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Podcast 039 - Review of Atlas Shrugged  RSS feed

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Summary

Credit: Lorenzo Costa

Paul Wheaton and Jocelyn Campbell review Atlas Shrugged, the movie, as well as its original book, by Ayn Rand written in 1957. They notice how different the movie is from the book, Jocelyn notes how the words used by the actors trying to fit the wording to modern times really didn’t fit and were awkward.

The movie chops up the story of the book. Paul and Jocelyn decide the movie is so poor that it’s more important to speak about the book. Paul says there are many permaculture folks that have liked the book. Paul recalls how the book tries to respect and really admire people who successfully renovate things that are of value to others. Reading the book reminded him of some things he experienced in his life. For Paul the book’s message is: I’m not the same as everybody else stop making me feel that I am.

He was hooked by a point in the beginning of the book where Rearden makes his first pour of metal and the way he is treated by his family, Paul lived the same moments in a way in past times. The book filled gaps in his head that needed to be filled.

The book review is very personal, intimate. The book speaks about: egoism, integrity, honesty. Paul thinks in some ways without egoism, intended in a better way than today, it would be so difficult to have any progress. If we don’t have people that go down their road we really can’t have any progress.

Integrity is so important in Rand’s novel, and Jocelyn highlights how Paul is so close to that vision.There is a lot in the book that Paul doesn’t agree with but, the important thing is that there are some concepts that really helped him. A randian hero could be sepp holzer in Paul’s view.

If you see a piece of art you don’t have to say I agree with everything, the book is a piece of art and you may not like it all. The author has used only black and white, and no shades of grey, and that’s her art.

The book is well written, well structured, easy to read. It is philosophy, apparently it should be “objectivism”,
but Paul really doesn’t care about this aspect. Jocelyn recalls how in a thread on the tinkering forum at permies.com there are mixed feeling about the book many think Rand doesn’t appreciate the workers, they underline how the book is all about wealthy people and upper class. Jocelyn doesn’t agree with this interpretation, Rand is anti-communism and pro capitalism, and that is politics, but it’s Rand’s view, one doesn’t have to have the same feelings. Paul doesn’t like seeing the book under a political view.

The way the author builds the story is that when society is so broken she would want all her heroes to leave the world and go and create their own society. There is the creators and the looters the society
is divided in two, the complexity of society really is a shadow. There are the white hats and the black hats in the book and no one really
changes color.

From a permaculture perspective there are people that are going to be
innovative and creative and they could like the book, for how it
speaks to those that dare.

Relevant Threads

Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged in Art
Permaculture and Capitalism

Resources

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Amazon.co.uk

Atlas Shrugged the Movie
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Amazon.co.uk

Relevant Links

jocelynsevents.com

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Erik Little
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Books to movies are usually hard to pull off. I did the audio book and it was great. The person reading it did a great job I think. I liked the movie although I am not as stuck on the character development as Jocelyn is, I was happy that they were able to get the point across about the looters. The underbelly of human society is icky!

The so called compassionate people were a bunch of whiners that made no effort to work with the producers. Not everyone can be a linchpin (Seth Godin) but linchpins need a support structure, which I think is what Dagney Taggart's right hand man was. The looters made no attempt to be that support structure they just wanted to take by any means necessary under the guise of helping the little guy...what a load of male bovine feces.

It was hypocritical for the heroes to be having an affair and I wish she wouldn't have done that...oh well.

Don't punish innovators that make a profit is a great takeaway...if you do you won't have as many innovators...no one is that noble.

Looking forward to Part 3 of this movie.


Paul what award did you receive in 2003? Was it something from your company or ACM or IEEE or ____?
 
paul wheaton
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Something occurred to me recently.

I once heard that you should never read Atlas Shrugged because it will turn you into an asshole for two years. When I first heard that I thought that there was some truth to that, but my sense of the truth to that was vauge.

Now it seems clearer.

I like to say that this book is a piece of art. If it were a painting, it would be painted entirely in black and white. No gray. No color. An enormous painting of intricate tiny details all in black and white. And when you look at the painting, it changes your life for the better. Life, of course, is rich with shades of gray and all sorts of color. But the book had a message to convey. And to include all of life, would have diluted the message, or drowned it out - not to mention that the book would be a hundred times bigger than it is - and it is already a massive book. Back to the black and white thing: each of the characters wore a black hat or a white hat. And throughout the book, the characters with white hats worked hard and did what they could to move their projects forward despite the people wearing black hats that would either try to impede them or take from them.

