Tag Archives | Rand

Tribaltarian Nation

Insightful quote from Adam Bates:

Q: What is it about the libertarian movement that attracts as you say, “rape apologists, Islamophobes, and nativists?”

A: I think there are two largely distinct strains of belief that lead people to anarchism/libertarianism. One is a fundamental commitment to the liberation of others, and the other is a fundamental and exclusive commitment to the liberation of oneself or one’s tribe.

Both of those sets of people are going to be anti-government, both of them are going to be largely non-interventionist, both of them are going to feel like they support liberty (albeit one definition is universal and the other is tribal), and I think libertarianism has obvious appeal beyond the alternatives.

But with the rise of the social justice movement and increasing global connectivity, we’re seeing that distinction grow starker by the minute. The “tribaltarians” aren’t going to support immigration, they’re not going to support race or culture mixing, they’re not going to support trade, they’re not going to accept any arguments about collective crimes against groups of people that aren’t them, they’re going to recoil at any and every effort to erase the philosophical and moral buffers between “them” and “us.”

So I get it. I get how they got here. But if there ever was a reason for these two groups of people to caucus together, it has now evaporated entirely.

I’m also reminded of Rand’s analysis of tribalism [link goes to an MS Word document]. (The fact that Rand herself was frequently guilty of tribalism doesn’t make her analysis any less useful.)


All That Fighting, All That Snow

Charlize Theron

I just got back from seeing Atomic Blonde, which was a lot of fun (especially for those of us who came of age in the 80s). But it really made me sad once again that Charlize Theron never got her wish to play Dagny Taggart, because she would have been perfect.

But hey, when Daniel Craig finally stops teasing and finally gives up playing Bond, Theron could totally replace him.


Agent of Shields

In a recent defense of mandatory national service, establishment media apparatchik Mark Shields writes:

Contrary to Ayn Rand, we all do owe much to each other and to our country. And mandatory two-year national service – civilian or military – is imperative to help us understand the responsibility, as well as the rights, of citizenship and build our connections with our fellow citizens. Two years, with no deferments and no exemptions.

It’s an unintended compliment to Ayn Rand that Shields feels the need to bash her in order to defend slavery.


Éminence Grise

In We the Living, Rand describes a song that was popular in Russia during the early years of the Soviet era:

Historians will write of the “Internationale” as the great anthem of the revolution. But the cities of the revolution had their own hymn. In days to come, the men of Petrograd will remember those years of hunger and struggle and hope – to the convulsive rhythm of “John Gray.” … It was called a fox-trot. It had a tune and a rhythm such as those of the new dances far across the border, abroad. It had very foreign lyrics about a very foreign John Gray …. Its gaiety was sad; its abrupt rhythm was hysterical; its frivolity was a plea, a moan for that which existed somewhere, forever out of reach.

Rand translates the first stanza as follows:

John Gray
Was brave and daring,
Kitty
Was very pretty.
Wildly
John fell in love with
Kitty.
Passion’s
Hard to restrain –
He made
His feelings plain,
But Kat
Said ‘No’ to that!

I’ve long suspected that We the Living’s “John Gray” inspired Atlas Shrugged’s “John Galt” (and likewise that We the Living’s “Café Diggy-Daggy” inspired Atlas’s “Dagny”).

Michael Berliner, in his invaluable article “The Music of We the Living” (in Robert Mayhew’s Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living), tracks down most of the real-life music that Rand refers to in the book. But “John Gray” seems to have eluded him.

In contrast to other cases, he does not identify its composer; he also says that there are “no standard lyrics to this song,” and in evidence he offers some lyrics completely different from those Rand cites:

In a faraway southern land
Where blizzards do not blow
There once was a handsome man
John Gray, the cowboy,
John Gray, strong and rakish
As tall as Hercules
As brave as Don Quixote

But I’ve managed to track down some more info, thanks to the internet and a hazy memory of college Russian, and in fact the song Rand referred to has a known composer, and seems to have canonical lyrics as well; the “cowboy” lyrics, as we’ll see, are a red herring.

