This Is Not What I Mean

Doug Bandler's picture
Submitted by Doug Bandler on Mon, 2013-02-11 04:45

I often bash the Objectivist movement for not grasping the totalitarian nature of the Left and that it is the Left that is the PRIMARY enemy facing civilization right now. Islam is secondary. In fact, if it were not for the ascendency of modern liberalism, Islam would not be a major threat. It can only thrive where its enemies are weak. I also constantly say that the Conservatives are flawed whereas the Left is evil.

OK. But I do not believe that Objectivism should make common cause with Conservatives on philosophic issues. Just that we should acknowledge that the Left are our enemies and that they wish to destroy us therefore in an ad hoc way we should join with Conservatives to fight the Left on many issues (i.e. opposing ObamaCare, opposing Islamic Jihad, opposing Obama's appointment of "Czars", etc). But John Aglialoro is pushing this way too far. He has a "surprise" waiting for us in the third installment of 'AS'. It is not one that any Objectivist should be excited for:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bi...

And here is where Aglialoro plans his surprise, a scene that does not exist in the book that he nonetheless hopes to include in the third part of the film trilogy. He believes that our troubled times require an alliance between champions of reason and free market capitalism and conservative religious practitioners, for without such an alliance both causes will be lost.

If you read the article, it seems that Aglialoro deliberately omitted or shortened philosophically important scenes but he included a scene which would make an "alliance" with religious Conservatism. He also parrots Kelley's "benevolence" bullshit as a reason for the inclusion of the scene.

Aglialoro was not up to the job of making a powerful film adaptation of Rand's magnum opus. I give him credit for making enough money to undertake this as an extracurricular project. But intellectually he just doesn't have it. 'AS' could have been a spectacular movie series, even on a budget. But it has been mediocre at best and now it will actually undermine Rand's philosophy by linking it with religious Conservatism.

Its a difficult task to utterly reject and oppose the egalitarian collectivism of the Left as well as their relativism and their all-encompassing nihilism while at the same time drawing a distinction between yourselves and Conservatism which is seen as the only opposition to Leftism by much of the culture. (The Left lumps libertarianism in with Conservatism and doesn't see a difference between the two. Hell, many Conservatives don't see the difference either. Marget Thatcher referred to something called "libertarian Conservatism". What the fuck is that?) BUT, this does not mean that you ally intellectually with religion or traditionalism. Aglialoro is making a mistake here. This is one area where I am sure mainstream O'ism will make its displeasure known. Unless they have become so neutered that they won't even defend Rand's philosophy anymore. I don't know, does anyone have a sac in mainstream O'ism? Or is everyone Mr. and Ms. Nice? Because playing nice is really going to help in the war against the Left.


Christianity and art

tvr's picture

I whole-mindedly agree with your summation, Doug.

Christianity and Art

Doug Bandler's picture

His answer: it instilled the fear of God in him. And that was "an inspiration" for him.

That's the last thing I get from 'Ex Nihilo'. Yet Christianity has been the inspiration for many of Europe's best masters of various arts; music, painting, sculpture, etc.. I actually don't find that surprising though. Christianity provided a total worldview from metaphysics to art, and it included a mythology that oriented around a heroic figure (to Christians). For centuries Christianity provided the only view of existence and humanity. That can't and won't die easily. And it really needs to be replaced with something. I think that's why so many Conservatives refuse to reject theism and accept naturalism. They see the nihilist of the Left. They see a link to the Left's approach to secularism. They conclude that atheism destroys both morality and the sublime. They cling to the primitiveness of religion.

Its a crappy cycle. I think Rand breaks it but until an association exists in the popular culture between beauty, morality and secularism, we will have this cultural divide.

Doug

tvr's picture

Thanks for your reply. The first part of my comment was a re-statement of Ayn Rand's point in her letter to Sylvia Austin dated July 9, 1946 as found in Letters of Ayn Rand.

