Saturday May 18, 2013
Sex, Ayn Rand and the Republican Party (Updated Oct 13, 2012)by Daniel Johnson, Deputy Executive Editor
"Some people are moulded by their admirations, others by their hostilities." (Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen)
(CALGARY, Alberta) - Although she died in 1982, Ayn Rand (born Alisa Rosenbaum) and her acolytes, like the living dead, keep rising from the ground to walk the earth. Those (like me) who vigorously oppose the hateful, anti-social, mean spiritedness of Rand's philosophy have trouble gaining traction because Randites are exceptionally close-minded and insular—a typical cult.
Objectivists deny and reject, almost in toto, the standards of mainstream society. They believe, and this is not an exaggeration, that everyone is out of step but them. Their attitude is summarized in two panels of a Dilbert comic.
The current crop has grown, like poison mushrooms, in the current Republican Party, most publicly in the philosophy of Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan.
The cultural danger, here, was aphorized by the philosopher Lewis Mumford when he said:
"If the history of the human race teaches any plain lessons this is one of them: Man cannot be trusted with absolutes,". An unwavering, inflexible belief in absolutes is at the bedrock of her philosophy which she named Objectivism.
Former acolyte Edith Efron boldly summarized:
“There is no way to communicate how crazy she was....Ultimately everyone who knew her would ask themselves, ‘Is she insane or am I?...She was a profoundly manipulative woman...so repressed’ that it resulted in a ‘very complicated paranoia.’”
According to Allan Blumenthal, one of the founding members of Rand’s inner circle (she referred to them as “the Collective”) she “created an entire system, including her philosophical system, to deal with her own psychological problems.” Jeff Walker (author of The Ayn Rand Cult) was astounded. “All of Objectivism was to deal with her own psychological problems?” Blumenthal agreed, “That's my view,” which supports Rand’s own statement that “Objectivism is me....”
Objectivism was a foreign system planted in the United States by Russian born Rand and a band of Canadian Jews, most of them closely related. Leonard Peikoff. initially a lowly member of the Collective, though he was one day to become Rand's heir, hailed from Winnipeg, Manitoba, as did Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, Rand's close friend for a quarter-century, and Peikoff’s cousin Barbara Weidman (Barbara Branden). With Toronto natives Nathan Blumenthal (Nathaniel Branden), a Blumenthal sister and her husband, and cousin Allan Blumenthal. Add Alan Greenspan and that was the Collective.
Philosopher John Hospers summed up the Collective:
"They became shivering-scared disciples who dared not say the wrong thing lest they incur her wrath....Rand said she wanted people imbued with reason around her...she actually got on the whole...a bunch of adoring sycophants." Edith Efron suggested you'd be "better off with Rand if you were...a malleable nothing...the kind of special adoration the youngsters gave her...she could not get from an adult."
It’s a well known truism that psychological problems routinely manifest in a person’s sexual life and, inversely, sexual dysfunctions reflect wider, more deeply seated problems. Ayn Rand was no exception. As Nathaniel Branden observed:
"She had no real insight into the depth to which her anger contaminated her" citing the disproportionate number of times even her admirable characters have negative instead of positive feelings."
Philosopher Jack Wheeler, who regarded Rand as the greatest philosopher of vision in this century of technical philosophy, described her as “a very unpleasant person...hooked on Dexedrine, which makes you really unpleasant and angry.” Such "diet pills" are amphetamine-like drugs with psychoactive effects similar to those of cocaine but in some ways more potent and longer-lasting.
Roy Childs commented, “I know she took Dexedrine every day for 40 years. Her secretary told me she'd take a couple of five milligram' pills, and if nothing happened in an hour, she'd take another two, or three or four. She was taking this on top of pots of coffee, with added caffeine from chocolate after chocolate, and the nicotine from two packs of Tareytons a day."
Her sex life
Through the 1950s and into the mid-1960s, Nathaniel Branden was sexually servicing Rand in her bedroom, while her husband Frank O’Connor sat in the living room smoking and drinking and sometimes talking with Barbara Branden when she was there. At the same time, Branden was also carrying on a full time affair with Patrecia, whom he would later marry, while, throughout this period, he remained married to Barbara.
