Johann Hari on The Philosopher from Studio City

Here is Johann Hari’s beautifully written and observed piece on the life and philosophy of Ayn Rand. He manages to make thoughts on compassion directed toward her almost convincing. She was a completely destructive person, subject to her own nihilism as a psychological predisposition. Her problems were deep seated and only exacerbated by her experience in Russia and her addiction to amphetamines and her self-aggrandizing philosophical/literary pretensions: a potent amalgam of forces.

I recall seeing The Fountainhead in my late teens on television and being absolutely fascinated with this philosophical melodrama. The long soliloquies spoken by Gary Cooper were to me mesmerizing, I was an intellectually naïve  American teenager : it was the first time I’d heard anyone speaking in a ‘philosophical’ mode regarding their and others conduct and it impressed on my childlike mind the importance of ideas as related to human action, even though it was stilted and artificial. Movies have a seductive psychological power, it is the perfect tool for propaganda. Mr. Vidor’s movie was a beautifully realized piece of early Cold War Anti-communism. It had the raw power of spectacle in modern dress heavily garnished with pedestrian rationalizations for greed, an idée fixe of Ms. Rand’s.  In fact the apotheosis of greed is her only idea: her need was so deep and all pervasive, that the acquisitive urge replaced the gamut of human emotions and needs , that the rest of us take for granted, in our daily interactions with others, the significant ones and the merely transitory. I have no interest in reading  Ms. Rand’s work, although I have watched the Mike Wallace interviews with her that he conducted in the late 50’s, posted on YouTube. She didn’t play well in front of a television camera, she doesn’t evoke any sympathy: she is shifty eyed and appears uncomfortable and worst of all she seems to lack passion and commitment when she expresses ideas that are very dear to her.  Although being a good television performer is no real measure of the truth, falsity or efficacy of ideas badly presented.

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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