Christianity's vision of the sublime is best conveyed in it's art. A personal example which demonstrated to me how that vision has so much wrong with it is when I asked a Christian relative to tell me what Frederick Hart's magnificent 'Ex Nihilo', a giant relief frieze at Washington’s National Cathedral, did for him (image posted below).

Now, the sculpture conveys to me the message "Eternity is now", which is inspiring, as it make me focus on and appreciate my every breath.

His answer: it instilled the fear of God in him. And that was "an inspiration" for him.

Linz

seddon's picture

"Guess I'll have to brace myself for disappointment with Pt 2."

Looking forward to your commentary.

Fred

Linz

Doug Bandler's picture

Still, here I think may lie a crucial insight: pomowankery may officially eschew passion, but note how passionate it becomes when confronted with its nemeses.

That's what I think too. Leftism only gets passionate about destroying its enemies. Never about any positive vision. It also makes me wonder what really is at the core of a serious Leftist. It really must be rot, which means that calling Leftism a psychosis rather than a political philosophy is not that far off the mark.

But Leftists do have passion in their own way. Sometimes I even see Hillary Clinton glow with passion. Its a real destructive passion but she nevertheless glows (an evil glow). I never see that with mainstream Objectivists or even mainstream Conservatives (some Evangelicals have it). We have become a sterilized movement sadly.

tvr

Doug Bandler's picture

Christianity's best aspect is that it proclaims the basic principle of individualism, "the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal", as Miss Rand defined it. Christianity fails however to prescribe a code of ethics that would in fact save one's soul, so it gets the ends right, but the means viciously wrong.

Another really good comment. Christianity does have a vision of the sublime. Its just that vision has so much wrong with it. Yet I often find that the Christ story can be a source of emotional strength. Strip it down and it is the story of a man who accepts a job that will bring his end, although it will save his people, and he finds the strength within himself to see it through to the end. Its almost Tolkein-esque except without the Orcs. But the Left has no vision of the sublime. Further, it spits on the very concept. Which is why I tend to offer some forgiveness to Christianity for its sins, whereas I hate, hate, hate modern liberalism.

All the other points you made tvr, especially about the "good priest" are solid.

Luke

Doug Bandler's picture

Christianity's best aspect involves its rational use of judgment based on character rather than class, race, etc. Of course, that judgment too often passes as "evil" those who fail to accept Jesus Christ as personal lord and savior. But not all Christians think that way. "Agape" or de facto benevolence at least opens the door for productive exchanges rather than instant hostility with those different from oneself.

The cited film scene simply has Dagny enjoying church music, not praying. Church music by itself is vastly more mind-easing compared to the head banging caterwauling that passes as music these days. The priest sought to help her benevolently. She acknowledged the offer and also acknowledged that this is on her own shoulders, not those of God.

I consider this not a bad scene at all.

This is a good argument. I still think that it shouldn't be in there because it can confuse people. Also, Rand debated whether or not to add a Christian character (a priest) to 'AS' as a mixed figure but she decided against it b/c she thought a Priest (and thus Christianity by extension) could not be innocent of the destruction that was happening to society. Fascinating that last bit. But Luke you make a good case that the scene is benevolent in and of itself. And that Christianity is not all evil. As Lindsay says, there is something redeeming about it.

I find it a testament to Lindsay's soul that as a gay man who has more to fear from Christianity than any of us Anchove-ists, that he nevertheless understands Christianity's power and passion better than anyone else in the movement. There I think Aglialoro is right, there is too much Christianity hatred from mainstream O'ism. Save that for the Left. Oh and Islam, a religion which has NO redeeming attributes.

Luke

tvr's picture

Christianity's best aspect is that it proclaims the basic principle of individualism, "the inviolate sanctity of man's soul, and the salvation of one's soul as one's first concern and highest goal", as Miss Rand defined it. Christianity fails however to prescribe a code of ethics that would in fact save one's soul, so it gets the ends right, but the means viciously wrong.

