AYN RAND AND THE MATRIX
by Jon Rappoport
MAY 2, 2012
“…nearly perfect in its immorality.” — Gore Vidal, reviewing Atlas Shrugged
“…shot through with hatred.” — The Saturday Review, on Atlas Shrugged
“…can be called a novel only by devaluing the term.” — The National Review, on Atlas Shrugged
“[The] creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single, individual men.” — Howard Roark, The Fountainhead
When people perceive that their society is being infiltrated and taken over by Collectivism, when they finally view that system as the enemy, when they point accusing fingers at the cultural and political transformation taking place under their noses, when they gear up to fight it…what is their ultimate fuel in that battle?
What do they resurrect as the ideal that is being scorched by Collectivism?
Yes, the Constitution, yes, the Bill of Rights, yes, the Republic. But what were those documents and that form of government there for in the first place? What WAS the great ideal that lay behind them?
And if very few people can recall the ideal or understand it, what then?
The ideal was and is THE INDIVIDUAL.
But not just the individual.
The FREE INDIVIDUAL.
But not just the free individual.
The FREE AND POWERFUL INDIVIDUAL.
Which is why I’m writing about Ayn Rand.
Is it possible to remove Ayn Rand’s work from its cultural context, from all the arguments it has spawned, from the weight of confusion intentionally generated to distract people from its essential lightning?
This was an author who lifted the subject of individual power beyond anything seen since Nietzsche. To grasp her Promethean effort and accomplishment, you have to read her books at least several times, because your own reactions and responses will change. She was attempting to dig a whole civilization out from its smug certainty about the limits of freedom, from its need for an entangling Matrix, from its compulsion to borrow and steal worn-out ideas.
I write this because the Matrix of modern life has no solution without a frontal exposure of the meaning and reality and sensation and emotion and mind and imagination of POWER. You can run, but you can’t hide. You can spin doily slogans and clever captions and wispy pretensions; you can call for “group consciousness” and collective sensibilities; you can say “we are all together”; you can herald consumerism or the promise of the digital universe or some version of New Ageism as the answer to our ills. But this feinting and tap dancing isn’t going to change one iota of truth about power. It isn’t a mantle you can refuse and deny and still live to the fullest. You have to come face to face with it and make your choices.
Ayn Rand, in her unique way, climbed the mountain of power and told about the vista that was then in her sights. She exercised no caution. She knew the consequences would be extraordinary.
I recommend her work because the characters she creates who embody power are electric. You experience them beyond mere fiddle-faddle with symbols. You discover what it is like to be them. What you think after that will sit on a new line of exploration.
Rand wrote two novels that still reverberate in the minds of millions of people: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
The books have inspired unalloyed adoration and hatred. They are received as a magnificent tonic or a dose of poison.
Whether or not you agree with Rand’s philosophy, after you read her two novels, you will be forced to admit it is formidable. It holds nothing back. It takes its stand and it deepens that stand, page after page. It never shrinks from accepting and embracing the implications of its principles.
Readers who hate Rand’s work hate her for daring to present the power of an individual in full force. That apparently is a sin. If so, how should power be described? What is their better alternative? Oligarchy?
Rand’s major heroes, Howard Roark and John Galt, are artists. This is also apparently a central crime. These men are creators. They bow before no one and nothing. They invent. They decide. They imagine. They refuse to compromise. They see no reason to feel guilt or incur debt. They leave the team and the group and the committee and the bureaucracy and the collective behind them in the dust.
And they can and do explain why.
They bow down before no religion or mystical concept of the universe.
In other words, they contradict every current element of political propaganda. They see such a campaign for what it is: the attempt to kill off the individual.
Society is ever more, over time, a mass concept. It extols obedience and love of rules that hem in the individual. Society’s leaders, through illegal dictum, deception, and force, define a space in which all life is supposed to occur. That is the “safe zone.” Within it, a person may act with impunity. Outside that space, protection is removed. The protection racket no long applies.
Once you own a space, you can alter it. You can make it smaller and smaller. You can flood it with caterwauling about “the greatest good for the greatest number,” the slogan of the mob. You can pretend to elevate the mob and give it the illusion that the majority are running things. You can con whole populations.
Is this not what organized religions do in their so-called spiritual formulations?
We are supposed to believe that individual power is a taboo because men like Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Attila, and Alexander once lived. That is the proof. We are supposed to believe that individual power is always and everywhere the expression of dominance over others and nothing more. Whereas, if we only take into consideration what is best for everybody, we will see our way out of the morass.
Civilizations are being made more puerile because it is children who are most vulnerable to the “greatest good for all” maxim. It is children who can be suckered into that ideal.
At this late date, significant numbers of people are waking up to the fact that “greatest good” is being managed and manipulated by new Stalins and Hitlers, who care about humanity in the same way that a bulldozer cares about the side of a building.
Ayn Rand, after growing up in the USSR, knew something about the paradise of the common man. She saw it play out. She could eventually look back and see, with certainty, that writing her two novels in the Soviet Union would have cost her her life.
Again and again, the debate comes back to individual power. Minds swerve away from it as if it were a crime scene on the highway.
Who wants to face what individual power means when such confrontation is tantamount to examining one’s own life and its surrenders and compromises and excuses?
Profoundly compromising and surrendering people are there in Rand’s novels, in the full bloom of decay. Are they! Peter Keating, the pathetic hack; Guy Francon, Keating’s boss, a socially connected panderer and promoter of hacks; Jim Taggart, moral coward in extremis; Ellsworth Toohey, prime philosopher of the mob impulse; Robert Sadler, the scientist who sold his soul.
Around us today, we see growing numbers of such collectivists who operate in the political, economic, social, scientific, and spiritual realms. They make hay from their overt or subtle attachment to group goals. They sell their phony idealism over and over.
