The Shadow of Ayn Rand

A typical kind of Ayn Rand quote which lures people in.

A typical kind of inspirational Ayn Rand quote which lures people in.

For those of you who don’t know anything about  Ayn Rand aka Alisa Rosenbaum, settle in.

Rand made her name with her main two novels, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”, both books depicted men and women who were industrialists and CEOs in heroic terms. While we may not have Odysseus, Achilles or Jason leading us anymore, instead we can now look up to Howard Roark, Dagny Taggart or John Galt, because in essence, due to the grace of their “genius” and “productiveness”, we are all somehow allowed to live and like dogs happy to get table scraps, we should be grateful for whatever they  throw at us.
By themselves, the books aren’t bad. In fact, I’d even say that “The Fountainhead” is an alright read and the film with Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal and Raymond Massey is interesting to watch only because Cooper and Neal started a torrid affair during filming which scandalized Hollywood at the time.
Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal) staring down Howard Roark (Gary Cooper).

Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal) staring down Howard Roark (Gary Cooper).

Rand has always been popular with young readers or those readers who are young in mind (Read: immature) which I think explains her ongoing popularity. When you’re young and philosophically immature, it is very easy to fall for the romantic notions of heroism which Rand paints in her books. It’s only when you get a little more sophisticated, you realize that Rand’s ideals of heroism and grandeur bear an eerily close resemblance to Nietzsche’s ideal of the “Super-Man”, a concept and philosophy Adolf Hitler then used to fuel some aspects of Nazi ideology.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Rand was also a racist. Big time. You don’t have to look any further than this interview she gave on the Phil Donahue show back in the 1970’s especially from 5:57 onwards.
She also had peculiar ideas on female political leaders (from 2:25)
She was also a miserable human being.
I don’t say that because of the YouTube videos where she shoots herself in the foot. I say that because when I didn’t know any better, I too fell in love with her books back in the 9th grade  (yeah, I was a nerd). As a result I read of on all the rest of her works including “Anthem”, “For the New Intellectual”, “The Romantic Manifesto”,  “The Virtue of Selfishness”,“‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” as well as the two biographies done by her closest associates for years, “The Passion of Ayn Rand” by Barbara Branden and “My Years with Ayn Rand” by Nathaniel Branden, her onetime intellectual heir turned lover. I’m not going to discuss the dirty laundry of her life, only to say there was lots. Lots. She had no problem treating anyone like dirt especially if they got in her way and this included her husband, her sister and eventually, the Brandens. This justified her philosophy of selfishness, I think.
Friends in high places. Rand and her husband, with former president Gerald Ford and chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan.

Friends in high places. Rand and her husband, with former president Gerald Ford and chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan.

I also don’t think it is a coincidence either why the political and economic ultra-right wing in the United States fall hook, line and sinker for Ayn Rand, like Rand Paul or former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan (the same jerk who oversaw the financial meltdown of 2008) who was a personal friend of Rand’s for many years and attended her weekly talks at her NYC apartment.
Prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs can’t stand Rand  and he sums it up best in this video (from 2:49), especially on John Galt’s speech in “Atlas Shrugged”. It’s about the absence of any compassion whatsoever. And big business and CEOs alike would like to think that like Rand’s heroes, they too are heroic, and because of their privilege and talent, also deserve to earn and take anything they want…never mind workers rights or paying taxes which give funds to keep a community alive for municipal services like libraries or fire trucks.
Only they are wrong.
Sears Roebuck & Company is about to go under any day now and that’s due in large part to their idiot CEO who tried installing Ayn Rand’s brand of laissez-faire capitalism into the business. The result? Virtual bankruptcy for a company which lasted almost for over 100 years.  Great productivity, eh?   Rand had very strange ideas on misogyny, physical looks and the “halo effect” and obnoxious businessmen. You can read it all here.
It’s no secret that Lululemon’s former CEO Chip Wilson used to worship at the altar of Ayn Rand. In fact, they had several campaigns highlighting Rand’s work including using the famous question “Who is John Galt?” in one of their ad campaigns as well as strongly pushing their ambassadors to attend the culty and creepy LandMark Education seminars until fairly recently, all in the pursuit of “greatness” to use Chip’s word.
So when you have a company like Lululemon which provides clothing for what some people still consider to be a spiritual practice like yoga, which is all about trying to become a better human being, it did seem a little strange to see the disconnect between yoga and Ayn Rand’s philosophies and beliefs which border on the survival of the fittest. (Thankfully lulu has decided to downplay the Ayn Rand angle but nonetheless, this is the sort of thing people need to be aware of.)
What’s the lesson to today’s tale? If you ever encounter a company, a person, a celebrity who professes to love Ayn Rand and her ideas, I would only say watch them closely because I can almost guarantee that you will be dealing with a juvenile, not an adult.
Choose your ideals wisely.


