"The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters" -- Goya
Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of those baffling novels that elicits only two responses: those who think it's the greatest novel ever written, or those who are completely repulsed by it. I fall into the latter camp.
Many of those who read it do so in their early teens, remain a fan of it for several years, then one day reread it and suddenly find so distasteful they wonder what they ever saw in it in the first place. Others always remain a fan of it.
These responses are certainly puzzling, and require an explanation.
I believe I read Atlas Shrugged in my 30's. I was far beyond the siren song of her writing, thought the novel was ridiculous, and could not understand how any adult could fall for what was clearly an excruciatingly silly nook written by a mentally-ill woman, one who wanted to zap everyone off of the planet, except for her and those who agreed completely with her.
Truthfully, I consider the book to be a doorstop more than anything else. It is pretentious and juvenile, and a bizarre mixture of the fantastic and the banal. I found it a weird mixture of upbeat inspirational literature and Aztec human sacrifice.
A few years later I ran into some of her followers. All had certain characteristics in common: social isolation, excruciating sensitivity to criticism, difficulty in understanding other people had feelings, and a tendency to blame their problems on anyone but themselves. In a nutshell, they are defensive, hostile and insecure.
Not long after running into these psychiatric cases, I read two books that had a profound influence on me: Richard's Restak's The Self Seekers, and M. Scott Peck's The People of the Lie.
Both books are about narcissism. Restak's is more technical; Peck's is written more for a lay audience.
Peck also introduced me to the concept of "scapegoating": thinking yourself good, so you have to project your badness onto others. This is what all narcissists do. Indeed, it's what everyone wants to do, since we're all narcissistic in some degree, however slight.
Peck considered scapegoating to be the source of human evil. I do, too.
In The People of the Lie, he writes that scapegoating is involved in "the genesis of human evil...[it] works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection...[people] project evil onto the world."
It sounds far too simple, but Peck is right: the main cause of human evil in history is scapegoating. In this century, the two best-known narcissistic, scapegoating ideologies have been Nazism and Marxism. The death toll: possibly 200 million people.
Narcissism is a character (or personality) disorder, i.e., a disorder of responsibility. Character disorders blame their problems on other people: it's not my fault, they claim; it's my parents', or society's, or [fill-in-the-blank].
A neurotic, taking too much reponsibility, feels too much guilt; a character disorder, not taking enough responsibility, doesn't feel enough guilt. A joke about this is that dogs are neurotic because they always think it's their fault; cats are character disorders because they always think it's your fault.
Denying responsibility and narcissistically blaming other people is scapegoating. Everyone in greater or lesser degree is prone to denying reponsibilty for their actions. It is the Original Sin of humanity.
In the story of "The Garden of Eden," after Adam and Eve are discovered having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam blames Eve, then Eve blames the serpent. Each denies responsibility, each projects blame elsewhere, each tries to sacrifice the other.
In the older and most accurate versions of the story, their behavior is what gets them kicked out of the Garden, bringing evil into the world (the reason the serpent tempted them to "bring them down" is because of his envy of them as being favored by God).
In the original version of the story, Adam more sensibly came out of Eve's side. For that matter, since they are naked and don't know it, they should be portrayed as children and not adults, since children become aware that they're not supposed to run around naked -- going from "unconsciousness" to "consciousness" -- at about five years old. Then, of course, there is the childish finger-pointing at others when Daddy catches them breaking the rules.
This ancient myth was often misconstrued, so that women were blamed for "bringing evil into the world." This showed a complete lack of understanding of what the story means, and instead engages in what is forbidden. For the past few decades feminists have in turn foolishly blamed men, as a foolish modern book suggests, as "Demon Males." So it works both ways, back and forth, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
I soon realized Atlas Shrugged could be used as a psychiatric textbook because of the narcissism and scapegoating in it. It is also, politically, a very leftist book.
Rereading the novel, I suddenly realized why it is so popular, and why some of her fans become permanently imprisoned, intellectually and emotionally, in what I can only describe as a Randian straightjacket.
When her most devout fans identify with the former Alice Rosenbaum's fictional "heroes," (they're certainly not going to identify with her "looters" and "parasites," are they?) I'm sure they feel self-confident, heroic, brilliant, alive. It's why so many of the naive' -- especially teenagers -- fall for her writing. It takes them away from the suffering that society oftentimes heaps on them.
In their imagination they are freed from the boring and the oppressive. In some ways, superficially, Rand had a radiant vision of reality. It's no wonder so many of her fans feel enlightened, and believe they have stumbled upon the key to life and happiness. Let's get rid of all this stupid, ridiculous, boring tradition and start anew!
But, I did not feel any of the joy and love of life the novel promised. Toward what she described as "looters" and "parasites" I felt the desire to see them die. There is a lot of sadism, cruelty and heartlessness in her novel.
She tries to instill in her readers the feeling of "I haven't been treated right by the world, the way I should have been, so I'm going to pay all of you back." And: "I'm better than you."
Rand is tapping into something quite primitive, indeed archetypal. It puzzled me. I'm sure a lot of her readers have mixed feelings: a satisfaction at getting back at a world that didn't appreciate them and wasn't treating them as it should, yet an unease in seeing the world gleefully rubbed out. How could a normal person not feel something was very dark, and very sinister, about this book?
I know now she taps not into people's "self-esteem" but their narcissism, grandiosity, and scapegoating. Into their desire for revenge. What she considers "self-esteem" is just fragile narcissistic grandiosity, which I will explain.
The aforementioned is not good. In fact, it is doubleplus ungood. Rand pitched a superficial philosophy of freedom, love and self-sufficiency to get you inside her tent. Inside there is the hate, vengeance and genocide.
Rand is not a philosopher but a philodoxer, and pure Objectivism is hazardous to anyone or any society that tries to follow it.
Objectivism isn't a very good defense of the free-market, either. Instead, it's a narcissistic, scapegoating, and leftist expression of Rand's Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That makes it a cousin of Nazism and Marxism.
Rand took her distortions of the rightist free market and political liberty and pasted them on top of a base of scapegoating and leftism. It's is no surprise that Objectivism only works in Rand's fiction. In reality it will never work.
Her fans will never believe this. To the most hardcore ones, her philosophy is a religion, albeit a false one. It's very hard hard to give up a religion, even if it's clearly fraudulent.
When faced with criticisms of Rand, many of her fans suffer a painful brainlock that sends them into hyperscreech. To use Thomas Kuhn's metaphor, since it is outside their paradigm they cannot see the criticisms.
Unfortunately, my experience with her most rabid fans is that nearly all of them are pseudo-intellectuals. They remind me of what Mark Twain said: "There is no end of feeling and calling it thinking." Or, to quote T.S. Elliot, they "illustrate that exaggerated faith in human reason to which people of undisciplined emotions are prone."
They are convinced they are rational, and those who disagree with them are not only irrational, but evil. In reality, Objectivists have such an infantile view of rationality they can barely be considered rational at all. That was an enormous problem with Rand (and still is with her modern-day followers): they are not rational enough. Since they are leftists, they are ruled by their feelings. Of this they have no comprehension, and probably never will.
I came to my conclusions by using one of Rand's favorite tactics: checking premises. Checking her premises. For someone who prided herself on an obsessive checking of other philosophers' premises, and almost always "deducing" the wrong conclusions, she was incapable of checking her own. If she had, she might have realized Objectivism is (to use her words against her) a system of rationalization and therefore evil.
As she wrote: "Since an emotion is experienced as an immediate primary, but is in fact a complex, derivative sum, it permits men to practice one of the ugliest of psychological phenomena: rationalization. Rationalization is a cover-up, a process of providing one's emotions with a false identity, of giving them spurious explanations and justifications -- in order to hide one's motives, not just from others, but primarily from oneself. The price of rationalizing is the hampering, the distortion, and, ultimately the destruction of one's cognitive facility. Rationalization is the process not of perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one's emotions...evil philosophies are systems of rationalization."
