Posts Tagged ‘Atlas Shrugged’
Posted by Jerry on December 20, 2010
My friends and I submitted the “Sixth Sense” video. Admittedly, the philosophy and concept behind the video is not easily accessible at first–beyond the most obvious message to “Think”; so, I’ll just give a brief explanation of our thoughts that went into creating the script of the movie and then the movie itself.
First, when we decided the enter the contest, we decided to stay away from the political and economic themes of Atlas Shrugged, for the following reasons:
1) These themes are difficult to capture on a personal and emotionally-connective level.
2) It’s easy to get preachy with such themes
3) It’s the most obvious and superficial interpretation of Atlas Shrugged
4) We were sure that political and economic themes would be the ones most commonly captured by other videos in the contest.
Hence, I decided to first identify the core theme of AS, namely: The role of man’s mind in existence.
From there, I began thinking of themes most directly relevant and affecting to me (and my friends) here in India. We thought of themes like the right to free speech (but dismissed it because it didn’t convey powerful images to us in our minds, without being preachy).
We thought of the struggle of Indian youth in asserting their goals and lives in a collectivist society like India (for example, publicly open gay men like myself face some kinds of resistance almost regularly in our lives). We dropped this idea because–again, we didn’t think it hit the core of Atlas Shrugged, would be difficult to execute, may not be relevant to a global or Western audience, and we wanted to avoid an ambitious project that would turn out sloppy.
Finally, I hit upon the idea of contrasting Mysticism versus Reality. Specifically, I wanted to contrast Eastern Mysticism versus a rational view of the world, since Eastern Mysticism is attractive many many people in the West as well. So, I sat through the night and typed up a 6-page long concept paper explaining all the major premises of eastern mysticism (primacy of consciousness, One-ness of Being, illusion of reality, etc.) and debunking their arguments with strong rational, logical, and objective counter-arguments.
Essentially, my concept paper came down strongly and harshly against the side of mysticism and how mysticism makes the act of living effectively and productively impossible–and reiterated the role of the mind as our *only* competent tool of survival in this world.
In the interest of full disclosure, the filmmaker that I was working with is himself a believer in mysticism (as is very common in India). He was very uncomfortable working on such a script. Therefore, the scripwriter in our team tempered the concept-note heavily by introducing a less controversial path to conveying a similar message (albeit, invariably and through no fault of hers, losing some impact of the original message along the way). She conceived of the brilliant metaphor of the five senses–which, when used effectively and in tandem with the “sixth sense”, namely, our minds–can make our life in this world tremendously more efficacious and *human*.
Thus, was born the concept of the Sixth Sense.
The script thereafter went through several more changes by the filmmaker and the scriptwriter.
To explain the final video, the voice over is of the adult character who is reflecting on her childhood. The concept of the five senses is intended to allude to how we generally take the competence of our senses as valid, but *not* the competence of our mind as valid (we accept any truths said by scriptures, priests, collectives, parents, cultures, etc.). Our message is to not surrender the mind to the various “conspiracy theories” of mystics and collectivists. The theme of our video is the competence of our mind, which we have dubbed as “The Sixth Sense” as a deliberate subversion of the mystic’s claim of “extrasensory” or “sixth sense” connection to higher truths.
For successful living, you must trust in the competence of your mind to achieve a successful life.
Watch our video, and if you like it, please do vote for it.
Posted in Atheism, Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Movies, Mumbai, My Friends, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged Video Contest, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute videos, Ideas, Movies, Objectivism, Objectivism videos, Philosophical videos, Philosophy, The Sixth Sense, Videos | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on December 9, 2010
This is the video we created as our submission to the Ayn Rand Institute‘s Atlas Shrugged video contest.
The movie was filmed and edited by Abhay Kumar–a friend and talented filmmaker.
The concept for the script was developed and written by Gazal Dhaliwal–a close friend, gifted writer, and scriptwriter for Bollywood movies.
I provided the philosophical content, guide, and direction–giving advice on the message, ideas, implications, and choices that our video must make.
So here is our finished product. I am very pleased with the outcome. If you like it as well, then please show your support for our video by VOTING for it at the Atlas Shrugged Video Contest website.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Movies, Mumbai, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged movie, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute, Ayn Rand Institute videos, Movies, Objectivism, Objectivism videos, Philosophy videos | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on March 24, 2008
I know of some Objectivists whose moral views on sexuality, romantic love, and virginity have a remarkable resemblance to the views of the Catholic Church on these issues (I am deliberately choosing to not provide links to substantiate my claim). Of course, being an Objectivist does not make you immune to errors of judgment; neither does it mean that an Objectivist would accept anything merely because Ayn Rand said so.
Here is what Ayn Rand had to say on these issues in her Q&A session titled “Of Living Death”:
On the question, “If romantic love includes more than one person, what does this do to the institution of monogamy?”
Ayn Rand: To begin with, if you want to ask it in principle, I’m fine. It is not only permissible, it is virtuous and moral. I have never said that marriage is the only proper form of romantic love. There is nothing wrong with a romantic affair, if there are reasons why a couple cannot be married or if they are too young to marry; and that is not promiscuity, provided it is a serious feeling based on serious values.
Now, as to more than one love, now remember men have free will. It is the Catholic Church that advocates indissoluble marriage. I don’t. And a reason one cannot is because man is not omniscient. He can make a mistake in his choice of partner or the partner may change through the years and therefore a man may fall out of love, or as so can a woman, if the partner he or she has chosen no longer lives up to the proper values. In Atlas Shrugged, … [Hank]… was romantically in love with [Lillian] at first because he thought she was a certain type of woman and she deliberately faked the kind of image she thought he would want and he got disappointed. Now, he was very wrong in carrying out a secret affair with Dagny, but what was wrong with it was not sex, but secrecy—the lie.
An open relationship with as many men as you can meet if you are unlucky—but not several at a time—is appropriate, except that of course, one cannot be as unlucky that often, one would have to then check one’s standard if one makes constant mistakes. But as a principle of romantic love, one cannot say that only a single life-long romance can appropriately be called romantic. That is the ideal. If a couple achieves that, they are extremely lucky and they must have extremely good premises, but one can’t make that the norm. Sometimes it is an exclusive single love for all time; sometimes not. The issue to judge here—the moral principle—is the seriousness of their feeling and one gauges that by what kind of values is it based on. What is it that the person is attracted to in a man or a woman, and why. That is the standard of romantic love.