What are we to do?
I suggest, to start with, an unflinching look at individual power. What is it? What can be done with it? Why do we see it expressed and lived in such paltry terms? We know the answers on the level of society, but I’m talking about the universe of the individual.
If you want to lock horns with a titan and discover your own responses to power, read or re-read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
And, again, keep in mind that her two major heroes were artists. This is was no accident. This was the thrust of her main assault. The artist is always, by example, showing the lie of the collective. The artist begins with the assumption that reality is not final. The artist is not satisfied to accommodate himself to What Already Exists.
There are other important implications in the work of Rand and those who start with the assumption of freedom and individual power: for example, history is not, as some philosophers claim, a process that unfolds in a particular direction all by itself.
This “process” formulation has been used to argue that history is embedded with a separate intelligence that seeks collectivism. Collectivism signals progress from past to future, and its adherents are actors speaking its lines in a grand inevitable drama that culminates in domination over the individual, and utopia for the masses.
This is akin to saying that you may be driving your car on the road, but the real navigator in charge of arriving at some hidden destination is a predestined force inhabiting the engine.
Staring at individual power need not involve us in a cold, brutal, surgical exercise. After all, the kind of power we are talking about is deeply engaged in life itself. It isn’t sitting in some ivory tower or cave. It isn’t scoring points in a competition. It is intimately connected to expression of self in a far-reaching way.
Neither is this power married to time or contained in one space. It flows out from the individual because he launches it, because it carries his energy for purposes of his own invention. Power is bathed in freedom.
Many years ago, I wrote a letter to a painter whose work I admired. He was largely unknown in the New York matrix of social-art-gallery-collector entanglements. I asked him a question about power.
He responded: “It all comes down to this. A true artist’s work is not about time, nor is it a random occurrence ruled by society. A single artist’s power is immortal. You can take that sentence any way you want to. Do you know this statement attributed to Albert Camus? ‘Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.’”
The dark opposite of that was told to me by retired propaganda operative, Ellis Medavoy, whom I interview 28 times in my new collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED: “What do you think my colleagues and I were doing all those years? What was our purpose? To repudiate the singular in favor of the general. And what does that boil down to? Eradicating the concept of the individual human being. Replacing it with the mass. The mass doesn’t think. There is no such thing as mass thought. There is only mass impulse. And we could administer that. We could move it around like a piece on a board, because the ‘patient’ was already hypnotized. You see, you don’t hypnotize a person into some deeper region of himself. You hypnotize him OUT of himself into a fiction called The Group…”
A great deal of criticism and confusion launched at Ayn Rand had to do with the style of her description of power. It was called brutal, cold, heartless, etc. People failed to realize she was attacking a mass and a collective that had burrowed its way into every corner of life on the planet. Collectivism had already won. It had beaten its opponents. The state of humankind was being managed in the aftermath of the victory. If you were going to go up against THAT, you needed to be fully armed. You needed to see the situation with great clarity. You needed to be able to describe what the free individual was dealing with. There was no way to short-circuit it.
More importantly, Rand was prepared to elucidate the physical, mental, and emotional DEPTH of her heroes’ commitment to their own choices, their own work, their own creations. She wasn’t merely dipping her toe in the water of that ocean.
She portrayed obsessive social niceties (so adored by the crowd) as the stuff and substance of a whole network of compromise, a way of surrendering to The Group. Naturally, when her critics, who were part of that system, saw themselves reflected in her mirror, they became outraged and they went on the attack. They had to. She had them in her sights.
Interestingly, in tracking back the ideal of the individual, not only did I visit the most obvious and important destination, ancient Athens, but I also, unexpectedly, came upon early Tibet. That philosophy (and its related practices), before the priests took over with a Matrix of super-complex and impenetrable metaphysics, began with the free individual.
Not an immobile individual. Not an offshoot of something else. Not an idea. Not a concept. Not mystical. A REALITY.
About 1500 years ago, this message was brought to Tibet by a few isolated Indian Hindu teachers who had been removed from their teaching posts at home. They had unloaded enough metaphysical and cosmological baggage to see through to the essence: THE FREE INDIVIDUAL.
The Matrix is a web and a network of enormous complexity generated from a fundamental desire to avoid this core of existence.
It is like a game of pin the tail on the donkey, in which the blindfold on the searcher guarantees that the tail will arrive everywhere except on target. And while en route to each wrong spot, a terrific amount of false wisdom is generated.
So we’re really looking at a series of many levels, every one of which is built as an illusion.
When you read these words of Howard Roark, the protagonist of The Fountainhead, keep in mind that Collectivism is, already, firmly entrenched, and that when a free individual embarks on the full expression of his own power, he isn’t thinking about charming and pleasing everyone around him. He’s cutting to the center of things:
“And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways—by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows…”
Again: “The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.”
Time and time again, while researching and investigating The Matrix, I came to this question: HOW FAR CAN INDIVIDUAL POWER REACH?
Cutting away the excess fat and the vague “collectivist-rainbow metaphysics” surrounding the question, my answer, gleaned in part from Tibet, was: THERE IS NO LIMIT.
All limits are imposed by fiat. All limits are imposed by agenda-driven philosophies and speculative ruminations and fearful “group-thinkers.”
Science itself, utilizing a severe form of reductionist materialism, reflexively denies the upper reaches of individual power, despite ample evidence to the contrary unearthed by well-formed paranormal laboratory studies.
The masses are not only laboring under an advancing Collectivism, they’re huddling in a preposterous rejection of what the individual can do.
Here again, for those who have not yet read it, is the introduction to my new extensive collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED — click here.
The author of an explosive new collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world.