Thursday, April 14, 2011

The movie 'Atlas Shrugged' - cause and effect?

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I was first introduced to Ayn Rand's non-fiction book 'Capitalism - The Unknown Ideal' by a manager at Pizza Hut in Sydney when I was 19yo. The book and the sequence of other Rand books I would read over the next few years had a profound impact on me. They gave me a intellectual clarity that surpassed those people who I would confront in society who lived in moral ambivalence.
Years later I retain the belief that Ayn Rand was an important contributor to the restoration of Aristotelean logic as the standard of value. It is debatable what Rand actually contributed, however I credit here with establishing the basic framework for natural law. There are of course libertarians who would support natural law, but Rand was the first I believe to offer the first coherent 'theory of values'. The problem of have with her is not the theory because the 'spirit of the principles' she evokes are more powerful than some of the blaze, even arrogant way she pronounces them. I say this because I think her message goes misunderstood as a result of her fiction writing. In some cases, its the other way around. In The Fountainhead, we see expressions of empathy by Roark for Keating. In her non-fiction, there is no such explicit recognition of empathy as a virtue. Why? She probably considered it secondary. I on the other hand consider empathy a primary virtue, which provides the social contextualisation of concepts of justice. i.e. Can we judge the moral worth of a person with on education the same as a person with a great education. I answer 'No', fully recognising that the different levels of betrayal. Even still, I tend to think those acts of betrayal had reasons. For this reason, I tend to regard punitive law as a failure of 'early justice' or intervention rather than a mis-application of the law. Law does not preserve justice, it merely perpetuates the tyranny to family members. It offers no education; it merely sanctions the interests of the civil over the non-civil, dismissing the unrecognised breaches of law which those 'civilians' failed to prevent. i.e. A selective focus to be sure.
Tomorrow Americans will be able to view for the first time 'Atlas Shrugged' the movie as it is shown in 300+ cinemas. It is being released on Friday because that is considered the first day of the taxing season. Rand liked such symbolism. i.e. Cigarette smoke and her praise of business struck me as rather sweeping gestures which sanctioned 'symbolically' more than she would countenance in her non-fiction....but that was her romanticism speaking more than her realism. I guess women permit themselves such indulgences more than men...but in the modern men maybe we can discard such and women are mostly indulgent.

Another issue evident in the following trail for the movie 'Atlas Shrugged' is the provocative idea that Rearden is only out to make money. This is true but I suspect it might mislead the audience who might be inclined to consider Rearden a hero, and thus the notion that Rand advocates materialism. Rand considered pride in one's efficacy to be the primary value, and the basis of one's pride. I think this is one of the problems with her plot. There are too many characters. She should instead have adopted fewer characters who moved through time. Her message could have been so much simpler and clearer. For this reason, her books might get panned by collectivists. It could be argued that will happen anyway. I will argue that it will happen more than it need to have happened. Its a shame that John Aglialoro regarded it as necessary for the script to remain true to the book. Maybe that was a condition of his original contract. I think it needed to diverge from her works. But I suspect based on conflicts with the movie 'The Fountainhead', that she had similar stipulations in her bequeath so Leonard Peikoff was destined to comply with her wishes. Anyway, any production is welcomed at this time for advancing her intellectual works, which remain important.
Andrew Sheldon

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