I have transcribed Rand’s speech verbatim; you can hear the entire Q&A session for yourself by going to the Web site of the Ayn Rand Institute, create an account (if you don’t already have one), and then go to their library of free multi-media resources.
I have edited Rand’s references to events in Atlas Shrugged in order to not have spoilers, because my friend who reads this blog is currently reading the novel. Please keep this in mind when you choose to comment.
Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, Love and Romance, Objectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Tagged: affairs, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, fidelity, Love, marriage, Morality, Open relationships, Romance, romantic affairs, sexual experience | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on February 27, 2008
I have played a significant part in introducing my friend L’Innommable to the ideas of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. In fact, I think I have done the same with most (all?) of my close friends, who have now read the major works of Ayn Rand and agree with at least some of her ideas to some extent.
I think it comes with the territory: out of happenstance, if I befriend someone, they are bound to be exposed to my value-system; indeed, I am certain that my values play a role in the kind of people I keep and value as friends.
As a matter of fact, I know that simply running this blog and writing the occasional article on Objectivism here has introduced several people to Ayn Rand and helped them get a more mature grasp of her ideas. I am happy of these consequences–and they are an added perk because they are not wholly intended. I write on my blog simply because I like setting my thoughts into words, and I derive a serene sense of pride from my writings. That my blog has resulted in some positive–and hopefully, challenging–intellectual experiences for some is a delight to learn about.
Anyway, L’Innommable is in the midst of reading Atlas Shrugged and he has written of his impressions of the book so far. I liked what he had to say. Here’s just an excerpt of his post:
“[Atlas Shrugged] reminds me of a symphony… I see hints, suggestions, undertones, and allusions to what is to come; an exposition on the philosophy of Objectivism. The thing is, it starts out as any good symphony would, not giving too much away in the beginning, but enticing the listener to continue listening for his enjoyment and edification, climbing ever higher to a crescendo that seems inevitable.”
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Personal, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged review, Ayn Rand, book review, Books, Fiction, Ideas, Novel, Objectivism, Philosophy, Reading | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on November 28, 2007
Capitalism Magazine has an excerpt from a collection of essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Written by Michael Berliner, the article is a strong piece of philosophic detection that unravels the contradictions, lies, distortions, and malicious intent behind Whittaker Chamber’s 1957 review of Rand’s last novel, which was published repeatedly by the National Review.
Read the entire article—not too long—because it is an excellent work.
Rand’s approach to ethics is not to Chambers’s liking, because “everybody [in Atlas Shrugged] is either all good or all bad.” Of course, perhaps employing some dialectical logic from his past, he also claimed that her heroes were presented as being “beyond [my italics] good and evil.” Nevertheless, he is obviously opposed to Rand’s moral absolutism. He is also unsympathetic to her individualism, because it leaves “no other nexus between man and man other than naked self-interest,” a view he claims allies her with Marxism, although his criticism is almost identical to that leveled by Marx against individualism: “The concern of the French Constitution of 1793,” wrote Marx, “is with the freedom of man as an isolated monad withdrawing into itself. . . . The human right of freedom is not based on the connection of man with man but rather on the separation of man from man. It is this right of separation, the right of the limited individual, limited unto himself. . . .”
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Fascism, individualism, Marxism, National Review, Nazism, Philosophy, Reason, Whittaker Chamber | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jerry on November 7, 2007
I really like this beautiful opinion piece written by Maggie Gallagher on the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged. Since it is on Yahoo! News, I’m afraid the link might become inactive in a few days when the page will be moved. So, I’m including the entire article here.
THREE CHEERS FOR AYN RAND
“Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand‘s monumental 1,000-plus-page valentine to the America of her dreams, turns 50 this year.
The occasion has been marked by nerdy paeans to her philosophy, and grudging acknowledgements by sophisticates that Rand’s novels may not be so very bad, after all. For the latter ersatz tribute, see, for example, the famous art critic (and my friend) Terry Teachout’s essay on Rand at 50 in the current issue of National Review.
Ayn Rand deserves better.
Fifty years after it was published, “Atlas Shrugged” lives on like no other book outside of, well, the Bible. Eight percent of Americans have read it, according to a 2007 Zogby poll. Yet a 1991 Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club poll found that, next to the Bible, it is the book that had most frequently “made a difference” in people’s lives. I just checked on Amazon.com: “Atlas Shrugged” was the No. 1-selling book in the category of “literature and fiction-classics” and No. 310 on the overall Amazon list.
Most novelists would kill for an audience this big on the day they appear on the “Today” show, much less more than 25 years after they’re dead. Among reading Americans, no other novel has ever generated any response remotely like this.
And “Atlas Shrugged” became a genuine American classic without ever making it into the official “canon” of great, near-great or even so-so novels — all of which guarantees a certain number of mandatory sales and reads among bored high school students and eager undergraduates.
Why? Teachout concludes that Rand writes a pretty good potboiler, a plot “complete with sex scenes and a shoot-’em-up finale. No wonder that it has sold like soap for half a century.”
Really? Let’s consider sales among three popular authors with whom Teachout compares Rand: John Grisham’s “The Firm” is No. 71,739, Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” is currently No. 148,043 and Zane Grey’s “Ranger of the Lone Star” is No. 28,965 on the Amazon list.
Novels, even page-turning potboilers with lots of sex and gunplay, do not typically sell like soap, year-in and year-out, for half a century.
Like Terry, I first read and fell in love with “Atlas Shrugged” when I was 16. At 47, I see her as a great artist in somewhat the same way that I so acknowledge Theodore Dreiser: Despite the obvious flaws in the prose, the whole adds up to a genuinely unique achievement.
The key to Ayn Rand is that she pictured America largely from early films from Hollywood. As a young girl growing up in the grim world of communist Russia, she saw America as we dreamed ourselves to be, and she longed her whole life with a child’s intensity to make this vision real, to live in it. We respond to her novels because they offer us one deep strand of American self-identity — as individualists, yes, but individualists who together dream big dreams, conquer wild frontiers, invent the future, remake our very selves.