In her book review of Jeff Britting’s Ayn Rand, Jenny Turner sums up Objectivist sexuality.
“Power, greed, grandeur, beautiful, insatiable people: all this can lead to only one thing. And the sex in Rand’s novels is extraordinarily violent and fetishistic. In The Fountainhead, the first coupling of the heroes, heralded by whips and rock drills and horseback riding and cracks in marble, is “an act of scorn ... not as love, but as defilement” – in other words, a rape. (‘The act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted.’ In Atlas Shrugged, erotic tension is cleverly increased by having one heroine bound into a plot with lots of spectacularly cruel and handsome men.)”
Dagny Taggert, in Atlas Shrugged has sexual encounters with the three main “heroes”:
Francisco D’Anconia: “She knew that fear was useless, that he would do what he wished, that the decision was his, that he left nothing possible except the thing she wanted most—to submit.”
Hank Rearden: “He seized her arm, threw her down on her knees, twisting her body against his legs, and bent down to kiss her mouth…he saw the shape of her mouth, distorted by pain, was the shape of a mocking smile. He felt it change to a shape of surrender…”
John Galt: On sandbags in the underground terminal tunnels: “She felt her teeth sinking into the flesh of his arm, she felt the sweep of his elbow knocking her head aside and his mouth seizing her lips with a pressure more viciously painful than hers…”
And the rape scene from The Fountainhead:
Howard Roarke appears in Dominique’s bedroom:
He came in. He wore his work clothes, the dirty shirt with rolled sleeves, the trousers smeared with stone dust. He stood looking at her. There was no laughing understanding in his face. His face was drawn, austere in cruelty, ascetic in passion, the cheeks sunken, the lips pulled down, set tight.
She tried to tear herself away from him. The effort broke against his arms that had not felt it. Her fists beat against his shoulders, against his face. He moved one hand, took her two wrists and pinned them behind her, under his arm, wrenching her shoulder blades. She twisted her head back.
She fell back against the dressing table, she stood crouching, her hands clasping the edge behind her, her eyes wide, colorless, shapeless in terror. He was laughing. There was the movement of laughter on his face, but no sound.
Then he approached. He lifted her without effort. She let her teeth sink into his hand and felt blood on the tip of her tongue. He pulled her head back and he forced her mouth open against his.
She fought like an animal. But she made no sound. She did not call for help. She heard the echoes of her blows in a gasp of his breath, and she knew it was a gasp of pleasure. She reached for the lamp on the dressing table. He knocked the lamp out of her hand. The crystal burst to pieces in the darkness.
It was an act that could be performed in tenderness, as a seal of love, or in contempt, as a symbol of humiliation and conquest. It could be the act of a lover or the act of a soldier violating an enemy woman. He did it as an act of scorn. Not as love, but as defilement. And this made her lie still and submit. One gesture of tenderness from him—and she would have remained cold, untouched by the thing done to her body. But the act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted. Then she felt him shaking with the agony of a pleasure unbearable even to him, she knew that she had given that to him, that it came from her, from her body, and she bit his lips and she knew what he had wanted her to know.
They had been united in an understanding beyond the violence, beyond the deliberate obscenity of his action; had she meant less to him, he would not have taken her as he did; had he meant less to her, she would not have fought so desperately. The unrepeatable exultation was in knowing that they both understood this.
“True love”, Rand style.
Rand’s male heroes are sadists. Psychoanalyst Horney describes the sadist:
“While he violates the most elementary requirements of human decency, he at the same time harbors within himself an idealized image of particularly high and rigid moral standards. …The emotional life of the sadistic person is empty. Almost all feelings except those of anger and triumph have been choked off. He is so dead that he needs these sharp stimuli to feel alive.”
Here are the “social” feelings of Rand heroes:
Dagny Taggert: “In the city, she had lived in chronic tension to withstand the shock of anger, indignation, disgust, contempt.” and “I can run a good railroad. I can’t run it across a continent of sharecroppers who’re not good enough to grow turnips successfully.”
