:: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 ::
The Mainstream Smearing of Ayn Rand
Posted by Edward Cline at 7:48 AM
More famous words from one of our wannabe Platonic guardians:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looked like a deer caught in the blinding headlight of an oncoming freight train, her expression frozen in either ignorance or fear. It has always been difficult to distinguish between the two in her. But the malice in her words was palpable.
CNSNews.com: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”
Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”
CNSNews.com: “Yes, yes, I am.”
Pelosi then shook her head before taking a question from another reporter. Her press spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, then told CNSNews.com that asking the speaker of the House where the Constitution authorized Congress to mandate that individual Americans buy health insurance was not a "serious question."
“You can put this on the record,” said Elshami. “That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question.”
His iterating mockery of the reporter is indeed on the record. Elshami, deputy communications director and senior adviser to Pelosi, later issued a press release stating that Congress was empowered by the commerce clause in the Constitution to mandate individual health insurance. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), however, differed from that dubious specificity, instead likening the power to compel all Americans to buy health insurance to federal authority to impose speed limits on interstate highways (???), adding that “nobody questions” Congress’s authority to impose controls of any kind. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) linked the power to the general welfare clause.
All in all, nobody in Congress, it seems, treats questioning Congressional powers as a serious matter. Pelosi, Leahy, Hoyer, not to mention President Barack Obama, dismissively deflect any suggestion that particular members of Congress are violating their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution. A handful of words that meant something entirely different to the authors of the Constitution -- in fact, the exact opposite of Congressional renditions -- is their sole sanction for expanding government powers. (And where is the Supreme Court on this issue? Absent from the bench, of course.)
Recounting this episode in crass contempt and learned ignorance is an overture to the subject of the mainstream critical establishment’s reception of the two biographies of Ayn Rand, Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made (Doubleday), and Jennifer Burns’ Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press). As most of our lawmakers consider raising the subject of the unlawfulness of their actions as beyond the bounds of polite or legitimate enquiry, the overwhelming consensus of contemporary critics is that Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason and individual rights cannot -- should not -- be taken seriously and must be treated with similar contempt and ignorance. And, as with the libertarians (see my previous commentary), the mainstream press’s chief purpose in paying any attention to the Heller and Burns books is to attack Rand by cadging supporting statements from both biographies.
(I shall repeat here that I have not yet read the Heller and Burns biographies, but plan to. The subject here, again, is the reviewers, not the books or their authors.)
Late last year and early this year, when observers were reporting the uncanny similarities between current events and the events in Atlas Shrugged, there was nothing to do but report the phenomena. The parallels were undeniable and untouchable. But the appearance of these books now is propinquitous.
Her stalwart critics cannot refute her philosophy. The best of them, such as British philosopher Anthony Clifford Grayling (discussed below), can only dazzle the gullible with mental whirligigs. Some critics are so unread and illiterate that they can never grasp the philosophy, but only sense its danger to their intellectual and moral lethargy in an animalistic, feral manner. So they all adopt the policy of ad hominem, frequently interspersing their attacks on her person with generous ad captandum monologues. As I suggested in my previous commentary, imagine if it were reported that Aristotle beat his wife (as claimed, perhaps, by Roman biographer Suetonius in a newly discovered fragment), then that would constitute sufficient refutation of his work.
So it is with the mainstream media and literary treatment of Rand. In all instances, the fear, ignorance and malice in these reviews are palpable. For the present, their authors monopolize the podium of the culture.
TIME’s review of both biographies, “Ayn Rand: Extremist or Visionary?” (October 12) is perhaps the shortest. It does not so much review the books as borrow indiscriminately from them. After attempting to make Rand look comical in the first paragraph, the review goes on:
The bad economy has been good news for Rand's legacy. Her fierce denunciations of government regulation have sent sales of her two best-known novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, soaring. Yet her me-first brand of capitalism has been excoriated for fomenting the recent financial crisis. And her most famous former acolyte--onetime Fed chairman Alan Greenspan--has been blamed for inflating the housing bubble by refusing to intervene in the market.
Does the author of the review attempt to rebut the charges that Rand’s philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism was responsible for the financial crisis, and suggest instead that government intervention was and remains the culprit? No. If she had, she would not have insinuated that Alan Greenspan still believed in free markets, and that blame for the crisis could be pinned on them. An ounce of acuity in the author about Greenspan’s position would have led her to suspect that the former Federal Reserve chairman had abandoned laissez-faire in favor of intervention.
The TIME review goes on:
In the midst of the newly rekindled debate, two excellent biographies have just been published: Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by Anne C. Heller…is a comprehensive study, in novelistic detail, of Rand's personal life, and Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, by Jennifer Burns…leans more heavily on Rand's theories and politics.
TIME’s reviewer, however, does not dwell on the theories and politics, but rather on Rand herself, quoting more often from Burns’ book than from Heller’s. Among other inaccuracies, it asserts that Rand’s horrible experience in Soviet Russia was the genesis of her “hatred of communism and any sort of collectivism,” which hatred “would guide her life” and somehow lead to the formulation of a philosophy. If the review’s author had bothered to investigate further (and perhaps read the biographies a little more closely), she would have seen that Rand abhorred collectivism before the Bolshevik coup and the imposition of communist rule in Russia. The reviewer does not attempt to answer whether Rand was an “extremist” or a “visionary.” She simply concludes that Rand’s emotions trumped reason and that, consequently, she was a pathetic person.
Janet Maslin in her New York Times review, “Twin Biographies of a Singular Woman, Ayn Rand” (October 22), emulating TIME’s review, opens with the same ridiculing reference to Rand’s appearance, stressing her gold dollar-sign pin, calling it a “Halloween-ready costume.” That more or less sets the tone of Maslin’s review.
Repeating the error that Rand’s antipathy for any kind of collectivism was the foundation of what would become her philosophy of Objectivism, Maslin writes:
Ms. Heller’s book is worth its $35 price, which is not the kind of detail that Rand herself would have been shy about trumpeting. When Russian Bolshevik soldiers commandeered and closed the St. Petersburg pharmacy run by Zinovy Rosenbaum [Rand‘s father], they made a lifelong capitalist of his 12-year-old daughter, Alissa [Rand], who would wind up fusing the subversive power of the Russian political novel with glittering Hollywood-fueled visions of the American dream.
Maslin, like Andrea Sachs of TIME and other reviewers, fairly gloats over Rand’s affair with Nathaniel Branden, her “foremost acolyte and officially anointed intellectual heir,” and predictably attaches more importance to it than to the body of Rand’s work.