Her overpowering narcissism, self-deception and rationalization blinded her to realizing her comments are easily applied to her writings.
Objectivism is little more than an expression of Rand's character, and therefore a rationalization, an attempt to twist reality fit her personal whims.
It is beyond dispute that Rand was a walking book on psychiatric disorders. Any humorless, drug-addicted, paranoid, sadistic, power-mad adulteress who referred to herself as "the perfect woman" and "the second-greatest philosopher in history" is severely disturbed, whether officially diagnosed or not.
Her long-time friend, the psychologist Alan Blumenthal, diagnosed her as afflicted with, at the least, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even if he had not it's easy to see the narcissism in her life and writings.
Understanding her narcissism and her scapegoating is essential to understanding Objectivism. They are so integral to her beliefs that were they removed they would collapse. It is, to use a Biblical phrase that Rand never got around to misquoting, a philosophy erected not on rock but on sand. As she wrote, "If the foundation does not hold, neither will anything else." Her foundation won't hold her philosophy.
Other popular Biblical sayings spring to mind: "false prophet," "wolf in sheep's clothing," and "the blind leading the blind." Like all false prophets, she used, to paraphrase Doestoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, "miracle, mystery and authority" to seduce her followers.
Another myth that clearly demonstrates the destructive power of envy is "Snow White," a story in which the Evil Queen envies and hates Snow White because she is more beautiful than the Queen. The Queen's envy and hate leads her to spend her life trying to murder Snow White, even though in the end it costs the Queen her life.
Myths don't survive for millenia unless they are universally true.
Scapegoating is a hostile psychological -- and social -- attempt to discredit, demonize, ostracize and often murder people by moving blame and responsibility away from the scapegoater and towards a target person or group. Rage, hate and envy are projected onto from one person to a nation. Distortion and rationalization are always features, and envy is the defining characteristic. In the unattractive, rabbit-toothed Rand's case, when she was near an attractive woman people said they could feel the envy radiating from her.
The school of psychology dealing with narcissism is called Object Relations Theory. From it comes explanations for character disorders such as Narcissistic, Borderline, and Anti-Social Personality Disorders. All are different variations of the same disorder: narcissism.
Object Relations explains narcissism; narcissism explains scapegoating, and scapegoating explains evil. Since people do these things unconsciously, this means some kind of "unconscious" does exist.
Narcissism is inherent in everyone. The basics are fairly simple: theorists believe that starting soon after birth babies split their selves into an "all-good" one and an "all-bad" one. The "all-good" self is grandiose and god-like; the "all-bad" one is envious, hating and rageful.
Psychoanalysts Melanie Klein and Joan Riviere believe the origins of rage, hate, envy and the desire to destroy are rooted in the initial relationship between the infant's self and what could be called "the primary caregiver" (usually but not necessarily the mother). They write, "For the infant child, the mother is the the original and most complete source of satisfaction. Yet this total pleasure is inevitably frustrated."
Theorists believe infants experience this frustration as a threatened destruction of the entire self, since their existence at this age depends completely the care-giver/mother. This frustration generates rage, hatred and a wish to annihilate the "bad object."
In the Garden of Eden myth, Eve doesn't blame Adam; Adam blames Eve, mythologically the mother of all. Eve then blames the serpent, a symbol not only of envy, but of evil. This means not only is envy a source of great evil, but that it is so primitive that it is associated not with animals, but something much less evolved -- cold-blooded reptiles. It also means that envy comes before scapegoating, and leads to it.
Primitive defenses are generated at the aforementioned stage, the main one being splitting and projection: the object (and the infant's self) and divided into good and bad parts. This way, feelings of rage can be projected onto the "bad object" without the risk of destroying the "good object."
Riviere writes, "The first and the most fundamental of our insurances or safety measures against feelings of pain, of being attacked, or of helplessness -- one from which so many others spring -- is that device we call projection. All painful and unpleasant sensations and feelings in the mind are by this device automatically relegated outside oneself... [W]e blame them on someone else. [Insofar] as such destructive forces are recognized in ourselves we claim that they have come there arbitrarily and by some external agency....[P]rojection is the baby's first reaction to pain and it probably remains the most spontaneous reaction in all of us to any painful feeling thoughout our lives."
Some of the "safety measures" -- psychological defenses -- that Rand engaged in, besides projection, were rationalization, denial (self-deceit), and represssion.
The "good" and "bad" selves are projected onto the world. The world -- and all people -- are split into "all-good" and "all-bad." All problems are projected onto the "all-bad."
This splitting and projection is the first, the most primitive and important defense that all people engage in. It persists in all into adulthood, even if they have no idea they are doing it. Rand surely didn't.
If things go relatively well, infants, as they develop into adults, mostly integrate these two views. However, most people never do it completely. We are prone, especially under stress, to splitting things into all-good or all-bad, to seeing ourselves as good, even grandiose, and to projecting our rage, hate and envy onto -- whatever we perceive, however incorrectly -- as the bad. You need look no further than O.J. Simpson to see how this works.
Richard Restak writes in The Self Seekers: "In instances of extreme stress...the developing infant is unable to synthesize contradictory experiences with others and attempts to make up for this by splitting its internal world into tight compartments of all 'good' and all 'bad'...later the child and adult... tends to view the world as filled with people who are all 'good' or all 'bad'...there is no room for compromise or shades of meaning in this all-or-none world."
Since we are all prone to narcissism, it can range from one person to groups of any size, up to and including nations. It can include families, ethnic groups, and religions -- one group blames another. Erich Fromm, whose life's work was studying narcissism, called this "group narcissism."
Group narcissism is why throughout history all "tribes" -- today, nations -- have grandiosely referred to themselves as "The Humans," "All Men," "The People," "The Fatherland," "The Motherland," "God's Chosen People," or "God and Nation," relegating those outside to scapegoats. This is why, traditionally, religion has considered the attempt of people to be "perfect" or found "perfect" societies to be blasphemy.
This is why nations, during war, can easily scapegoat the enemy, turning them into evil sub-humans. Spielberg's dishonest portayal of German soldiers in Saving Private Ryan is a good example. They are brutal, murdering, cowardly shaven-headed thugs, not a drop of humanity in any of them. And being shaven-headed they are interchangeable and identical as cogs. And cogs are things, not people.
War is the greatest scapegoating and human sacrifice that exists: blame the enemy and then sacrifice soldiers for what almost always has turned out to be nothing.
The ancient Greeks called their sea the Mediterranean (the Middle Sea -- the middle of the world). Foreigners were mocked as barbarians because of the way they talked (bar bar bar). The Chinese called China "The Middle Kingdom" -- the Middle of the World. Fromm was right. Everyone does it, and has through history. And it's easy, being a natural thing for us to do. However, something being "natural" doesn't make it right.
Those who cannot integrate their two selves as adults are afflicted with what psychologists call Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To these people, everything is either all-good or all-bad, pure good or pure evil, black or white, with no shades of grey. Each self is literally not aware of the other; they are separated by a nearly inpenetrable wall of self-deception. These selves can flip-flop, leading to people often finding the narcissist nearly incomprehensible.
They are self-centered people who quite often cannot conceive of others as people and not things. Because they lack a conscience, or have only a little of one, they are deficient in guilt and remorse. They believe they are special. They are often insatiably greedy; they always feel they never have enough. Others always have something more, something better.
Being deficient in compassion and empathy, they can take but cannot give. Barely understanding the concept of "giving," they agree with John Galt's comment about Galt's Galch: "...one word...is forbidden in this valley: the word 'give.'"
Narcissists rarely know anything is wrong with them since they are convinced problems lie completely with other people.