The book is a rich set of people in black hats saying and doing all sorts of things to get what they want - usually unethically. Over and over, you learn of all the ugly things that people in black hats might say. By the time you are done reading the book, a friend might say something and instantly, a black hat appears over their head. You then start to realize that this person that you thought of as a friend, has just been using you. Friendship has some give and take, but sometimes people pretend to be your friend because they want to take some of what you have. All take and no give. You start to make the connections that a person has been saying black hat things to get you to do stuff for them, or to get you to give stuff to them.

So you stop.

And now, that person comes, says their black hat thing and it doesn't work anymore. You are therefore now an asshole.





I thought there was a meme with me in it saying something about how if you try to please everybody then your progress is limited by the noisiest fool. Found it!




If awful people call you an asshole, might that be a sign that you are doing something good and decent?


I've heard people point to atlas shrugged and say that it is a book the teaches people to be selfish and greedy. I suppose there is some of that. At the same time, "selfish and greedy" appears to be the driving force behind all of the black hat folks. Maybe there are many flavors of selfish and greedy. Here is a weird thought: maybe the people that are saying "the book teaches people to be selfish" mean to say "I used to screw this guy over, but then he read the book and I can't screw him over anymore."

I read the book for the first time at about the same time that I set up permies.com. Which has always been a free site. Further, I have given away youtube videos, blogs, articles, blah, blah, blah. Granted, I have an ulterior motive: I want to grow in this space. I want to talk with others about permaculture ideas in a certain way. I want to project what I have learned so that there can be growth and understanding in a space where I want it. I want to see the world's population move in a better direction. A permaculture direction. I think that a more permaculture world is a better world for me. I want it. For me. Selfishness.

I get the impression that my greed and selfishness leads to free artifacts for people. I suppose it is possible that I could have put out all of these artifacts and nobody would look at them. But it turns out million of people have looked at them. I'm not sure if that can be labeled as altruistic. Maybe.

Is it possible that the word "selfish" can come in many flavors? Maybe sometimes "selfish" is when one person robs another. And other times it is when there is barter. And within the fabric of altruism, might there be a thread of selfish in there somewhere?


 
paul wheaton
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I have some friends that I've asked to read the book. And there have been some people that I don't like that attempted to read the book because I liked it.

I gave the book to a friend who's life seems to be all about being a democrat. He didn't want to read it or have it around because in his circles, it is a republican book. But I was persuasive that despite the other reviews, I find the book to be non-political. So he tried to read it. He said that he thought the sentence structure was so bad that it was brutally difficult to read. (I thought the sentence structure was so good that that made it especially easy to read) I am going to speculate that what made it difficult to read is that so many other people have said that it is evil that he was severely embarrassed to hold the book or have it inside his home.

I know of three people who's lives are based entirely on the thought "I can bullshit my way into anything." When they tried to read it, they made it about 5% of the way in and gave up. The thoughts being projected in the book just did not make sense to them. It was confusing. I suppose the book is a bit like trying to have a story about algebra and the reader lives their life telling people that 2+2 makes 7.



 
Stephanie Meyer
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I felt very liberated the first time I read Atlas Shrugged. Joyful even. Up til then I had felt like there must be something wrong with me. I would look at all these people and politicians doing things to people "for their own good" and just felt like their was something so evil about it but those were the people being held up as role models while the voices of reason were shouted down as being selfish and mean . Reading Ayn Rand kind of gave me that "aha" moment about what was really going on. The road to hell is really paved with "good" intentions and I can totally see her vision of what may happen coming true in my lifetime. Especially the attitude of "someone will come along and fix it" that the looters have, just a complete divorce from reality. History teaches us that civilization may "reset" but it doesn't get fixed past a certain point . I think that is part of why it hurts people to try to read it, it takes away some of the ivory tower "oh I am so wonderful for supporting this" feeling and talks about what the end result of force/ redistribution/nanny state really looks like.

That being said, I think Ayn Rand was crazy. Brilliant, but BSC.
 
paul wheaton
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Stephanie Meyer wrote:That being said, I think Ayn Rand was crazy. Brilliant, but BSC.