Both books characterize Rand’s long relationship with Branden as the most important connection in her life. And both use it to illustrate how drastically Rand’s personal ties could rupture. The amphetamine-addicted, self-styled goddess in both books becomes so moody and volatile that her associates do not simply part ways with her. Some, like Branden and his wife, Barbara, wind up excommunicated.
Maslin concludes that Rand had “an hypnotic effect on those in her orbit,” implying that her ideas and logic were of less importance than her need to have “acolytes” and her “acolytes” needing her brand of religion. Referring to Rand’s first days in Hollywood -- a “fishy story” which Maslin writes was investigated by Heller -- Maslin concludes that Rand’s chief asset was her “charisma”:
Rand might have expressed disdain for that charisma, but it was enough to stop [Cecil B.] DeMille in his tracks. She would have been nowhere without it.
Sam Anderson’s New York Magazine review, “Mrs. Logic” (October 18), is arguably worse than either Maslin’s or Sachs’. Anderson, who confesses that he was once a student of Objectivism, reviews only Heller’s book, and mooches from it with scanty attribution and imposes his own evaluation on the information he gleans from it, so that rarely can one distinguish between his and Heller‘s evaluations. Beginning his review with a snide narration of what people could expect upon first meeting Rand, he writes:
….[S]he would open the conversation with a line that seems destined to go down as one of history’s all-time classic icebreakers: “Tell me your premises.” Once you’d managed to mumble something halfhearted about loving your family, say, or the Golden Rule, Rand would set about systematically exposing all of your logical contradictions, then steer you toward her own inviolable set of premises: that man is a heroic being, achievement is the aim of life, existence exists, A is A, and so forth—the whole Objectivist catechism. And once you conceded any part of that basic platform, the game was pretty much over. She’d start piecing together her rationalist Tinkertoys until the mighty Randian edifice towered over you: a rigidly logical Art Deco skyscraper, 30 or 40 feet tall, with little plastic industrialists peeking out the windows—a shining monument to the glories of individualism, the virtues of selfishness, and the deep morality of laissez-faire capitalism. Grant Ayn Rand a premise and you’d leave with a lifestyle.
Among Anderson’s numerous egregious and vicious statements about Rand, two stand out:
It’s easy to chuckle at Rand, smugly, from the safe distance of intervening decades or an opposed ideology, but in person—her big black eyes flashing deep into the night, fueled by nicotine, caffeine, and amphetamines—she was apparently an irresistible force, a machine of pure reason, a free-market Spock who converted doubters left, right, and center. Eyewitnesses say that she never lost an argument.
Thus the subtitle of Anderson’s review: “Ayn Rand never got into an argument she couldn’t win. Except, perhaps, with herself.” Harping again on the allegedly subjective, virtually neurotic origins and nature of Objectivism, he notes:
Anne Heller’s new biography…allows us to poke our heads, for the first time, into the Russian-American’s overheated philosophical subbasement. After reading the details of Rand’s early life, I find it hard to think of Objectivism as very objective at all—it looks more like a rational program retrofitted to a lifelong temperament, a fantasy world created to cancel the nightmare of a terrifying childhood….No one, according to Heller’s portrait, struggled with the unreality of Objectivism more than Rand herself. She wept, throughout her life, at the world’s refusal to conform to her ideal vision of it. Although she claimed that “one must never attempt to fake reality in any manner,” she repeatedly withheld or distorted facts to feed her own mythology.
This is the theme of Anderson’s whole review: Ayn Rand created her own “mythology”; ergo, she was as phony as her philosophy. He can’t take her seriously, nor should anyone else.
An unsigned review of the Heller and Burns biographies in The Economist, "Capitalism's martyred hero" (October 22), repeats but does not dwell on the “mythology” theme:
But her most important attribute was her talent for myth-making. Rand perfected her literary art as a screenwriter in Hollywood. And she dealt in Hollywood-style dichotomies between good and evil, between white-hatted capitalists and black-hatted collectivists. Greys don’t interest me, she once said. “Atlas Shrugged” conjured up a world in which all creative businessmen had gone on strike, retreating to Galt’s Gulch in Colorado, and culminated in a dramatic court scene in which Galt detailed the evils of collectivism.
The reviewer obviously had not read Atlas Shrugged to the end; John Galt does not appear in any courtroom scene. (Perhaps the reviewer had read The Fountainhead, but Galt and Howard Roark are emphatically not the same.) The swipes taken against Rand in this review are less offensive than those in the Anderson and Maslin reviews. The Economist reviewer at least concedes that Atlas Shrugged especially has permanent relevance and that Rand was right.
Jennifer Burns is better versed in conservative thought. Both are well worth reading, partly because Rand’s life was so extraordinary and partly because the questions that she raised about the proper power of government are just as urgent now as they ever were….Rand was the single most uncompromising critic of the collectivist tide that swept across the capitalist world in the wake of the Depression. For her, government was nothing more than licensed robbery and altruism just an excuse for power-grabbing. Intellectuals and bureaucrats might pose as champions of the people against the powerful. But in reality they were empire builders who were motivated by a noxious mixture of envy and greed.
The review concludes:
Yet Rand’s appeal has been undimmed by either the vituperation of her critics or the peculiarity of her admirers. Her insight in “Atlas Shrugged”—that society cannot thrive unless it is willing to give freedom to its entrepreneurs and innovators—has proved to be prescient.
Nick Gillespie, former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine and now editor of Reason.com and Reason.tv, in his Fall Wilson Quarterly review, “Ready for Her Close-Up,” asks:
Has any major postwar American author taken as much critical abuse as Ayn Rand? Her best-known novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, have sold more than 12 million copies in the United States alone and were ranked first and second in a 1998 Modern Library reader survey of the “greatest books” of the 20th century. Yet over the years, Rand’s writing has been routinely dismissed as juvenile and subliterate when it has been considered at all.
Later on, Gillespie notes:
Despite—or perhaps because of—such persistent mass appeal, critics have never been kind to Rand.
Contempt has long been the standard literati response to Rand. Like Jack Kerouac, Rand is typically written off as a writer whose basic appeal is to maladjusted adolescents, a sort of vaguely embarrassing starter author who is quickly outgrown by those of us who develop more sophisticated aesthetic and ideological tastes. There’s more than a small degree of truth to such a characterization, but the extreme prejudice with which Rand is dismissed belies a body of work that continues to reach new audiences.