Ruled by selfishness, they do what they believe is right for them only. But since they are so rationalizing and self-deceptive, they don't know what is right for them.
Narcissists' relationships with almost everyone fall into what Martin Buber called "I-It" relationships -- others are things. At best they can have what he called an "I-I" relationship -- they project their own idealized self onto the other person. But they can never have his "I-Thou" relationship, in which the other person is seen as human. As Barbara Branden commented, Rand only saw people as abstractions, collections of psychological traits. Never as people.
Even though they don't know it, and can never admit it, their dependence on other people is immense. Not only do they project all evil onto the bad, they project the source of their happiness onto the good. They are selfish but certainly not independent. They rarely if ever show gratitude; they often don't understand the concept. Because of the way they attempt to consciously and unconsciously exploit and manipulate people, they can, emotionally, be considered "looters" and "parasites."
A quote from Peck about those who consider themselves "perfect" is relevant: "Since [narcissists] deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world's fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. They never think of themselves as evil, on the other hand, they consequently see much evil in others."
Since the "all-bad" is blamed as the source of all evil, it has to be destroyed. To the narcissist, then only the "all-good"-- the outside source of their happiness -- will be left.
Rand was severely narcissistic, so much so it jumps off the page at her readers. Her philosophy is little more than a rationalized expression of her narcissism. Barbara Branden was dimly aware of this in her Passion of Ayn Rand when she wrote, that to Rand, even as a child, everything was either "I value or I despise."
Rather than Objectivism being a true description of reality, it is a projection of Rand's disorder. She thought, like Karl Marx, that she was discovering the true nature of things. In reality, she was, like Marx, projecting her own whims, rationalizations and distortions onto the world.
"It is a fact, and in some ways a melancholy fact," writes Paul Johnson in his book, Intellectuals, "that massive works of the intellect do not spring from the abstract workings of the brain and the imagination; they are deeply rooted in the personality."
There are physical reasons for this. Our brains are so structured that perceptions travel through the instinctive and emotional parts before they go to the rational part. Because of this, there is no thought divorced from emotion; there is no "objectivity." All "philosophy" is influenced by our character. When Rand claimed "reason is an abolute" she either didn't understand the definition of "absolute" or else tried to redefine it. Reason is at least connected to feeling and instinct.
Johnson's quote was about Karl Marx, but it applies to Rand. Much in his book applies to her. David Hume's comment about the nearly-insane Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- "a monster who saw himself as the only important being in the universe" -- is applicable to her, as does Johnson's comment about "social engineering is the creation of millenarian intellectuals who believe they can refashion the universe by the light of their unaided reason." She could easily have been a chapter in his book.
Some will claim the message should be criticized, not the messenger. But when the message is the messenger, you can't criticize one without criticizing the other.
There are two other myths that apply to Rand beyond the story of the Garden of Eden. The first is the Greek myth of Narcissus, who became so enthralled by his reflection that he wasted away and died. Had Rand paid any attention to this myth, she might have seen how her life was going to turn out: she died alone, having through the years becoming more and more narcissistic, losing her tenuous hold on reality, until, absorbed in her self, she drove everyone away.
The second myth is the story of Satan, a grandiose, envious, hate-filled psychopath who, because he couldn't be God, rebelled and wanted to destroy the world and everyone in it. Even millenia ago, people understood the enormity of malignant narcissism. "The urge to rebellion," writes Nancy Friday in her book, Jealousy, "so that the denial of the other's power and the assertion of one's own at any price, is in us all. We will gain primacy even if it brings the world down about our ears."
Because of our projection, people have, instead of understanding that the only satanic exists within us, often projected Satan onto reality. This is literally scapegoating Satan. ("It's not my fault; the evil is not in me; it's out there.") And considering Satan "real" is one of the worst thing that can be done. It allows believers to define opponents as evil by projecting onto them. Think of all the "holy" wars, past and present.
The word "Satan" has two meanings: "adversary" and "accuser." He is also called "the father of lies." Looked at as something within us, we are dealing with an adversary within us that accuses others through lies.
The pure myth deals with the effects of psychopaths on society. In a lesser sense, it deals with the feelings created in us when we aren't treated as we think we should be; the hate, anger and envy we feel toward those who have what we don't, or are treated as we aren't. This creates the desire for revenge. These feelings are often unbearable, and it is no wonder we project them onto others.
The myth of Satan applies to both Rand and Marx, who were much alike in character. Both were envious, rage-filled haters who wished to see the world destroyed; both believed in an earthly Utopia; both had philosophies that weren't much more than expressions of their characters; and both distorted every fact they could get their hands on, because they thought, in their grandiose infantile omnipotence, they could change reality to suit their views. This is what psychologists refer to as "magical thinking."
More correctly, narcissists cannot differentiate their thoughts and feelings from reality outside. They unconsciously believe what they think and feel is how external reality truly is. If you ask them if what they feel is coming from the inside of them, or from the outside, they often don't know. This is why Rand believed that any philosopher who disagreed with her, or said something she didn't understand, must have been either evil or intellectually dishonest; she, having solved all philosophical problems in the world, of course was not the source of conflict: those who disagreed with her were, so she scapegoated them. Hence her bizarre hatred for Kant as "the most evil man who ever lived."
Marx was the same: since he had "discovered" the truth he could tolerate no disagreement. Anyone who did disagree with him was subject to fits of towering rage and shouted threats of "I will annihiliate you!" The American senator Carl Schnurs wrote about him: "Anybody who contradicted him was treated with hardly veiled contempt...he denounced anybody who dared to contradict his views."
Atlas Shrugged is an example of her projecting her character onto the world while claiming she was describing reality. In this retelling of the myth of Noah's Ark, a vanishingly small group (maybe three dozen?) of perfect, god-like "all-good producers" are menaced by the "all-bad" looters and parasites, who, envious and hating, are the cause of all evil.
Rand splits everyone into all-good and all-bad, projects her own grandiosity onto her "perfect" producers, then projects her own hate, rage and envy onto her "looters" and "parasites," scapegoats them, and then engages in a sadistic Hitlerian orgy of hate and destruction and kills off nearly the whole world. Alan Blumenthal was correct when he described Objectivism as a a system of psychotherapy for Rand. One that didn't work.
Like Hitler and Marx, Rand believed that her apocalyptic vision of the world would lead to Utopia: destroy "evil" and reclaim the Garden of Eden. An Eden in which there is light, color and happiness; the outside world is a darkness referred to as a "hell" populated by "sub-humans."
A Utopia always involves destruction. It may be of the "old," but it's still catastrophic destruction. What would happen if this Utopia was so remote from reality as to be unrealizable, as Galt's Gulch is? As Leszek Kolakowski has written, "the wish to enforce it would be grotesque," leading to a "monstrous deformation" threatening the very freedom of mankind. He was speaking of the Left. But more about that later.
The most famous line from Atlas is worth exploring: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." The line is fiction, and always will be. Because of the narcissism inherent in human nature, the line translates into reality this way: "I will live my life for myself only, and you will also live your life for me only." It is how all narcissists attempt to lead their lives.
At the end of the novel, she literally stamps her foot and exclaims, "And I mean it!" She applauded genocide. This was not a sane woman -- this was a loon. Such eruptions of viciousness and hate are rare in best-selling books.
Readers will protest that Rand correctly blamed "evil" on socialists. Not quite. She blames evil on everyone not in Galt's Gulch, socialist or not. She gleefully murders innocent children in a train-tunnel collapse (I wonder if Rand had any abortions, and if so, how many?) and then has Dagny slowly and sadistically murder a hapless guard who has proven himself, to her rationalizing satisfaction, to be not quite human I also wonder how many people read this scene and cheer? And, for that matter, cheer all the destruction and genocide in the novel?
