I am not willing to surrender the world to the jerky contortions of self-inducedly brainless bodies with empty eye sockets, who perform, in stinking basements, the immemorial rituals of staving off terror, which are a dime a dozen in any jungle - and to the quavering witch-doctors who call it "art."
Ayn Rand, The Romantic Manifesto.
This is a call to arms, to rebellion; a call to move forward to the next stage of human evolution & step out of the primordial swamp of the cultural status quo. It is an invitation to enlist with SOLO - Sense of Life Objectivists.
Ayn Rand formulated the philosophy of Objectivism, dedicated to reason in epistemology, freedom/individualism in politics/ethics, capitalism in economics & romanticism in esthetics. Hers is the philosophy that will save Western civilisation, if indeed it is to be salvaged at all. It identifies & annihilates the remnants of self-sacrificial tribalism that have hitherto dragged Western civilisation down & made it vulnerable to attack from its self-sacrifice-mongering, tribalist adversaries.
Yet her philosophy is ill-served by many of its self-proclaimed proponents. "God protect me from Marxists," said Karl Marx. "God protect me from Randians," Ayn Rand might well exclaim, were she still here. For there are so many "Randians" who can make a reasonable fist of appearing to defend reason, capitalism & freedom - yet who stumble lamentably at the final hurdle: esthetics, the world of art, the sphere of the passions. Art is a window to the souls of men; if men's souls continue to embrace self-induced brainlessness, then, whatever else these same men might say - even if (indeed, especially if) they proclaim themselves to be Objectivists - there is little hope. As long as such men applaud ugliness, destruction & nihilism in that most spiritual of human pursuits - art - then what they say in the realms of epistemology, ethics & economics is seriously self-subverted.
No, this doesn't mean that everyone who signs up to SOLO has to worship Rachmaninoff, (though that would be a decided plus!). Nor does it mean that anyone has to renounce his allegiance to whichever of the current Big Two, if either, of the Objectivist movement he may currently subscribe to (the Ayn Rand Institute or The Objectivist Centre). It does presuppose a recognition of the inadequacies of both.
The ARI has mistaken its spiritual founder for God, & made of itself a religious cult - though one with many magnificent redeeming moments, such as Leonard Peikoff's salute to Greek civilisation. (Now there is romanticism in esthetics!) Such a shame the ARI continues with its notorious intolerance towards those who don't "get it" straight off, or who want to move the philosophy into areas that Ayn Rand did not address.
TOC has tried to correct the errors of the ARI, with considerable success, but too often exudes too little passion, along with a too-indulgent attitude to the philosophical status quo & its accompanying culture - a culture which Ayn Rand herself did not hesitate to pronounce "bankrupt." David Kelley, founder of TOC, who otherwise deserves high praise for his courage & intellectual independence, once said to me explicitly that Objectivism is not at war with the current culture. SOLO is for those who recognise that it most emphatically is - yet who do not wish to turn their loathing for the culture into a religion; who realise that the answer to a relatively new variant of irrationality is not an older form of it.
Admittedly, it's a difficult balance. And I wouldn't profess for a second that SOLO intends to be, in the current ghastly New Age jargon, "inclusive." On air recently I had occasion to berate a rock band whose drummer delighted in the fact that one of the people whose hapless task it was to record the band had said, "If this is the future of music, I don't want to be alive." "We must be doing something right!" the drummer had enthused in response. In the wake of my remarks about this, some libertarians rushed to the defence, not only of this band but also of sundry other head-banging caterwaulers, such as Johnny Rotten & the Sex Pistols. I have no hesitation in saying that such people should give SOLO a miss. You would be out of place in a group of people who passionately celebrate life, & everything (including the type of art) that makes life possible & pleasurable.
The portrayal of life "as it might be & ought to be" - not didactically, but as the object of uplifting contemplation - this, said Ayn Rand, is the function of art. As far as I am concerned, she was 100% right. As I write this, I am listening to the supremely talented Earl Wild playing his own transcriptions of the music of George Gershwin. Surely, these performances capture life as it might be & ought to be, for human beings with rational minds, & hearts full of ideals. The same can be said for countless performers & composers in a smorgasbord of genres.
By way of reiteration - & elaboration - I conclude with part of the introductory credo I have written for SOLO's proposed web site:
Welcome to the web site for SOLO - Sense of Life Objectivists. This has been set up, to quote David Kelley when he launched the Institute for Objectivist Studies, for "homeless Objectivists" - those who are turned off by both the mouth-foaming intolerance of the ARI & the pallid Pollyannaism of the IOS/TOC. But! - we welcome the participation of members of both. We are seeking to galvanise ALL Objectivists, affiliated or not, who recognise that Objectivism is primarily a WAY OF LIVING, who repudiate any reason/passion dichotomy - & who have come to realise that, sadly, the two current rival suitors for their allegiance are the two faces of precisely such a dichotomy: passion (especially anger) without reason (the ARI) & reason without passion (TOC). We seek to be a magnet & a haven for those who are exuberantly rational & rationally exuberant, who experience the "total passion for the total height" & who know, or at least seek to know, rationally, what the total height is.
We see ourselves, most emphatically - & unlike TOC - as being at war with the current culture: the culture of anti-heroes, nihilism & destruction. Yet we acknowledge - unlike the ARI - that our critics can be honest, & should be granted more than one discussion before being dismissed out of hand (cf. Peikoff, Fact & Value); that Ayn Rand made mistakes; that some philosophical questions needing to be addressed were never addressed by her; & that other matters of considerable existential moment, such as homosexuality, were addressed wrongly, by the light of her own yardstick: reality. We want Objectivism to become the living, breathing, growing, vibrant, reality-orientated, life-affirming phenomenon that it deserves to be.
What to do? How to enlist? Watch this space!
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