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article imageOp-Ed: Ayn Rand materialism at the core of America's anger

By Carol Forsloff     Mar 27, 2010 in Politics
Baby boomers hold the reins of power during a time of anger, hate and lack of moral leadership, all due to predominant philosophies learned in critical years.
The source of anger in the country comes from collective depression and a diminished moral compass held by leaders steeped in Ayn Rand philosophies and the encouragement of materialism. Without moral compass, it is unlikely things will change.
Across the country one feels a sense of malaise, hopelessness and grief, from the larger cities to the small towns in rural areas, from progressive places to those considered entrenched in traditional ways. Many people wonder why the negative mood is so pervasive, affecting every area of life. Nowhere are the decibels louder than in the political arena, but the problems run far deeper than that.
Ayn Rand was the proponent of the art of selfishness. She declared the individual was the source of power and control and that nurture of the self was more important than the compassion for the whole.
An organization works for the encouragement of Ayn Rand's beliefs, beyond those years when her message was heard in every college dormitory and discussion group. Rand's novels were required reading, as even ordinary folk saw the popularity of her books and overwhelmingly became her fans and followers, many of whom remain so to this day.
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg as Alissa Rosenbaum, a child of Zinovy Rosenbaum, a chemist and his wife Anna, whose father had been a successful tailor. She witnessed the Russian Revolution when her parents lost their business and her father forced to work only in a Soviet Store. She graduated from the University of Petrograd in history with highest honors, then eventually moved to the United States where she took the name of Rand after a typewriter she used while working as a junior screenwriter and movie extra in Hollywood. She was a friendly witness during the Joseph McCarthy hearings, giving credibility to the notion there were Communists in the creative arts.
Rand has been considered an inspiring writer, with a strong moralistic tone of her own, who advocated rational behavior, believing capitalism is superior to all other economic forms of government because reason is what it rewards. In her books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, her heroes are superhuman, able to use mind power for development and control.
In the 1950s Rand's philosophy of what she called objectivism was welcomed by colleges as she declared that one should pay attention to the self-interest and maximize superman potential without social conscience. These arguments were presented in her newsletters in the early 1960's when her message began to grow in earnest among the rank and file, and captured the devotion of such followers as Alan Greenspan who became a well-known economist and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
Those who have evaluated Rand's work note her orientation to the individual self, her "art of selfishness" that pervaded her entire work. In addition her fundamental thrust was to espouse a specific law of morality, where one is never justified in the initiation of force against others. Yet her principles are thought by some to be incomplete in that wrongs of omission are not defined in her philosophy, the kind of omission that would allow a drowning man or a starving person to die even if there is no particular difficulty or barrier involved in rescuing them. Furthermore the material aspect of the immorality definition did not define the stealing of material goods where force is not applied, like the act of taking a purse of money from a restaurant table.
Rand allowed for no religious philosophies and in fact made fun of them and those who adopted them as guidelines for belief. She embraced atheism but a righteous realism as well as a materialism that declared what's right for the individual is right for the whole and the strongest and most rational would win.
In my opinion the religious right has combined with the Ayn Rand followers, although not in a purposeful way but one that focuses on the individual beyond all else and ignores the compassion for the unfortunate. That's because the Rand philosophy allows one to excuse ignoring those in need of help because there are no moral guidelines that compel one to act otherwise. Indeed it becomes the art, not just of selfishness, but of moral laziness, an approach to problem-solving that allows one to promulgate a code of righteousness and morality without responsibility.
The consequences become the growing division between the rich and poor in the United States, the fact that the haves (those able to pay their mortgages) decry those who cannot (those who have lost their jobs, or have illnesses that created financial problems), regardless of how one came to be without.
This lack of moral compass allowed a President to consort with an underling in his Oval Office, another to declare he had done nothing wrong while ordering men to war with little concrete evidence or provocation, and a movement that declares that all folks oriented towards the helping of the greater community are the socialists, the Communists, the ones to mock and malign. These are the same people who initiated and foster such organizations as the Tea Party movement and the libertarian principles of Ron Paul, whose fundamental orientation comes from that same Ayn Rand philosophy.
For those without the background and education to weigh the issues and for those whose beliefs coincide with the Ayn Rand precepts, the loud shouts of "socialism" and the anger directed at people who have less will likely continue, until there is a different and more loving moral compass for direction.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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