She understood, the way so many pampered Hollywood artists don’t, that much of the romance of America is in business — in our dreams of making it, by making big new things, things no man has ever made before. Rand is virtually alone in seeing businessmen as fellow artists: makers, creators, inventors. In her novels, the greatness of the artist was matched by the greatness of the architect, the scientist, the entrepreneur and the railroad executive. The Homer of our era, she sang the song by which so many Americans live our lives.
I gave up being a Randian (as I called it) at 22, when I had my first baby.
For the first time, I saw the limits of the grand myth of the self-made man. I saw how completely life itself depends on a love that cannot be rationalized, but is pure gift.
Grace entered my life, and I submitted to the necessity of gratitude — including gratitude for the stubborn, peculiar, determined, brilliant little Russian girl who, virtually unassisted, remade herself into one of the best-selling American novelists of all time.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50 years, 50th Anniversary, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Books, Fiction, literature, Novels, Philosophy | 6 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 30, 2007
There appears to be a particular affinity for Ayn Rand–or at least for the individualistic passion of her classic hero Howard Roark–among many people in the IT/software industry.
I assume we all know that Jimmy Wales, the famous creator of the Wikipedia, is an explicit Objectivist (I think Diana from Noodlefood is even friends with him). He describes himself as an “Objectivist to the core” and has even named his daughter Kira–after Ayn Rand’s heroine in We The Living.
But Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute revealed some additional names from the software industry who seem like Ayn Rand admirers, in an article titled Ayn Rand Inspired High-Tech Capitalism:
“I know that T.J. Rogers [of Cypress Semiconductors] loves Atlas Shrugged,” says Michael Berliner, the director of the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. “Both Gates and [Michael] Milken have read it. But they’re afraid of what it has to say.
The 1997 article goes on to discuss the popularity of Ayn Rand in the Silicon Valley:
If a decade ago students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could be seen lugging around copies of Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, today many of the same guys are pulling down million-dollar-a-year salaries in a tiny pocket of economic affluence known as Silicon Valley.
… in the meritocratic manner in which they run their companies, many high-tech business leaders would be more at home with architect Howard Roark, Rand’s heroic iconoclast who propelled The Fountainhead to the top of the best-seller lists, than Ben and Jerry, who sell heart disease by the pint all the while claiming that their “1 percent for peace” philosophy is rooted in something deeper than the bottom line.
As a demonstration of the fact that meritocracy is the law of the land at Silicon Valley, in one incident…
Rogers lambasted a group of Roman Catholic nuns who, owning 7,000 shares of stock in Cypress, felt compelled to tell him they thought he should place women and racial minorities on its board of directors. Rogers, after telling the letter’s author, Sister Doris Gormely, to get off her “moral high horse,” went on to say that it would be immoral for him to heed to the nun’s request, especially since there are few women with the engineering or business experience to qualify them to sit on the Cypress board.
Then there is this recent post by Yahoo! Web Developer Isaac Schlueter, who considers The Fountainhead as one of his favorite books. He writes about a Howard Roark residing in each web developer:
Yahoo’s internal web developer mailing list flares up in these delightful debates once or twice a month, and it always warms my heart to be reminded that there’s an intransigent little Roark inside each one of us. Some 50 years before the Internet was even a spark in TBL’s eye, Ayn Rand managed to capture the timeless essence of a web developer in the character of Howard Roark.
If you’re wondering what is it about web developers and people in the software business that find such an appeal in Ayn Rand’s intransigently individualistic philosophy, I’ll venture to offer that the clue lies in the individualistic nature of their work, the uncompromising demand for personal merit and skill on the job, the inventiveness and imaginativeness of their products, the intimacy between the creator and the emergence of the product being created, and in the privately creative process of their production.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Foo, IT, Jimmy Wales, Objectivism, Philosophy, Silicon valley, Software, The Fountainhead, Yahoo! | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 24, 2007
The following are the questions posed by the reporter from The Telegraph (TT) and my e-mailed responses to them. I have slightly edited only my responses at some places for stylistic reasons; in the question about the response of young readers to Ayn Rand’s books, I have added a few additional points to expand upon my original thoughts.
TT: What drew you to Ayn Rand?
JJ: I was first introduced to Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead by a friend of mine. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel as a work of art, the philosophical ideas in it disturbed me greatly. They were radical and completely alien to everything I had been taught as moral. My response to this cognitive dissonance was to shut out Rand’s ideas from my mind and continue to live the way I was used to. A couple of years later, I happened to pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged. My life was never the same after that. I could no longer just ignore the radical ideas in the book. This pushed me to investigate further, ask “why?” to every single premise and belief I currently held, dig deep to the roots and trace out the ideological contradictions in my belief; in essence, from that point on, I embarked on a critical evaluation and a massive upheaval of my belief systems. It was a challenging and confusing period of time, but I was open to the experience.
TT: There are successive generations of readers who discover Rand in their youth and then move away. What are the elements in Rand that you continue to revisit or discover over the years?
JJ: There are several reasons why young readers become zealots of Rand’s ideas and then move away as they grow into adulthood: Rand’s philosophy is tremendously complex and radical. Every principle in the system is internally related with every other, non-contradictorily. Therefore, there are two approaches to dealing with this philosophy: first, one honestly wrestles with the ideas of the philosophy and attempts to follow all its logically connected chain of thoughts to integrate them in one’s own mind, or second, one can take the shortcut approach and memorize the key fundamental principles, learn a few choice quotes from Ayn Rand and the novel’s heroes, and then claim to be an Objectivist.
Unfortunately, the young readers who have not yet achieved the intellectual capacity (due to their age or intellectual training) required for such massive integrations across philosophical levels tend to adopt the second–easier and shorthand–approach to express and feed their emotional excitement from having read the novels. The reason is that one can simply not read these emotionally stirring and philosophically challenging novels and remain passive or wait over years for intellectually maturity to set in: one is compelled to feed this immediate emotional experience by retaining key slogans or quotes from the books that express an emotional truth, then they seek out answers from wherever they can–even if it may be from Google searches or the Wikipedia.
