Thursday, April 28, 2011

Michael Shermer says it better than I ever could

Why we should go see Atlas Shrugged.  He lays it out pretty clearly:

Ayn Rand, who was a champion of individual rights, was outspoken against racism and bigotry and discrimination against minorities, and most notably was way ahead of her time in championing women's rights and demonstrating through her novels (and now the film) that women are as smart as men, as clever as men, as hard working as men, as ambitious as men, as moral as men (well, okay, more moral than men), and can accomplish any task, achieve any goal, and even run an industrial enterprise as good as if not better than men. What's not to like about that?
And that's when it hit me.  You see, from a Catholic, Christian, or even common decency approach to living, there's much to loathe about Atlas Shrugged.  I've read many reviews of the book, particularly from those who love it.  I also notice many on the Right championing the cause.  Shermer's appeal to liberals to see the movie indicates there could be common ground between all who see the film or manage to plow through the pages of the book. 

And I'm afraid that's true.   One thing I know from reading reviews, analysis and discussions about her book, Rand was an atheist who did her best to merge all the finer points of a Marxist style disregard for religious morality with a capitalist lust for individualism based on greed to the exclusion of any other consideration.  And that's where Shermer gets it right, even if he didn't intend to get it right. 

The problem today, and it goes beyond Right/Left or Conservative/Liberal or Republican/Conservative, is that we live in an age that focuses on me, me, me.  Gimme, gimme, gimme.  Get, get, get.  The holy trinity of me, myself, and I.  There are two things in this world, me and everything else that is less important than me.  Many things of worthy cause and noble ideals, such as women's rights, pluralism, the free market, and even civil rights, have been corrupted by this focus on myself to the exclusion of any other consideration.  Folks who have a hard time seeing it need only listen to your pop-psychiatrists telling you that you are what matters in any relationship, the other person not so much.  Or listen to the right wing radio host jettison all those pesky religious values to focus on making money as the only thing that matters.

I fear Shermer is right.  There is much in Rand's works that modern liberals and modern conservatives can love.  The promise that a life focused on self, because there is nothing ultimately beyond this life, is the way nature intended for us to live.  More worrisome, I fear that many on both sides of the aisle will believe it.

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