Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fountain Headache

"Yet there's nothing altruistic about U.S. government aid to tsunami victims. As exemplified by Colin Powell's high-profile tour of the devastation -- not to mention the constant footage of U.S. soldiers distributing food and water -- a major benefit of our assistance is positive public relations for an America widely viewed as preoccupied with blowing shit up in Iraq."

I read Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" and "Anthem." While not the great literary works claimed by Rand's intellectual heirs, I agreed -- and still agree -- with Ayn Rand's philosophy, which scorns enforced altruism and thoughtless collectivism in favor of individual achievement.

The Ayn Rand Institute is another matter entirely. I flirted with this organization in college before coming to a simple realization: Ayn Rand's followers are not objective, regardless of what they call themselves. In the cardboard cosmology of the Ayn Rand Institute, there is no room for environmentalism, no time for ecological foresight; sweeping judgments gleaned from Rand's monologues and books are the rule. Activists who try to warn of the devastating effects of industrial pollution and greenhouse gases are systematically dismissed as fanatical know-nothings out to usher in a new era of anti-intellectual fascism.

The ARI is a mixed bag of provocative, idealistically driven social commentary and absurd misunderstandings perpetuated by hand-picked gurus utterly unable to conceive of a world more complex than those encountered in their high-priestess' sophomoric novels. Like CSICOP, another organization that prides itself on its presumed grasp of "reason" and "objectivity," the ARI is a sad farce that treads the razor's edge between political legitimacy and outright cult-hood.

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