Consequently, an intellectually pre-mature and overwhelmingly emotional introduction to the radical Objectivist premises of individualism, egoism, and self-interest often leads young people to hold an undigested, unintegrated, contortion of dogmatic beliefs–identical to religious beliefs held on faith, emotional need, repeated memorizations, and acceptance from authority. Eventually, such a person may literally “grow out” of their memorized philosophy and regard it as his foolish and juvenile indulgence in youth.
For me, Rand’s works continue to reveal whole new integrations, different perspectives, unique approaches, and various applications of a principle to reality. For example, my recent discovery was the integration of the Objectivist position on charity with the issue of cultural activism for change in society. While I won’t go into the details of this integration here, I will only say that the elegant nature of Objectivism’s non-contradictory system of principles can give amazing insights into any and all aspects of reality: since there is only one reality, it necessarily means that all of reality is a totality of interrelated facts and relationships. Therefore, it is simply an incredible experience to discover new relationships among seemingly unrelated existents in this one reality.
TT: Would you say Rand’s time has come in India?
JJ: I would say that Rand’s ideas have long been pervasive among Indians–both abroad and here in India. After the United States, India is cited as the nation with the most Ayn Rand fans. Further, Rand’s ideas have a particular relevance to the history of Indian politics and economics. One can actually argue that many from our parent’s and grandparent’s generation “Shrugged” in the intellectual sense in response to the repressive Socialist policies of Nehru and the License Raj. Free minds cannot function under oppressive regimes. That generation chose to withdraw their minds and the products of their minds from this society in search of free societies in the West; the government of India called it the “brain-drain”–Ayn Rand would have called it “Atlas Shrugged.”
Notice how with the opening of the Indian borders, the gradual acceptance of free markets, and the loosening of government regulations, not only is tremendous wealth flowing into this country but also the minds who create such wealth are choosing to return to make their fortunes here.
TT: In what way is Rand’s work, particularly Atlas Shrugged, relevant in India today?
JJ: [I think the answer to this question is the same as above.]
TT: What are the common misconceptions, if any, that you find people bear about Rand’s philosophy?
JJ: Rand’s philosophy is only about 25 to 30 years old. It is only now being studied seriously in the philosophy departments of 30 universities in the United States. As an intellectual movement, Objectivism–the philosophy of Ayn Rand–is only beginning; most movements take centuries to merge into the mainstream mindset. Until that happens, Objectivism is prime target for misrepresentations and outright distortions. Some examples of such are as follows: some people claim that Ayn Rand advocated that man is an island, that individualism means isolationism, that to be independent is to never ask the help of anyone else on principle.
Any substantial study into the actual ideas of Ayn Rand will reveal that such a notion of individualism and independence is contrary to Objectivism. Among other things, Objectivism champions laissez-faire capitalism. The crucial and practical tenet of capitalism is the division of labor society: that individual men engage in the mutual trade of products that they have gained an expertise in producing. A division of labor society–that is, a capitalist society–necessitates a society of individual men who need each other in the rational–non-sacrifical–sense of traders–traders who voluntarily exchange a value for another. In simplistic terms, this ensures a steady supply of products out in the market for exchange and a market of consumers eager to exchange their own products or values for that which they have not produced.
Therefore, it is contradictory to claim that Objectivism preaches isolationism or that independence means man is an island. Quite the opposite, it is only the rational man who can foster a benevolent society of individuals who engage in voluntary transactions that mutually benefit each other’s lives immensely!
TT: What is your personal favourite AR writing?
JJ: We The Living–for its incredibly moving portrayal of a rational life struggling to exist in an oppressive and irrational society. It is also the closest to an autobiography of Ayn Rand–in terms of its ideas, themes, and values, not in terms of the concretes.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Economics, Fiction, Ideas, India, Interview, Morality, Novels, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, The Fountainhead, We The Living | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 24, 2007
I’ve finally taken the time to upload the pictures from the Atlas Shrugged Anniversary event in Mumbai. Check ’em out!
Also, Taylor–one of my blog readers–visited Guatemala, where the Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) unveiled the new Atlas high-relief sculpture in conjunction with anniversary celebration events. Taylor has some lovely close-up pictures of the sculpture and of the book release of the 50th Anniversary Edition of Atlas Shrugged. Thanks, Taylor! 🙂
Read my post on this Latin American university’s celebrations here.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Fiction, Golden celebration, Ideas, Novels, Objectivism, Philosophy | 2 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 22, 2007
The Atlas celebrations in India is covered by The Telegraph. Since I organized the one in Mumbai, I am mentioned several times in the article.
The writer of the article e-mailed me to express her regret that her original piece was “severely truncated” for space issues. I can see that the intent of the article is very positive towards Ayn Rand. However, as with all such cases of articles on Ayn Rand’s philosophy written and edited by people who are not properly familiar with it, this article contains at least three major factual errors. It is highly unfortunate. I immediately e-mailed the writer and pointed out the inaccuracies, asking that she either revoke the article or rectify the errors quickly. I offered some suggestions on how those errors may be rectified. I’m not sure what will come out of it.
P.S. For copyright issues, I was told not to post the article on my site. So visit the link to read it in full.
UPDATE: I was just informed that prominent Indian actor Shammi Kapoor’s quote in the article (about AS’s thesis that money is the root of all evil) is verbatim. This means either the entire book went right above the man’s head, he has an incredibly weak memory of what he read, or Kapoor was just very sloppy in talking with the reporter. In any case, all of this merely underscores the case that he shouldn’t even be mentioned in the article.
I encourage all of you to send Letters to the Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) pointing out this error and raising more points to get a discussion going. I’ll be writing one myself. Feel free to post your LTE’s here in the comments.
UPDATE: My entire interview with the reporter, which was excluded from the article for space reasons, is posted here.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Calcutta, Ideas, India, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Telegraph | 12 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 16, 2007
There is some debate on the exact date of the Atlas Shrugged 50th Anniversary; some argue it’s on October 10. We in Mumbai celebrated the event on October 12, 2007. Given that I had only 10 days to prepare and organize the event from scratch–all by myself–I am extremely proud of what I managed to accomplish and of the experience I was able to give the 22 to 25 Ayn Rand fans who attended.
