Zombie Objectivism

Objectivism was declared dead in the last week of October, 2008: Alan Greenspan, a devotee (and disciple) of Ayn Rand admitted before congress and the world that the ideas he'd pursued for 40 years failed, and, as a result, the economy was collapsing, the US government was being asked to bail out Wall Street, and the banking system was being fully Socialized -- a series of events no one from any political persuasion desired. The bug that bit the banks was very clearly a lack of regulation, and it happened so quickly, no one had time to spin it any other way. Stunned market-worshippers paused and said, "greed is NOT good?"

But a pause is just that, a pause: let the era of Zombie Objectivism begin. For if there is one quality that unites all objectivists, it is an extreme rightward tilt on the "tenacity-stubbornness spectrum." It is, after all, an ideology that praises and promises (and assures rightful belonging of) the world's rewards to the extremest jackass: in the kingdom of the kind, the soulless man is king. Ayn Rand is a writer who, had she been less articulate, would be remembered only in a long-dead psychiatrist's notes as a particularly vexing sociopath. She lacked empathy and reveled in the freedom that brought her. She mocked and abused those with feelings. She asserted these beliefs with cold, convincing logic through the medium of liars and those who refuse to accept reality, who prefer to replace it with one of their own: fiction.

In this sense, Objectivism is a super-meme: it is an idea appealing to the human tendency to escape reality (through a medium that denies reality); it encourages in its disciples a desire to proselytize, as well as an extreme tenacity, as well as a devotion to logic, a form of argument many find overwhelming and confusing (anyone who has actually studied logic knows that just because something is logical does not mean it is right -- but few study logic). After a short time of "trying objectivism on," the nascent objectivist sees Rand's ideas confirmed: the world is peopled by small-brained, easily duped suckers who are obviously lower on the food chain than oneself and deserve their subjected state -- the final ego-feeding triumph of this meme is that it makes its adherents feel right, and smart, and in-control -- it lets them feel they've got secret "inside" knowledge about how things really are.

In short, it's a religion.

Which is why it isn't going away: Zombie Objectivism is here to stay. A true rational philosophy evolves over time, takes evidence into consideration, entertains at length alternate and competing points of view, and is ultimately abandoned for something better, more accurate. But objectivism isn't objective, or rational, at all. It's simple and appealing. It makes people feel right and strong. It makes them feel they are part of a special in-group that "gets" it, while the rest of humanity doesn't. Which is why it remains un-evolved after 50 years, despite decades of research indicating its most basic precepts are flawed.

The human race's understanding of how the world works has come a long way since the 1950s, but not everyone reads the results. Aristotle was brilliant, but his theory of the planets and sun was wrong; he lacked the info. Copernicus's deathbed publication got the revelation of a sun-centered system out into the world, but there are still some who cling to the old philosophy. So there will be objectivist dead-enders long into the future, beyond our lives. We should make sure they don't get the reins of power back -- they'll be after them: they're a tenacious batch. 

Newer Post Older Post Home