Hank Rearden: “There’s nothing as wasted as an object in a public window.” and “He had never liked anyone or expected to be liked.”
Ellis Wyatt: “I have guest rooms for the kind of people who come to see me on business. I want as many miles as possible between myself and all the other kinds.”
As an aside, this raises a dark/hilarious question: What sort of sexual relationship did Branden have with Barbara, Ayn and Patrecia? No one has said anything and I won’t speculate, but behind closed doors did they try to be sexual Objectivists, as described in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged? Just the thought gives me the willies.
Rand gives a contradictory inkling in an essay where she explains in detail why “a rational woman would not want to be” President of the United States. While maintaining the fiction (from her point of view) that men and women are equal in intelligence and abilities, “she could not want it. It is not a matter of her ability, but of her values.” To illustrate, she says, “I suggest you study the basic motivation of the heroines in my novels, particularly Dagny Taggart [Atlas Shrugged].”
It’s not about women being more emotional than men or about marriage versus career. The issue, she says, is that if a woman were to become President, “what would it to do her?”
The issue is primarily psychological. It involves a woman’s fundamental view of life, of herself and of her basic values. For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to a man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.
Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men.
Being President means being the ruler, at the top of a hierarchy of both men and woman.
This, for a rational woman, would be an unbearable situation. (And if she is not rational, she is unfit for the Presidency or any important position, anyway.) To act as the superior, the leader, virtually the ruler of all the men she deals with, would be an excruciating psychological torture….By the nature of her duties and daily activities, she would become the most unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate and rationally revolting figure of all: a matriarch.
For a woman to seek or desire the Presidency is, in fact, so terrible a prospect of spiritual self-immolation that the woman who would seek it, is psychologically unworthy of the job.
I first encountered Ayn Rand in 1963 when I saw Atlas Shrugged on a display rack at my public library. I don’t recall, now, what attracted me to reading it, but read it I did, and several times again over the next few years. I became hooked on its anti-social attitudes and became, for many years after, insufferable in my relationships with others. As former Objectivist Allan Blumenthal put it, “because they had learned the philosophy predominantly from fiction, the students of Objectivism thought they had to be like Ayn Rand heroes: they were not to be confused, not to be unhappy, and not to lack confidence. And because they could not meet these self-expectations, they bore the added burden of moral failure.”
Barbara Branden wrote that, "often, Nathaniel would arrive home from a meeting with Ayn looking grim and tormented. He would say that Ayn had been furious with him—that they had spent their hours together analyzing his psychological problems and the reasons for his failure of spontaneous emotional communication. Many times, still angry, she telephoned him when he reached home, scolding, accusing, denouncing." Although not as extreme, I was the same way with many of my friends, trying to convince them that their lives would be so much more meaningful if they believed this or did that. I remember sitting and talking with a friend one night trying to show him how, because he had no “purpose in life”, he couldn’t really be happy.
Murray Rothbard, a member of Rand's circle for several months in 1958, described the Randroids as “posturing, pretentious, humorless, robotic, nasty, simple-minded....dazzlingly ignorant people.”
Objectivism is a perfect example of how the world is our psychology.
You may have never heard of Rand or Objectivism or, if you have, you may know little or nothing about either. But both Rand and her pseudo-philosophy have had a corrosive and covert impact on our society. One of the early devotees from the 1950s was Alan Greenspan, later globally influential as Chairman of the U. S. Federal Reserve Board from 1978 to 2005.
Jeff Walker says that "Ayn Rand's inflation paranoia, impressed indelibly upon the mind of disciple Alan Greenspan in the 1950s, wound up administering a stunning shock to investors three decades later. The crash [of 1987] even resulted in further regulation of the financial markets, something Greenspan had come to Washington to reduce."
Barbara Branden says that Greenspan "believes he is doing the right thinking within an Objectivist context" at the Fed. In The Nation, Christopher Hitchins quoted him saying, decades later, that “I have been a strong supporter of the teachings of Ayn Rand”.
Robert Hunt confirms that “disconnected ideological fragments of Atlas Shrugged have dominated non-fiction best-seller lists since the late seventies. Rand has indirectly helped create a genre, and through that genre has shaped the thinking of middle-class America."