We watched the 1974 interview of Ayn Rand by James Day; during the interview, Rand was at her characteristic wit and precision–repeatedly insisting on Day to clarify his terms: “concern is such a loose term, what do you mean by it?” “I will begin with romantic love because I don’t know what other love you mean”, “the perpetrators of [abstract art] say that they don’t know what they’re doing, and neither do we, and I’m inclined to take their word for it.”
The discussion following the video wasn’t up to the expectations I had; at one point, someone floated a confused interpretation of acting on self-interest. I took pains to clarify that the sanction of your actions is not egoism but reason; egoism is the nature of your actions–and there’s a difference.
Thankfully, this open-floor discussion didn’t last very long. I decided to have everyone come up to the table and join me in cutting the anniversary cake: a chocolate truffle. While I cut the cake to a round of applause, filmmaker Mukarram Khan graciously offered me the first slice. From then on, everyone was free to mingle and congregate in groups to have their own private discussions.
There was a high school boy who said that Atlas Shrugged was required reading in his class. He said that after having read the novel, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on The Fountainhead, which also he read soon enough. This was a young man just discovering the philosophical premises underlying the sense of youth, aspiration, possibilities, and greatness. I felt a strong sense of concern for him, hoping that his discovery of such a radiantly youthful philosophy would not be dimmed by the fog over contemporary adulthood and the greyness of what passess today as “sophisticated nuance.” I expressed this concern to him; I told him that hopefully he would continue to educate himself on the philosophy and rely only on his best judgment of its premises.
Many who attended were eager to have Rand’s ideas spread quickly in the Indian culture. Concerns were raised that not enough is being done–that Objectivism has been around for 25 to 30 years now and there is very little to show in terms of cultural change. I pointed out that for a philosophy, Objectivism is relatively young and it is unreasonable to expect dramatic changes in such a short amount of time. Despite that, I do believe that the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute is bearing visible results in the American intellectual scene. Speakers and writers from the ARI are gaining increasing prominence in the mainstream media: Dr. Yaron Brook has regular speaking engagements and television appearances. With the introduction of The Objective Standard (the inauguration of which I attended in Washington D.C.), Craig Biddle is actively engaging the political and economic thought-leaders of America with a rational alternative. ARI writers are constantly featured in guest columns and editorials of prestigious media channels across the nation. The ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center is preparing a new generation of Objectivist intellectuals to enter mainstream academia and produce serious Ayn Rand scholarship. The Anthem Foundation is funding much of these ventures into philosophy departments. Departments in 30 universities are already taking Ayn Rand’s ideas seriously and studying Objectivism as part of its curriculum. The Ayn Rand Society is doing its laudatory share of organizing symposia and conferences with Objectivist and non-Objectivist philosophers, which are often covered by the media.
With regard to India, I pointed out that ARI neither has the obligation nor the resources to make it feasible to focus on influencing the Indian cultural scene. If one wishes to do something about this country here, one of us must make the intiative and do it–not point at the ARI and complain that they are ignoring this country. Yes, they are, and they are fully within their moral right in doing so; it is immoral of us to complain.
India is entrenched in irrationalism and mysticism. While the efforts in the United States is focused on *rescuing* the nation from the rise of Christian fundamentalism and re-aligning the culture to its founding premises of individual rights, liberty, and the selfish pursuit of happiness, the efforts in India would have to be more than Herculean–it requires a total upheaval of everything currently cherished as a value, a custom, a tradition, or the way things ought to be. If this upheaval is not from the root, then only Objectivism stands to lose: in any compromise in the principles of this philosophy with the mixed-bag premises of the Indian culture, only Objectivism will be adulterated, distorted, mutilated, and eventually, rendered impotent.
So what can be done? First, remember that as Objectivists, we are not out to change the world–nor must we pursue that goal as our primary purpose: we are out to selfishly pursue our own happiness. If this pursuit involves having to agitate in our society for a change in order that we can gain our desired values without hindrance during our lifetimes, then yes, acting to change our society is rational and consistent with our pursuit of happiness. However, if the change required is too daunting, overwhelming, almost impossible–or if there are other avenues to achieving one’s values without having to agitate for societal change–then properly, an Objectivist should ignore the society and pursue those alternative means to achieving one’s happiness: often, this means leaving your society or your country–if such an option is more attainable than hoping for a change to materialize.
You are not called to be martyrs to Objectivism or to an irrational society. This is a rational philosophy for living life on this earth, presently; it is not a religion demanding that you sacrifice the life you have for the realization of some principles in your society in the future after your death! Your concern is not the generations who will come after you or the country of an unknown billion who currently live with you. Properly, your only moral concern should be whether you can achieve and protect your values presently so long as you are alive: if the task seems possible, then agitate for change in your current circumstances; if the task seems almost impossible, then work diligently to get yourself out of that society and let it head to its own ruin.
A society that is inherently corrupt and irrational will collapse from within. You are in no obligation to struggle to rescue it from the inevitable: that would be immoral on your part.
It is ironic that this most central message of Atlas Shrugged was rather overlooked at the celebration of its 50th Anniversary. There is one other major issue that was asked of me during the event, about which I had grave concerns. I tried my best to persuade him to change his views, but I am not sure if I was able to convince him thoroughly. That will be the topic of my next post.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand Institute, Culture, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, Society | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 11, 2007
This week’s Objectivist Carnival is up on Rational Jenn. The theme at the Carnival is the Atlas Shrugged 50th Anniversary. So all the posts have somethin’ or other to do with Atlas Shrugged. Visit Rational Jenn’s blog to get the links to these wonderful articles. There’s tons of reading material there to keep you busy for a while, so enjoy!
Monica starts us off with “My Experience with Atlas Shrugged” posted at Spark A Synapse. She says, “This week, I have a somewhat sappy story about my experience first reading Atlas, and the influence the novel has had in my life.” Her experience mirrors some of my own, so her piece really resonated with me.
Myrhaf presents Atlas Shrugged posted at Myrhaf. He writes about the lasting impact Atlas has had in terms of book sales as well as how Objectivism riles both liberals and conservatives alike.
Rational Jenn presents The Books That Live Inside You posted at Rational Jenn. As the kind of person who is never alone so long as there are books around, my post is about the crew that is running the literary show in my head.
Kyle presents Happy 50th Birthday, Atlas posted at Haight Speech. He remarks, “I’ve written up a few personal reminiscences about Atlas Shrugged and put them on my blog. (Oddly enough I first read Rand 20 years ago, so for me it’s a double anniversary.)”