I submit that the cited film scene would add nothing to the movie except an unnecessary muddying of the philosophical waters.

Describing his primary motivation for persisting with the project, Mr. Aglialoro stated in a 2010 Atlasphere interview that '[I] made a kind of commitment to Ayn Rand … I wanted to be able to visit Ayn Rand’s grave in New York and say, “We got it done.”'.

I wonder what Mr Aglialoro thinks Ayn Rand's response would be if he were to proceed with the scene as it is proposed? Miss Rand held that nothing is art is inconsequential, and she had her reasons for not including a 'good' Priest.

The Objectivist movement's snubbing Part II and the film's subsequent flopping begs the question whether Mr. Aglialoro is contemplating doing the controversial primarily for financial reasons (i.e. as a marketing ploy to widen the potential audience) or because he thinks that inclusion of the proposed 30 second scene will in actual fact change the course of history in the real world, even though according to Forbes "most of the audience will miss it, along with the olive branch it represents".

It would seem to me that Mr Aglialoro has changed his priorities, or, his 'trial balloon' is merely a decoy designed to prompt Objectivist commentary which was so "puzzlingly" absent for Part II.

The man is a world-class poker player, so my money is on the latter.

Fred

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Hahahaha! I meant, of course, I have ordered Pt 2. I would not be so presumptuous as to order anyone, let alone a distinguished philosophy professor, to do commentary.

I've watched Pt 1 several times too. Love it, with quibbles I have raised in the past. Guess I'll have to brace myself for disappointment with Pt 2.

Linz

seddon's picture

"I'm puzzled by the lack of Oist commentary on Pt 2, which I have ordered. TAS were all over Pt 1. Where were they this time? Ed? Fred Seddon?"

The blame is mine. I never read your "order." (Did I read this correctly. Did you "order" commentary or did you order the DVD of part II.) So for what it is worth. I saw Part I several times in the theatres and own the DVD (and the soundtrack) which I have also watched several times. On the other hand, I saw Part II once. My biggest disappointment with Part II was Samantha Mathis. She is no Taylor Schilling. In 8 GREAT PLAYS, Peikoff tells us that we should ask Which character we would love to have sex with. For me, it's Taylor, Taylor, Taylor. I did prefer the new Francisco. I will order the DVD for Part II. Who knows? Maybe I'll like it better after a second and third viewing.

Fred

Christianity's Best Aspect

Luke Setzer's picture

Christianity's best aspect involves its rational use of judgment based on character rather than class, race, etc. Of course, that judgment too often passes as "evil" those who fail to accept Jesus Christ as personal lord and savior. But not all Christians think that way. "Agape" or de facto benevolence at least opens the door for productive exchanges rather than instant hostility with those different from oneself.

The cited film scene simply has Dagny enjoying church music, not praying. Church music by itself is vastly more mind-easing compared to the head banging caterwauling that passes as music these days. The priest sought to help her benevolently. She acknowledged the offer and also acknowledged that this is on her own shoulders, not those of God.

I consider this not a bad scene at all.

For Galt's sake...

tvr's picture

"There must be room in Objectivism for charity and benevolence."

It's Atlas Shrugged, not Atlas Hugged!

And, by Objectivist standards, the heroes in the book were extremely benevolent, so I don't know what Aglialoro means with his above statement. Whether there is 'room' for charity is irrelevant. There is 'room' for children in Objectivism also, but kids do not feature in the novel because they are neither essential nor necessary to convey the novel's theme.

To quote Miss Rand:

"The four essential attributes of a novel are: Theme—Plot—Characterization—Style. These are attributes, not separable parts. They can be isolated conceptually for purposes of study, but one must always remember that they are interrelated and that a novel is their sum. (If it is a good novel, it is an indivisible sum.)"

Atlas Shrugged is not just a 'good novel', it is one of if not the greatest novels ever written. The sum of it's attributes is therefore absolutely indivisible. To add in some scene now that would alter in the slightest any one of the four essential attributes of the book would be, I submit, to bastardize Miss Rand's masterpiece, irregardless of the arguments concerning specific courses of action individuals should take in the real world.