Of all the reviews discussed here, Gillespie’s is the fairest, not only to Rand, but to the Burns and Heller biographies. But the writer still feels compelled to take swings at Rand’s persona; it is the fairest review in terms of there being in it the least number of sneers and snorts directed at Rand. It is almost as though Gillespie were under some editorial obligation to include them (otherwise the review might not have passed muster in the Quarterly). He quotes Burns early in the article:
That Rand’s life story is in many ways more melodramatic, unbelievable, and conflicted than one of her own plots certainly helps to keep the reader’s attention. As Burns puts it, “The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes [her life] not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts.”
And, remarking on both biographies, ends it with:
Together, they provide a rounded portrait of a woman who, as Burns writes, “tried to nurture herself exclusively on ideas.” As Rand’s biography underscores, she failed miserably in that, even as she helped create an ideological framework that continues to energize debate in contemporary America.
By far the longest and most irrelevant review of the Heller and Burns biographies appeared September 14 in The New Republic, Jonathan Chait’s “Wealthcare.” It is a lengthy, bilious protest against the recent revolt of the “right” against an economically and politically carnivorous White House and Congress, a revolt which Chait blames almost exclusively on Rand. At the same time, it is the most honest of all the reviews, for Chait doesn’t hide behind cowardly chortles and guffaws to argue his position. However, lumping her together with conservative politicians, betrayed Obama supporters, and Tea Partiers, Chait writes of the uprising:
There is another way to describe this conservative idea. It is the ideology of Ayn Rand. Some, though not all, of the conservatives protesting against redistribution and conferring the highest moral prestige upon material success explicitly identify themselves as acolytes of Rand.
A few more clicks to the left and The New Republic’s masthead could very well read The Daily Worker. Chait, a senior editor of the publication, has apparently read Rand’s novels -- perhaps even some of her non-fiction essays on politics -- for he contrasts free market economics with socialist economics, and almost gets John Galt’s speech right. He handily explicates Rand’s ethics of productive work. For example:
It was Atlas Shrugged that Rand deemed the apogee of her life’s work and the definitive statement of her philosophy. She believed that the principle of trade governed all human relationships--that in a free market one earned money only by creating value for others. Hence, one’s value to society could be measured by his income. History largely consisted of "looters and moochers" stealing from society’s productive elements.
Chait quotes from Galt’s speech about the pyramid of ability -- not a pyramid of intellect, as Chait implies, for ability presupposes a mind or an intellect, while ability or competence or productive work is the observable, measurable consequence of such a mind in action, and can be measured as a value -- and calls it an “inverted Marxism.” And even though Chait demonstrates a more than superficial understanding of Rand’s ethics -- certainly more than any of the other reviewers discussed in this commentary -- he still sides with collectivism. Earlier in his review he remarked about the revolt against Obama and his socialist agenda, before discussing Rand‘s role in it:
In these disparate comments we can see the outlines of a coherent view of society. It expresses its opposition to redistribution not in practical terms--that taking from the rich harms the economy--but in moral absolutes, that taking from the rich is wrong. It likewise glorifies selfishness as a virtue. It denies any basis, other than raw force, for using government to reduce economic inequality. It holds people completely responsible for their own success or failure, and thus concludes that when government helps the disadvantaged, it consequently punishes virtue and rewards sloth. And it indulges the hopeful prospect that the rich will revolt against their ill treatment by going on strike, simultaneously punishing the inferiors who have exploited them while teaching them the folly of their ways.
Chait’s epistemological errors include thinking that “society” is an actual, independent, volitional entity, and that the term “rich” does not include the middle class, that part of “society” which also performs productive work. This is to be expected of a committed collectivist such as Chait, and when he coheres to Marxist criticism, his arguments begin to disintegrate. To wit:
Rand’s political philosophy remained amorphous in her early years. Aside from a revulsion at communism [sic], her primary influence was Nietzsche, whose exaltation of the superior individual spoke to her personally….In essence, Rand advocated an inverted Marxism. In the Marxist analysis, workers produce all value, and capitalists merely leech off their labor. Rand posited the opposite….Rand’s hotly pro-capitalist novels oddly mirrored the Socialist Realist style, with two-dimensional characters serving as ideological props….Like her old idol Nietzsche, she denounced a transvaluation of values according to which the strong had been made weak and the weak were praised as the strong….Rand called her doctrine "Objectivism," and it eventually expanded well beyond politics and economics to psychology, culture, science (she considered the entire field of physics "corrupt"), and sundry other fields. Objectivism was premised on the absolute centrality of logic to all human endeavors. Emotion and taste had no place….Ultimately the Objectivist movement failed for the same reason that communism failed: it tried to make its people live by the dictates of a totalizing ideology that failed to honor the realities of human existence. Rand’s movement devolved into a corrupt and cruel parody of itself.
Ultimately, Chait, while he accuses Rand (perhaps influenced by the Heller and Burns biographies) of shutting out the world in order to sustain her “world view,” is himself ideologically insulated against the observable phenomenon that Objectivism is “on a roll,” that it has hardly failed. The balance of his review is largely a disjointed and distracting critique of conservative/Republican economic policies and an endorsement of Obama’s, only tenuously connected to the biographies.
Lastly, A.C. Grayling, a British professor of philosophy at Birbeck College, University of London, and a frequent book reviewer for, all of things, Barnes & Noble, of all the reviewers discussed her, fails the most miserably when confronted with the task of reviewing the Burns and Heller biographies of Ayn Rand, but chiefly in his misapprehension of Rand’s philosophy. That misapprehension is rooted in a natural hostility to objectivity and logic, and may be taken as evidence of the state of contemporary, “mainstream” philosophy.
It is noteworthy that Grayling tackles only Heller’s biography, not Jennifer Burns’, for the latter apparently delves in more detail into the development of Rand’s philosophy and thinking than does Heller‘s. Other than a pair of irrelevant remarks about Rand by the late leftist/neo-conservative philosopher Sidney Hook, Grayling shies away from any philosophical rebuttal. He lets Hook do his talking.
Grayling’ review is particularly insipid, for it falls back on pleas for altruism to combat the purported heartlessness of Rand and her philosophy.
As the Branden affair shows, Rand's life was indeed exemplary of her thought. It was, in line with her avowed principles, an entirely selfish life, to which she sacrificed her family, her good-natured husband Frank O'Connor, her friends, and all but the last of her devoted followers, Leonard Peikoff. Whoever was not wholly with her was against her.