The meaning of Objectivism
Nathaniel Branden once asked Rand if the possibility of error caused her any concern. "No," she replied,
“Not because I think I'm incapable of error but because if reason and observation lead me to certain conclusions, what can I do but hold them as true—until and unless someone can prove I've made a mistake? What can any person do, except go by his best rational judgment and remain open to conflicting evidence when and if someone is able to present any? In the meantime I'm not going to say “it seems to me” about matters where I am convinced reason is on my side.”
Rand characterized as irrational and immoral all that is self-destructive in the long term. Yet she dramatized her smoking habit in public, flourishing a stylishly-long cigarette holder while curtly dismissing the dangers as statist propaganda. Recalls Dr. Allan Blumenthal, “She did not approve of statistics and the only evidence against smoking was statistics, which she claimed were put out by people trying to destroy free enterprise and the cigarette industry. She would not accept any evidence that smoking was bad for you."
She eventually died of lung cancer and, says Barbara Branden, while in hospital:
One day, after Ayn had received a heavy dose of pain medication, she said that she could see the branches of a tree waving across the window pane. How could it reach so high, wasn't she on the ninth floor?—she asked, disturbed by the mystery. Joan [Blumenthal] realized she was seeing a reflection of the pole holding her intravenous equipment. She explained it to Ayn, adding that it was not uncommon to have mild hallucinatory experiences under heavy medication. Ayn refused to believe it. She continued to insist that was a tree, she knew it was a tree....”A number of months later,” Joan recalled, “she called me in to discuss what she said was a serious matter. When I arrived she shouted at me over the issue of the tree. How could I have attempted to undermine her rationality? Clearly, the issue had been festering ever since it occurred. There was no arguing with her. Allan and I were both very hurt. We had done everything possible to help her, I'd been with her constantly when most of her other friends had stayed away because they couldn't cope with her—and none of that seemed to matter."
She would become fixated on ideas and, even if months were to elapse before she met or talked to someone again, she would pick up her obsession as if no time had gone by.
Ruth and Buzzy Hill were renting the Rand's California house after they had moved to NY. Nathaniel wrote Ruth and asked if she would find interested people and sponsor his presenting lectures in the California house. Ruth agreed, but said she would like to hear a sample lecture so she could judge Branden's speaking style and gain familiarity with the material she would be promoting. Branden responded that Rand had been offended in her asking for a sample when her recommendation was sufficient. Branden said he did not audition and the matter was closed. "A few months later, Ruth was surprised to see Ayn, Frank and Nathaniel coming up the driveway; she had not known they were in Los Angeles on NBI business. As Ruth ran down the driveway to greet them, she stopped short when she saw Ayn's furious look. She listened, numbed, to an angry tirade: How dare she question Ayn's judgment? How dare she presume to demand an audition of someone Ayn had recommended? Despite her love and admiration for Ayn, Ruth stood her ground firmly. 'It was from you,' she said quietly, 'that I learned the importance of thinking for myself and going only by my own judgment.' To be quoted in this context served only to increase Ayn's anger."
So when you think of Paul Ryan and the current Republican Party, think of Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand was nuts and so is the modern Republican Party.
Update, October 13
Objectivism is based on the theory that there is an objective, external world. The idea that the external material does not exist was broached in modern times by the Irish Bishop, George Berkeley in the 18th century when he introduced his philosophy of Idealism. He was effectively refuted, at the time, by Samuel Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Samuel Johnson, reported that on Aug 6, 1763,
“After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it thus.’”
It sounds simple, but since Einstein et al, we know that matter is anything but. Demonstrating that the external world is not real as we think it is astonishingly easy in today’s scientific environment—an understanding of which Ayn Rand and her acolytes are woefully ignorant. The Mars Rovers do it for us. But first, look at your watch or a clock on the wall and note the time. That is the real time, right?
The Rovers are “driven” remotely by operators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The operators view the surroundings of the Rover through cameras and see the images on an earth-based computer screen.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Let’s say that an operator sees that a seismic event has dislodged a large rock on a nearby hill and it is now rolling towards the rover where a collision will mean the rover will be crushed.
