I have no idea what is going to happen politically in the next six weeks, but the victory for Tea Party wingnuts like Christine O’Donnell over the past few weeks says that the lunatics have taken over the Republican Asylum.
So I’ve been trying to understand where this “Don’t Tread on Me” anger stems from and I think Ayn Rand and her belief in radical selfishness is at the heart of the matter.
Ever focused on her own achievements, Rand always made time to cultivate elites who might help her, all the while oblivious to anyone, including her family, who could or would not. She explained in a famousPlayboy interview that “charity is not a moral duty,” and took to wearing a dollar-sign broach on her coats. A six-foot wreath of the dollar sign was at the head of her casket—the same symbol the character John Galt made over the world in the last sentence of Atlas Shrugged. Galt was her CEO-type savior. The dollar sign was a symbol of selfishness and material productivity that was to replace the cross, a symbol of sacrifice and eternal concerns.
Rand was also a great fan of Nietzsche and of his concept of Ressentiment.
Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.”
The John Galt Ubermensch never experiences this emotion, but the savvy politician or talk show provocateur can use this “reassignment of pain” towards “the external evil” in treacherous ways. This is why Gingrich, Palin and the Birthers are so anxious to portray Obama is the foreign “other”. I have no doubt the that the frustration of the average high school educated formerly middle class American is real. They have seen their wages falling for a decade or more. The external evil of globalization is not palpable as a scapegoat. It has to be personalized.
This is a dangerous and sick time. The morbid symptoms of Gramsci’s Interregnum are spreading like a virus. I do not know where it is all headed, but more and more I feel like the only salvation is in small communities of scholars or congregants who with passion and love are trying their hardest to work towards some higher goal and not just pursuing Rand and Nietzche’s “will to power”.
I am sorely tempted to withdraw from this noisy arena where the signal to noise ratio is getting worse. I am reminded of James Joyce’s wonderful line from A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man
I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can, and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use . . . silence, exile, and cunning.