Nemeses

Sam Pierson's picture

Linz: "pomowankery may officially eschew passion, but note how passionate it becomes when confronted with its nemeses."

Yup. They hold on tight to their precious conceits.

In the case of lefties, they're aroused by anything anti-capitalist. What they're 'for' is mostly a reaction to what they're against. Childish pain in the ass.

Doug

Lindsay Perigo's picture

What do both old Christianity and modern liberalism have that Objectivism does not? Is it passion? Is it that simple?

Old Goblianity certainly did. It's hard to associate "passion," though, with modern liberalism, if by that we mean pomowankery, which prides itself on its lack of passion. Still, here I think may lie a crucial insight: pomowankery may officially eschew passion, but note how passionate it becomes when confronted with its nemeses. See, for instance, Baade. Normally monotoned and sardonic (not to mention soporific), he becomes almost semi-aroused when discussing Objectivism. It's Dracula and the cross territory. Pomowankery allows itself to become passionate when its cage is rattled. Official Objectivism, by contrast, has been contaminated by Babsism - and means it. Passion is truly the enemy. To his credit, Peikoff was never corrupted by this filth. But now, post-Peikoff, what we see is Politically Correct, MBA, don't-offend-anyone Objectivism. Which ain't Objectivism at all, best I can tell.

This is inexperience coming

Sam Pierson's picture

This is inexperience coming through. His job is to get what's in that book on the screen. It's a huge book, so it's already hard. But now to add to it? Outta scope Mr Aglialoro. He's trying too hard to shovel a message into the current arena; it wanders into preachy propaganda territory rather than being an absorbing watch (& hence re-watch) of a crackingly good story. Eye appears to be off the ball here. Refocus required.

Pt 2 dropped like a stone it seems. I don't say that with any pleasure; is how it is. This proposal might indicate why as it indicates the nature of the thinking going on. Aglialoro's a successful guy who most likely thinks he can do anything. He probably can. But he should be serving that book, not tweaking it to serve his own vision.

Interesting

Doug Bandler's picture

I thought of that but I didn't think that Aglialoro and his director could capture the spiritual grandeur you were talking about. But I think you may be right. It may be harmless. But the problem persists. If Objectivism has to use Christian imagery to signify worldly sublimity we are doomed.

But if Aglialoro is trying to channel you here and add a spiritual dimension to a movie series that has so far been almost exclusively political, then maybe he deserves a pass. I still think the entire project could have been so much better. I think the right people could have given it a soul without having to borrow from Christianity. I actually think I could have done it and I'm not even a writer. But I could have given it a far grander vision. Plus I would know how to target both altruism and egalitarianism and nihilism and by extension really blast the fucking Left at their core. I am sure there were people out there, Rand influenced writers and directors, that could have done the same. What about Mike Paxton?

... we must recognise also the awful paradox that the church of the Inquisition, the church of the persecution of Galileo and science generally, the church of sexual repression on the one hand and child molestation on the other, the church of the glorification of suffering … this institution at the same time has managed to engage and inspire what Ayn Rand called simply "the best within." Especially as embodied in John Paul II. Somehow he projected in his demeanour the quest for the highest possible. The total passion for the total height.

I haven't read this in a while. Its so true. The Church that did all that evil yet nevertheless commissioned basically the Italian Renaissance and gave humanity the greatest art that ever existed. A bunch of contradictions with Christianity. I really want to hate it but I can't. And yet modern liberalism has also captured a culture and they offer only ugliness and spit at beauty. What's the common denominator? What do both old Christianity and modern liberalism have that Objectivism does not? Is it passion? Is it that simple?

And ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm puzzled by the lack of Oist commentary on Pt 2, which I have ordered. TAS were all over Pt 1. Where were they this time? Ed? Fred Seddon?

