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Thread: Can't believe there's no thread for Atlas Shrugged [by Ayn Rand]

  1. #26
    figuring it all out crashbam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylarburris
    Well, you have to understand, too, that Rand doesn't have "fans" in the way, say, Stephen King has "fans." She has disciples.
    and that's what ultimately turned me off of Rand. I remember finding out my college had Rand clique (I think they called themselves "Objectionists") and I went to a meeting that was extremely cultish. Now it may just have been the group on my campus that behaved this way, but it turned me off. I also found their view points to be a perversion of what Rand intended, or at least what her work meant to me.
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  2. #27
    Ms. Average
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    Question A newbie w/questions

    Quote Originally Posted by crashbam
    and that's what ultimately turned me off of Rand. I remember finding out my college had Rand clique (I think they called themselves "Objectionists") and I went to a meeting that was extremely cultish. Now it may just have been the group on my campus that behaved this way, but it turned me off. I also found their view points to be a perversion of what Rand intended, or at least what her work meant to me.
    Her disciples/followers are called Objectivists, and her philosophy is called Objectivism, as the rather annoying cardboard insert for the Ayn Rand Institute in my copy of Atlas Shrugged informed me. I recently finished Atlas, when a local Barnes and Noble had it inculded in a display for '20th Century Classics' and I realized I'd never read it. I got through it, so now I don't feel quite so illiterate, but I still don't understand how some aspects of life fit in to Rand's philosophy. For example, where does environmentalism come in? Rand seemed to think that nature was a tool to be put to use by the mind, but if all natural resources are exhausted, what can be produced? Also, how does she explain the unconditional love people feel for their children or pets? In her view, do people who are mentally or developmentally disabled have value? All the reviews I've read for this book are overwhelmingly positive, along the lines of 'this book is my new Bible', so I don't know what I'm missing...

  3. #28
    Still Happy to be Here. Or Anywhere Kate Thornton's Avatar
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    I really loved "Atlas Shrugged" and enjoyed "The Fountainhead" While Objectivism - and most isms - are more philosophy than I can take unleavened, the core idea that there is nothing wrong with working and making money stayed with me.

    I like the idea that there is nothing wrong with making money honestly from your own work - money is not evil and if you make money from your work, it does not in any way diminish any other value your work may have.

    But Objectivism aside, the stories are wonderful epics.

  4. #29
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    Even while reading Atlas Shrugged, when I didn't have a bias against Ayn Rand, I found the writing extremely clumsy.

    I find the idea of the Randian hero to be extremely depressing, and these people are nothing to admire. They seem like two year olds who think they know everything. Of course, two year olds are all ego, and Atlas Shrugged portrays this as a good thing.

    Couple that with her obscene views on the roles of women and homosexuality:

    "an ideal woman is a man-worshiper, and an ideal man is the highest symbol of mankind."

    it's no wonder that Objectivism is not recognized as anything more than a pseudophilosophy. Too bad the public eats up pop/pseudo philosophy quite eagerly.

    I also thought her speculation about how socialist states work to be laughable. It's how she wants them to work, not how they actually can work.

    It took about a year after reading the book to digest it. At first I agreed with it, then the more I thought about it and read other things, I found it to be quite meaningless, downright cruel, and full of tautology and faulty logic. I'm glad I read it though; regardless of its fatally flawed nature, Atlas Shrugged has influenced western society, though to a detriment, and it's good to understand where we went wrong.

  5. #30
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    Defending Rand?

    Some of you have raised some good points about Rand's books and her philosophy (I refuse to use the term Objectivism for various reasons). The reality is that many industrialists are good and decent people (my current employer, for one). Sam Walton is an example of someone who tried to help the American consumer by giving them low prices. He did it unassumingly, effectively and IMO with integrity. Granted, there are many CEO's who will step on anyone to make a buck, but what's the real caricature? Go back to dawn of Christianity and you'll see that people have for millenia tended to correlate wealth with corruption. It's easy to assume the man who has money or success took advantage of another. When we make that assumption, we never have to face the possibility that the man actually earned his success, because to do so would mean confronting our own inadequacies. Who really wants to believe they didn't get published or didn't the promotion because they weren't good enough or smart enough? Unfortunately, not many. So we end up crafting this nice little fairy tale where everyone who does well does so at the expense of others. It's a victimization mindset that this country and our wonderful politicians have been coddling since the Great Depression. "It's not your fault."

