Farm nor 1984 are masterpieces of the prose form. I suspect the actual answer is substantially less pretty, which is that it amounts to a difference of political correctness. Rational self-interest—the idea that, as Rand says, "I shall not live my life for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine"—is unpopular, because it goes against certain principles of communalism that are not accepted in certain circles.

Left-wing academia—I say being not unversed in the field, having studied a stereotypically hippie topic (anthropology) at a stereotypically hippie school (the University of Colorado)—has a very uncomfortable relationship with certain things. For instance, Richard Dawkins. My professors liked Dawkins because of his intensely cogent analysis of religion.

However, they disliked Dawkins because of his games-theory approach to biology and, by extension, to human interaction. The notion that there was a current of self-interest—Dawkin's seminal work is called The Selfish Gene—in behaviour set them on edge, to the point where they were willing to simply reject the entire concept out of hand as "determinism" and "reductionism", which they used as slurs. Functionalists like Ardrey were similarly dismissed; Marxism somehow blended with science in bizarre parody of the concept of the latter.

I do not—emphatically do not—believe that there is a "liberal indoctrination" of students at universities; I don't consider this to have a political bent. I'm not sure how else to phrase "left-wing academia" because they hold liberal philosophies and apply academics to them, so. I will not say that students are indoctrinated into liberalism or that professors are shills for some mythical liberal establishment. I will say—with equal emphasis—that the traditionally left-wing fields of gender studies, anthropology, sociology, and so forth are shot through with a current of "truthiness" that makes George Bush look like George Washington. There are exceptions, but it would not be fair to describe vast swaths of the discourse as being intellectually bankrupt.

This is also, I somewhat suspect, why I was brought up by my peers in high school, who went to other schools but studied similar subjects, and by my professors and the literature I read and the websites I followed to dismiss Objectivism as a political philosophy out of hand, without examining it—the notion that it, its followers and philosophers, its conclusions and epistemology could be simply ignored without the practise of rational thought. Rational thought is, unfortunately, not central to or upheld by the disciplines I studied at the university.

Objectivism was cast to me as a dog-eat-dog celebration of acquisition and material wealth, the unapologetic embracing of a world of Scrooge McDucks, swimming in their gold coins with reckless abandon and cackling at the suffering of starving children. It was phrased as a heartless orgy of greed—as opposed to an embrace of personal ambition, the idea that charity was acceptable, but the expectation of charity was anathema: because we need to succeed on our own. Atlas Shrugged is not intended to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.

This is not, however, a conclusion that my professors would've accepted. Nor is it one many of my friends will accept, nor my high school and university peers. Perplexingly, alas, I find most people have not read Atlas Shrugged and are conversant in Objectivism only insofar as its Wikipedia entry, at best. This includes the disciplines in which I received my formal training.

I'm not sure where that leaves those disciplines. I'm more clear on where it leaves me: content, and with eyes opened. Mm.

La Chevre!
28.08.2009 - 9h08
Comrade Alex
28.08.2009 - 9h59
La Chevre!
8.09.2009 - 12h55
Comrade Alex
8.09.2009 - 9h06
La Chevre!
8.09.2009 - 10h26
Comrade Alex
9.09.2009 - 9h12
La Chevre!
18.09.2009 - 7h35

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