Hmmmm

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I believe a certain Dr Binswanger has already made his entirely predictable displeasure known. And our local Savonarolas who've hated this project from the start will be awash in their own froth and foam. But I'm wondering if this is really the betrayal it'll be portrayed as. Here's a lengthier chunk from the Forbes piece:

And here is where Aglialoro plans his surprise, a scene that does not exist in the book that he nonetheless hopes to include in the third part of the film trilogy. He believes that our troubled times require an alliance between champions of reason and free market capitalism and conservative religious practitioners, for without such an alliance both causes will be lost.

“Most people have a respect for spirituality, maybe even a yearning. There must be room in Objectivism for charity and benevolence. Remember, Rand struggled with the character of the priest, who appeared in early drafts of Atlas Shrugged but didn’t make the final cut. I am going to put him back.”

It will be a mere nod, maybe 30 seconds. Most of the audience will miss it, along with the olive branch it represents. But Aglialoro hopes to get shooting permission from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for a scene that will open with a wide shot from above and behind the iconic statue of Atlas in Rockefeller Center. The camera will follow Dagny into a quiet courtyard, consumed in silent mental struggle. The sound of a choir will break the night, a beautiful inspiring sound that will stop Dagny in her tracks. She turns and sees a man of the cloth who has been watching her struggle. “Good evening, my child, can I help you?” “Oh no, father, I was just listening to the lovely music.” “Are you sure there is nothing I can help you with?” A long pause. “No, father. I have to do this on my own.”

It’s not much. But it will be a gentle repudiation of the militant atheism that characterizes many Objectivists. Will purists raise a ruckus? Will religious conservatives respond to the invitation, realizing that if liberty is allowed to perish leaving socialism triumphant, religious freedom will be next? Perhaps Aglialoro shared this preview to float a trial balloon. In either case, we’ll just have to wait and see.

I have long argued that organised Objectivism is failing because it fails to respect spirituality (by which I mean, of course, an entirely natural, rather than supernatural, phenomenon). Might this scene be nothing more harmful than an expression of such respect? Rather than froth and foam, should we not redouble our hitherto-feeble efforts to wrest the realm of spirituality from the mystics who still monopolise it?

... we must recognise also the awful paradox that the church of the Inquisition, the church of the persecution of Galileo and science generally, the church of sexual repression on the one hand and child molestation on the other, the church of the glorification of suffering … this institution at the same time has managed to engage and inspire what Ayn Rand called simply "the best within." Especially as embodied in John Paul II. Somehow he projected in his demeanour the quest for the highest possible. The total passion for the total height.

Therein lies both inspiration and a challenge for Objectivists. We have demonstrably failed thus far to persuade people that reason and spirituality are not mutually exclusive; that reason, indeed, is the source of authentic spirituality; that reason must continually inform spirituality; that spirituality is no less quintessential for being of this world, this mind, this body, rather than some other fantasy dimension. We have inherited and passed on a revolutionary philosophy by which the world may save itself from precisely such irrationalities as religion; we have failed to create a culture to match it. Our culture has been repressive, persecutorial, joyless, prudish and downright nasty. Objectivism’s worst enemies have been … Objectivists.

We have failed in part because we have eschewed the very idea of a culture. In celebrating the "I" we have performed a kind of Anthem-in-reverse. We have become too afraid of the word "we." By dismissing anything undertaken with others as "collectivism" (ignoring the fact that real collectivism entails coercion) we have blinded ourselves to the impact we might make if we acted as a fellowship of individualists, in voluntary, life-affirming concert. (Where we have come together, as in the ARI, we have displayed the unappetising qualities listed above.)

Pope John Paul II is a salutary, sobering reminder that it’s time we changed all that.

In the west, it has been monopolised by Christianity for two thousand years. Now, we Objectivists must wrest the ground that is rightfully ours from the mystic imposters who still occupy it. The sphere of "the best within."

http://solohq.solopassion.com/...

Will this scene cede the ground to them, as the purists will clamour, or help wrest it from them?

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