The composer is Matvei Blanter (1903-1990), one of the Soviet Union’s most popular composers, who wrote “John Gray” (“Dzhon Grei”) in 1923. And the lyrics, by Vladimir Mass (1896-1979), are the ones Rand cites. Here’s a link to a page with the song’s Russian lyrics, naming Blanter and Mass, followed by a copy of the original sheet music likewise featuring Blanter’s name.

And here’s the song itself:

This is clearly the version Rand discusses. The tune matches her description, and as for the words, one doesn’t need much familiarity with Russian to identify “Kat skazala nyet!

Here are a couple of instrumental versions; the first one does a particularly good job of capturing the “sad gaiety” of which Rand speaks:

(It’s funny how Rand thinks the “John Gray” song sounds so foreign and un-Russian, since to me it sounds utterly Russian, or possibly Russian-Jewish.)

What about the “cowboy” lyrics that Berliner cites? It turns out that they come from a completely different song, with not only different words but different music. The song’s lyrics may mention a “John Gray,” but its title is “In a Far-off Southern Land” (“V Stranye Dalëkoi Yuga”). I haven’t been able to track down any author for the song. But here it is:

As you can see (well, hear), while the two songs have some musical similarity – enough to suggest the possibility of influence (though the direction of influence can’t be determined without knowing the date of “In a Far-off Southern Land”) – the tunes aren’t the same (and to my ear, that of “John Gray” is the more complex and sophisticated of the two).

Well, that’s all.


Kant Unbound!

kant-touch-this

[cross-posted at BHL]

I neglected to post about this while it was actually happening, but I just finished participating in a Cato Unbound exchange on Immanuel Kant’s place in classical liberalism – with digressions on, inter alia, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rand. My interlocutors were a Kantian and two Randians.

Reading it is categorically imperative! Catch the phenomenal action here.


Atlas Shrunk, Part 17: Every Twisted Remnant of Foundations Dug Out

So apparently the makers of the Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy are finally admitting that it kind of sucked. And there are some sort of plans afoot to try again.

enright-house-construction

I’d love to see Atlas done right, perhaps as a Netflix series or the like. My chief misgiving is that those behind the potential remake are saying that the chief point of a film adaptation of Atlas should be “to accurately convey and propagate the message.” That makes it sound as though they see Atlas as primarily a propaganda vehicle for Rand’s philosophy.

That’s certainly not how Rand saw her work. As she notes in The Romantic Manifesto:

[S]ince every art work has a theme, it will necessarily convey some conclusion, some “message,” to its audience. But the influence and that “message” are only secondary consequences. Art is not the means to any didactic end. This is the difference between a work of art and a morality play or a propaganda poster.

This doesn’t mean that Rand didn’t hope her fiction would influence people’s philosophical ideas; of course she did. But she was able to achieve that goal only because it wasn’t her principal goal; the persuasive power of her fiction writing comes first and foremost from her artistic vision. To quote Manifesto again:

Let me stress this: my purpose is not the philosophical enlightenment of my readers, it is not the beneficial influence which my novels may have on people, it is not the fact that my novels may help a reader’s intellectual development. All these matters are important, but they are secondary considerations, they are merely consequences and effects, not first causes or prime movers. My purpose, first cause and prime mover is the portrayal of Howard Roark or John Galt or Hank Rearden or Francisco d’Anconia as an end in himself – not as a means to any further end. … The simple truth is that I approach literature as a child does: I write – and read – for the sake of the story.

Likewise, what I most want to see in an adaptation of Atlas – and most missed in the one we were given – is the evocation of the world Rand created, her “sub-creation” in Tolkien’s sense. (That’s why the naturalised dialogue and 21st-century milieu of the movies bugged me so.)

Now I’m not saying, as I’ve heard some others say, that an adaptation of Atlas should drop the philosophy and just focus on the story. The philosophy needs to be there, not because it’s true (after all, it’s only partly so) but because it’s crucial to the story.

I’ve also heard people say that a new film should change Taggart Transcontinental from a railroad to an airline, to make it up to date. Why should it be up to date? Let Atlas be its own distinctive sub-created Hopperesque alternative universe.


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