Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ayn Rand "The Right Stuff" BBC documentary

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? I feel that If a war came to threaten this I would throw myself into space over the city and protect these buildings with my body." This quote of Ayn Rand comes from "The Right Stuff" a half-hour BBC radio documentary by former Conservative Party cabinet minister Michael Portillo. balanced by introductory, the documentarry brings up many more questions that it answers, Jeff Britting's laudatory Academy Award nominated film A Sense of Life is much more full of detail, if less balanced.

Ayn Rand was a Hollywood screen writer, a Broadway playwrite, a novelist and a philosopher. Her Philosophy, Objectivism, could be characterized as common sense and American values systematized - yet no school of thought arouses more controversy, from the religious right to the academic left. According to Wikipedia, "Objectivism holds that reality exists independent from consciousness; that individual persons are in contact with this reality through sensory perception; that human beings can gain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation; that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness or rational self-interest; that the only social system consistent with this morality is full respect for individual rights, embodied in pure laissez-faire capitalism; and that the role of art in human life is to transform man's widest metaphysical ideas, by selective reproduction of reality, into a physical form—a work of art—that he can comprehend and respond to."

Dave Kliman's World Trade Center at Night.

In the concrete this meant a glorification of the individual and human achievement as embodied in the moon landings and the skyline of New York. It meant a rejection of skepticism, relativism and what is now considered political correctness. It meant books of philosophy with such provocative titles as The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism – The Unknown Ideal, and The Romantic Manifesto. And it meant novels such as The Fountainhead, made into a movie with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, in which the hero erects New York City skyscrapers and the epic Atlas Shrugged, voted most popular novel of the 20th century, and second in influence in reader's lives only to the Bible, in which the skyline of Manhattan is extinguished.

You can listen to Portillo's documentary here
at the BBC.

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