Allen presents One Beautiful Mind posted at ALLEN’S IMAGE ADJUSTMENT. Allen writes about his personal experience with discovering Atlas Shrugged and pays tribute to the woman who wrote it–Ayn Rand.
Craig Ceely presents Pumping Clavicles, or: The Shape of Shrugs to Come posted at The Anger of Compassion saying, “Celebrate beauty and the heroic, not celebrity fashion.”
Ari Armstrong presents Atlas Shrugged — The Game posted at AriArmstrong.com. He says, “Often I come across tidbits in the popular media and think, “Wow, that could have come straight out of Atlas Shrugged.” Indeed, Ayn Rand’s ability to read and predict cultural trends can seem uncanny. So, as a fun way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the publication of the novel, I’m suggesting Atlas Shrugged — The Game.” A very cool idea–it’s blogging, it’s a game, it’s Objectivism–hmmm….maybe a possible future theme for the Objectivist Round Up?
Ergo presents Atlas Celebrations in Landmark Mumbai posted at Leitmotif. Ergo writes, “Across, India the Golden Anniversary celebrations of Atlas Shrugged are underway: in places like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. In Mumbai, I am organizing and hosting the event. View details and updates here.” Please put some pictures of the celebration up on your blog! Sounds like a lot of fun!
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Objectivist Carnival, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Objectivist Carnival, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Jerry on October 9, 2007
This is one of the best and well-formulated articles I have read on the historical significance of Atlas Shrugged.
Robert Tracinski writes:
[Ayn Rand] saw the dramatic potential in asking a single question: what would happen if the innovative entrepreneurs and businessmen — after decades of being vilified and regulated — started to disappear? What if the men condemned as parasites who somehow grow rich by exploiting manual laborers — the whole Marxist view of the economy — what if those “exploiters” were no longer around? The disappearance of the world’s productive geniuses provides the novel’s central mystery, both factually and intellectually.
Factually, the story follows Dagny Taggart, a woman in the then-unconventional role of operating vice-president of a transcontinental railroad, as she struggles to keep her railroad running in the face of strangling government regulations, while trying to solve a series of mysteries: a promising young railroad worker refuses a promotion and takes up a menial job instead; a spectacularly talented heir to a multinational copper company abandons his work to become a flamboyant playboy; a genius who invented a revolutionary new motor abandons his creation in the ruins of a derelict factory.
The factual questions are: Where did all of these people go? Why did they give up their work? Is there someone or something that is causing them to disappear?
The philosophical questions raised by this plot are: What is the role of the entrepreneurs and innovators in a society? What motivates them, what are the conditions they need in order to work and what happens to the world when they disappear? The factual mystery is integrated with the novel’s deepest philosophical question: What is the moral status of the businessman and industrialist?
Read his entire article for its many good insights. Especially tantalizing is Tracinski’s concluding statement in the article. It’s such a brilliant device to push the reader to learn more!
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, Objectivism, Philosophy, Philosophy of Art, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, Art, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, Fiction, Golden Anniversary, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jerry on October 6, 2007
I have been working with Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute in Delhi to organize a celebratory event in Mumbai. Hyderabad and Delhi will be having celebratory events simultaneously with the one in Mumbai. Check out the Liberty Institute announcement for more details.
Here are the event details in Mumbai:
October 12, 2007
Andheri Link Road
Expect snacks, cake, a lively discussion, and an opportunity to meet Ayn Rand fans from across Mumbai.
UPDATE: Check out the Liberty Institute Web site for the announcement of the Mumbai event, including the program of events in Hyderabad and Delhi.
UPDATE: Professor Shehernaz from the Philosophy faculty at Wilson College may be speaking at the event on Ayn Rand’s philosophical influence on the Indian academia and culture in general.
UPDATE: View the Atlasphere announcement here. Also, sign-up for free on The Atlasphere to find fans and admirers of Ayn Rand around your local area. I noticed that their list of subscribers for India is quite substantial. In fact, the owner of the site–Joshua Zader–tells me that India is only second to the US in number of subscribers!
UPDATE: I’m working on screening a short 1974 video interview of Ayn Rand at the event. I should be getting the DVD by tomorrow.
UPDATE: Several members of the press are sending in inquiries! Therefore, I anticipate good media coverage. I am also in talks with some journalists who are fans of Ayn Rand and who have promised to make every effort to attend the event. I am beginning to have strong reasons to believe that there will be many more people attending than I had originally envisioned.
UPDATE: I have news that several other cities in India have come on board with their own celebratory events on this Anniversary: Bangalore, Calcutta, and may be even Patna. However, these cities will most likely have their events later next week, to have the time for preparations and such.
In any case, I am delighted to hear of it. I think India has beaten the United States with respect to the number of cities commemorating 50 years of Atlas Shrugged. I also believe there is a good reason for this. In my preparations for this event in Mumbai, I have become acquianted with so many Ayn Rand lovers from the older generation; i.e., people who have known, studied, and loved Ayn Rand’s works before the boom of the Internet and the phenomenon of blogging in India. Their access to Rand’s ideas were through more legitimate channels like actual audio/video recordings of her lectures and interviews, her books, and the newsletters. This is unlike the more recent crop of young Indian literates who for the most part rely on Internet searches and adulterated Wikipedia articles for their source of information.
For more on why Ayn Rand is respected more widely in India than in the United States, read this and this.
POST-EVENT UPDATE: In my assessment, the event I organized was a great success! 🙂 I was pleased with the number of people who turned up (22 people signed the information sheet, although I believe some more may have been present), and more importantly, I was pleased to learn of their deep interest in Ayn Rand. I think all of them loved the Ayn Rand interview from 1974. There was a diverse mix of people–from a boy who said he was in high school to older men and women who’ve been Rand fans for several decades. In the audience, there was a filmmaker, an author, fashion designer, editor, marketing professionals, stock broker, etc.
I asked a lovely lady with stylish black-rimmed glasses–who had come with a little tiny girl–whether she had read Atlas Shrugged. This is how she responded: “I have read *all* of Rand’s books. … Twice!”
