As you may have gathered from his previous ramblings, The Spear generally leans to the political right. And, being the human that he is, The Spear tends to read things which he knows he will find agreeable. Thus he is 9/10 of the way through Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’.
Ok, The Spear knows what you’re thinking, it is either:
a) Ayn Rand?, who the hell is that?
b) Ayn Rand?, you disgust me. Or
c) Ayn Rand?, don’t you mean ‘Jesus’.
To those in camp (a), Google it. The Spear would like to think he does not belong in either of the other two categories.
Given her experiences in soviet Russia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Rand’s writing is fiercely anti-communist, as with other writers from the former USSR including Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon amongst others) and Friedrich Hayek (Road to Serfdom). Indeed, she and her family suffered first-hand all that the grim reality of communism entails; the property seizures, the displacement, the purges, the desperation. It is only natural that her position was in favour of the American-style laissez-faire capitalism under which she made her name.
What does come somewhat unexpectedly for a first-time reader of Rand is her style of storytelling. Subtlety is a tool that has seemingly been sacrificed by Rand to make sure that her message to readers comes through loud and clear. This in-your-face style of writing has the effect of enthralling supporters and enraging detractors. It is a shame, really, as there is much to be taken away from this half novel, half philosophy lecture, if one is able to get past the woefully one-dimensional characters it relies upon.
Although one is never fully able to believe that such hyperbolic characters could be real, their traits, in themselves, are accurate representations of the underlying forces at play, which are often hard to grasp and elucidate.
While there may never be someone as totally destructive as James Taggart, or as superhumanly competent as John Galt, if one looks at them instead as allegorical attitudes or characteristics, Rand does as a great job at describing the mindset and value system required to make each possible.
She explores in great detail what value system is required to justify the renunciation of rational thought and self-interest at the behest of a moral debt to an unknowable God or the subjective ‘greater good’; the former which demands sacrifices in return for rewards in the after-life, and the latter which demands sacrifices for promises of a bright but always distant future. Both require that people feel guilty about enjoying themselves during the present, and idolise ‘need’ over ability.
She also highlights the great hypocrisy of the wishful thinkers who want to have their cake and eat it too; the non-thought of those who want to reap the benefits of something whilst denouncing its means, who want to deny reality by getting something for nothing.
These aren’t just theoretical traits of characters in a novel. These non-thoughts are held by those close to The Spear. The Spear knows people who on the surface appear like normal, rational human beings, but who are yet able to extoll these ultimately destructive ‘good ideas’ in the name of ‘morality’ and ‘heart’.
‘You are heartless’, they say to The Spear. ‘Don’t you care?’ they say to The Spear. ‘You are selfish. All you care about is money’ they say, as if good intentions and ‘heart’ alone allow them to live lives of relative luxury or do anything but hug those in need.
‘Government should be about helping people’ they say, without any thought to the source of this benevolence, or any limit to it. Meanwhile, productive business, the ultimate creator of all the government’s wealth, is viewed as base commercial enterprise, to be regulated and taxed, but not admired. A government that only puts in place the services necessary for people to effectively look after themselves is not wanted.
What is wanted is the land of the milk and the honey, but without any of the incentive mechanisms necessary to achieve it; i.e. they are after ‘heaven on earth’, the ever-elusive, forever in the future utopia, that shall one day be achieved if only the people were to sacrifice more for the greater good. If only the people were made to sacrifice more for the greater good, at the point of a gun if necessary. It’s for their own good... The end justifies the means…
Before you label The Spear as a lunatic, all he can say is beware. Be vigilant. It may sound hard to believe but THIS HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. This seemingly crazy line of thought has actually overtaken entire countries for decades at a time. And once it has, it’s the most ruthless who rise to the top. That’s why people like Rand and Koestler and Hayek and Orwell wrote their books. They are reminders – reminders to the people of the future – never to be conned by the line of thinking which, yes, sounds like a good idea, but ultimately leads to nothing but death and destruction.
So thanks, Ayn Rand, for another reminder.