Whack-a-Mole Ideas

1 06 2010

A Particularly Stinky Mole!

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Once an idea is put  into circulation within a culture, it can subsist for a long, long time. Cultures are above all vessels for transmitting ideas and knowledge from generation to generation. And some people in any given generation are bound to find even the most extreme and potentially harmful ideas congenial.

Such is the idea of the “superman” (no, not the comic-book guy of the same name), who is “above morality”. As all adults, at least, have reason to know from personal experience, morality is essential for society to function. Therefore anyone who takes the superman idea, originally posited as an abstract philosophical concept by Friedrich Nietzsche, seriously is likely to become dangerous, especially if he or she is one of the “half-smart” people of the world, i. e., people who are just smart enough to get the gist of a complex idea, without being smart enough to understand it and its context thoroughly,  or to tease out and question all of its implications.

The poster girl for such people is Ayn Rand. Anyone who reads her novels in youth, before anything really bad has happened to him or her yet, may well love those books. The Young are famous for feeling as if they were immortal and impervious to harm. Rand’s novels (Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead) fit that understanding of the world perfectly. In them, supremely strong, fearless people do great things without regard to consequences, and emerge unharmed and vindicated. The useless, cowering weak folks around them have to get out of their way, or suffer. The Strong Guys in those novels have no concern about the fate of those inferiors, and shouldn’t.

One really major misfortune further along in his life, though, after the Young Reader has realized that without the mercy and/or altruism and/or govt. benefits accorded him when his luck ran out, he would have been well and truly trashed, all that stuff seems absurd.

I suspect that Rich People of all ages have a tendency to be like The Young. If your life has always included complete economic security and most of what money can buy, you are unlikely to recognize the reality of any limits — including moral ones — on your  economic behavior. And you are likely to be at least open to the idea that this limitlessness is because you are inherently superior to the pullulating masses of the poor. Old Ayn’s ideas will seem right to you, too.

And in the USofA, where many of the Poor are capable of performing for a lifetime the extraordinary trick of identifying with the Rich and ignoring their own actual economic situation and interests, it is not surprising that the predatory Ayn Rand mole is rearing it’s head again these days in a big way.

Miss Rand, her current popularity, and her odd ideas, are all dealt with pretty well here, I think,

and better, and more comically, here,

But here’s your definitive information on Ayn Rand.

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