    Rand says, "No, it is." What I think she does fail to deal with in Atlas is the reality that the greatest producers can also be the greatest swindlers. She tends to characterize the producers as noble and the takers as ignoble swindlers. We all know the world doesn't divide along such clear lines. However, in my mind, this depiction makes a greater philosophical point, that producing in and of itself is noble while taking is not. Her characters and story are a vehicle for this point, which is why to some extent they do seem a little too good to be true. I read the story more as an allegory than a novel.

    The point I'm trying to get at is that because Enron execs cooked the books, doesn't mean big business is bad or capitalism evil. Likewise, just because Monica Lewinsky blew Clinton in the White House, doesn't mean blow jobs are bad. Each action and idea must be evaluated on its own merit. Why people are so surprised when someone kills in the name of God or does some assinine thing for animal rights confounds me. Take the most beautiful, noble, perfect idea in the world, give it to any person and watch it change into something ugly and selfish. That's human nature. And that is why capitalism is effective and communism will always fail. Fail to see the personal advantage in something and watch productivity fall. That's when Atlas Shrugs.

    Ayn Rand scoffed at contemporary pseudo-compassionate culture. And I love it because I'm sick of hearing people talk about the environment or the hungry while they comfortably gorge themselves on potato chips and type at their plastic keyboards and computer monitors, all courtesy of industrial manufacturing. It's not that I don't think industry should conserve or treat their employees well. A well-run company will do both, looking at the long term interest of the firm. The problem comes when, in a frantic effort to get the quarter's profits up, the company takes shameful short-cuts that only serve to undermine its revenue in the long run. But the stockholders don't care about the long term. They care about now and thus, that's what the Board cares about. I guess you could blame the stockholders for being fickle, but that's gonna ultimately lead back to our own doorstep. The solution then - take responsibility for your own life and actions. Don't lay the state of the world at everyone else's feet. Pirsig might say, "Be grateful for industry and technology."

    (Damn, that was long winded, but a good exercise for me.)
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  6. #31
    practical experience, FTW Gary's Avatar
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    At no time does she advocate breaking the law to earn and contribute to society. In a society of honest people, capitalism is free of the sins so often attributed to it.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylarburris


    Don't you know that's against her philosophy? Philanthropists are weak at best, manipulative at worst. Truly noble people take, they don't give. Speaking of weird sex--what about that rape scene in The Fountainhead? She wrote it like it was a good thing.

    Hmm...so in Rand's view, sex must be something to be traded for something else? I suppose that if people have sex with the intention to enjoy themselves, and each person does have fun as the end result, that could be considered a mutual trade of a sort. I dunno... The Randian view of philanthropy is kind of depressing to me, since it implies that capitalists and inventors I admire, like Bill Gates, are weak in some ways because they use their wealth to help underprivileged people in other nations (in Bill's case, India). It also seems to imply that I am less than noble if I donate money to foundations that promote breast cancer or AIDS research, or to charities that help feed and educate poor children in my mother's homeland of Africa. Darn.