I had to love that! 🙂
Anyway, it’s way too late in the night, and I have been literally surviving on 10-minute power naps for the past 10 days. So, a substantial post-event update is forthcoming, but only after I rest to my heart’s content! In the meantime, all my blog readers that I met this evening, now I know who you are and that you’re lurking around here. Place your comments about what you thought about the evening, about Rand’s interview, our discussions, the organizing–anything.
Here’re a couple pictures from the event:Atlas Shrugged Anniversary; Event audience. I’ll upload the rest later.
MEDIA UPDATE: I have just been contacted by a reporter from the Telegraph. She is interested in writing up a story on our Mumbai event. I gave her some details and described the event to her. I also gave her the contact information of some who attended the event on Friday. She might contact you for quotes or opinions. [See the Telegraph article on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged celebrations. See my interview with the Telegraph reporter here.]
The Times of India has a short article on the Hyderabad event. The Pioneer ran an editorial on the Ayn Rand event in Delhi.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, India, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Books, Bookstore, Golden Anniversary, India, Landmark, Mumbai | 23 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on October 5, 2007
October 12, 2007 will be the 50th Anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged. In commemoration, many have focused on the undeniable influence this book of unprecedented ideas has had on people across the globe. It marks the beginning of a whole new philosophic system that the world would encounter and have to confront.
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is also a grand act of justice.
In our times, practically every group, class, species, object, or cause has a moral champion. For example, the Earth has its environmentalists, the animals have Peter Singer, the working class has the Marxists, the lazy have their welfare Socialists, the destitute have Teresa’s daughters of charity, the altruists have Jesus.
But the men whom mankind need the most–for employment, investments, inventions, medicines, technology, construction, food, entertainment, i.e., for human survival itself–were historically ignored, even reviled. They were rarely given the recognition they deserve; instead, they these men are often the targets of verbal attacks, legal restriction, irrational lawsuits, public protests, denunciations, moral condemnations, and philosophic indifference.
Atlas Shrugged is an homage to these men; to signal to them that their work is being recognized, appreciated, and understood as being incredibly significant to human civilization. Indeed, it is intended to make them accept and realize the moral superiority of their actions.
“Atlas Shrugged is a historic act of justice, because it is an act of homage. It is a bestowal on the world’s thinkers and creators of the recognition, the gratitude, the moral sanction, which they rarely received but abundantly earned. [They] are the men who support life. They are the men who struggle unremittingly, often heroically, to achieve values. They are the Atlases whom mankind needs desperately, and who in turn desperately need the recognition–specifically, the moral recognition–to which they are entitled. They need to feel, while carrying the world on their shoulders, that they are living in a human society and that the burden is worth carrying.” — Leonard Peikoff
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: 50th Anniversary, Atlas, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Economics, Objectivism, Philosophy, World | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jerry on September 28, 2007
Forbes.com has an article by Marc Babej and Tim Pollak summarizing the exponentially rising popularity of Ayn Rand both in the popular culture and in academia.
… sales of Ayn Rand titles have tripled since the early 1990s–in fact, more are being sold now than at any time in history. Atlas Shrugged sales on Amazon in the first nine months of this year are already almost double the total for 2006. As of this writing, Atlas ranks 124th on Amazon’s sales charts. Compare that to The Da Vinci Code at 2,587.
Rand, an ardent advocate of rational egoism and capitalism, might have been the bane of academics in her lifetime, but now objectivism [sic] is taught at more than 30 universities, with fellowships at several leading philosophy departments. Next year, ARI plans to enter the Washington, D.C., think tank world with a center devoted to the advocacy of individual freedom and capitalism. [all bold mine]
Read the rest of the article for some interesting suggestions by the authors on how the Objectivist movement could capitalize on this rising visibility to steer political and social change.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, General Work/Life, Objectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Uncategorized | Tagged: American culture, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Capitalism, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on September 24, 2007
John Galt Speaking
This is a dramatization of John Galt’s speech from Atlas Shrugged.
I must say I am very impressed by the video footage, which nicely visualizes the content of the voiceover. But what is most incredible about this video is the voice of Christopher Hurt as John Galt. It’s a terse and sharp voice with a distinct quality of youth.
Overall, the video is a job well done. The haunting background score adds to the dramatic value of the speech: the music evokes a sense of religious reverence, like as if one is kneeling under the soaring roof of a cathedral, rapt in worship. I did find the video almost religiously apocalyptic; but then again, John Galt was indeed delivering an apocalyptic speech in the novel.
I look forward to the other parts of the video.
Text by Ayn Rand
Read by Christopher Hurt
Edited for YouTube by XCowboy2
Music by Dominick Argento.
Interestingly, when I posted this YouTube video on my blog, the post automatically registered the title of “666” (since each post has a number). I chose to let the number remain as the title of this post.
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Movies, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, John Galt, Objectivism | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on August 28, 2007
Myrhaf writes a post on India that projects a rather generous view of the state of affairs and trends in this country. It is interesting to get a foreign perspective on India because, to some extent, it reflects on the kind of media coverage India receives abroad, and thereby, the perception foreigners have of it.
However, a more interesting point in Myrhaf’s post is his perception of Rand’s popularity in India, which reinforces my own view on the matter. He writes:
Along with the mysticism in India you can find many who subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, a philosophy of reason and reality that is the opposite of mysticism. I was fascinated in the 1980’s to read announcements in The Intellectual Activist of all the cities where Leonard Peikoff’s taped lectures could be heard. After the USA, the country with the most lectures by far was India.
Some time ago, I wrote up a post detailing my reasons for why I believed that Ayn Rand is more respected in India than in the US. The only thing I might be inclined to change in that post is its title. It would be more accurate to say that Ayn Rand *was* more respected in India than in the US.
Prior to the proliferation of the Internet in India and the opening of its borders, Ayn Rand was known in India primarily through her books–her novels and non-fiction writings–and through the works of Dr. Leonard Peikoff. For this reason, her reputation in India remainded largely untarnished by the pseudo-intellectual rantings of both self-proclaimed Objectivists and non-Objectivists that now proliferate Rand-related forums, blogs, and online communities.
However, presently, with intellectual laziness and sloppiness being made even more feasible for mediocre minds by quick search engines and Wikipedias, rigorous and critical analysis of any idea is easily substituted with the regurgitation of someone else’s thoughts–however invalid, distorted, baseless, caricatured, or sloppy–that can be summoned before one’s passive mind with only a few easy clicks.
