Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Michael Shrugged

I hate the book Atlas Shrugged. I hate it so much that I bought 4 800 page books, and three other books of notable length so that I will be lacking a reason to go back to it for a very long time. I already have my next wave of books picked out. I hate for not very many reasons either which is odd all things concidered. I don't hate it for the story. Actually I rather like the story, but then again I read buisness news. I like the parts where bright minded executives wrestles with incompetent employees and and an unfreindly government to try to produce things. I think it is interesting and a subject that can be compelling... the same way John Grisham made lawyers compelling, or whomever it was that made coroners compelling. I don't hate it for its message either.

That should of been the start of a new paragraph but the mouse is being uncoopertive. However, yes the message. Rational selfishness is one of the most off the wall fictional concepts I've read in a long time. It is hard to get angry about the rediculous, and while I don't know very much about the ecconomic realities of the 40's and 50's the idea that people who want to make money will just innovate is one that isn't really based on any imperical evidence. At the onset of the novel we have two major almost science fiction events happen. One is the advent of Readen Metal which is cheap, an ore of copper, and stronger than steel. Without this fictional metal the book would simply be impossible. The other is a man who figgured out how to get oil out of depleated wells. Okay there big guy you go you. IRONICALLY the oil guy's next project was to figgure out how to get oil from Shale which is something we just figgured out how to do cheaply so NOT all of her ideas are off the wall, but the ones about rational self interest definitely are.

Oh yes and there are the workers. The happy men and women of taggart railroads, the joyous secretaries that work for a pittance but who are so honored to be in the precense of such great men and women of the world that they will gladly toil their lives away for the greater cause of other people's profit. Rand's treatment of the worker is a disturbing cross between marxist and the "happy slave narratives" we got shortly after the civil war. The whole thing is this marvelous trainwreck of stuff. I still plan to write a couple of essays about it. Especially in regards to how she views the workers because that is some compelling shit right there trust me.

No the reason why I hate the book is because Ann Rand thinks I am a fucking idiot. That is what gets to me. Okay I get it. Objecivism yay. The thing is that she has exactly one tool in her tool box and that is a hammer. Forgoing the idea of artistic design or subtlety she relentlessly hammers home her ideas over and over again with such a vengeful repitition that would cause even the Marquise De Sade to blush. At least that man had the decency to be neurotic in regards to how many times he used certain words. This combined with her generally poor writing style makes me want to kick a hole in the wall. Up above when I said I liked the story I wasn't lying. The thing is that I am 250 pages in and the story has happened over maybe 50 of those pages and most that was a blindingly awful flashback that served only to reinforce the fact that all of her charecters are two dimensional charactictures and to leave as little room for interpretation as possible. After awhile I found myself asking, "who the fuck is this book to?" I mean who is it trying to convince. It certainly isn't the great movers of the world. Most of them have little time for books or the arts. It isn't for the "happy workers" because they are already happily working. Is it for the great unwashed massed? Why would a bunch of unwashed masses read a 1000 pages of Ann Rand telling them they are stupid over and over again. No there is this middle sect of people. People who I firmly believe that Rand is a part of. It is a group of people who are not the great movers of the world, they aren't quite as low as the happy workers, nor are they the scum. In a Brave New World they would belong on the island. They are the middle people. The terrifying thing is that the books message to these people are to sit back and let other people run things. They will take care of us because they will be rationally self interested.

That is a chilling thought. It's also a message that seems specically designed to make people stupider. Don't try to fix, or control anything. Just let it go and let other people do it all. The ones who want to. Stay out of the giant's way and everything will be all right. What is even worse is that her and Marx actually share one incredibly compelling similarity. The focus of another essay I very much want to write I assure you. It is the fact that both of them have a knack for point out some fundamental problems with the way things work. You read the communits manifesto and it still, largely, feels current today. It certainly doesn't feel as it is written over 100 years ago. Atlas Shrugged, a much weaker book, definetly shows some age around it. However, she does predict certain things, like the shale, or innovation being focused in one area around one type of employment. For her it was Colorado and industry. For the real world it was computers and silicon valley. She also gets some of our problems right but I unfortunatly don't have time to get into them as my lunch is over and they are more than a little esoteric. Her solution is, much like Marx, utterly wrong, half finnished, and more of a fantasy than a serious attempt at a reality.

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