  8. #33
    Socialitest Bravo's Avatar
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    and i cant believe i just discovered this thread.

    atlas shrugged along with the fountainhead are among my favorite books, but i dont consider myself a "randian" or an objectivist.

    for one thing, i think her statement that there is "right and there is wrong, it's the people in the middle who are evil" to be one of the most ridiculous reductionist statements of modern philosophy.

    although the good vs evil works fairly well in her books b/c it makes her philosophy more digestable and understandable (not so much in We the Living, my least favorite book of hers).

    but here's where rand worked for me. and she really did it in a way that's helped my life.

    i was always drawn to nietzsche, and rand essentially transformed his ideals into a character that a person can understand and possibly emulate (in some ways).

    shockingly, both of these philosphers have fit very well into my own religious beliefs. i always believed that we were born good (or at least innocent) and that we all have the potential for greatness.

    meaning that those ppl who spent their time doing illicit drugs, sex, or gambling, were wasting their God-given abilities.

    what i found in rand was the same sense of the human spirit. seeing some1 like Roark struggle for his ideals, his art, and his own vision is powerful, esp. for ppl like us in the art/writing business.

    it's important to see some1 struggle but still remain confident about their abilities and stay true to themselves, even if that seems like an impossible and hopeless ideal.

    although, the problem w reading rand when youre too young, is that you might start to believe that you really dont need any1 else and that all you need to do is follow your own willpower and everything will be alright.

    wrong.

    one thing rand never did, b/c of her simplistic worldview, was show how ppl can grow and get to the level of howard roark if they werent born geniuses.

    and that, i believe is to be very un-randian: to be a specialized "sponge" where you filter the good habits and good techniques of literally every1 and reject the bad.

    be a selective "second-hander". maybe.

    good thread erika.

    RIP

  9. #34
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bravo
    i was always drawn to nietzsche, and rand essentially transformed his ideals into a character that a person can understand and possibly emulate (in some ways).

    shockingly, both of these philosphers have fit very well into my own religious beliefs. i always believed that we were born good (or at least innocent) and that we all have the potential for greatness.
    All due respect, I totally disagree with you here. And I also admire Nietzsche despite his theological missteps. You'll have to show me the evidence that we are "born good." If you have children, you should know that babies are not born caring about anyone else. They come out of the womb completely self-obsessed and desiring nothing more than having the world cater to their needs. Empathy, IMO, is learned over time, not inborn. There is also some medical evidence to suggest this as well. (development of mirror neurons)

    Realize that Lord of the Flies is one of my all-time favorite books, so you see how I lean. But really, we are not basically good. And I think when we start thinking that way, we run the greatest danger of catering to our perceived "goodness." Technically, we should see ourselves as neither good or bad, but in fact see the self for what it is, a creature of our own design. (That sounded freaking new-agey and I hate that.)
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  10. #35
    Socialitest Bravo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erika
    All due respect, I totally disagree with you here. And I also admire Nietzsche despite his theological missteps. You'll have to show me the evidence that we are "born good."
    by being born "good" i mean humans arent prone to evil when theyre born, it's the conditions they come from which shape them. i would personally say that humans have an inbred sense of right or wrong, and that's something that we fight when we do evil acts.

    there's only preliminary research on this but this is a pretty good argument here:
    Wilson's the Moral Sense

    he relies heavily on darwin, and essentially says that there are certain codes and rules that have become universal b/c they fit our own "selfish" interests. ie, we have an innate sense to protect our children and not murder, in order to propogate our genes.

    what i was getting at, w/ the loaded phrase "innately good" was that there seems (from my POV) to be more good acts than evil. i dont see ppl commiting evil acts b/c theyre actually evil or just want to do bad things, but b/c of a host of environmental conditions.

    (also, these guys here also do a fairly good job of summarizing the research:

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR30.5/saxe.html )

    i think youre right in that the word "good" is somewhat useless, the better term would be "innocent", as in they have a clean slate.

    i dont believe in original sin. i dont believe we're prone to evil and that we need a savior to die for us in order to enter paradise.

    that's also something nietzsche and rand believe in.

    If you have children, you should know that babies are not born caring about anyone else. They come out of the womb completely self-obsessed and desiring nothing more than having the world cater to their needs. Empathy, IMO, is learned over time, not inborn. There is also some medical evidence to suggest this as well. (development of mirror neurons)
    that's not "evil" or "sinful". youre positioning selfish survival instincts against a sense of right or wrong. that doesnt really work.

    we can say that by and large, a mother is automatically protective and loving of her child even if she originally did not want him/her. that is not something that is learned, but innate.

    we can say that the vast majority of humans, even when living in horrible abusive conditions, still somehow exhibit empathy. for example, an abused child might be antisocial, but be loving and caring with a pet dog.

    there are a few exceptions to this, of course, some1 that's become a pathological sociopath is a good example.