Au contraire, Rand did value her family, still prisoners in Soviet Russia, and was faced with the conflict of maintaining contact with them at the risk of jeopardizing their lives. She loved her husband, and as Letters of Ayn Rand amply reveals, concerned herself with the well-being of friends and relatives (on her husband’s side, her own distant relatives in Russia being beyond help). She could be generous, but not to a fault.
As for her philosophy, all Grayling can ascribe to it is cruelty and brutality.
What is wrong with Rand's views is what is wrong with Gordon Gekko. The unregulated market coupled with unbridled individual self-interest adds up to something far from heroic in the would-be Roark/Galt mode; instead it adds up to the strong trampling the weak, to the callousness of the jungle -- and eventually to a mightily ironic paradox, which is that the weak have to rescue the strong because the latter's unrestricted rampaging has consumed their own hunting-grounds.
Whatever that might mean. Again, Grayling writes, willing to forgive Rand but for her philosophy of egoism (which he never names):
She had enormous talents, great charisma, courage and dedication -- all as apparent in her work as in her life, and all acknowledged by Heller -- and not all of her ideas were wrong: her secularism merits applause, as does her opposition to the use of force in world affairs, and as does her championing of liberty -- or rather, this latter might merit applause if it were not in fact a coarse and callous libertarianism merely, which means liberty only for the few strong enough to trample on the heads of the rest.
And that represents Grayling’s summary view of the philosophical significance of Rand’s thinking, the hoary old collectivist chestnut, preached for decades from pulpits and in grade school “social studies” and in university classrooms, that unregulated freedom can only mean the oppression of the poor and “disadvantaged” and the average. No one but the “rich” and the “strong” could possibly profit from freedom -- a rather stultified and not very original position for a prominent philosopher to take.
Critics serve the function of cultural scouts, pointing out to the public what is significant, what is worth one’s attention, and what may be of value -- and also what is significantly not a value. Ayn Rand and her oeuvre are major contributors to Western culture, certainly the most significant in the last two hundred years, yet our culture has descended to such a state that its scouts are desperately and maliciously trying to persuade people that neither she nor her work should be taken seriously, for if they did, it would mean the end of the critics’ own importance.
Fortunately, few are heeding the advice of the critics, and countless individuals are discovering that there is an oasis over the horizon, and there, in Rand and her works, can be found life as it was meant and ought to be.
41 Comments ::
:: Saturday, October 24, 2009 ::
The Oblique Smearing of Ayn Rand
Posted by Edward Cline at 3:44 PM
Two biographies of Ayn Rand have burst upon the literary scene, both written by non-Objectivists, Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made (Doubleday), and Jennifer Burns’ Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press). I have not read either book, but will in time. I have read the first chapter of the Burns book on Amazon Books. It is a literate account of Rand’s early life in Russia, and contains details of her life heretofore unknown to me, but that appraisal in no way can be extended to the rest of her biography, not until I have read it. Of the two books, however, going by their reception in the press and the literary establishment, the Heller book is the least significant, because it is less intellectual and more biographical. Moreover, both books provide Rand’s detractors with a limitless salad bar of details of Rand’s life. This is not the fault of the authors, of course, regardless of the merits or demerits of their books.
Burns, an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia, focuses on Rand’s intellectual development from her years in Russia up to her death in 1982. Heller, a magazine writer and editor for Esquire and Redbook, apparently dwells on the “story” of Rand in terms of her social and personal life and political positions. It is the latter book from which “libertarian” reviewers have filled their plates from the salad bar. They have all proclaimed their fealty to Rand’s ideas, but at the same time have tried to diminish those ideas by deeming them as strictly “libertarian” and merely part of an evolutionary process of the development of libertarianism.
The most offensive instance of this kind of treatment of Rand -- praise so qualified that it ceases to be praise at all -- using Heller’s biography as a vehicle to not-so-subtly slander Rand, is Stephen Cox’s review of the book in the October issue of Liberty magazine. His review, “Ayn’s World,” can be taken as the apotheosis of all libertarian reviews, because it is long, commits the same offenses, and is as thorough a job of “debunking“ Rand short of a Whittaker Chambers/William F. Buckley Jr. effort.
The first offense, and there are many offenses in his article, is that he continually refers to Rand as a “libertarian” or a “radical libertarian.” Well, she was not a libertarian. She stated this so many times it would be almost pointless to repeat them here. Nevertheless, here is what she wrote:
For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs.
Moreover, she added,
Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (e.g.,the Conservative Party, which subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the “libertarian” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.) To join such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principles for the sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail. It means that you help the defeat of your ideas and the victory of your enemies.
Dr. Harry Binswanger seconds Rand’s position:
The “libertarians” . . . plagiarize Ayn Rand’s principle that no man may initiate the use of physical force, and treat it as a mystically revealed, out-of-context absolute . . . .
In the philosophical battle for a free society, the one crucial connection to be upheld is that between capitalism and reason. The religious conservatives are seeking to tie capitalism to mysticism; the “libertarians” are tying capitalism to the whim-worshipping subjectivism and chaos of anarchy. To cooperate with either group is to betray capitalism, reason, and one’s own future.
A “mystically revealed” absolute is a deserved opprobrium. To libertarians, that “absolute” is just floating out there in space, ready to be recognized and picked out of the air, and incorporated into an alleged political philosophy. How did it get there? Why is it there? What is its cause? No rational answers are forthcoming, or will be, for libertarians eschew a rational metaphysics. This is no better or defensible a means of validating the concept of political freedom than attributing freedom to God’s wishes or plan, as the religious conservatives do. From a political philosophy standpoint, it is equally appropriate that Rand links in substance libertarians with the religious conservatives. Libertarians -- “radical” or not -- do not subscribe to a philosophy of freedom, but instead to what one could call a cosmology absent an inexplicable “first cause.”
But Cox will have none of that. He states early on in the review, feigning a preemptive, parenthetical tiredness with the distinction Rand made between libertarians and herself (and, implicitly, between herself and himself):
(I know, she repudiated the name “libertarian,” but she did so for reasons that do her no credit for objective self-description. Instead of calling herself a libertarian, she said she was an individualist and a “radical for capitalism” — in short, a libertarian.)
Translation: Well, I don’t feel like making the distinction she made. She argued for freedom, ergo, she was a libertarian. That’s how I’m going to perceive her, mainly because it will allow me to take cheap shots at her and permit me to “humanize“ her. After all, she made a lot of mistakes, was not a nice person, and didn’t consistently live her philosophy. So, there.
