Monday, May 16, 2011

Why Atlas Shrugged won't be the Tea Party's Passion

Atlas shrugged is not a masterpiece and yet is a great and unique book. It is a weird book. It has many flaws (too long, repeated messages, at times wooden dialogues, etc.). It has some amazing moments. I like to think of it as I think of Brahms's first piano concerto: weird, gangly, awkward, many times out of place and yet at moment you stop and say "wow, this guy is going to go far!". The good thing for Brahms is that he went on to write the second, Ayn Rand did not.

The greatness of the book is that it is beautifully written propaganda and I am not being sarcastic. Kipling managed to write masterpieces praising the British Empires, Ayn Rand managed to write a great book praising without reserve the liberal (in the true, non-American sense of the word) spirit. It is true that the book loses itself here and there, but when it's on focus it has an immense power. What is even more amazing is that Atlas shrugged managed to be considered a masterpiece in a literary world that (although here I am speaking from a European experience) usually is dominated by the left.

I have not seen the movie, I have heard mixed reviews. Instinctively I would say that this is the typical book that would lend itself to a great cinematic version: it has a strong simple message and the book itself could do with a trimming. What I am commenting on is something I have seen mentioned a while ago: hordes of Tea Party activists booking cinemas in block the same way as church goers did with Mel Gibson's Passion.

I have my doubts. Christian faith is one of the most complex subjects the human mind can tackle, far more than economics. Yet faith has a very simple and clear distinction between what is abstract and what is practical, between what is on earth and what is elsewhere. Moreover christian fundamentalists all agree with Mel Gibson's movie's message. When it comes to the Tea Party and Atlas Shrugged I am not so sure things would be so clear. First of all the Tea Party movements (thankfully and it is a praise to its dynamism) lacks the homogeneity of the christian evangelist movement, second I am not sure they would agree with Ayn Rand's message (despite the fact that many think they do). Tea Party activists asking to "Stay away from my Social Security!"? Do you even think there is room in Rand's world for social security (of the entitlement type we are used to)? Tea Party activists raging against "death panels" (implying "when I am on Medicare I want to be able so spend as much as I want")? Have you read Rand's contempt for this sort of whining? Have you forgotten what she thinks of the statements " ... to each according to his need ..."?

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