    Realize that Lord of the Flies is one of my all-time favorite books, so you see how I lean. But really, we are not basically good. And I think when we start thinking that way, we run the greatest danger of catering to our perceived "goodness." Technically, we should see ourselves as neither good or bad, but in fact see the self for what it is, a creature of our own design. (That sounded freaking new-agey and I hate that.)
    i actually never read of LOF. i know i should.

    but from what im reading here is that youre willing to say that we are essentially "innocent" and that we become what we become b/c of ourselves (and ill add environment).

    if that's your position, its totally reasonable.

    my main argument and my main belief has always been against the concept of original sin/a predisposition towards evil.

    great discussion though. you def. got me thinking. id say more, but i gotta run for now.
    Last edited by Bravo; 10-06-2006 at 01:20 AM.
    RIP

  11. #36
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    Original sin is self-awareness. Once we see "I" and "me" we cease to put God (or the void or Truth) first. We become the center of the world and hence, we become unsettled.

    I agree that there is a moral code hardwired into all of us. However, if we naturally follow that code, why would we ever break it? If it's environment, what creates the environmental conditions but other people who have the same code in their DNA? Thus, you have yourself a dilemma. The rapist raped because he was abused, otherwise he wouldn't have done it. Why did his father abuse him if he is predisposed to following the inborn code? And so forth.

    Here's the problem I think. If you say that selfishness is good (which I know Rand would), then you can label nothing bad. If killing people made Dahmer feel better, then how can you say it was bad? If you say because of the action itself (i.e. the motivation is irrelevant), then either all war is bad or all war is good (no, well WWII was worthy but Vietnam's not). I contend that motive is as important as action. Hence, selfishness taints every human action. We were born with a moral code to be sure. But once we become conscious of our own needs, we abandon morality for the sake of self-satisfaction.

    Be careful appealing to evolution because nature is not kind. She is harsh. Bears eat cubs when food is sparse. They don't much care if the mother likes it. Dogs will kill another male that threatens their dominance. They don't care if he's having a bad day. Self-preservation reigns supreme in the animal kingdom. We, I believe, are a species of two natures, animal and spiritual. Consequently, we are in conflict, born into conflict with ourselves.

    When I talk about not seeing yourself, I talk about it as a means to inner peace (new age crap I know). Seriously though, Rand may laud self-interest because it makes progress possible, but in reality, self-interest devours its own. The more you cater to the self, the more it demands. Soon, you'll wind up depressed as Sylvia Plath or as maniacal as Hitler. Most of us shelve our ego-centrism for the sake of others from time to time, but that is not innate. It is reasonable, but not instinctive. (Too much to say on this.)

    This is where I part with Zen thought, but that's another matter. Interesting dialogue. I'm thinking about this as well.
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  12. #37
    practical experience, FTW janetbellinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erika
    In my mind, one of the greatest books of the twentieth century. Ayn Rand is brilliant, her imagery captivating and her philosophy world-changing. Can it possibly get any better?
    I find her too didactic
    Janet


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    Author:
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  13. #38
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    She is didactic and it's why I love her. She never hides her point/message but she delivers it so deftly and IMO with such wonderful language.
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  14. #39
    Still Happy to be Here. Or Anywhere Kate Thornton's Avatar
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    Turner Classic movies just showed the 1949 King Vidor "Fountainhead" (Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal - screenplay by Ayn Rand) - what a fabulous trek down memory lane. They said Frank LLoyd Wright was originally contacted to do the Howard Roark architechtural renderings, but he wanted $25K to do it and that was out of budget, so the set designer, William Kuehl, stepped up. I wish I had one of the renderings for my 1954 Cliff May house!