There is a grain of truth in her writings: socialism is the cause of a horrendous amount of evil in the world. This is what fools so many people. Her observation, though, is not the slightest bit original with her.
She also fails to make the distinction between earned and unearned guilt; she punishes the innocent with the "guilty."
As Whittaker Chambers noted, she lumps everyone outside Galt's Gulch into an "undifferentiated damnation." He also commented on the black-or-white nature of her characters, referring to them as "Children of Light" and "Children of Darkness."
Not only is Atlas a prime example of splitting and projection, Objectivism is also. In it, Rand splits the world into grandiose, perfect "reason, selfishness and capitalism" on one side, and evil "mysticism, altruism and collectivism" on the other. She projects her hate, her envy, her desire for destruction onto them, and wishes them annihilated, just as she wished the world annihilated in Atlas.
Splitting and projection, narcissism, and scapegoating are the same thing. All believe in mass murder. All are, in their essential psychology, identical. Each believes in human sacrifice: we must murder these people to save ourselves. Once they are dead, then we will be happy.
Although the Nazis are thought by many to be the worst modern scapegoaters, the Marxists topped them. The Nazis split humanity into the grandiose, perfect Aryans and the evil non-Aryans, then scapegoated these "non-human" "looters" and "parasites".
The Marxists neatly split people into the evil capitalist exploiters and the noble exploited workers -- and from this springs the worst mass murder ever.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in Leftism Revisited, noted that the envy-ridden Marx admired "only aristocrats." Since admiration is a "benevolent" form of envy, Marx imitated aristocrats by wearing a monocle and engaging in fox hunts. Kuehnelt-Leddihn also evaluated Marx's poetry as "consist[ing] of volcanic eruptions of hatred strewn with abounding expressions of megalomania."
Eugene Ionesco noted that "Marx must have suffered a secret wound to his pride, as did all those who want revolutions. It is this secret wound which he hides, consciously or not."
His "secret" wound must have involved envy, the most painful feeling of the narcissist. Envy was Rand's "secret wound," as it is of all narcissists. Restak writes, "If any human emotion would be considered most typical of the narcissist, it's envy...in a world where there are only winners and losers...the success of others is unendurable."
Marx's father wrote this to him: "[You] are at odds with the world because [you] cannot own, without effort and toil, beautifully furnished palaces, vast fortunes, and elegant carriages."
His abysmal failures in life, his non-aristocratic background and ineptness in handling money corroded his soul and helped create his envy and hatred against the wealthy aristocracy; the envy created his desire for violence and the lust for power to bring them down. This "godless self-god," as Heinrich Heine called him, created a false, clear (but easily understood) ideology that has had catastrophic results for the human race. And all because of his narcissism. Not because of his desire to find the truth.
Hitler, like Marx, was a failure; never promoted beyond private, rejected by art and architectural schools; then humiliated by selling hand-colored posters in coffee houses. Kuehnelt-Leddihn described him as "easily hurt, quickly offended, tortured by inferiority complexes..."
Rand projected her narcissism onto the world and into her writings. This projection explains nearly all of her "It's all your fault" philosophy. The genocidal, human sacrifice parallels with Nazism and Marxism are clear -- to those who want to see it.
Some will claim the Nazis and Marxists worshipped the State, and Rand was opposed to Statism. True enough. But since Objectivism shares much the same psychology as these other ideologies, no good ultimately can come from it.
Although the basic political principle of Objectivism is that no man may initiate force against another, it fails to note it supports narcissism so strongly that sooner or later someone will initiate force against others. This has been the history of the world.
When narcissists gain political power, devastation very often follows. Consider Caligula (who declared himself a god), Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-tung to see what they did (and still do, and will always do). Even if they don't gain political power, they are still extraordinarily manipulative and sadistic, enjoying power and control over others, seeking worship as gods.
Rand's pasting her misconceptions of the free market and political liberty on top of her unsteady foundation has caused a lot of problems. Instead of understanding that capitalism is a system where everyone is dependent on no one in particular because they are dependent on everyone in general, she made it ependent only on her Few Great Ones. She tried to claim the essence of the free market is pure grandiose narcissism. All advances come from her gods; the rest of the world, populated by envious moochers, doesn't count.
If there's been a John Galt in history, I don't know where this psychopathic polymath has been hiding.
One of Rand's worst mistakes about political libery is her misunderstanding of the Second Amendment: she thought retaliatory force should be reserved for her heroes runing the government. This is the classic recipe for totalitarianism. Since she despised "the common man" as sub-human, she was afraid he might enter innocent peoples' homes during a dispute and shoot the inhabitants.
Objectivism is a permanently marginal philosophy. Were it a major philosophy we would see more character disorders -- more narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths.
Conservatives won't have her. Her beliefs were booted out over 40 years ago when Whittaker Chambers shredded Atlas Shrugged in National Review. Leftists won't have her; they sneer at the mess she was and believe she represents what they misperceive as capitalism. Conservative l ibertarians ignore her, possibly hoping she might someday just go away.
Objectivism had its chance for almost 50 years. It's no coincidence that movies such as Dirty Dancing and television programs such as "Futurama" and "South Park" singled out her writings for disparagement.
Her two best-known characters -- John Galt and Howard Roark -- appear to be psychopaths.
Psychopaths are the most malignant, extreme form of a narcissist. They are grandiose and lack a conscience. They have no guilt or remorse. They are utterly selfish. They are solipists; to them, there is only their Self. Everyone else is a thing to be enjoyed for the psychopath's perverse satisfaction.
This disorder is associated with murder, including serial murder. As mentioned, the myth of Satan is the story of a psychopath-- a grandiose, destructive being, absent of empathy.
When Jesus said "he who calls his brother a 'fool' is in danger of Gehenna," he was pointing out that he who scapegoats had better be prepared to be scapegoated in return. This is what serial killers do; most of them scapegoated and abused as children by their parents. Generally they have a cruel, hateful mother and weak or absent father; this accounts for the fact most kill women. They hate them and wish to "get back" at their mothers by murdering innocent women. It's a complex witch's brew of hate, envy and vengeance.
Psychopaths blame other people as the cause of their problems. Sometimes, because of their hate, rage and envy, they remove dozens of people from the Earth; these are the serial killers. These killers invariably hone their murderous fantasies in their imaginations before trying them in reality.
The hate they feel comprises intolerable feelings of fear, helplessness, and inferiority against "wrongs" received at the hands of a perceived superior. Envy, hate's blood brother, is a mixture of feelings of helplessness and inferiority against a perceived superior having something the envier aches for. Both hate and envy wish the destruction of the alleged superior.
Psychopathic serial killers don't have much else than a grandiose self and a devalued self. They project their hate and rage onto others; when the feelings are unbearable they kill, then feel all-powerful and grandiose. Then the cycle repeats itself. There is no love, no conscience, no remorse, no guilt. Psychologists believe they are stuck at less than three years (maybe even three months) old, before conscience develops. There is no cure; those who study them suggest they aren't truly human, but instead monsters.
Heinz Kohut, a seminal thinker in Object Relations Theory, wrote this about homicidal psychopaths: "The enemy who calls forth the archaic rage of the narcissistically vulnerable, is seen by him...as a flaw in a narcissistically perceived reality."
Restak writes, "Homicidal rage is the ultimate measure resorted to in an effort to repair the damaged sense of self." The plot of Atlas!
Apply these words to Hitler, Marx and Rand, all obsessed with grandiose fantasies of world destruction, all using their warped, surrealistic ideologies as self-psychotherapy.
One psychopath did make himself very well-known in Objectivism: Lonnie Leonard, the Objectivist "psychotherapist," sexual predator, and serial rapist. He made a career verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his emotionally fragile patients. His being an Objectivist is not coincidence: narcissistic philosophies attract narcissistic (and psychopathic) people. Leonard received the highest approval from the top ranks of the Objectivist movement.