It is difficult to decide which is the cheapest shot Cox takes against Rand. Bear in mind that while these shots are woven into his discussion of Heller’s biography, they are easy to detect. For example:
Rand often denied that she wrote propaganda, or even that she intended to teach her audience anything. (I believe the first claim was true; the second, transparently false.) She said that she wrote for her own pleasure, to create the kind of characters she would want to meet, in the kind of world that such characters would inhabit and deal with in their own way. Whatever her motivation, she did create a literary world in which radical libertarian ideas were embodied and found an interesting home — an intense and serious world, a world full of ideas and characters and exciting action, a world in which libertarians, self-proclaimed or only implicit, could feel that they too were at home.
It is an instance of gratuitous graciousness of Cox to concede that Rand did not write propaganda. But then he accuses her of lying, that she did indeed write to teach her audience. Again, Rand often stated that she did not write her novels to “teach” anyone anything, but for her own selfish pleasure of recreating a world in which she would want to live. (See her essay, “The Goal of My Writing” in The Romantic Manifesto.) If she had written from a motive of “service” -- to teach her audience -- her novels would have been markedly different and likely as bad as other novels written for a pedagogical purpose, such as two novels cited by Cox as literary precursors of Atlas Shrugged, Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and Henry Hazlitt’s Time Will Run Back. (Cox could have cited novels that are better literarily, such as H.G. Wells’s 1933 Things to Come, or Jack London’s 1908 The Iron Heel. As dystopian novels, these would have better served as comparisons to Atlas Shrugged -- if one regards Rand‘s novel as a purely political/economic tract, which would be the libertarian way, and wrong.)
I shall skip over other remarks Cox makes about Rand, as they are of the same insouciant tone. His praise alternates with his back-stabbing. He does get around to discussing Heller’s book, and repeats some of her own estimates of Rand, touching, for example, on how he wished she had taken Albert Jay Nock, that wistful, ineffectual individualist of the 1930’s, more seriously. In fact, Cox repeats the libertarian mantra that Rand was not a true original thinker, but that she inherited and profited from the intellectual labors of her pro-freedom predecessors and contemporaries, but refused, in some narcissistic hubris, to acknowledge it. Cox missed a chance to quote Nock, who ends his essay, “Isaiah’s Job,“ with:
If, for example, you are a writer or a speaker or a preacher, you put forth an idea which lodges in the Unbewusstsein of a casual member of the Remnant and sticks fast there. For some time it is inert; then it begins to fret and fester until presently it invades the man's conscious mind and, as one might say, corrupts it. Meanwhile, he has quite forgotten how he came by the idea in the first instance, and even perhaps thinks he has invented it; and in those circumstances, the most interesting thing of all is that you never know what the pressure of that idea will make him do.
No, as is evident in Journals of Ayn Rand and Letters of Ayn Rand, and in her other writings, she never forgot how she came by any idea, nor why she agreed with or dismissed another’s idea. Cox asserts in his review that Rand acknowledged only Aristotle as the sole influence in her intellectual development. Wrong. She acknowledged John Locke, Thomas Aquinas, and other pro-reason thinkers from the past. She admired such contemporaries as H.L. Mencken. She was not interested, however, in addressing and consoling a “Remnant,” an idea she would have considered futile, self-defeating, and essentially malevolent because it surrendered one’s life and the world to the mindless.
After making some smarmy remarks on how long it took Rand to write and complete The Fountainhead, Cox makes this verbose crack about how and why she completed Atlas Shrugged:
After “The Fountainhead,” she started planning the novel that would be known as “Atlas Shrugged.” She supposed that she would finish it posthaste. It took her 14 years. For what reason? She put out the rumor that she spent the last few of those years getting the right tone for the endless speech about philosophy that she intrudes on the final movement of the book. The true reason, as it seems to me, is that she had come to regard “Atlas” as a philosophical Bible and was anxious to ensure that everything in the Speech would represent her ultimate, unassailable statement of reality. The result was a 60-page literary disaster — a ridiculously long prose essay, its tone arrogant, inappropriate, and repellent to the last degree, in which she repeated everything she had already made obvious in the rest of the novel. Years working on the “tone”? I don’t think so. Rand’s attitude toward this manifest literary failure is a mystery of the creative process. How could she have thought she was doing the right thing? (Italics mine)
So, not only does Cox imply again that Rand was a liar, but states that Galt’s speech in the novel was a “literary disaster.” That also was the consensus of most mainstream book reviewers of Atlas when it appeared. What Cox fails to appreciate is that Rand was a rule-breaker in literature, and that there was no rule anyway that governed the length of any speech, and that without that speech, there would have been no “libertarian” movement for him to abscond to after cherry-picking the philosophy explicated in that speech.
Cox continues later on in his review about Rand’s alleged intellectual ingratitude:
There have been important writers — Hemingway is a good example — who were not intellectuals, and who read fairly little. Rand is the only example I can identify of an important writer, and a brilliant intellectual to boot, who in her mature period retained practically no curiosity about current or classic works of literature, philosophy, or history. She had studied some kind of history at Leningrad University, but where are the accounts of her enjoying any work on the subject, outside of Paterson’s “The God of the Machine” (1943)? After that book, and some works by Ludwig von Mises, the great economic theorist, she appears to have ceased learning much from either theory or history. It was as if she were making good on her claim not to have been influenced by other people. It was as if individualism meant making everything up on one’s own.
Enough said. There is much, much more that is offensive in Cox’s review, which, as I wrote earlier, served as a vehicle through which to launch his not-so-subtly buried digs at Ayn Rand. One wonders what he would have written if, by some chance, a scholar had uncovered the complete life of Aristotle and published it as Heller has published it: when and where he was born, the professions of his parents, his foibles, loves, hates and hobbies, his relationships with Alexander the Great, his friends, students and enemies, and how he went off the deep end of rationality after publishing the Nichomachean Ethics and became a cave-dwelling recluse -- and devoting minimal attention to what Aristotle bequeathed to the world.
Someday, if Western civilization survives the double onslaught of statism and Islam, another book will appear with the same title, only it will describe the phoenix of reason and the world Ayn Rand helped to make possible. Libertarianism, as an ideology, will merit perhaps only a footnote.