  15. #40
    No, I'm little people now johnnycannuk's Avatar
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    Well, I must be one of the few around here that detests Ayn Rand - both her writting and philosphy. I tried very hard as a young man to read both "The Fountain Head" and "Atlas Shrugged" but could not. The writing was horrid. Now I could have forgiven that, had the plot been decent or the ideas been interesting (see Dan Brown). But the the idea that the poor are poor because it there own damn fault and that selfishness was a virtue struck me as repugnant.

    Seemed to me that it was popular in my day with upper class white kids who needed a philisophic reason to justify their own prejudices.

    As some have pointed out, socialism and communism are failures and bad, but Randian or Objectivist\Libertarian society would be equally bad and evil. They are simply un-Communists - just as mean sprited and radical as those they say they despise, just in ther other direction.
    "Never by hatred has hatred been appeased, only by love" - the Buddha

    More on my blog

  16. #41
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    [quote=johnnycannuk]

    Seemed to me that it was popular in my day with upper class white kids who needed a philisophic reason to justify their own prejudices.
    [quote]

    That is a dangerous comment, because you are then also prejudiced and make that statement to justify being so. Let me explain.

    If prejudice against sloth or laziness is bad, then I assume being prejudice against selfishness or malice is also bad. If not, then prejudice isn't bad necessarily. It depends on what you're prejudiced against (e.g. stupidity, attitudes). And if that's the case, your real problem isn't white kids' prejudices. It's your own. For I have no doubt that these "kids" were prejudiced, but judging from the detachment with which you describe them, I doubt you knew them well enough to fully understand what their prejudices were. If they loved Rand, you'd know that they are opposed to sloth and favor creativity and ambition. Is that the prejudice you detest because it conflicts with your own?
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  17. #42
    practical experience, FTW estateconnection's Avatar
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    I am really enjoying this discussion. I am looking forward to reading the book. In trying to get scholarships for university, I noted that there is a huge scholarship that comes out of the Ann Rand Institute which is dedicated to her writings as well as her philosophy. Every year they dedicate a sum of money to the winner of the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest. I confess that I was thinking about getting the Cliff Notes since it is a lot of money, but after reading this thread, I am really looking forward to reading the "whole" story!

    ETA: In reading the little bits about her and ideas about charity, would she consider a scholarship charity? Would she be turning in her grave over this?

  18. #43
    Still Happy to be Here. Or Anywhere Kate Thornton's Avatar
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    I think she would consider the scholarship payment for the work of writing the essay - payment for the results of creative endeavor. No conflict there.

    You'll need to read the whole thing in order to write a winning essay, I think.

  19. #44
    practical experience, FTW estateconnection's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kate Thornton
    You'll need to read the whole thing in order to write a winning essay, I think.
    That's for sure! With all the bits and pieces I'm reading about here, it seems that there are many different avenues this book rolls down. I am looking forward to reading the book.

  20. #45
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    Nice The Who quote, EstateConnection! Good luck with the essay contest and the reading. One issue that I haven't seen addressed about Rand's fiction is that of ethnicity, or ethnic diversity. If this sounds too much like a left-wing rant for some of you, I apologize and you can skip this post. The country that Rand loved so much contains people from different ethnic backgrounds, and always has, but Atlas Shrugged seems to contain white characters almost exclusively (Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt, Ellis Wyatt, and Ragnar I-can't-spell-his-last-name all have Caucasian features, at least). This lack of diversity kind of jumped out at me when I read the book, and it seemed a little strange. Is Rand's vision of the ideal society one where white industrialists are in power, or is the seeming lack of racial diversity in the novel just Rand's way of showing us that in an ideal society, race would be a non-issue?