Unsurprisingly, Leonard claimed he was "the perfect man," one whose career was ended after he was sued by an abused patient, Ellen Plasil, who wrote her autobiography, Therapist, about his brutal degradation of her and his other patients. This book should be read by anyone interested in Rand. Leonard was not an anomaly; he is the logical end result of Objectivism.
Plasil's parents were true Objectivists: her father molested her and her sadistic mother hated her without reason. Perfect Randroid examples of not taking another's feelings into account -- even their daughter's.
Leonard could have modeled himself on Rand's "perfect man," Howard Roark of The Fountainhead. Roark might show the most psychopathic traits of all her heroes.
She described Roark as being the "perfect man," wrote he was "born without the ability to consider other people," and made several comments how he looked at people as if "they weren't there." He claims he is "not kind" and, like Leonard, is a rapist. These traits fit one psychiatric diagnosis: Anti-Social Personality, a sociopath/psychopath.
John Galt shows many psychopathic traits. For a Messiah, he shows no conscience about letting most of the world die (he not approves of it; he is the cause of it). In Atlas he is grandiose, bitter and hating, and shows not the slightest guilt, remorse or compassion. He complains, mostly in his radio rant, that everyone is abusing his greatness.
In a world in which most did consider themselves "perfect" people would be busy manipulating, exploiting and scapegoating everyone else. "Perfect" people blaming other "perfect" people. In imagination, it's humorous. In reality, there's nothing the slightest bit funny about it.
Roark is a rapist, and Galt is a semi-rapist. The woman they rape (or semi-rape) are masochists. This sadomasochism (which are obviously Rand's sexual fantasies projected into fiction) is narcissistic. The cruelty and sadism of the rapes are expressions of narcissistic grandiosity, and masochism is an expression of self-devaulation.
Fromm said this about sadism: "...the core of sadism, common to all its manifestations, is the passion to have absolute and unrestricted control over a human being...[t]o force someone to endure pain or humiliation without being able to defend himself is only one of the manifestations of absolute control, but it is by no means the only. The person who has complete control over another human being makes this being into his thing, his property, while he becomes the other person's god."
He described sadists as "cowardly...impotent, unalive, powerless...[who] try to compensate for this lack by having power over others, by transforming the worm he feels himself to be into a god." Either nothing, or everything.
Rand had more than a little in common with the Marquis de Sade. Both wrote massive tracts; both were leftist materialists who fervently hated all religion; both wrote about sexual sado-masochism. Both had typically leftist beliefs--internally contradictory, i.e. lacked coherence, and also lacked correspondence to reality, which is why leftism can only be applied though force. Both were disappointed in the real world, lived almost completely in their imaginations, and tried to make reality fit their beliefs.
The psychological dynamics are obviously more complicated than Rand's simplistic view. Galt and Roark would in reality be like all psychopaths: a conscienceless "grandiose self," consumed with power and control, attempting to repress an unbearably painful "devalued" self.
Rand's villains are more realistic than her heroes. She obviously knew much more about hate, rage and envy than she did of love and gratitude (there is no gratitude in her work). This is why her "heroes" are two-dimensional and her concept of love falls flat.
Galt and Roark are exemplars of Rand's "Hero (or Man) Worship" (which is her "grandiose self" projected onto reality). Ernest Becker wrote this about "hero worship:" "When we look for the 'perfect' human object we are looking for someone who will allow us to express our will completely, without any frustration or false notes. We want an object that reflects a truly ideal image of ourselves. But no human can do this...the shadow of imperfection falls over our lives...we get back a reflection from our loved objects that is less then the grandeur and perfection we need to nourish ourselves. We feel diminished by their shortcomings. Our interiors feel feel empty or anguished, our lives valueless..."
At the end of her life, Barbara Branden reports, Rand stood looking out a window, then asked, wearily, "What was it all for?" (The answer: for her Self alone, which meant for nothing.)
Becker also wrote the attempt to achieve a "heroic self-image" is the root cause of evil, because it requires the expiation of guilt to make us "perfect," i.e, scapegoating. This is why Rand's "heroism" must require human sacrifice.
Because Rand believed in men (but not women) as gods, there was no room in her philosophy for any concept of god, or any religion, whether Western or Eastern. This rejection and degradation of all religion leads to philosophical materialism, with life and mind being just epiphenomena.
Materialism is ultimately nihilism. With a meaningless universe what often happens is our satanic desire for destruction is projected into reality. (This is why when Hitler realized the war was lost he ordered nearly everything in Germany destroyed; fortunately he was ignored.)
People always must have meaning. They'll impose it if they believe it's not there. If they don't believe in something beyond themselves they'll believe in -- and glorify -- their selves, their tribe, or their nation, as God, devaluing outsiders and, historically, slaughtering them.
Rand, like de Sade and Marx, didn't believe in imago Dei, Man in the image of God: they believed in Man as God. How dare the universe have inherent meaning! Such as affront to these self-proclaimed gods. The only meaning shall be what they give it. This is why Rand claimed the physical/material universe was "benevolent," even though it clearly isn't (at least not totally.) It shall be as she commands. And de Sade wrote the universe should "humor my whims." Restak wrote of seeing a narcissist's graffito: "There is no God but me."
Rand's philosophy isn't original: it's as old as the story of Satan.
Her grandiose "perfect men" didn't fare well in real life. Her husband, the alcoholic ne'er-do-well Frank O'Conner, was financially dependent on her their entire marriage. In her narcissistic rationalization and self-deception she claimed that he was, like John Galt, "on strike" against the world. The reality was different. She was somehow able to maintain her delusion about him thoughout their lives, and even after his death. In his case she never devalued him, although she could never admit what he was. She always maintained an "I-I" relationship with him, projecting her own idealized self, in the character of John Galt, onto him.
Then there was Nathaniel Branden, who later became her adulterous ex-boyfriend and ex-intellectual heir. When she found he was "cheating" on her she devalued him. He went from being a grandiose "perfect man" to being hated, scapegoated and ostracised. All-good or all-bad, nothing inbetween.(It never occured to her than Branden had done to her as she had done to her husband. Narcissists, utterly self-absorbed, find it nearly inconceivable to consider anyone's feelings but their own.) In moments Branden plummeted from an "I-I" to an "I-It."
This leaves the borderline. Whereas narcissism is associated with manipulation, and psychopathy with murder/serial murder, the borderline is associated with murder/suicide within an intimate relationship. Most male batterers are borderlines; they split their image of their wives or girlfriends into either "all-good" Madonnas or "all-bad" Whores (and this is how these categories were created). Female borderlines see men either as heroes or bastards.
An Objectivist society would mean more Hitlers, Stalins, Ted Bundys and O.J. Simpsons. It would mean more criminals, since they are by defintion narcissistic: they are unconcerned with their victims' feelings.
How does leftism fit into this? One description of leftism could be: reason (or "rationalism") as opposed to tradition. Reason is to plan and run society. The traditions of society and religion are oppressive, because they repress the natural goodness and greatness of select human beings.
Bringing the good news are the Messiahs, who, being intellectually and morally superior to the benighted masses, destroy hated society, tradition and religion so that the innate vast talents of some will blossom and create Utopia. Because all religions are "oppressive," they are false, and philosophical materialism is true. Opponents are not merely mistaken but willfully evil, and must be scapegoated and destroyed.
"Reason" belongs to the Messiahs. The average person is deficient in it or else should defer to the elite because of their intellectual inferiority. However, reason belongs only to individuals, not to any kind of collective, even a group of Messiahs.