20 Comments ::
:: Thursday, October 22, 2009 ::
Objectivist Blog Round-Up #119
Posted by Nicholas Provenzo at 12:00 AM
Welcome to the October 22nd, 2009 edition of the Objectivist Round-Up. This week presents insight and analyses written by authors who are animated by Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. According to Ayn Rand:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.So without any further delay (and in no particular order), here's this week's round-up:
"About the Author," Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.
Benjamin Skipper presents The Power of Epistemology II: Institutionalized Education posted at Benpercent, saying, "It is superficial to say that lengthening school days will stress out kids. If Obama's goal comes to be, he will worsen the epistemological crisis we are seeing in our culture today."
Andy Clarkson presents The Epistemology of Richard Dawkins posted at The Charlotte Capitalist, saying, "On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Dawkins speak at Queens College in Charlotte. He presented to a “sold-out” (tickets were free) crowd of 2300. Dawkins read selections from his new book “The Greatest Show On Earth” and then took questions. The book is a defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was great to hear a prominent figure explicitly advocate “reason”, “rational analysis of evidence”, “science”, and so on."
Jared Rhoads presents Health Reform Tea Party posted at The Lucidicus Project, saying, "The Lucidicus Project attended the health reform Tea Party rally in Boston on October 17th. I spoke at the event and gave several interviews. Here is a report, including photos and a news clip."
Jeff Montgomery presents Review - Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns posted at Fun With Gravity, saying, "In this post I review Jennifer Burns' clear-headed and respectful intellectual biography of Ayn Rand. I found it to be an interesting and enjoyable read."
Diana Hsieh presents LTE on Free Speech posted at NoodleFood, saying, "My letter to the editor on the FTC's new speech regulations for bloggers was published in the Denver Post."
Paul Hsieh presents Hong Kong Vs. Typhoon posted at NoodleFood, saying, "This time lapse video of "Typhoon 'Nangka' over Hong Kong" made me appreciate the power of storms -- and the power of men's ability to build cities capable of withstanding them."
John Drake presents Your feelings are illegal posted at Try Reason!, saying, "I was saddened recently watching the movie Equilibrium when I realized that it is a manifestation of Kant's ideal society, and that we are not all that far from it."
Kirk presents The Reality of Medical Care posted at A is A, saying, "At a time when comprehensive medical care is being pushed on us all, it is important to look at reality rather than what we wish reality to be when making our decision."
Ari Armstrong presents Activism and Writing Letters to the Editor posted at FreeColorado.com, saying, "Some basics to writing an effective letter to the editor."
Kelly Valenzuela presents The Berlin Wall posted at Rant from the Rock.
Stella presents Once you pop, you can't stop posted at ReasonPharm, saying, "The status quo is a sticky thing -- which is why we need to avoid creating yet another government entitlement through healthcare "reform.""
Rational Jenn presents In Which I'm An Activist posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "You never know when an opportunity for activism will present itself. In this case, I was able to make a point about the "right" to healthcare in a concrete way, and help others do so, too."
Doug Reich presents Tales from the History of Money and Banking, Part II posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, "What does the hyperinflation of the French Revolution have to do with our current economy? Andrew Dickson White told us - in 1912."
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That concludes this edition of the round-up. Submit your blog article to the next edition of Objectivist round-up using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
2 Comments ::
:: Saturday, October 10, 2009 ::
The Ignoble Nobel Peace Prize
Posted by Edward Cline at 6:27 PM
One searches in vain through the whole list of Nobel Peace Prize winners from 1901 to the present for a single laureate whose work measurably advanced the cause of peace. The term peace itself, as it is employed by the Nobel Committee, on the surface is wishful and ethereal. The Peace Prize has, as a rule, recognized peace efforts which have unfailingly come to naught. Why? The “peace” pined for is essentially a Kantian concept. It is disconnected from reality. Work for peace, urges the Committee, even if your efforts are spoiled by war and conflict. Peace is good for its own sake. Work for peace as though you wished it to become a maxim, a moral rule.
The “peace” sought after and rewarded by the Nobel Committee is an unconditional peace that admits no legitimate grounds for war or conflict -- nor any rational grounds for peace or war. Alfred Nobel set the original terms for the Peace Prize in 1895 when he said that it should be given to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” In 1895, Nobel might have had a different idea of a “fraternity between nations,” which certainly could not have included the conquest or subjugation of one nation by another. Still, it is an altruistic statement of pacifism.
The Nobel Peace Prize discards the concept of the initiation of force by one country against another -- or by one individual against another -- as a criterion for evaluation, and substitutes an inverted moral judgment. The wishes of the initiator of force should be treated just as legitimate as the wishes of his victim. If the victim resists, war or conflict result. That is bad. Violence ensues. Ergo, the victim must compromise and cede some or all of the initiator’s wishes, if there is to be any “peace.”
Thus, for example, the continuing pressure on Israel to sacrifice its existence to the likes of Yassir Arafat, Hamas and other killers and predators. Or the pressure on the U.S. to not defend itself against its attackers, or to sign the Kyoto Treaty that would destroy what is left of its industrial base.
It is a premise shared by the Nobel Committee, and by most of the laureates, benign, disreputable, and indifferent alike. Thus the Prize’s futility. It is, appropriately, a Kantian trophy of no consequence, a blue ribbon for good intentions. Thorbjoern Jagland, former Norwegian prime minister who chaired the five-member selection committee (elected to the committee by the Norwegian parliament), defended the committee’s choice against charges that Obama had accomplished nothing to deserve the award.
“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what [Obama] has done in the previous year…We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
Jagland also explained away the fact that Obama was nominated for the prize about two weeks into his presidency, before he had a chance to move on any item on his agenda.
"Some people say — and I understand it — 'Isn't it premature? Too early?' Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told the AP. "It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us."
Jagland said the committee whittled down a record pool of 205 nominations and had "several candidates until the last minute," but it became more obvious that "we couldn't get around these deep changes that are taking place" under Obama.
Those promised “deep changes” -- meaning, among other things, the virtual regimentation of the American economy -- are what moved Jagland and his colleagues to nominate Obama based solely on his campaign rhetoric, before Obama had a chance to routinely retreat to the Rose Garden to enjoy a Marlboro. In short, they awarded him the Peace Prize before he had won the election. That’s the Chicago way: pretend for legal reasons to solicit open bids for a government contract, while having already chosen who’s going to get it.
