Tuesday, March 03, 2015

"...the real motive of any person who's ever preached 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.' "

I stopped contributing to Adam Lee's ongoing discussion of Atlas Shrugged due to censorship - because Lee's friend, who goes by the name of Azkyroth had a meltdown and began shrieking insults at me and insisted I was out to hurt the autistic because I speculated that Ayn Rand was on the autism spectrum.

To my knowledge, Lee has never objected to Azkyroth's habit of insulting anybody he disagrees with.

This censorship of disagreeable ideas -  thoughtcrimes to Social Justice Warriors like Lee and Azkyroth -  is a disgrace to rational discourse, and Lee has no sense of shame about it.

But I do check in to see how the Atlas Shrugged discussion is going, since some of Lee's commenters are quite astute and I'm always interested in learning what others think of Atlas Shrugged in-depth - I'm always afraid I might have missed something. And Lee does catch things I missed. He makes a good point (highlighted):
But after all that, Dagny objects, the tramp hasn’t told her who John Galt is or what he has to do with any of this. He says that it was something that happened at the first all-hands meeting after the company had agreed to go communist:
“‘This is a crucial moment in the history of mankind!’ Gerald Starnes yelled through the noise. ‘Remember that none of us may now leave this place, for each of us belongs to all the others by the moral law which we all accept!’‘I don’t,’ said one man and stood up. He was one of the young engineers… He stood like a man who knew that he was right. ‘I will put an end to this, once and for all,’ he said… ‘I will stop the motor of the world.’ Then he walked out.…We never heard what became of him. But years later, when we saw the lights going out, one after another, in the great factories that had stood solid like mountains for generations, when we saw the gates closing and the conveyor belts turning still, when we saw the roads growing empty and the stream of cars draining off… then we began to wonder and to ask questions about him. We began to ask it of one another, those of us who had heard him say it… You see, his name was John Galt.”
If you missed that, John Galt vowed to destroy an entire civilization because one business went communist. Disproportionate retribution seems to be the only kind of retribution that Objectivists know. 
This leads back to the question, again, of how the looters came to take over the world. If the Twentieth Century Motor Company’s plan was such a failure, its competitors should have thrived, and once it went bankrupt, the whole idea should have been discarded as an object lesson in what not to do. Instead, for some reason, everyone copied this manifestly disastrous idea, and it spread to all of society despite bringing ruin to everyone who adopted it. Atlas has no real explanation for how this happened,
However, Lee completely misses the boat with the last sentence above. Atlas does have a real explanation for the ultimate root of communism:
...if you ever want to see pure evil you should see the way her eyes glinted when she watched some man who'd talked back to her once... And when you saw it, you saw the real motive of any person who's ever preached 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Although it is understandable that Lee missed it. It's so absurd it's easy to disregard the true significance of that passage. But I think there can be no doubt: Ayn Rand believes the root cause of "communism" and the views of anybody who disagrees with anything she believes, is sadism. Or to put a finer point on it - evil.

I think it's likely that Rand had undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and she conflated the "neurotypical" view of the world with Communism. And since she could not understand the perspective of neurotypicals - and many on the autism spectrum express the same bafflement - she came to believe it must be due to willful malice.

This passage from Atlas Shrugged best expresses the almost mystical feelings that Rand's protagonists have about their enemies:
"Dagny, they're doing something we've never understood. They know something we don't, but should discover. I can't see it fully yet, but I'm beginning to see parts of it. That looter from the State Science Institute was scared when I refused to help him pretend that he was just an honest buyer of my Metal. He was scared way deep. Of what? Public opinion was just his name for it, but it's not the full name. Why should he have been scared? He has the guns, the jails, the laws - he could have seized the whole of my mills, if he wished, and nobody would have risen to defend me, and he knew it - so why should he have cared what I thought? But he did. It was I who had to tell him he wasn't a looter but a customer and friend. That's what he needed from me. And that's what Dr. Stadler needed from you - it was you who had to act as if he were a great man who had never tried to destroy your rail or my Metal. I don't know what it is that they think they accomplish - but they want us to pretend we see the world as they pretend they see it. They need some sort of sanction from us. I don't know the nature of that sanction, but, Dagny - I know that if we value our lives, we must not give it to them. If they put you on a torture rack, don't give it to them. Let them destroy your railroad and my mills, but don't give it to them. Because I know this much: that's our only chance...
...Yes," she said. "yes, I know what you've seen in them... I've felt it too - but it's only like something brushing past that's gone before I know I've seen it, like a touch of cold air, and what's left is always the feeling that I should have stopped it... I know that you're right. I can't understand their game but this much is right: We must not see the world as they want us to see it. It's some sort of fraud, very ancient and vast - and the key to break it is: to check every premise they teach us, to question every precept, to - "
This is no political or economic system they are talking about: the Soviet Communists were not known for caring what anybody thought - they did not hesitate to use force whenever they wanted, unlike Rand's "looters." And Communism doesn't express itself as "a touch of cold air."