Categories: Conspirio, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “The Shadow of Ayn Rand

  1. Beautifully stated. I watched Lululemon from its inception single-handedly co-op the yoga community into thinking it had all the answers. In the end it is revealed that the company was full of brainwashed ambassadors and employees some of whom turned out to be very violent. Now that Lululemon stock is down 50% and CEO Chip Wilson departed it will be interesting to see if this company even survives. It is interesting to see the Ayn Rand philosophy turn against those who once embraced it.

    • It is unfortunately, the usual case. Someone comes up with a good idea, flips in into a small business which does well because the product or service was great and they operated on principles people could live with – the moment it gets too big and corporate and marketing and finance get involved, you can kiss it goodbye. The same thing happened to The Body Shop in the 1990s as well, who were initially very green, really into recycling, refills etc. And then suddenly it was all about gift baskets. It got so bad that Anita Roddick the founder and brainchild, who is actually quite leftist, just sold everything and left.

  2. doggercise

    Israel was a very marxist -leaning country. perhaps that isn’t an effective term. Anyways, the place was full of collectivist communities called “kibbutzes”, and also obviously has a very big government.

    • Rand here is just completely demonizing Arabs and Palestinians as “savages” (her words) with nothing to offer. Her attitudes towards them, unfortunately was quite common among Europeans-who-became Israeli settlers since many of them had spent centuries in Europe and no doubt picked up those European attitudes of racism towards the “darker” races. It’s not as prevalent among Sephardic settlers since many of them came from the Middle East themselves. I can’t find it but Chomsky did a whole interview on this topic alone years ago.
      I also find it funny how Rand selectively cherry-picks the facts here. She left Russia when the Bolsheviks took over and ran to America because she couldn’t deal with their collectivist attitudes yet with Israel which was quite leftist until the 1970s, suddenly they’re the enlightened ones in a sea of savages because they are bringing technology and knowledge to the brutes, never mind their leftist leanings.

  3. The Local Universalist

    “Rand here is just completely demonizing Arabs and Palestinians as “savages” (her words) with nothing to offer. Her attitudes towards them, unfortunately was quite common among Europeans-who-became Israeli settlers since many of them had spent centuries in Europe and no doubt picked up those European attitudes of racism towards the “darker” races. ”

    It wasn’t a light European vs dark non-European thang. Rand was an obvious Zionist. They are prejudiced toward goyim. She was siding with her tribe.

    And Rand ranted frequently against “mysticism” so yoga would have been out for her. Did Lululemon ever address that issue?

  4. Rand’s books were the sort I tried to get through time and time again but often never managed too because I found myself railing against the quasi-truths and ideas she was presenting in her work. It’s always been interesting to come across people who adore her work and can go on ad-infinitum about her. I find they’ve never been the sort I’ve been able to get on with. As for that Lululemon campaign, it was the last nail in the coffin for a Canadian brand I wanted to support but couldn’t be bothered to sink money into anymore. I find there are far more equitable, eco-friendly and sustainable brands worth receiving my hard earned cash.

    Great soundbites throughout by the way, mind you I find the Jeffrey Sachs one to be a rich considering how he has been known to operate in the humanitarian/development sphere. You win some and you lose some I guess.

  5. Silver

    Ayn never had any children….you can’t keep up these types of ideals when faced with dirty diapers or hungry children. If she had made the ‘mistake’ of having a child…who knows…the ‘script’ may have been…Who is Dagny Taggart?

    • Rand was completely clueless and unrealistic on a whole host of issues. She thought things like the EPA or the FDA were hindrances to big business, busy-bodies who shouldn’t exist, never mind that when these agencies were first created they were there to protect consumers and the citizenry – even if today they have become corporate lackeys unfortunately. Rand also extolled the “virtues” of those thugs who dominated the “Gilded Age” of American industrialism, guys like JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnagie, Henry Ford, men who were quite ruthless and blood-thirsty in their business dealings and had little to no sympathy for things like workers rights, labour movements, cooperative movements,like them Rand felt that industrialists had every right to the lives of workers including working them to death.

  6. Beverly

    Thanks for your insights. Have checked out “Atlas Shrugged” several times, and never really been able to get into it. My sis-in-law has read it through twice, usually as bedtime reading material. Your insights into what sort of personality likes these books is…..insightful…..

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