Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Coming Divide.....
Several times in the last few months Ayn Rand has been brought to my attention. The first time was because Congressman Paul Ryan has been said to require his staffers to read Rand's writings, which largely boil down to either Atlas Shrugged, or Fountainhead, the two novels for which she has become known. You recall that Ryan is the one who wants to solve the deficit problem by dismantling Medicare and Social Security, right?
Rand developed a pseudo-philosophy called Objectivism, and it was essentially an argument that the purpose of life is to make yourself happy, to get what you want, what you can, and remember that compassion for those less fortunate is a form of illness, stupidity, and just plain...well....it's for suckers. I refer to her philosophical efforts as 'pseudo' because the entire academic philosophy community recognized her as one who was not a serious philosopher, but as a person who just wanted to legitimize her personal viewpoint. Believing that self-interest is cool and altruism is foolish, doesn't make you a serious philosopher on any legitimate level, it just makes you a coy person who wants to have what you want and not feel guilty. My wife summed up Rand's philosophical argument very succinctly: "It sucks to be you."
So, in a society where self-interest has come into its own, where putting integrity and honor aside in favor of playing the acquisition game has become the avowed goal of people who hide behind the august sounding label of 'entrepreneur', it just makes sense that some of the self-anointed purveyors of wisdom would seek ways to justify acting in what most of us recognize as selfish and even predatory ways. The World War II generation knew with great clarity--for the most part--that being a selfish person who eschews and uses the less fortunate is not a qualification for being a decent person. In fact, most of that generation--having lived through the Great Depression and having fought to save the world from fascism and the murder or enslavement of millions--knew without having to philosophize about it, that being a decent Human Being is more important than merely getting what you desire...especially when you do so at the expense of others.
We are headed down the road to a Great Divide: those on one side have adopted Ayn Rand's attitude and will stop at nothing to get what they feel they are entitled to have. Those on the other side will be the modern equivalent of a proletariat. They work to keep a roof over theirs an their family's heads, food on the table and they hope for a reasonably happy life as they go about this task...a task that for many is becoming a dire struggle.
The people on the Rand side largely regard these others as 'useable', there for the exploiting and suitable to build their personal dreams on the backs and the sweat of the less fortunate. It has been this way for a very long time. Once it was outright slavery, then a feudal system of exploitation, now it is a much more refined system in which those who seek it can become a part of this 'ruling class' and have the means and the channels through which to use them....to hold the reins of power. The rich are getting not just richer; they are becoming an elite class of power brokers and money barons who now call the shots in government. They essentially have the wherewithal to buy political power, to de facto own the mechanism of governance, and to thereby ascend to levels of power and wealth that allow them to not merely be pleased with themselves, but to RUN THE ENTIRE SOCIETY, as they please.
And, unless you are one of them....that is not good news for you. The aphids of the middle-class will be kept under control by making sure that they have enough desire to own STUFF, and that they can borrow the means to do so. By keeping us scrambling for what we need and for what we believe will make us happy....the power elite has us eating out of their hands. Whether it be the desire/need for a home, a nice vehicle...or several, all the electro and petro toys we could ever imagine and never need but come to DESIRE.....we are on their treadmill and it looks very much like the big rotary turntable milking machines that large commercial dairies have. We need medical care...no matter the price....we must have higher educations....now becoming a source of massive indebtedness for so many. We must have all the glittering toys that we are bombarded with from the ever larger glowing screens that comprise so much of our lives now.
The grand irony in all of this is that we're so busy scrambling for what we think we need, for what will somehow--though we have no real evidence of this--make us HAPPY....that we haven't got the time or energy to resist what all of this is doing to us. One clue might be the fact that the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants has now soared over 100 million per year....with a rapidly growing percentage of them being written for CHILDREN. If you look at it all from a distant mountain-top, with a sense of how it all works, you begin to see that this system of economic and social domination is now at a very high level of smooth-running perfection.
We are doing just exactly what we're expected to do: work hard, conform to what is expected and, indeed, demanded of us. And, the people who are using us, who understand that it 'sucks to be us', are getting so good at making us believe that we're somehow 'free', and that if we just do what they want we'll also be happy, that we can no longer even see what is really happening to what was once dreamt of as a near-utopian society.
If you do see what is happening, and it doesn't sit well with you...chances are you just haven't got the right prescription for an anti-depressive drug. Maybe things would seem better if you just asked your doc to put you on something different.
Or you can admit that you do see what is happening and that you don't like it, that you, in fact, do not accept it as inevitable.
And.....then you can begin to ask yourself what the alternatives are.
BTW: when Ayn Rand died, her funeral was sparsely attended...but some caring soul had the presence of mind to order up a large funerary flower arrangement, in the shape of a DOLLAR SIGN. What a legacy, eh?