It is no surprise then that the more Internet-savvy of the Indian crowds who may have actually read something of or by Rand–or may have only heard of her–find intellectual shelter in a kind of collectivist “online group-think” phenomena when they engage in pseudo-intellectual smears against her. The depth of depravity of such mediocre minds is that while it is granted that they can produce no original or insightful content of their own, even their smears, criticisms, and snide remarks of someone’s profoundly original ideas are second-handedly sourced and regurgitated.
Therefore, to return to my original point, I believe that while a few of the older generation who read Ayn Rand first-hand and were forced to critically respond to her ideas with their own mental efforts ended up developing an appreciation for her ideas, the more recent crop of Indian intellectuals for the most part neither share that appreciation nor have ever expended the mental effort. Further, all of this is in addition to the fact that the Indian socio-economic scene has changed drastically over the past 17 years, and it no longer resembles the kind of Socialist dystopia as presented in We The Living or the precipitated degradation of the society in Atlas Shrugged, which means that young Indians are becoming more and more removed from the ideas that Rand railed against and therefore fail to fully appreciate the gravity of her ideological positions.
[P.S. Check out the interesting comment thread under Myrhaf’s post.]
Posted in Ayn Rand, Books, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, India, Intellectuals, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, The Fountainhead, We The Living | 7 Comments »
Posted by Jerry on September 16, 2006
Ayn Rand is rather well-known in India, though of course not as widely known as she is in the US; however, it can be argued that Rand is certainly viewed more respectfully and with admiration here in India than in the US.
The reasons for that are probably not quite straightforward: it’s not just because Rand’s reputation in India has escaped the lies, mischaracterizations, and attacks of the intellectual and academic elite in the US.
I think most people in India who like reading books, who are intellectuals (whether “elite” or not), who value ideas, etc. have read Ayn Rand. Rand’s works can be described as part of the canon for any serious Indian intellectual; I think I read an article in an Indian newspaper website someday that said something like reading Ayn Rand is the mark of an intellectual thinking person.
However, just because so many have read Rand does not imply that they all have come to admire her. In fact, I mentioned in my earlier post regarding the Ayn Rand at 100 book launch that though many of my colleagues had read The Fountainhead, some of them hated the book–and Ayn Rand–with a passion. Some others found her ideas very unrealistic, impossible, idealistic, and therefore, worthless.
Now, having said that, I would still claim that Rand enjoys much greater respect and admiration here in India today. In my opinion, the main reason for this is that the Indian people who read her actually understand the truth of her arguments, for the most part. Because Indians live in the collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic society that India is, the readers grasp the validity of Rand’s ferocious criticisms of these states and agree with her description of life under these conditions.
For example, Indians see the reality around them–of a massive bureaucratic government, socialist and collectivist policies, the influence of mysticism and religion in politics and in every aspect of life, the burden of tradition and familial obligations, the parasitic oppression of “needy” and the lazy on the hard-working average man–and they see how well Rand describes these very scenarios and reveals the root causes of them.
I think the Indians who read Rand identify with her because they feel she is exactly right; because they see what she denounces occurring in their own lives and in their societies. Moreover, Rand’s uniquely powerful, persuasive, bold, and lucid style of writing is perfect for the tastes of the Indian audience who are not into obfuscations, meandering musings, and equivocality. As a culture in general, Indians are rather direct in their communication (verbal and nonverbal), almost to the point of being tactless and crude. Thus, Rand’s admirable style of revealing things as they are, never faking reality, and calling a spade a spade, seems superbly customized for the Indian readership.
The American culture, on the other hand, does not have any of these contexts from which to understand the power of Ayn Rand. Americans have never encountered quite the conditions described in We The Living or that which is the reality in India. Americans have never really had to stand in long lines of ration to obtain food and groceries, face the corruption and stagnation of huge government bureaucracies, deal with corruption as a daily part of living, or have to deal with the politics of a collectivist mob. Americans do not face oppressive familial obligations arising from a collectivist and tradition-bound mentality; neither have they had the kind of mysticism rampant in this part of the world.
In short, Americans haven’t really experienced the full intensity of the consequences of bad ideas–the bad ideas that Rand exposed and harshly denounced. Therefore, to the Americans, Rand comes off as being “shrill” and “extreme”; to an Indian, perhaps, Rand comes off as being relevant, true, and like a “voice in the desert,” the voice of a brilliant mind.
Moreover, Americans are not “direct” people; as a culture, it seems that Americans like facades, appearances, euphemisms, pleasantries, vacuous conversations, avoiding uncomfortable remarks, and being polite. Thus, Rand’s blunt and bold style understandably comes off as being foreign and confrontational, and therefore, unlikeable.
These, in my opinion, are the reasons why Rand is accepted with considerable respect here than she is in the US. Moreover, in India, there is a dearth of intellectuals–much less intellectuals who write brilliant and successful books. Thus, Rand is respected right from the get-go as an intellectual who has published world famous books.
However, I must add this one final observation I have made: Indians also love ape-ing the West, especially America, in many aspects. And by “ape-ing”, I not only mean imitating, I also use it to refer to the Indian’s level of thinking as being at the functioning level of the Apes. Thus, I have noticed that some of the modern “elite” intellectuals in India who have read Rand–and have probably investigated some more about Rand via the internet or other sources–may have come to percieve the famine of interest in Rand-scholarship and lack of respect for her ideas in America. Some of them may have also read misleading reviews or heard of the straw-man criticisms against Rand (like, she was too “black & white,” or too “utopian,” or “teenagers read Rand, then one grows out of it), and they blankly repeat these criticisms and consider themselves “over” Rand, as in, “oh, I’m over her already.”
So, yes. I have noticed some Indian “elite” readers use the same criticisms against Rand that I have read on the Internet and in the US. I believe the “fashion” of being “over Ayn Rand” might be catching on in India also. But let’s hope that that does not happen.
Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, India, Objectivism, Personal, The Best of Leitmotif | Tagged: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Culture, Ideas, India, Influence, Intellectuals, Mumbai, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, The Fountainhead, We The Living | 32 Comments »