Sunday, July 21, 2013

Richard Halley is a whiny little bitch

So when Dagny shows up in Galt's Gulch she finally meets the composer Richard Halley whose whereabouts have been unknown since the first chapter of the book.

There is a moment in the book when a group of representative Randian Supermen sit around explaining why they went Galt, and really they have the same general reasons - but Halley's is the most blatantly petulant. For years the parasites (i.e. most of humankind) failed to get Halley's work but then suddenly they do:
But what I saw in their faces, and in the way they spoke when they crowded to praise me, was the thing I had heard being preached to artists... They seemed to say they owed me nothing, that their deafness had provided me with a moral goal, that it had been my duty to struggle, to suffer, to bear - for their sake - whatever sneers, contempt, injustice, torture they chose to inflict on me, to bear it in order to teach them to enjoy my work, that this was their rightful due and my proper purpose. And then I understood the nature of the looter-in-spirit... I saw the impertinent malice of mediocrity boastfully holding up its own emptiness as an abyss to be filled by the bodies of its betters...
So in other words, on the night that Richard Halley finally received recognition after waiting for it for years, he has an epic tantrum because the entire audience, in his judgment, were the wrong people and they liked his music for the wrong reasons.  They didn't appreciate his greatness sufficiently in spite of their clear adulation. Halley is afraid that they think he wrote his music for them, and he finds this intolerable. And so he takes his piano and goes Galt.

One of the messages that Rand hits again and again is that the true ubermensch is not concerned about what others think, but rather strives for achievement for the pleasure it gives. So you have to wonder why Halley cared whether the parasites didn't like his music in just the right way.

Rand herself, for all her big endless talk, cared very much what the critics thought of Atlas Shrugged. Reportedly she cried over the bad reviews. According to the Burns biography:
...What she dwelled upon was the painful absence of intellectual recognition. Rand longed to be hailed as a major thinker on the American scene.
But as Burns rightly notes:
With her focus on the mind, Rand blamed contemporary intellectuals for every evil in the world, particularly the expanding welfare state. It was true that many prominent intellectuals had supported Communism and socialism, but Rand went far beyond standard conservative rhetoric about traitorous eggheads... Even the scientists in the form of Robert Stadler (character from Atlas Shrugged) came in for criticism. It was not clear if there were any living intellectuals whose endorsement Rand would have accepted.
 Exactly so - if she had gotten good reviews from the intellectuals, would that have been enough? Or would she have decided that they did not like the book in just the right way? In any case, Atlas Shrugged was the last novel she wrote and we can all be thankful for that.

And speaking of Robert Stadler - in the second chapter of Part 3, Dr. Atkinson explains that Stadler is the biggest traitor to Objectivism:
Of any one person, of any single guilt for the evil which is now destroying the world, his was the heaviest guilt.
We know what kind of fate Rand has for all characters in Atlas Shrugged who sin against Objectivism, don't we?