A gold medallion and a sack of cash will recognize the unrealized "efforts" of an American president, Barack Obama, who, to date, has failed to keep any of his socialist promises to transform America into a European collectivist knock-off -- though he has helped to lay the foundation of totalitarianism here. In tune with Obama’s continuing campaign slogan, the Nobel committee awarded Obama the prize in the “hope” that he will indeed "change" the U.S. into something with which it and its fellow anti-American European manqués would be more comfortable: a whipped giant, chained to servitude and sacrifice for the sake of the global poor, the environment, “social justice,” and other “global challenges.”
The reaction to the announcement of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win has been, to say the least, “polarized.” Daniel Pipes notes that “the absurdity of the prize decision will hurt Obama politically in the United States, contrasting his role as international celebrity with his record devoid of accomplishments.” The Taliban and other Islamic gangs and spokesmen also made the same observation, demanding, “Show us the money!” Media Matters, the left-wing mouthpiece of liberals and Democrats, responded immediately to any and all criticism of Obama’s win in a posting, “Still rooting against America: Right-wing media use Nobel Prize announcement as excuse to attack Obama,” and included links to several “right-wingers’” statements about the Nobel decision. That no one should need an “excuse” to attack Obama is beyond the grasp of these collectivists. He has provided Americans with numerous reasons, not including his three dozen or so “czars.”
Bloomberg News also provided links to reactions to the announcement, some of the statements indiscriminately witless with delight, others dour and disappointed. “It sets the seal on America’s return to the heart of all the world’s peoples,” French President Nicholas Sarkozy wrote to Obama. Those questioning whether he deserved the prize included Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip. “There’s a lot more that Obama needs to achieve for peace and for the Palestinian people in order to receive this award,” Barhoum said in a telephone interview.
Iran also sputtered raspberries.
Ali Akbar Javanfekr, media aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP: "We hope that this gives (Obama) the incentive to walk in the path of bringing justice to the world order…We are not upset and we hope that by receiving this prize he will start taking practical steps to remove injustice in the world."
Raising his voice to be heard over this noisy tug-of-war between Pecksniffian mental astaticism and Islamic nose-wrinkling Obama, ever ready to comment on anything, expressed surprise at winning the Peace Prize. However,
To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.
Translation: Why didn’t Saul Alinsky win the Peace Prize? He transformed me! Besides, I really don’t know who else has won it, except maybe Al Gore, and that Southern cracker, Jimmy Carter. I looked up the list of past winners, and can’t even pronounce half their names.
True to the Nobel Committee’s “party line” and explanations of why it awarded the Prize to a non-achiever, Obama noted:
That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.
This is true. All those “challenges” require the employment of force to effect the changes to bring the U.S. more into line with a collectivized and increasingly barbaric world.
This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.
Such faux humility sounds more like an Oscar speech than an acknowledgement; one keeps imagining him clutching a statuette, with his eyes glazing over to keep back the tears.
But, no, thank you, Mr. President. You keep it. By the terms of the Nobel Committee, you earned it. To your everlasting ignominy.
6 Comments ::
:: Friday, October 02, 2009 ::
Philosophical Continental Drift
Posted by Edward Cline at 7:22 PM
Two Wall Street Journal book reviews, both called “Continental Drift” but spaced over two years apart, echo the pessimism about the future of Europe in the books they discuss: one with absolute pessimism, the other with qualified pessimism. The problem the books discuss is the looming conquest by immigration and non-assimilation by Muslims.
A Daily Telegraph (London) article of August 8th, “Muslim Europe: the demographic time bomb transforming our continent,” substantiates the trends and the perils facing Europe.
Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb: a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.
The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain's population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent. Europe's Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015. In Brussels, the top seven baby boys' names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza.
Yet European leaders and the European Union are ignoring or evading the demographics, writes Adrian Michaels, usually for fear of being accused of racism or religious intolerance.
In another article in the Telegraph, “A fifth of European Union will be Muslim by 2050,” Michaels reports:
Last year, five per cent of the total population of the 27 EU countries was Muslim. But rising levels of immigration from Muslim countries and low birth rates among Europe's indigenous population mean that, by 2050, the figure will be 20 per cent, according to forecasts….Data gathered from various sources indicate that Britain, Spain and Holland will have an even higher proportion of Muslims in a shorter amount of time….The UK, which currently has 20 million fewer people than Germany, is also projected to be the EU's most populous country by 2060, with 77 million people.
Gerald Baker’s May 2007 review of Walter Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, makes many of the same points as Paul Marshall’s September 2009 review of Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West.
The authors and reviewers concur that Europe is stymied by two disabling phenomena: the deluge of Muslims whose creed forbids all but token assimilation and whose growing numbers will ultimately present non-Muslim Europeans with the paradox of having to choose to assimilate into Islamic society, or else; and the inability or unwillingness of Europe’s policymakers to deal with a problem of their own and their predecessors’ making.
Walter Laqueur, for his part, reviewed Bruce Bawer’s 2006 book on the same subject, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. Laqueur, a noted critic of Europe’s timidity and evasion when faced with the consequences of its immigration and multicultural policies, noted in his remarks about Scandinavia:
In Denmark, Muslims make up 5% of the population but receive 40% of social-welfare outlays. Their preachers have told them, Mr. Bawer reports, that only a fool would not take maximum advantage of the bounty that Western Europe offers and that it is perfectly legitimate to cheat and lie. The benefits they receive are a kind of jizya, the tribute that infidels in Muslim-occupied countries have to pay to preserve their lives. (The subsidized-radical situation in Britain and Germany is not much different: The four suicide bombers in London last year had raked in close to a million dollars in social benefits before going on their murderous mission.)
With even radical Muslims entrenched in the Scandinavian countries, it's no wonder that their fellow immigrants are feeling rather confident about the future: In Stockholm, Islamic residents have been known to wear T-shirts that say simply: "2030 -- then we take over." These expectations might be a little overstated, but Muslims in Sweden have indeed already taken over much of the city of Malmo and parts of Stockholm, which are becoming no-go zones for everyone else….The Scandinavian countries are bringing disaster upon themselves.
But what have these books and their reviewers to say about why Europe, heir of the Enlightenment, is becoming an Islamized Europe, whose political and cultural character could only be generously called morbid and medieval? What is missing from the dire predictions and the angst?
It is a recognition that the values born in and nurtured by the Enlightenment -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, best developed, adopted and applied in the United States -- had never become as deeply rooted in the European character as they had in the American character. Those values were a consequence of a philosophical revolution in Europe, but Europe never completely shed its dependence on and deference to the state and authority. The monarchs and their bureaucrats of one century were replaced with prime ministers and their bureaucrats of another. With very few exceptions, and in spite of the growing prosperity of Europe made possible by capitalism, Europeans retained class and guild mentalities, a desire to be shielded from the risks and vicissitudes of life, and a natural hostility for the kind of individualism and freedom enjoyed by Americans.
