Monday, October 19, 2009


I try not to rant about things, both because it's usually pointless and also because I don't want to offend anybody by coming down on the opposite side of a controversial issue, but I just read this article on the Daily Beast about how Ayn Rand is "in" and fashion designers are so inspired by her writing and/or philosophy that they are designing whole collections "inspired" by her. So I feel I really must comment, and my comment is this:

I hate Ayn Rand.

I mean, HATE. Really really.

Maybe not as a person, I mean after all I never met the lady. But if she was anything like her characters, she was probably a complete a*hole as well.

First of all, she is a bad writer. Has no one realized this yet? She is terrible. I think I've even read direct quotes from her along the lines of "fiction is not my strong suit." No kidding. The characters, the "heroes" that everyone quotes/looks up to/wants to dress like (?) are two-dimensional and absurd, to say the least; the dialogue is stilted or non-existent; the exposition is predictable or non-existent...everything that you might hope for in a novel is either completely butchered or completely missing. I'm basing this on my struggle to read The Fountainhead. To be fair, I only made it halfway through before giving up entirely, but really once you've read about 650 pages, it's probably not going to get any better from there.

Side note: in that article, Ralph Lauren is quoted as saying that Ayn Rand is his favorite author, "along with Ernest Hemingway." Aaron pointed out that this is like saying Bryan Adams is your favorite musician, along with the Rolling Stones. hahaha (apologies to any hard-core Bryan Adams fans out there.)

And of course, the main character ("hero") of any Ayn Rand novel is a Rugged Individual, a Person Who Does Not Let Society Dictate, and also A Complete Jerk. That's what it boils down to, which gets down to the larger problem I have with Ayn Rand, which is that I completely disagree with her philosophy. And that's all her (awful, terrible) novels are, just (extremely long) novelizations of her one-note, self-absorbed philosophy.

I do understand the context from which this philosophy developed. I understand that spending your childhood oppressed under a Communist regime might give you a different perspective on society than the one that I currently have. But.

I have never encountered someone who espoused such a selfish, bitter, grasping worldview, who wasn't himself or herself selfish, bitter, isolated and discontent. The wise people of the world and of history (see: Dalai Lama, for one) have always said "we are dependent upon each other. To believe or act otherwise is ignorance." I cannot think of a single faith tradition that does not teach this. I cannot think of an example where "peace" and "cooperation" don't go hand-in-hand.

Of course I believe that we should be free to pursue happiness, that we should be able to express ourselves, that we should develop ourselves as individuals. But the Rand philosophy, especially as developed and lauded by later followers I think, has a serious flaw: by trying to diametrically oppose oppression and stagnation, it has brought into its scope a complete opposition to altruism, compassion, empathy, short, all of the things that, I believe at least, make us human. Or at least, make being a human worth anything at all.

I am a member of a Unitarian Universalist church. "So, what exactly do you believe?" is a question that always follows this statement. It can be hard to explain, sometimes, and to some people. But there are 7 Core Beliefs which the UU church espouses, and one that always sticks with me is this: "I believe in the interconnected web of all being."

So it bothers me that in this time where we struggle, when we need each other most, that we look to heroes who believe the opposite.

I probably shouldn't let an article on "Sexy Beast" get me so worked up, but there it is.

No comments: