Sunday, May 31, 2015
More Ayn Rand Rants - Who are the Real "Second Handers?"
By Mel Carriere
Sometimes when I am bathing I achieve some real epiphanies of inspiration. I actually wrote an article on Hub Pages explaining the theoretical mechanics of brainstorming in the shower, which is an appropriate term for it, don't you think, because there really is water falling down all around you, as in a real storm. I get my best ideas in the shower, and with soap dripping from my shaggy mane and puddles accumulating on the carpet I have to rush out so I can tell somebody quickly. That last part is not exactly true; I always finish my shower first, but significant thinkers throughout history sometimes did not. The Greek Philosopher and Mathematician Archimedes, for example, came up with his best idea in the bath and emerged from the water naked, running and shouting "Eureka!" through the streets of Syracuse (Sicily, not New York). This probably did not prevent his wife from whacking him with a broom and herding him back into the bathroom to dry off, like mine would.
Archimedes was constantly getting badgered by a tyrannical king named King Hiero, who bullied Archimedes into putting his considerable mathematical and engineering talents to some whimsical use that was way beneath him, like the construction of a bigger and better pleasure barge, or inventing a giant grappling hook for destroying the ships of Hiero's enemies. Of course, nobody remembers King Hiero. This talentless thug died in obscurity as he should have, while Archimedes is remembered affectionately by everyone.
This example of Archimedes in ancient Greece has some appropriate analogies in the modern world, but instead of fat, talentless tyrants wearing crowns we now have fat, talentless tyrants wearing silk suits sitting in corporate boardrooms. But just like the clueless tyrants Archimedes contended with, the modern corporate tyrants are also fond of stealing the ideas of geniuses and expropriating these innovations in order to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, the brilliant inventor, engineer, or mathematician might make a decent living, but doesn't accumulate the double digit millions in his bank account that the incompetent corporate boardroom thief did by stealing his idea.
What the hell does this have to do with Ayn Rand, you are already asking yourself. I apologize profusely, but somehow Archimedes sidetracked me from Ayn Rand, and I will now get back on task.
As a youth I remained brainwashed by the ideas of Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy for many years, and even now I have a hard time shaking them off. On March 21st I wrote another article in this venue on the subject, and I will post a link to it here so you can go take a gander. This Objectivist crap is still embedded deeply in my mental framework, and I realize now (now meaning these days, not literally now - I don't take my laptop into the bath), as I meditate on such ideas in shower, that on some fundamental level some of what Ayn Rand said made sense. She just had the villains wrong.
In Ayn Rand's most famous work, a cumbersome, interminable novel entitled Atlas Shrugged, the rather humdrum, cookie cutter protagonists were a group of towering intellects she referred to as "The Men of the Mind." These heroes basically got tired of being pushed around by tyrants, like Archimedes did, so they basically say screw the world, withdraw their considerable talents from the service of the human race, and go off to live in a hidden mountain valley deep in the Rockies, from where they smugly watch civilization degenerate into chaos without them around to fix stuff.
In Atlas Shrugged, the villains who become parasites on the accomplishments of these Men of the Mind are described as the left wing agents of the proletariat; hired goons of the working class who set out to steal the ideas of the brilliant individualists for the benefit of people who are incapable of producing them for themselves. These working stiffs expecting a fair cut of the wealth their labor helped to produce are portrayed as selfish and greedy "looters," for whom justice would be served by having them go back to 17 hour working days and living in squalid, crowded tenement houses. Ayn Rand never actually says the last part, but she suggests openly that the enlightened entrepreneurs who are the Men of the Mind will pay the working classes a fair wage out of the goodness of their hearts, an assumption which almost every student of history and human nature realizes is either pure science fiction or straight out fantasy.
Despite Rand's false assertion that laissez-faire capitalism will correct all of society's ills, she is correct in her fundamental notion that there is a class of parasites preying upon the ideas of the brilliant intellects throughout history. Like King Hiero buggering Archimedes in the solitude of his bath to get the philosopher to hurry up and figure out if his golden crown is a forgery, there are parasites robbing the life's blood of the modern, so-called Men of the Mind. Since we no longer have kings, these blood suckers have been replaced by the inept boardroom thugs of Corporate America.
An example of this in modern life occurred to me while thinking about the founding of the mighty Apple Inc. corporation. Apple was started by the legendary two Steves, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Steve Wozniak was a brilliant engineer who designed the Apple I and Apple II computers that revolutionized the information industry and our lives in the process. The very fact that I am writing this blog on my personal computer has a whole lot to do with Steve Wozniak. On the other hand Apple's second Steve, Steve Jobs, was pretty much just a slick snake oil salesman. He did not have the skill or ingenuity to produce a revolutionary computer, his abilities lay in bullying people into accepting his ideas, and in shamelessly stealing from others; as he did in the case of robbing the idea of desktop icons from Xerox.
There is no doubt that snake oil selling jerks like Steve Jobs are needed to succeed in corporate America, but do they deserve to be ridiculously overpaid and overly revered, while true geniuses like Steve Wozniak get pushed into relative obscurity on the sidelines during their own lifetimes? From these neglected shadows the Wozniaks of the world often serve as the voice of the voiceless, fighting for things like free Internet for the masses, while stockholder-serving fat cats like Jobs fight to keep the price of their products beyond the reach of the average working man.
So Ayn Rand had her villains mixed up. She pegged the working people as being the parasites that feast upon the talents of the Men of the Mind, while it is truly the scheming, thieving, cigar smoking, double chinned, silk suited corporate chair polishers that do this. It is downright criminal that uninspired suits too often get credit for things that they did not, and could not make. This happens because the real geniuses of the world do not lust after the limelight, but choose to toil away behind the scenes, working on the ideas that they love; most of the time shunning public attention. Sometimes the true genius's lack of narcissistic tendencies is a good thing, especially in the case of Steve Wozniak. He is a pretty hefty dude now, and certainly nobody wants to see him running naked through the streets, shouting "Eureka!"
Read about Ayn Rand's influence on American society:
The combustible mixture used in The Truth Bomb includes a generous portion of java from Starbucks and other evil corporate coffee conglomerates, and none of this is cheap. Therefore, unless the ads to the right and below completely annoy and offend you, please investigate what my sponsors have to say.
Thoughts on shower-time inspiration on Mel's Hub Pages account
Find out how I let Ayn Rand f*** up my life
Image from: http://align4profit.com/2013/08/26/eureka-stop-trying-so-hard/