langwidere: the everything is terrible logo (everything really is terrible)
[personal profile] langwidere
I wrote this on Thursday evening, which is when I intended to post it, but then I got bukkaked by my archenemy the Weather — who only this morning released his strangle-hold on my internets.

People have been talking a lot about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged lately, because some really stupid fans made a movie about the novel. And, I know, anybody who has ever read (or attempted to read) Atlas Shrugged is flabbergasted by this turn of events, because Atlas Shrugged has the philosophical weight and the narrative impetus of a Cabbage Patch Kids Birth Certificate. It is a monstrously lame book, and every last one of its premises is bland, inert, and facetiously incorrect. You might as well make a movie out of a Chinese take-out menu. At least it would have attractive, distracting subtitles.

But I keep accidentally scrolling into the comments on articles like this, or that one. Or this one. Or that one.

…Maladjusted dorkwad glibertarian say what?

Based on my own unscientific enquiries (I got three-fifths of the way through the novel my junior year in college), I think that Atlas Shrugged, with its incredibly dull fable of "producers" pitted against a planet-load of slothful, illogic "parasites," is not really about what these sad little people seem to think it's about. I think it represents, in many ways, the cri de cœur of every self-diagnosed, malcontent, horny 'genius' born into American society since WWII: Why are you forcing me to alter myself in order to be attractive to you? Why must I put the brakes on my desire to be the richest, baddest-assed, most importantest person in the whole wide world in order to be socially palatable to others? Why doesn't everyone simply give me whatever I want or need, whenever I want or need it? Can't you see how much better I am than you?

But, of course, the self-styled Randing geniuses don't really understand that by any objective measure they are exactly like everyone else, and that the things that set them apart — the ability to perform complex calculus equations in one's head! the ability to speak nine languages fluently (and get along conversationally in three more)! the ability to get a bunch of even-stupider people to elect you to Congress! the ability to play the viola, the violin, the cello, the piano, the pipe organ, and the harpsichord! a breathtaking idea for some subversive, hand-held computing platform! the ability to solve a Rubik's cube in thirteen seconds, underwater!! — read, to ordinary humans, as quaint, charming, useless tricks, like a talent for playing the spoons, or for making realistic bird-whistle noises with your mouth.

It is not only this misapprehension which has confounded the Rand-loving genius, either. These geniuses lack the tools to appreciate that, worse than being the human equivalent of a bear on a bicycle, they are, in fact, materially inferior to the ordinary masses against whom they have set the awesome weight of their pointless intellects. They interpret the lack of interest displayed by regular people in their perceived gifts as the expression of fear and insecurity. They are too dumb and too lustfully engaged in the pursuit of whatever idiot hobby they have elevated to the level of mythology to grasp that their preoccupations probably aren't very compelling to sane people in the first place. Normal humans don't spend their lives thinking up grand economic theories and hilariously unscientific improvements to the modern rail system (what modern rail system?). This is not specifically because they lack intelligence and motivation; it's just that they're too busy getting laid leading meaningful lives. Those who do stumble into creating world-changing innovations tend not to be of the romantic, Thomas Edison type, anyway — slaving alone in the darkness of human indifference, spurred on by some mutant, unnameable, super-human faculty to finally let in to some edge of the benighted world the light of personal brilliance — I mean, really? You guys? All innovation, every last new, amazing thing that somebody thinks up, or has ever thought up, or ever will think up, is the result of teamwork, of people building on the failures and labors and theories of others. With others. We are quite obviously a social species. Our ability thrive, personally and culturally, depends on our physical and psychological connection to one another. We don’t live just for the sake of others; we live because of others. Literally! This is true not only in the communistic frame of family life, where the distinction is (hopefully?) obvious, but in broader social contexts as well. No one works alone, and no one ever has. It took, for example, tens of thousands of scientists to come up with the atomic bomb. Henry Ford didn't invent the concept of the factory, but he certainly used it to devastating effect, right? So, is Ford a Looter or a Producer? What about the hundreds of designers and coding experts affiliated with Apple who spent years working together to devise the iPhone? Are they a bunch of parasites living off Jobs's productive sweat, or are they gestalt-inflected Producers in their own right? And what does it say about them that it took a whole lot of goal-oriented professionals working together to invent something that turned out to be so useful? I mean, Google's offices are actually referred to as a "hive." (Even Edison himself "borrowed" the blueprints for his most important inventions from others.) Do these embittered Randtards really believe that that their "ideas," even if they were capable in some way of being implemented, could really be put into practice unpolished, unchanged, and without having been worked over and over by buckets of other, actually-qualified experts?

Compounding that insult ("BEING WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING") is the fact that, in contrast to the needy, Rand-y genius, the regular person is perfectly capable of navigating the murky, obscure waters of human interaction with no trouble at all. The mundanes get the things they want the good old-fashioned way: By convincing others that they are lovable and interesting and worthwhile on their own merits. They do this by being, in many cases, lovable and interesting and worthwhile, on their own merits.

The Rander-genius does not understand this concept.

And, of course, because the lopsided 'talents' of geniuses allow them, by attrition, to become emotionally crippled, anti-social goobers, they are so bad at "networking," so offended by the thought of following rules, so insulted by the affront of the formal instruction offered by higher education, that they can't parley their potentially-valuable gifts into solid monetary (and status-related) gains. This gets their goats more than anything else. They think they ought to occupy the pinnacle of every socio-economic pyramid! Have they not proven their superiority already, by being way smarter than you?