Leftism isn't just socialism. One can be a leftism without being a socialist. Rand was a non-socialist leftist. The Nazis and Communists were socialist leftists. All wanted to destroy society, forgetting that traditions take hundreds if not thousands of years to develop. Destroying them leaves people rootless...with the new roots planned by a junior-high school understanding of "reason." But all had in common the desire to destroy tradition and replace it with a "rationally"-planned society.
Rand, as her journals and letters show, deliberately pitched Objectivism toward left-liberals, presenting it as a non-Statist replacement for tradition, religion and conservatism. What she didn't realize is that she retained the leftism in her philosophy.
Objectivism, like all philosophies, is a vision of reality. It is, to use Thomas Sowell's phrase, a leftist "vision of the anointed." "What a vision may offer," he writes, "is a special state of grace for those who believe in it. Those who accept the vision are deemed to be not merely factually correct but morally on a higher plane. Put differently, those who disagree with the prevailing vision are seen not merely in error, but in sin." And being in sin are "evil" and therefore scapegoated.
Roughly speaking, a "conservative" (or rightist) is one who believes society exists to repress and transform "bad" human nature. "Liberals" believe the opposite: human nature is mostly "good" but repressed by society. Conservatives have the better of this particular argument. The Ten Commandments, ("Commandments" is correctly translated "Words" or "Utterances") for example, are prohibitions against our animal natures: don't murder and don't steal, which animals do to each other as their nature. (If these laws are followed, not as religion but as practical wisdom, what arises is minimal government with the least crime, the most civilization, and an automatic free market. Just about everyone can memorize ten laws, which are a lot wiser than most give them credit for: we are, for example, enjoined to honor our parents, but not necessarily love them.)
Society and our animal natures are mostly opposed to each other. Government exists as an "interface" between society and nature: it's there to support society by repressing the animal. This lends credence to the classical liberal/libertarian position that government can only expand by destroying society, and when it does, unleashes our animal natures. (This doesn't mean that society doesn't repress, or that all societies are good, or that some aren't better than others.)
Since narcissism, splitting and projection, and scapegoating are part of our "bad" animal natures, when they are encouraged they will erupt from our animal natures into society and destroy it, as Marxism and Nazism did.
Leftists are also (in the literary sense) Romantics--and Rand, who proudly proclaimed herself a "Romantic writer," penned a book about art called The Romantic Manifesto. Romantics are almost always psychological and political leftists--they hate the world and wish to see it destroyed, and live in their imaginations. As Colin Wilson writes in The Misfits, "Come with me into the world of imagination--forget your everyday life..." (There is nothing wrong with this but many Romantics go much too far, with unpleasant consequences--they expected reality to conform to their views.)
Leftists are much like some teenagers: they feel oppressed, see the problems in the world, and wish to solve them. How? By government, the use of force, to destroy the existing order. But they feel they are above laws they wish others to obey.
"Classic" writers have always insisted such a philosophy of "individualism" would end in nihilism and futility. One problem is leftists, narcissists and Romantics never grow up. They may be intellectually brilliant but still remain emotionally childish or infantile. (As Thomas Hobbes wrote, "The evil man is the child grown strong.")
Romantics and leftists also use their feelings or "intuition" to make decisions. Feelings first, then unconsciously distort the facts to fit. Marx was a master at it, and so was Rand. One needs only to read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology to see her claim she knew how children and animals thought. How? Not though her "reason," but through her feelings, her "intuition." Not a scrap of evidence to back up her beliefs. She based her beliefs on her feelings, then distorted the facts. In her self-deception she had no idea she was doing this. She insisted reality was going to be what she wanted it to be.
According to Kuehnelt-Leddihn this lack of respect for the facts and the subsequent reliance on feelings or "intuition" is what produces leftists like Hitler, FDR and Woodrow Wilson--the three of them responsible for two world wars.
Sowell described leftists as believing in what he calls the "unconstrained" (or what he mocks as "the anointed") vision, and rightists as believers in the "constrained" or tragic vision.) Objectivism falls almost squarely into the leftist, unconstrained vision: human capabilities are vast for the "anointed;" there are solutions to problems; knowledge consists largely of the articulated intelligence of the educated few, and the kinds of decisions preferred are categorical instead of incremental.
It is obvious from Rand's writings that Objectivism is strongly leftist.
Her adulation of "reason," her hatred of tradition, religion and society, her god-like "Messiahs," her belief in quick solutions ("Withdraw and let them die!"), her desire for Utopia, her literary Romanticism and her scapegoating of opponents as evil and subhuman, are almost purely leftist.
The belief is Utopia is dangerous. Rightists don't believe in a Heaven on Earth. Many leftists do. However, the more someone believes in an earthly Utopia, the more someone else is going to be scapegoated and ultimately murdered. The leftist road to Heaven on Earth leads straight to Hell. This might be why in the myth of the Garden of Eden, an angel with a flaming sword bars the way back: don't try it, or you'll be sorry.
Rand portrayed Galt's Gulch as the perfect world. A perfect world of reason, selfishness and capitalism. A Utopia, an Eden. I'm free-market, but I know it's not perfect. A "perfect" world is a Heaven in fantasy, but a Hell in reality.
A non-religious definition of idolatry could be to worship the created instead of the creator, to see a partial aspect of reality as the whole of it, to blindly see the imperfect as "perfect," the false as true, and refusing to change your mind no matter how many facts are to the contrary. It doesn't particularly matter what is idealized--it can be a person, a thing, a book, a philosophy, or an ideology. Using this definition, idolators are alway scapegoaters, and scapegoaters are always idolators. (Before Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann was executed he finally realized what he was, and commented, far too late to do any good for anyone, "I was an idealist." Or, as Voltaire wrote, "The Best is the enemy of the Good.")
More people have probably died throughout history from conscious "idealism" than from conscious evil (how many people really think they are evil?). Hence the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."
Leftism inherently blames problems on those who don't agree with it. Were the narcissism removed from it, it would cease to exist.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The Narcissism and Scapegoating of Ayn Rand, Part III
Leftists generally idolize government and minority cultures but scapegoat the dominant culture. Logically this leads to tribal warfare and ultimately a totalitarian government to restore order and keep warring factions from each other's throats.
Some political conservatives scapegoat drug sellers and users, clapping them in prison and sacrificing them upon the altar of public opinion. Some religious conservatives scapegoat homosexuals, declaring AIDS to be "God's punishment." Then some homosexuals scapegoat their critics as "homophobes" because they criticize dangerous behavior. Many want to scapegoat, and others, self-deluded, self-righteously believe they are scapegoated. Everyone is always pointing their finger at someone else, forgetting the truth of the saying, "Take the log out of your own eye before you worry about the speck in your brother's."
Leftists rarely leave their fantasy world no matter how much reality intrudes, or how many die. This is why there exists the quote, "Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." As Jean Francois Revel has written,
"Authoritarian socialism has failed almost everywhere, but you will not find a single Marxist who will say it has failed because it was wrong or impractical. He will say it failed because nobody went far enough with it. So failure never proves that a myth was wrong."
This quote applies to anything -- any idol -- that people "worship," be it religious or political.
The greatest scapegoater of them all -- and always has been -- is the State. I believe a good rule for finding bad laws is to ask if anyone is scapegoated -- i.e. drug laws (users and sellers are "bad" people -- the country would be so much better if they were all gone).
What would happen if the narcissism, splitting and projection, scapegoating, and leftism were removed from Rand's philosophy? (Well, for one thing, all those people in Atlas Shrugged wouldn't be dead.)
Objectivism would collapse completely. Rand could no longer blame "mysticism, altruism, and collectvism." She could no longer enshrine "reason, selfishness, and capitalism" as perfection. She couldn't scapegoat people in general, or tradition, or society, or religion. Nor would there be any god-like Messiahs to worship.
