Wednesday, July 10, 2013

By the time Dagny got to Woodstock there was grass growing on an iceberg

Ayn Rand, as you probably could have guessed, hated hippies. I haven't found the essay online (yet) but apparently she wrote an essay about Woodstock:
It is also interesting to observe how Rand allies herself with the middle class in opposition to the intellectuals and the “counter culture.” In her essay “Apollo and Dionysus,” Rand discussed Apollo 11 and the Woodstock music festival, and placed herself on the side of the middle class. “[T]he people are reality-oriented, commonsense-oriented, technology-oriented ...” (Return of the Primitive (“ROP”), p. 102)  She denounced the “hippies” who attended Woodstock. In fact, “hippie” seems to have been a favorite term of derision for her, used for both Kant (“the first hippie in history”) and anarcho-capitalists (“hippies of the right”). 
I've always suspected that Rand's response to the government-run, taxpayer-funded space program would be approval - a.k.a. utter hypocrisy - along with her hatred of Woodstock, which in contrast to the space program was a for-profit private enterprise.

But she already hated Woodstock New York twelve years before the hippies showed up. When Dagny Taggart is hiding out in her hereditary cabin in Part 2 Chapter 8 of Atlas Shrugged, she finds plenty to hate about Woodstock:
The only store was a wooden hovel... The storekeeper was a fat, pallid woman who moved with effort, but seemed indifferent to her own discomfort.
Now mind you, this is the only human contact Dagny has during an entire month, and this is the sum total of her interaction with the storekeeper: "Why don't you move those vegetables out of the sun?" But Dagny doesn't only hate the fat slobs who run shitty grocery stores. She hates that Woodstock is pristine and fantasizes doing something about it:
...She looked at Fairfield gorge, where the county road, twisting through marshy soil below the level of a river, got trapped in a crack between two hills. It would be simple to bypass those hills, she thought, to build a road on the other side of the river - the people of Woodstock had nothing to do, she could teach them - cut a road straight to the southwest, save miles, connect to the state highway...
Apparently Dagny felt that looter/moocher Max Yasgur (a Jewish Russian immigrant like Rand) did not have enough to do on his dairy farm.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  In addition to the Taggart Death Tunnel incident in Chapters 6 and 7, other exciting things happened:

Eddie Willers has another stream-of-consciousness monologue with the mysterious worker in attendance.

The fog government creates Directive Number 10-289 which has a list of Points that are, naturally, completely stupid. This is nothing to sneer at though: in spite of the fact that the fog government is unable to prevent the theft of its foreign aid shipments by a Norwegian pirate and incapable of ensuring that its infrastructure-related regulations and  zoning laws are enforced and has never yet called out the military nor the secret police to oppose the Randian Supermen, the fog government is absolutely unstoppable whenever it issues an order, directive or bill of any kind. As soon as the ink is dry on any given bill's official signatures it immediately goes into effect and immediately thwarts the Supermen. The pen truly is mightier than the sword.

And speaking of the Norwegian pirate, Ragnar Danneskjöld finally reveals himself in the flesh to Hank Rearden in the middle of the night in the middle of the forest (Dagny could clear-cut that shit out of his way a jiffy) in order to give him a tax rebate in the form of a bar of gold.

As we know, in Atlas Shrugged beauty equals goodness, and by this standard Ragnar is very very good indeed:
The shock that came next was to see Danneskjöld smile: it was like seeing the first green of spring on the sculptured planes of an iceberg.
(passing by the moronic simile of a plant growing on an iceberg...)
Rearden realized suddenly, for the first time, that Danneskjöld's face was more than handsome, it had the startling beauty of physical perfection - the hard, proud features, the scornful mouth of a Viking's statue, yet he had not been aware of it, almost as if the dead sternness of the face had forbidden the impertinence of an appraisal. But the smile was brilliantly alive.
Rearden wasn't aware of Danneskjöld's physical perfection at first, but he sure is now. So much so that when the cops suddenly appear, conveniently right after Rearden has vowed to Danneskjöld that he will turn his pirate ass over to the cops if he ever gets a chance, finds that he can't do it:
He was looking at the policeman, but he felt as if the focus of his eyes had switched to his side vision, and what he saw most clearly was Danneskjöld's face watching him with no expression, with no line's, no muscle's-worth of feelings. He saw Danneskjöld's arms hanging idly by his sides, the hands relaxed, with no sign of intention to reach for a weapon, leaving the tall, straight body defenseless and open - open as to a firing squad. He saw, in the light, that the face looked younger than he had thought and that the eyes were sky-blue. He felt that his one danger would be to glance directly at Danneskjöld - and he kept his eyes on the policeman, on the brass buttons of a blue uniform, but the object filling his consciousness, more forcefully than his visual perception, was Danneskjöld's body, the naked body under the clothes...
Is it me or is it suddenly hot in here? Francisco d'Who?

Two more observations from this priceless encounter - I quoted Danneskjöld's motto in my ten-minute play Christmas Blessings, although I didn't know who His Hotness was at the time:
(Robin Hood) was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich - or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.
But of more significance, contrary to all evidence, the fog government does have a military presence on the high seas. We know this for certain because Danneskjöld reveals that:
...I have never robbed a private ship and never taken any private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel - because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it...
Danneskjöld believes that a US military vessel would have been unable to avoid being robbed by him and his band of merry rogers (to say nothing of turning the tables and taking them into custody and ending their merry careers.) So it was very considerate of him not to rob one.

While Rearden's consciousness is being filled by the pirate king's naked body, d'Anconia shows up at Dagny's rustic Woodstock hide-away to try to get some woman-of-his-dreams action, after twelve years of celibacy. But Dagny cools his jets, so d'Anconia responds with something that the Randian Supermen love much more than sex. Because while all of them can go, in the prime of youth, at least a decade without sex, they can't go for more than a day without dispensing a lecture on The Usual - the uncrossable gorge between the worms and the Supermen.
...we kept mankind alive, yet we allowed men to despise us and to worship our destroyers. We allowed them to worship incompetence and brutality, the recipients and the dispensers of the unearned... 
- and blah blah blah. D'Anconia is two pages into The Usual - in other words, he's just getting warmed up - when suddenly Dagny hears on the radio about the Taggart Death Train and so must rush back to civilization to discover the full impact the tragedy has had on all those innocent machines.

* * *

( Throughout AS Rand breaks chapters into sections via three asterisks.)

OK this is a minor point, but it's really starting to irritate me. Rand believes she's invented a word, "pull" that expresses the effect of being popular through personal charisma or social connections. She uses it several times in the first 18 chapters of the book, starting with the title of Part 2, Chapter 2, "The Aristocracy of Pull."

This makes no sense - there was already a word in common usage that fulfills all necessary functions of the meaning and is less awkward sounding too: "influence." The Aristocracy of Influence - much better.