No matter what you hear from its fans, Atlas Shrugged is emphatically not about the oak-tree potential in every little American acorn. It is about systematically destroying the evil, bureaucratic, icky-sticky human constraints that confine and abuse the world's brilliant thinkers and doers, bahahaha! It is about elevating the common, ordinary, kindergarten-style impulse to be a selfish, destructive infant to the level of natural fucking philosophy.

Rand's fandom amounts to a Get Rid of Slimy LooterS Club populated exclusively by people who have never gotten what they wanted out of life. And because these retarded dipshits are so blindly egoistical (and so baselessly convinced of their own importance), they actually think that must be someone else's fault.

If you meet somebody who loves Atlas Shrugged for any reason other than its great potential for comedy — oh, wait, you won't. Never mind. You don't "meet" Ayn Rand fans. Those people are either living in their mothers' basements spending all their time haunting the comments sections at liberal blogs, holed up in some shack in the mountains somewhere making booby traps designed to slow the progress of the federal agents they believe are eternally poised to strike against their inflammatory, unpunctuated, anti-government blog posts, or attending Tea Party rallies carrying incorrectly-spelled signs advocating a return to the gold standard and fewer gun laws. (Well, except for Alan Greenspan, whose horrible semi-comedic "flawed" processes of thought were coupled with a rare measure of functional ambition.)

P.S. — Ayn Rand herself was a vile, vulgar dickhead who wrote breathy, squee-filled, fangirly diary entries about the disgusting perpetrator of one of the most gruesome child-murders I've ever heard of. Nothing that came out of a brain that diseased and misled could've ever been genuinely valuable to anybody. (I found that post in one of the comment sections linked above, but I can't remember which one now and I am feeling too Productive to search for it.)

P.P.S. — I have met many actual geniuses, and only a few of them were poorly-informed, thoughtless Randroids. Most of the rest of them were socially inept, dorky, and mystified by the motives of other humans, but also genuinely sweet, interesting, and occasionally physically attractive people. So, this is not, like, some solid, categorical critique of all Americans with an IQ over 140. Of course. Just the ones who are not very good at parsing fantasy fiction.

P.P.P.S — Also, if I remember correctly, one of Atlas Shrugged’s "protagonists" possessed the unique and quasi-magical ability to turn base metals into, um… railroad ties?

Well, that was therapeutic!

I have three really busy days this week, and then shit gradually slows down to almost nothing for the rest of the summer. On that note, I have a couple of mind-blowingly awesome projects which I hope to share with you later in the season, and also I will get those fucking translations up soon wtf. I am also beginning to be gravely concerned by my treatment of Rashoumon, which, now I look at, it is really awful. Also I was somehow finagled into translating a light novel, which is so, so unbelievably gross, oh my god, you have no idea. All of those things will be making their way to a monitor near you sometime this summer.

Next post: Needs more Sherlock, and the Kindle, too — oops!

Date: 2011-04-25 04:35 pm (UTC)
starburns: (SOLO)
From: [personal profile] starburns
I haven't met very many people who were sincere fans of Rand's work, but none of them could be considered "geniuses" by any stretch of the imagination. They'd usually just managed to convince themselves that they were a lot smarter than they actually were. I feel like actual geniuses would have much better things to do than sit around crowing about how brilliant they are.

Also, I also have a hard time believing Ayn Rand was any sort of genius. So as for the intelligence of anyone who has chosen to model their life's philosophy on her terrible writing... well. Well.

Date: 2011-05-05 03:12 am (UTC)
starburns: (SOLO)
From: [personal profile] starburns
Oh, definitely, a lot of those sour-puss Objectivist d-bag types exist. I meant more that I'm not convinced many of them are truly "geniuses". I guess a 140+ IQ is a popular benchmarker for "genius" qualification, though, so if you're going by that then maybe they would be? Or maybe it takes a genius to know a genius, and I'm definitely not a genius, so, you know. I should probably shut up.

Like many a quiet-ish, nerdy young woman, my first boyfriend was a slightly older, self-identified "Libertarian". He bought his school papers online, because he had "better things to do" than write them. He didn't even have the defense of being a science kid: he thought he was going to be a genius in business. I know I'm not particularly smart, but when he told me he was smarter than I was, I feel like I had grounds to be affronted.

Date: 2011-04-26 01:34 am (UTC)
seichan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] seichan
kept thinking this was the one with the architect. whoops. wrong one. i don't think i read this book. let me know if you like the movie...things are always better when Hollywood recreates them. :)

Date: 2011-05-01 05:03 pm (UTC)
seichan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] seichan
the fountainhead was the architect book. :) read it high school. entertaining. it's a shame the kindle version is 20.99. darn publishers.

Date: 2011-04-27 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't even know. I haven't read anything by Ayn Rand, but I'm not really planning to.
On a kind of unrelated note, I did have a several day long argument on facebook with an idiot about Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Date: 2011-04-29 03:21 am (UTC)
laimashousecat: cartoon kitty sleeping with face down (Default)
From: [personal profile] laimashousecat
My first boyfriend was in love with Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. I should have run as soon as he told me that. He was also one of those self-proclaimed geniuses (mostly for software engineering). He promptly failed out of college his first year because he was "too smart for the classes." Other things taken into account too, I'd say I have to agree with your analysis here! Could never stomach the book myself (seemed too boring), and I don't think I will now. Mostly, all I can think of now is, "Thank god he's gone!"

Also, Kindle review? Yay!