  21. #46
    magnolia42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordworm
    And I still remember that I was warned about the 50 or 60-page section about halfway through Atlas Shrugged that someone told me I should just skip over because it was just a long diatribe that basically represented the bare core of Ayn Rand's philosophy. But I read it anyway.
    You know, I would have given you the same advice. As far as I was concerned, she had already hammered her points to death by the time I got to the 60-page radio speech. All I could think was, Jeez, we got it already. Do you think I'm stupid? Get over yourself, sweetheart.

    Honestly, I felt the same way about Stephen King's, The Shining, one of the few books about which I can say I liked the movie better. He kept hammering in the metaphor of the wasp's nest over and over. I sorta felt like he was calling me stupid. But at least he wasn't preachy.

    Yes, Atlas Shrugged was epic and entertaining, but it's hard to get past her agenda. What was the word? Didactic?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnnycannuck
    They are simply un-Communists - just as mean sprited and radical as those they say they despise, just in ther other direction.
    I have always thought that Ayn Rand remained a slave to her Soviet upbringing throughout her entire life. She was so traumatized by Communism in her early life, that she spent all her years denying it and fighting it and embracing everything that was exactly opposite of it. It's the same kind of mentality that breeds young satanists in lands oppressed by Puritan zealots.
    Last edited by magnolia42; 10-14-2006 at 11:03 PM.

  22. #47
    practical experience, FTW erika's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms. Average
    Nice The Who quote, EstateConnection! Good luck with the essay contest and the reading. One issue that I haven't seen addressed about Rand's fiction is that of ethnicity, or ethnic diversity. If this sounds too much like a left-wing rant for some of you, I apologize and you can skip this post. The country that Rand loved so much contains people from different ethnic backgrounds, and always has, but Atlas Shrugged seems to contain white characters almost exclusively (Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt, Ellis Wyatt, and Ragnar I-can't-spell-his-last-name all have Caucasian features, at least). This lack of diversity kind of jumped out at me when I read the book, and it seemed a little strange. Is Rand's vision of the ideal society one where white industrialists are in power, or is the seeming lack of racial diversity in the novel just Rand's way of showing us that in an ideal society, race would be a non-issue?
    That's not a left-wing rant, but I'd say this in Rand's defense. She was white and at the time she wrote the book, industry was dominated exclusiviely by white men. For her to have a strong woman character was impressive actually. In that case, I'd consider her lack of ethnic diversity appropriate and more realistic.

    I don't deal much with black/white issues in my writing because I'm not black and quite frankly, don't get everyone else's obsession with race. To me, if someone's black, so what? Likewise, I'm sure Rand's world in Atlas was mult-cultural, but I don't think she really cared about emphasizing that. And what a world that would be, if we all focused less on group (ethnic) labeling and more on ideas.
    Erika
    "I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a good bottle of port would do that." C.S. Lewis

  23. #48
    practical experience, FTW Gary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erika
    That's not a left-wing rant, but I'd say this in Rand's defense. She was white and at the time she wrote the book, industry was dominated exclusiviely by white men. For her to have a strong woman character was impressive actually. In that case, I'd consider her lack of ethnic diversity appropriate and more realistic.

    I don't deal much with black/white issues in my writing because I'm not black and quite frankly, don't get everyone else's obsession with race. To me, if someone's black, so what? Likewise, I'm sure Rand's world in Atlas was mult-cultural, but I don't think she really cared about emphasizing that. And what a world that would be, if we all focused less on group (ethnic) labeling and more on ideas.
    Thank you! When I respond to a poll and even the census, I refuse to disclose my race. When asked, I tell them I am an American.

  24. #49
    Socialitest Bravo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary
    Thank you! When I respond to a poll and even the census, I refuse to disclose my race. When asked, I tell them I am an American.
    maybe....b/c youre white?
    Last edited by Bravo; 10-17-2006 at 07:56 PM.
    RIP

  25. #50
    practical experience, FTW Gary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bravo
    maybe....b/c youre white?
    No, it's because race shouldn't matter in the eyes of the law. It's only important to those who believe they have been chosen to redistribute wealth.

    Just for the record, I'm mixed, but the mix is none of your business, nor is it the business of government.

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