Ayn Rand/Objectivism Sightings
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Objectivists--The Young and The Christian
"Judge, & be prepared to be judged," said Ayn Rand. Withhold neither your contempt for men's vices nor your love for their virtues, says Objectivism.
Now, we know that the latter precept at the hands of the Ayn Rand Institute has come to equate "judgement' with the Savonarola-like pronouncements of Peikoff, Schwartz & Binswanger, "vices" with criticisms of Ayn Rand or the ARI & "virtues" with slavish, uncritical worship of Ayn Rand & the ARI. We know that. But that's no reason to throw the precept out. It's no reason to become a Christian. It's a good reason to throw the ARI out & remain an Objectivist!
In the recent debate about musical preferences on SOLOHQ, it was apparent that some participants, refugees as they may be from the ARI, now take a Christian view of judgement--namely, that one shouldn't engage in it at all (it is irrelevant here that Christians themselves have traditionally honoured this commandment more in the breach than in the observance, albeit irrationally). That redoubtable dialectician, Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra, lamented the amount of "screaming" that had occurred. Now Chris, bless his three hearts, tries on principle to find a kind word for everyone & everything, & recoils from the acrimony that often accompanies the expression of judgement, so that even the mild exchanges that occurred in this debate would sound to him like "screaming." I take a different view.
First, I would invite Dr. Chris to allow the following dialectical process to play out:
Thesis: garbage--anti-values in music.
Antithesis: "screaming"--in protest against the garbage & in promotion of values in music.
Synthesis: renaissance of values--romanticism--in music.
As it is, the apologists for the thesis seem to get very defensive when it is challenged, & do a fair amount of "screaming" of their own.
Second, I would argue that "screaming"--rational screaming, of course--is a proper response to ugly-voiced caterwaulers who routinely spew forth their hatred of man, of life & love & thought, in a flood of obscenities in the most cacophonous manner they can contrive (the best thing about their lyrics is that they're usually unintelligible amidst the racket that accompanies them). If that requires the repudiation--unthinkable to a Christian mindset--of entire genres of "music," so be it. I am no fan of ecumenism or eclecticism for their own sake. I happily repudiate grunge, rap, hip hop, heavy metal, punk & whatever else is going down right now. I am barely aware of the differences between them & I care even less. I have heard enough of all of them to know that they are, generally speaking, loathsome (Note--I am not challenging anyone's right to listen to this stuff; I am upholding my right to judge it, & I am saying it is right that I do so).
Aside from the manifestations of Christian non-judgementalism in the recent debate, I was struck by the significance of something else--the youth of the caterwaulers' defenders, & the probability that they are the victims of our modern-day comprachicos.
"The ancient comprachicos hid the operation [mangling the features of children so as to produce freaks] but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past this horrible surgery left traces on a child's face, not in his mind. Today, it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases, the child is not aware of the mutilation he has suffered." (Ayn Rand, "The Comprachicos," 1970)
Our modern-day comprachicos have brought nihilism to philosophy & thence to music. Their young victims have grown up knowing nothing else. They know no other "music" than untutored voices, wailing guitars & thumping drums, amplified to literally deafening levels, pouring out angst & anger.
Ayn Rand makes the point in The Romantic Manifesto, of art in general: "As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War One world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history. If one has glimpsed that kind of art--and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture--one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. I must emphasize that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends and political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, and of man to life. It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men--over the brief span of less than a century--before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages."
In her introduction to the Manifesto, she had already promised us:
"I am not willing to surrender the world to the jerky contortions of self-inducedly brainless bodies with empty eye sockets who perform in stinking basements the immemorial rituals of staving off terror, which are a dime a dozen in any jungle--and to the quavering witch doctors who call it 'art.' "
Some would fault her comments as "screaming" and "judgemental." I would agree, approvingly, that they are judgemental, and add that they are eminently, passionately reasonable.
To the young of today I say--heed her words. Awake from your dogmatic catatonia. You have nothing to lose but your nihilism. You have a radiant sense of life to win.
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