The operator realizes that the impending collision is about five minutes away. His choice is to quickly go forward or back up out of harm’s way. In reality, however, he can’t do either.
Signals between Mars and JPL currently take about 15 minutes (This constantly changes as the distances between Mars/Earth changes) So when the operator sees the rolling rock, the rover has already been crushed for ten minutes. The operator is seeing Mars 15 minutes in the past!
So, here’s a question for the Objectivist to answer: What is the real time? Is it the time you just noted, or is it the time registered on the rover’s computer? Clearly, it’s not either, because there is no fixed time anywhere in the universe. It’s entirely relative to where you are in relation to everything else.
Newton and the physics he founded is based on his definition of time a view which prevailed until Einstein:
"Absolute, true and mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external, and by another name is called duration: relative, apparent, and common time, is some sensible and external (whether accurate or unequable) measure of duration by any means of motion, which is commonly used instead of true time; such as an hour, a day, a month, a year."
But, as Einstein noted:
“For us who are convinced physicists the distinction between past, present and future has no other meaning than that of an illusion, though a tenacious one.”
Time is not the absolute river Newton saw. The rate at which time flows, ticks of a clock, depends, in part, on the gravitational field. A clock on the Earth’s surface ticks more rapidly than the clock in an orbiting satellite. Knowledge of this factor, called relativistic time dilation (from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity), is what makes Global Positioning Satellites work. If they were not corrected to relativistic time dilation, they could not pinpoint objects on the Earth’s surface to within a few metres.
This GPS accuracy made it possible (as just one example) for a team to fly a model airplane 3,000 km from Newfoundland to Ireland in just over 38 hours on Aug 9-11, 2003. The model plane, 4.9 kg and 1.8 m long with matching wingspan, flew at an altitude of about 300 m and landed just over 10 m from where it was supposed to land. GPS could not be this accurate without correcting for relativistic time dilation.
The clock on a GPS satellite in orbit for a period of time, if retrieved by the space shuttle (or a current equivalent), and returned to Earth, would be slightly behind the time on its synchronized counterpart that remained on Earth. On a macro scale, if an astronaut flew to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light years away and returned he would, on landing, find that his clock did not read the same as yours here on earth even though they had been initially synchronized. As demonstrated by GPS, there is no real time!
This is the fundamental fallacy of Objectivism—believing that that there are absolutes, when in all realities, there are none. QED!
Leonard Peikoff’s DIM argument is Aristotelian sophistry, unconnected to what we “know” about the real worlds.
So, in the Rover example, there are two conflicting realities--one in which the Rover is crushed and one in which it is not yet crushed. Which is the real reality?
(PS. If you have doubts about the above, go to your university and ask a physicist. You're welcome.)
___________________________________Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Daniel Johnson as a teenager aspired to be a writer. Always a voracious reader, he reads more books in a month than many people read in a lifetime. He also reads 100+ online articles per week. He knew early that in order to be a writer, you have to be a reader.
He has always been concerned about fairness in the world and the plight of the underprivileged/underdog.
As a professional writer he sold his first paid article in 1974 and, while employed at other jobs, started selling a few pieces in assorted places.
Over the next 15 years, Daniel eked out a living as a writer doing, among other things, national writing and both radio and TV broadcasting for the CBC, Maclean’s (the national newsmagazine) and a wide variety of smaller publications. Interweaved throughout this period was soul-killing corporate and public relations writing.
It was through the 1960s and 1970s that he got his university experience. In his first year at the University of Calgary, he majored in psychology/mathematics; in his second year he switched to physics/mathematics. He then learned of an independent study program at the University of Lethbridge where he attended the next two years, studying philosophy and economics. In the end he attended university over nine years (four full time) but never qualified for a degree because he didn't have the right number of courses in any particular field.
In 1990 he published his first (and so far, only) book: Practical History: A guide to Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Story of Civilization” (Polymath Press, Calgary)
Newly appointed as the Deputy Executive Editor in August 2011, he has been writing exclusively for Salem-News.com since March 2009 and, as of summer 2012, has published more than 210 stories.
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