I think that atlas shrugged is one of the best things I have ever read. Truly art. Powerful art. Important art.

I fully expect all artists to be some degree of BSC. I know almost nothing of Rand, but when attempting to talk about this piece of art, it seems that about 30% of the people out there want to derail the conversation to talk about Rand being BSC. As if Rand being BSC proves that the book is BSC.

I gave you apple for pointing out that the artist can be BSC and the book can be good.


 
paul wheaton
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I found this old thread on gulching and this is the key to updating my thoughts today on "Atlas Shrugged."

In the middle of the book, you find a bunch of people have moved to "Galt's Gulch" where each person has a small patch of land and they do their own thing.

I remember coming to the conclusion that if I ever got land, I could not use the word "gulch" or "gulching" because that would mean that somebody else could also read atlas shrugged and then tell me that my ideas are wrong because that is not what is in the book.

As I examine how things have gone in the last 20 months, I can see that there are a lot of things where I did not stick to my values. I made poor choices. The current "ant village" stuff strikes me as something far more aligned with my values.

 
Bradley Springer
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I had to sign up just to say that AS changed my life entirely. It really opened my eyes to the old cliche "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

As far as selfishness and objectivism go, I think the world would be a better place if people focused on their own dreams and desires and made them happen. Too often I see people that only criticize the dreams and accomplishments of others- all while demanding a piece of pie for themselves.

I could go on, but I think I'll save it for the politics forum on a rainy day.

Anyways, thanks for the great forum. I was just honestly shocked to see Rand viewed in a positive light here. But now that I think about it, permaculturists are "doers" not takers, so it really does makes sense.
 
Noah Figg
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I also found it to be a wonderful book, although its very long and emotionally awkward at times. I think it shows how the world would be a better place if people valued themselves and dealt with others with honesty. It goes against the idea that there is a magical pie of all achievement, success, wealth, health and happiness, and you should use force to make sure its split up evenly; a sort of plunder upon everyone mentality. This plundering mentality of society at large in the book grows more psychotic and delusional the more power it holds until society is collapsing under a tyrannical but self-proclaimed humanitarian US government.

The author argues that individuals have to actually have goals, focus on them, work toward them, ignore people who just want to complain and react with jealousy to achievement, and follow through in order to make change in the world and build a more just society. It also argues at great length that love should be given to those who deserve it, not as an automatic duty to others; love is your reward to those whom you value in some way, put simply. Furthermore, the author's view on art in general is that it should inspire the viewer to be a better person and show how, so I believe she is trying to show how a person might handle living in a largely corrupted society with heroism.

If we all build our gault's gulches, maybe one day we can tell stories about how people used to complain that the food at the corporate food store wasn't very good stuff, before we just took responsibility and built a better food system. To whatever extent we each can, we know about the problems, we know about solutions, so I would be proud to be a part of that response to the many common issues facing humans. That's the kind of inspiration just thinking of the book makes me feel anyway.
 
Mike Hamilton
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to bring it down to simple thoughts.
it is a personal choice,do you want to stay on the tread mill for some one else or do your own thing.
the choice is yours.
NO but,but,but its a simple choice.
people will thing your nuts but that is ok they leave ya alone and look for another ''host'' to sponge off of.

Mike

 
Dawn Hoff
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I think I'm beginning to understand where your distaste for the word politics come from.

In the podcast you say that you think sharing is important, and that you have shared quite a lot. And to that I agree - sharing is immensely important. The problem with politics is - to me - when people come and tell me to share, and how much and how. Especially because the cronies - which she portraits so faboulusly in the book, will always use the power they can gain over you - and if you can't choose not to share, they will always be able to. That is what Ayn Rand saw in Soviet Russia, and what many people see today in "Capitalist" America. I think Ayn Rand over-romanticized Dagny and Reardon, they would probably not have become as rich as they are without some cronyism (think that maybe her grandfather have gotten some land for his railway via expropriation?). And that is where she sesperates many people - the big industrialists have used the state to suppress people, and still do. And I think that the book is very political - but not in the two-party dichotomy as people think.

To me many of the thing that Bill Mollison talks about in the Social Economy chapter in the PDM is the same as "Going Galt", to leave our coersive system behind to build our own. It is also called Agorism.
 
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