Actually, if you took the scapegoating out of inherently scapegoating philosophies -- such as socialism, leftism and liberalism (with its "us vs. them" attitude and politics of class envy), they would all collapse. Leftism is indeed ultimately based on envy -- everyone is supposed to be "equal" to avoid that envy. But only that which is identical is equal. Two quarters are equal because they are identical. This, obviously, doesn't apply to people, unless you stick them on some Procrustean rack.
Rand could not longer make a split between "selfishness" and "altruism" (and no one but her ever supported her misdefinition of "altruism"). In reality the split doesn't exist. She make the mistake of not realizing there are three types of "self" behavior: to live only for yourself (narcissism); to live only for others (what she called altruism"), and to live in a way that takes yourself and others into account. She forgot about the third. Objectivism supports only the first, which traditionally (and with the best of reasons) has been considered evil.
What Rand utterly failed to realize is all of the evil done by religion has been done by the narcissism and scapegoating in it: since we have God on on side you must have the Devil on yours. Religion is ultimately--at its best -- supposedly to be anti-narcissistic; they is why, as C.S. Lewis has noticed in his book, The Abolition of Man, the anti-narcissistic Golden Rule exists in every religion (and every moral code).
Has religion lived up to its ideals? Of course not. But that doesn't mean that it's the main source of evil, as Rand so fervently and blindly believed.
Atlas Shrugged and Mein Kampf could be considered textbooks for founding a religious cult. Set yourself up as an all-knowing guru. Write a bible to spread your gospel. Target the lost and aimless. Tell them they are great but oppressed by their inferiors. Scapegoat the inferiors and claim they are an imminent danger. An apocalyse is looming! Do something! Quick! Destroy them!
Is Objectivism a religion? Mostly, it is. Rand created a rationalist (actually rationalizing) ideology and tossed tradition straight out the window. Without tradition (and this means family and other support groups) Objectivists can only fall into a cult mentality. Therapist shows this clearly. Leonard was idealized by other Objectivists as close to a god, and when Plasil exposed him as a psychopathic rapist her Objectivst "friends" closed ranks against her. She was trying to destroy the new meaning in their lives, since the old traditional meanings had been abandoned.
Unfortunately, rationalist ideologies (which are overwhelmingly leftist) almost always support "lower," biological values such as envy, grandiosity and scapegoating.
There would still be a split between "capitalism" and "collectivism." This is a true split, and the only one Rand got right (and I'll repeat it wasn't original with her, as she claimed). What she got terribly wrong is scapegoating "collectivists."
Rightists generally don't scapegoat leftists; they see them as stupid, or ignorant, or deluded, or just plain goofy. "Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you are obtuse, wrong, foolish, a dope," writes Joseph Epstein. "Disagree with someone on the left and he is more likely to think you are selfish, a sell-out, insensitive, possibly evil." (These are leftist traits projected on rightists.)
Leftists, being narcissistic, scapegoat rightists and see them not as honestly mistaken but evil. One only needs to look at how liberal Democrats traditionally scapegoat Republicans (or how they currently scapegoat guns and tobacco). And, leftists, since they are convinced they are right, apparently can't forgive their opponents.
And when leftists scapegoat the "rich" as greedy, selfish, envious and thieving (and I know some of them are), it's more the case of leftists projecting their own characteristics. If it wasn't, then the leftist "cure" wouldn't involved greedily, enviously, and selfishly stealing the money of well-to-do people. (David Horowitz, himself a former leftist -- and a fervent one -- nows correctly refers to leftism as "an infantile disorder."
I think this is why the very first Commandmant is a prohibition against idolatry. For an example, serial killers idolize and worship their own selves. They then scapegoat as human sacrifice innocent victims for their selves-as-God. Idolatry always involves sacrifice to the idol. Moloch was actually an physical idol that babies were burned to death inside.
Instead of seeing "collectivists" as deluded or honestly mistaken, Rand scapegoats all of them as evil. Her scapegoating places her squarely in the leftist camp.
Her leftist scapegoating brings to mind Nazis and Socialists scapegoating each other before WWII. Hitler and the other Nazis commented many times how easy it was to turn a Socialist into a Nazi (which means "National Socialist.") Same kind of person, and essentially the same kind of philosophy.
It's well-known that in the early Objectivist movement it wasn't very hard to turn an Objectivist into a Scientologist. (As Russell Kirk has written, "If you'll believe selfishness is a virtue, you'll believe anything.")
Since leftists believe in the perfectibility of man (through Man, without any kind of religion), scapegoating is automatically involved. There is no way around it. Rand, like almost all leftists and some religious rightists, was an eschatological writer, interested in destruction as a way to bring about the End Times.
What she writes as theory is essentially irrelevant. What matters is what it her beliefs would create in reality. Socialism in theory turned into something far different in reality. The same applies to Objectivism.
Because of human nature, which Rand (like all leftists) completely misunderstood, Objectivism, once it reached an unknown critical mass in society, would most probably become genocidal. Even if it didn't, much more bad than good would come from it.
Rand wished to destroy tradition and replace it with her defintion of "reason" -- which in her case was nothing more than her own whim, desires and rationalizations. With tradition destroyed, people are left adrift--this for one accounts for the fanaticism of her followers, and why Objectivism is not "rational" but a religion. Her followers were trying to found a new tradition and find a new one home, one that is opposed to human nature, and as such will never work.
As is typical of leftists, Rand never understood the most important property right of all is the right to possess firearms. From this right all others flow. Without this right, the populace has no way to defend themselves from the depredations of other people, including the State. In Randworld, there would be an unarmed "subhuman" populace helpless against her armed Nietzschean Ubermenschen manning the government. This is one of the reasons why Whittaker Chambers said Atlas Shrugged could be described in one sentence: "To a gas chamber -- go!"
Rand's world would be a society of increased narcissistic disorders; more grandiosity, sadomasochism, manipulation, and scapegoating. More human sacrifice, of whatever degree or variety.
The Greeks noticed millenia ago what very often followed grandiose Hubris: Nemesis. Destruction. (It's the same saying as the semi-Bibical "Pride goes before a fall," the correct translation of "pride" being the same as "hubris.") Jesus' comment about "He who calls his brother a 'fool'" also appears to indicate how Hubris leads to scapegoating.
The opposite of this grandiosity is devaluation, sometimes of one's own self and certainly of others. If Objectivism can be summed up in one sentence, it is I'm right and you're wrong, and you're evil because you're wrong.
"I am nothing and I must be everything," wrote Marx in an inadvertently revealing quote. This particular ogre didn't kill himself... although his daughter did. And as did Hitler.
Others have noticed this narcissism in Rand. Jeff Walker, in his book, The Ayn Rand Cult, suggested it but did not expand on it. And Scott Ryan has written extensively about Rand's attitude toward "those pesky subhumans."
(Actually, Atlas is not that bad of a book if one always keeps in mind it is a childish, indeed proto-Nazi, fairy-tale, and like all fairy-tales, should be quickly outgrown. What people generally try to do is pick and choose what they want from Rand's philosophy. There is no problem with this, but it does lead to such amusing conflations as attempting to combine Christianity with militantly atheistic Objectivism, which would be similiar to a Jewish Nazism.)
Rand wasn't the "cause" of any of these people's problems. For some she was the excuse, the rationalization, for their behavior. But she certainly exacerbated things. Martin Buber wrote that we don't become evil "all at once." Often it's a slow process, a sliding into it. An easy way to become evil is to slowly and slowly grow more and more selfish, until only the Self is left, with everyone else reduced to a "thing" that we project our rage, our hate, and our envy onto.
Rand, like almost every narcissist, was not blessed by feelings of guilt. Without guilt, there can be no atonement, no reparation, no apology. It is because of this lack of humaneness that narcissists end up as they do. And why Rand ended up as she did. She couldn't forgive others. I suspect she couldn't forgive herself, which is why she had to cover it with such self-righteousness and grandiosity. If I am perfect, why should I need to forgive myself for anything I do? Or forgive others? Or ask forgiveness from others?
