Ayn Rand - The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

I had to step forward in defence of coffee. My friend Gaurav is known for his out-of-the-box views, but I think he really crossed the line here when he likened Ayn Rand's philosophy to black coffee. If you wish to be an Ayn Rand fanatic, great! But why blacken coffee's good name in the bargain? Aren't there better smilies out there?

Objectively speaking, Ayn Rand's philosophy is better compared to a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster - the best drink in the universe, the ultimate drink fantasy. A drink one can logically make since it has a recipe, but only IF you can obtain the ingredients.

However, I am certain that even after having a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster it will be hard to find any literary merit in Rand's work. But that was never the bone of contention; we are talking about the Ayn Rand Philosophy and Logic Package. A casual search on the web will yield a cornucopia of criticisms of her faulty logic, sloppy scholarship of philosophy and endless borrowing from thinkers and philosophers from the past. These have been discussed at length in any number of articles, some more casually than others. Upon reading the more scholarly ones, I think it would be better to hurl rocks than throw terms like metaphysical_realism, representationalism at you. We will have an Atlas Shrugged size post if we start talking about how the Grand Dame herself couldn't lift the weight of her own lofty ideals - her refusal to submit to peer-review, or willingness to publish opposing views in her own journal, her lover's tiff with one-time protege Nathaniel Branden and her unwillingness to stomach any criticism. In any case, the most common stance of Ayn Rand and her cultists is in the manner recently popularized by George Bush, Jr. - "If you are not with me, then you are against me!". When the Objectivists are not fighting the rest (a.k.a. the Collectivists), they are fighting amongst themselves, thankfully without the use of physical violence.

However at 18, I was very impressed and at that age Ayn Rand reads like nothing you have ever read before and it is very refreshing. I devoured her books and relished them one by one. But, then you grow up and realise even if you are like one of her cardboard cutout superheroes, not many women will want to submit to the really interesting concept of rape as a religious rite. No wonder the BDSM community considers Ayn Rand as one of their mascots. From personal experience, first you believe in Santa Claus, then you believe in Superman, then in Jackie Chan and in that chain, you later believe in Ayn Rand and then you move on.

Like the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, Ayn Rand's philosophy is eventually mythical and full of too many big IFs and relying on too many conditions/assumptions for it to really work. I have yet to meet or hear about a real-life John Galt or Howard Roark. Rand, herself confessed in one of her introductions - "My books are not about what things are, but what they should be". Sweet dreams! Even decades later while her theories have still to find consistent practical application, she has not even found much favour with serious scholars of philosophy or literature. Knowing this, the Ayn Rand Institute quite rationally cultivates her largest fanbase -- high-school and college students. I see it as more of a note of regret than of tribute that at her funeral they read Kipling's If.
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If you seemed to have missed out on the fun and want a quick start in the Ayn Rand scheme of things then follow these 10 easy steps . Once you master that make sure you don't say the 25 Most Inappropriate Things An Objectivist Can Say During Sex.

I do not wish to be a bore so I suggest that you read links on this page which is the source of many serious, and hilarious links above.

5 comments:

Ashutosh said...

Great post! The problem is, you can always say that someone fails to appreciate someone else's philosophy because he does not interpret it correctly. So you pass the culpability buck from the accused to the accuser, and claim that it's his problem that he does not understand the POV of the accused, not the fault of the accused that he/she pitches a flawed philosophy. How do you think one would get around this?

Shuchi said...

Thanks for linking to the 10 easy steps article; it is the funniest thing I've read in recent times!

nivas said...

My views are mostly the same on this topic. Ayn Rand has ridiculously black & white view of things which reduces even the value of some good things in her philosophy. You can read my Fountainhead review to get my view on her.

sks said...

find a philosophy (anything that gives directions on how to do things) and will find someody who will say that it is bull shit. Philosophy are like chlothes, you wear what you like. Ayn Rand, devoured her book once, (sure that many readers will say this), was fascinated by her objectivism, also met people who tried to make their lives like her characters, but every one then moves on. I guess ayn rand is part of growing process, like michael jackson is (an ultimate discovery) to a 13 year old.

Sumedha said...

A plug for my post :)