This is about perceptual differences, not political differences. 

So the reason "communism" rules the world of Atlas Shrugged, in spite of the fact that it is presented as an objectively inferior socio-political system in the novel; and the reason that John Galt wants to destroy an entire civilization because of one bad business model is because these don't represent political or economic systems - they represent Ayn Rand's rage at living in a world dominated by neurotypicals, which "communism" embodies for her. 

Which makes sense since the major trauma of her early life (second only to the mechanical chicken incident) was the Communist revolution and the confiscation of her father's business. (Although ironically by ending prohibitions against Jews and women attending university, the Bolsheviks made it possible for Ayn Rand to get a higher education, a debt which she never acknowledged - but then she was notorious for claiming that nobody ever helped her.)

People perceiving the world in ways that Ayn Rand found incomprehensible were "evil" to her. And that's how she portrays those who are not the angular-faced producer heroes in Atlas Shrugged - as vermin that need to be exterminated, and that's why she put them on a train, listed their sins against Objectivism, and then put the train in a tunnel full of carbon monoxide. And then blew up the train. That's how Ayn Rand felt about a world controlled by neurotypicals.

And yes, there are those with Asperger's who are conscious of their hatred for neurotypicals, although of course not all people with Asperger's hate all neurotypicals.
But on the other hand, at least one person with Asperger's describes neurotypicals as having "superpowers" for "mind-reading" abilities, and even compares this to the powers of a character on Star Trek:
A Betazoid is someone who has the power to sense others and read minds. Deanna is known for her contributions to the show as being able to sense when someone is angry, upset, anticipating battle, or even if the person is being deceitful. 
There was a particular Star Trek episode when Deanna Troi loses her Betazoid powers and she compares it to losing a sense.. such as losing sight, losing hearing, or losing a limb. It drove her CRAZY because she was unable to read people anymore. The rest of the crew was human, so they told her that losing her Betazoid powers was like stepping down to a human's level of understanding now she knew what it was like to not have that awareness. 
Even though Deanna Troi is not neurotypical NOR Autistic. The difference between her and the rest of the crew is how much awareness she had of other people. Deanna vs. a normal human is like a neurotypical vs. an Aspie. She even questioned Riker "How do you people live? Without being able to read others."
And the typical Asperger inability to read people is a problem for Rand's protagonist Hank Rearden, which she makes explicit in this passage:
Rearden had to decide how much he could risk to invest upon the sole evidence of a man's face, manner and tone of voice... 
"I guess I'm not smart enough to make the sort of deals needed nowadays," he said in answer to the unspoken thoughts the hung across his desk. 
The purchasing manager shook his head. "No Mr. Rearden, it's one or the other. The same kind of brain can't do both. Either you're good at running the mills or you're good at running Washington." 
"Maybe I ought to learn their methods." 
"You couldn't learn it and it wouldn't do you any good. You wouldn't win in any of those deals. Don't you understand? You're the one who's got something to be looted."
We'll never know for sure if Ayn Rand had Asperger's (unless we can somehow get hold of viable DNA from her I suppose) but I think that it's extremely likely, given all the evidence. Which does not explain her predilection for laissez-faire Capitalism - I think that is more explicable by her early life experiences - but it does help explain her extremely idiosyncratic presentation of the concepts of Communism and Capitalism. And speculating that she might have had Asperger's doesn't hurt anybody with the condition. Although of course such speculations would not be permitted in a world run by Social Justice Warriors like Adam Lee and friends. Which would be almost as ugly a dystopia as the world of Atlas Shrugged itself.

Bonus Rand artifact: An Actual Letter Ayn Rand Wrote To An Actual Teenage Girl