Forgiveness is much more important than most people think. When Nietzsche wrote "God is dead" he didn't mean God had really died: he meant the educated people of his time had ceased to believe. And with no one to forgive them they couldn't forgive themselves or others. So they began to hate themselves and hate others. He essentially predicted the genocidal horrors of the 20th Century. And, maybe, the 21st. He wasn't much of a philosopher but what he got right, he certainly got right.
Rand, like Marx and Hitler, had free will. At any time during their lives they could have stopped, shaken their heads, said, "This is wrong," and taken a different path. None did. They were weaklings seduced by the desire to be gods.
As Freud clearly saw: "In the blindest fury of destructiveness, the satisfaction of an instinct is accompanied by an extraordinarily high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its old wishes for omnipotence." The plot of Atlas, of The Communist Manifesto, of Mein Kampf.
In Jungian terms, Rand, Marx and Hitler never faced their Shadows -- all the badness in them -- the hate, rage, envy and desire to destroy. They tried to destroy their Shadows by casting them upon others...and then trying to destroy them.
Another who did not face his Shadow is the late Howard Stanton Levey (a.k.a.Anton Szandor LaVey), showman, con man, faux Satanist and founder of the equally faux Church of Satan. And not at all surprisingly, he lifted a large part of his silly Satanic Bible from Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged.
Curiously, both he and Rand had similiar facial traits--arched eyebrows, a drooping nosetip, and a pointed chin. These features have traditionally been associated with demons and witches. LaVey's were a lot worse. He was also, in character, a much worse person than Rand. I doubt these facial traits are a coincidence.
If the stories in the Gospels can be believed, Jesus faced his Shadow when Satan tempted him on the mountain by offering him power, glory, grandiosity. Jesus said no. The aforementioned foursome did not.
Archetypes, Jungian or otherwise, are very prevalent in Rand's work. John Galt is a Messiah-figure, Galt's Gulch is Noah's Ark (or Shangra-lai or Brigadoon with genocide); then there's the Hero on a Quest and the Holy Grail. This combination of mythology and religion is one of the reasons she is so popular; the other is that her simple-minded black-or-white philosophy can, like Marxism, be explained in fifteen minutes (although, like Marxism, it then takes a century to get rid of. Or in the case of a simple-minded black-or-white religion like Islam, probably another several hundred years.)
The plot of Atlas Shrugged bears a curious resemblance to ancient Norse mythology. The Norse called their land Midgard, meaning 'kingdom in the middle' -- the center of everything. Inside Midgard was Asgard, where the gods and goddesses lived. Outside Midgard was Utgard, a land populated by treacherous giants.
Midgard would be considered the U.S.; Asgard could be considered Galt's Gulch, and everything outside could be considered Utgard.
Rand also fit the malicious Trickster archetype, as did other malicious liars, narcissists, psychopaths and con artists such as T. Lobsang Rampa, Carlos Castaneda, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, the "Prophet" Muhammed, and Wallace Fard Muhammad. Leftist politicians usually fit this archetype, for example Bill Clinton and FDR.
Dostoevsky again, from The House of the Dead": "Tyranny... finally develops into a disease. The habit can...coarsen the very best man to the level of beast. Blood and power intoxicate...the return to human dignity, to repentence, to regeneration, becomes almost impossible."
I think it's now pretty obvious that Rand hated herself. This self-hate was her devalued self, which was so unbearably painful to her that she had to cover it up with a fragile grandiose self. As Restak writes, "The narcissist's grandiosity -- the need to maintain an inflated, unrealistic version of the self -- is the flip side of a deeply entrenched feeling of worthlessness and inferiority."
Rand then projected all her bad feelings onto everyone else, whom she then, in her writings, scapegoated and annihilated in an attempt to destroy her painful emotions. This is why Barbara Branden wrote that Rand had eyes that looked outward, never inward. It would have been too painful for Rand to see what she really was.
Possibly "eyes that look outward, never inward" were related to Rand's utter lack of a sense of humor. As Reinhold Niebuhr writes, "Humor is proof of the capacity of the self to gain a vantage point from which it is able to look at itself. The sense of humor is thus a by-product of self- transcendence. People with a sense of humor do not take themselves very seriously. They are able to 'stand off' from themselves, see themselves in perspective and recognize the ludicrous and absurd aspects of their pretensions."
Ridding herself of her self-hate is why Objectivism was a system of psychotherapy for Rand. One, as I said, that didn't work, as similiar philosophies have never worked in the past and never will work.
Apparently both Marx and Hitler despised themselves, and created ideologies as their own particular self-therapies. When societies adopted their beliefs, genocide was the result.
Becker believes evil arises from a good impulse, the desire to escape the anxiety related to death. He believes we attempt to conquer death by participating in a "heroic self-image," by being somebody. Peck disagrees somewhat, replacing death with the fear of change (which is a kind of "little death.")
But they agree, along with many philosophers and theologians, that evil is "twisted good." It is a perversion of good. This is shown clearly in the myth of Satan, who originally was an angel before he turned into a cosmic horror. (This might be the most profound myth there is; it is totally destroyed by a literal interpretation.)
According to Becker, victims must die, in a Dionysian frenzy of destruction, in ritualized murder, in oceans of spilled blood, for our glory, our grandiosity -- which is a false form of immortality. For Hitler, it was the Third Reich, which was to last a thousand years. For Marx, it was his "scientific" system of absolute truth--which meant, as the truth, is was to last forever. Ditto for Rand. Each thought, in a sense, what they were doing was to last eternally. Those who disagreed -- "heretics" -- had to be disposed of. After all, there can no Devils in Heaven. So -- smite the unrighteous. Slay them all.
Since each was an atheist who did not believe they would survive death, they instead hoped for a kind of immortality -- a false immortality--in what they thought they had created. Their grandiosity was supposed to immortalize them in the worlds they hoped to create. The Utopias they hoped to construct were instead Brave New Worlds, or even worse -- demonic principalities on Earth. The evil within each was mirrored in the evil without.
Rand was trying to do something good. But it didn't work. Instead there ended up being a very dark side to her beliefs. Underneath all the glitter there's no good there. And since the narcissism and scapegoating start in us as infants, Objectivism, like Nazism and Marxism, in many ways an infantile philosophy.
The philosopher Robert Pirsig writes that reality can seen in a Romantic way or a Classic way. The Romantic way (there's that word "Romantic" again!) means looking at only the surface, the first emotional impression. "Classic" means to look undereneath, at what it means. Using his view, the superficial free-market, self-esteem, "reason"-loving aspect of Rand is the Romantic view. Using Classic analysis, you see the underlying hate and cruelty. This means her fans are not operating on reason, but on their feelings.
This also gives another explanation why her writings are so poular with some people: they appeal to the emotions first, reason second. And in common with Marx's writings, they are pseudo-scholarly. So what we have is an ideology that often appeals to our worst emotions and our reason hardly at all.
Rand can manipulate reality to her heart's content in her imagination and her writings. Her writings should not be reality. They were reality in her destructive religious cult, which was a microcosm of what it would create in any society based on them.
Two closing comments are appropriate. One is from Kuehnelt-Leddihn: "Madness is very often a combination of cold reason and [imaginative] fantasy severed from all reality." He wasn't speaking of Rand but his quote applies to her.
The second is from the writer Norman Spinrad: "...these writers were writing fiction that moved susceptible readers deep within their Jungian unconscious structure. They were feeding back murky adolescent longings for power, strength, peer-group solidarity, and mystic transcendence, and by doing so were drawing together tribal cults around their works, creating pocket universes of which they were little gods and thereby altering reality itself."