They looked to the state to patronize, promote and sanction their class and guild mentalities, and to complement through legislation and controls their hostility for the individualism that would disturb those mentalities. Piled on top of the Muslim conundrum is the accommodating behemoth of the European Union, a kind of Orwellian prototype Eurasian regime with a pretty blue flag and a smiley face, a supra-organization that seeks to dissolve national sovereignties and rule unconditionally over all its byzantine bureaucracy surveys.
The reviewers Baker, Marshall, and Laqueur, and the authors Laqueur, Caldwell, and Bawer, do not delve into the philosophical bankruptcy that could explain why Europeans cannot defend themselves from being overrun by an inimical population of dedicated Muslims, nor be able to assert why their culture and civilization are superior to Islam‘s. The writers dwell on subsidiary issues, and chronicle futile efforts to combat the phenomenon, such as banning headscarves in French schools and tightening immigration rules, which they concede are too little, too late. Indeed, the authors and the reviewers do not seem to be aware of the philosophical bankruptcy that is the root of the problem.
The books’ authors and the reviewers cite multiculturalism as one cause of Europe’s impotency in the face of conquest by Islam. They do not investigate, except in a cursory way, its philosophically nihilistic nature, a nihilism which can only permit the triumph of a barbarism committed to imposing its suffocating, stultifying, and anti-life values by force or fraud. Values apologized for, denied, or destroyed cannot be defended. Multiculturalism is an egalitarian leveler; its function is to render the highest equal to the lowest common denominator. (To paraphrase Ellsworth Toohey: Enshrine the irrational, and the rational is razed.) The barbarism can take many forms: in art, a Jackson Pollack canvas of drips and scratches equal to a canvas by Jean-Léon Gérôme; in science, invalidated global-warming models equal to observable scientific fact; in politics, church-state separation equal to the mosque-state union of Islam.
Marshall, in his review of Calder’s book, goes right to the point in his introductory remarks about the influx of Muslim immigrants:
“Today’s immigrants might be considered hostile to European values, except that Europe itself increasingly has only a foggy idea of what those values might be.”
Marshall notes, quoting author Caldwell:
Many Europeans are determined to defend their values…but it is hard to defend what you cannot define. “There is no consensus, not even the beginning of a consensus about what European values are.”
Marshall cites German philosopher Jurgen Habermas, an atheist, who acknowledged:
“Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of civilization. To this we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”
Or post-reason chatter, which is the same thing. Christianity might have once been the “ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy.”
But, no longer. As David Greenfield notes in his August 2009 article, “What will a Muslim Europe Look Like?”:
“The old [native] European is likely to have a limited interest in church or synagogue. His children may even hold an open hostility toward organized religion. The churches and synagogues will pursue his grandchildren with all sorts of gimmicks in the hopes of getting them to show up, but even if they do, there will be very little to hold them.”
By the old Europeans, Greenfield means those who are beneficiaries of the welfare state, more concerned with taking advantage of their state-mandated employment perks and pensions, medical care, extra-long paid holidays, and other collectivist entitlements, all of it the result of burdensome tax rates, than worrying about the future of their countries. Let our children take the hindmost, is their attitude, but let us have fun now. As far as Europe is concerned, it is a question of whether or not religion ever was the underlying moral code that permitted the continent to enjoy the fruits of freedom and capitalism, limited as those fruits might have been by government intervention. The Enlightenment, after all, was in large part a revolt against especially Catholic Church authority.
The vaunted “invincible faith of the Christian” has grown flabby and insouciant, and is no match for the invincible faith of the Muslim. Without a philosophy of reason, Europe is left stammering and stuttering in the face of such certitude.
The authors of the reviewed books and the reviewers also point out that European policy of opening the gates to unlimited immigration was an act of expediency by its leaders, with no thought to the future consequences. Their immediate, electorate-focused concern was to bolster their workforces to take the unskilled jobs Europeans no longer wished to take. The overwhelming majority of these immigrants turned out to be Muslims from parts of the globe that were chronically “undeveloped.” The nature of Islamic belief rejects concessions to non-believers’ political and moral norms. Europeans remain despised infidels. Unless they convert to Islam, they are doomed to dhimmitude, or to second-class subservience.
As many “radical” Islamic spokesmen have smugly observed, if Europe cannot be “reconquered” with military jihad, it can be conquered with population jihad. Which is exactly what is happening. These spokesmen see the day when they can boast: Our brothers disposed of your garbage and swept your streets; now we are going to dispose of you and sweep your culture away. You tolerated us, without grasping that we are not tolerant. Notre Dame de Paris will be turned into a mosque, as well as your opera houses, your topless beaches will be abolished, your books will be censored, and the crescent shall adorn the top of the Eiffel Tower as a symbol of our Ummah.
From a journalistic standpoint, it may be profitable to note the disturbing demographics of Muslim population growth in Europe, together with European accommodation of Muslim sensitivities, the latter in itself a mark of uncertainty whose root is nihilistic relativism. But no prominent author has undertaken, to my knowledge, the task of addressing the fundamental problem, which is philosophic in nature: What can account for and permit the decline of a civilization in the face of conquest by barbarism?
What is happening in Europe -- a self-induced philosophic drift, a drift encouraged and sanctioned by universities, schools and official, politically correct policies -- can also happen in America as its politics teeters between a defaulting commitment to statism and the command economy of a compulsory welfare state, and a renewed commitment to freedom, the beginnings of which have been manifested in the Tea Parties and the hesitant behavior of Congress to legislate socialism.
However, Muslim organizations such as CAIR, the American Muslim Council, and other non-profit Muslim councils and advocacy organizations, even though many of their principals have links to Islamic terrorist organizations, are making virtually unobstructed headway in having their customs and barbaric ethics accepted under the ruse of “civil rights.” Death threats against apostates, “honor killings” of teenage girls, and even beheadings go largely unreported in the American media.
The self-censorship practiced by Europeans only encourages Islamic hubris. The same self-censorship, especially by the mainstream media, can only result in the United States contracting the European disease. The Tea Parties of 2009 especially cause some hope that America’s own drift towards statism -- never mind an Islamic demographic jihad in this country -- can be arrested, and the course reset to rediscover its glorious philosophic origins, origins which promoted reason and individual rights.
18 Comments ::