Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ayn Rand and MJ

I am not an MJ fan. I have grown up listening to him, like any kid anywhere. Like him or dislike him, but you simply cannot ignore him. Even at a time when Mc Donalds was not in India, Michael Jackson was present in many households.

What fascinated me, however, was his constantly changing looks. I would try and find reason as to why a coloured man want to be white? Why would someone who is so strong on the struggles of the coloured, paint himself white? I have many answers, but not one completely justifies this.
Since his death and the media hype, I began this quest to find an answer. I read a lot about him.

My friend is a BIG fan and she was very much affected by MJ's death. Together we listened to his songs, and watched his speeches and read his thoughts. And my fascination only grew. Here was a man, I thought, who was a true hero. He believed in himself so much that nothing else mattered. He loved his work and he did it the best and some more.

I saw many photographs, and one in particular struck me - one where he is standing under the flood lights, his arms wide open, his face upturned, eyes closed, his body taut with expression, I saw for the first time an exalted figure of man! And I wanted to know what Ayn Rand thought of MJ? I wanted to know if my thoughts echoed what she believed in. I googled "Ayn Rand and MJ". I got no search results.

Is it possible that Ayn Rand completely missed out on MJ? I understand that she doesn't have to have a detailed opinion on anything and everything. But, I was disappointed that how could she have possibly missed out someone who epitomises the exaltation? How could she have missed out the creator, the producer, who opened new doors for music?

On the 1st of July, when I searched again, I found two results: one from Atlasphere, and another from a different blog.

Here is what Orit Arfa writes in Atlasphere: "These (pop) songs may not involve complex arrangements that spell out an expansive, philosophical view of man; rather, they give us in the matter of a few minutes a “sense of life,” which Rand defines in The Romantic Manifesto as “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence.”

I have a few answers with regards to Ayn Rand and MJ. The rest I am free to figure out for myself.


  1. "...why a coloured man would want to be white?"
    Well, because he had vitiligo. You can read more about this on his wikipedia page. I know about this because a friend has the same condition.

    BTW, came here from the facebook group of Pune's Atlas meetings. Do you know if any such meetings take place in Delhi?

  2. Ayn Rand died at the age of 77, in early 1982. Before that she was ill for quite a few months. MJ's famous Thriller was released in that same year. Not surprising that AR did not have much to say about MJ. A little search on the internet would bring this to light.

    Even otherwise, it is futile to ask if AR had said anything about MJ. One need to ask what of MJ, or the pop culture, where AR's ideas may have a relevance.

    AR is not there to provide answer to every conceivably question. She has outlined the essentials of a philosophy. With a little grasp of her ideas, one needs to try and apply those ideas to any question one has in mind, and come with one's own answer.

    For instance AR has written about the significance popular culture, comic books, detective stories, classical music, and also been critical of modernist art which is completely abstract.

    In fact AR's success is reflect in the fact that she is one of more popular authors in the world today, more than 25 years after her death! Hundreds of thousands of copies of her books sell even today. And thousands more are pirated in India and elsewhere.

  3. I completely agree that AR doesnt have to have an opinion on everything. :-)
    But these days I want to derive everything with respect to AR. And so I wanted this answer.
    I can see the places where AR wouldnt have seen MJ as a hero are perhaps the acceptance MJ required from people, the understanding he constantly seeked, or his numerous charities. These are completely contradictory to AR's depictions of her heroes...
    But perhaps, this is disecting too much...! :-)

  4. Kirtimalini ji ..

    I don't think MJ epitomized anything. At best he was a great stage performer, a singer. Read the words of his songs, there's nothing remotely objectivist or idealist about them. "Amy are you watching", "Billie Jean", "Thriller", "Bad" ... please, give me a break.

    MJ had a COMPLEX about his looks. Thats why he wanted to be white. An inferiority complex, a desire to be accepted by the Goras, and a hypocrisy substantiated parallely by the song "black or white". "Heal the world for our children" and "play" with them when no one's looking? Sure MJ, we GET you.

    When u say u saw MJ with his eyes closed etc, its either the sense of exaltation that he felt after a good stage performance, or, you're simply not analyzing.

    I'm kind of anticipating that one of your interests would be to find a link between Ayn Rand and Linda Goodman, no? :) Now did the fact that Rand was Aquarian help her more than her being, oh like a Pisces for example ??

  5. In 1962, shortly after the death of Marilyn Monroe, Ayn Rand wrote about the shock felt by so many people at the time - that sense of "Oh, no!"

    Monroe was not a paragon of Objectivist virtues, but Ayn Rand praised Marilyn as an actress who projected innocence and joy, despite a wretched childhood and a nightmarish struggle for success.

    MJ's death too has had a deep impact on a very large number of people. I for one would not ridicule an attempt to find a value in him, and in his music, in 'sense of life' terms.

    There is no doubt that MJ, and his songs, had a huge impact on a whole generation. Irrespective of the sordidness in his life, his music was (at least for the most part) electric and uplifting.

  6. Vikram,

    Why not take MJ at the face value of an Artist? A very successful artist and that's all.
    Why associate objectivity with him? Do any of his words in his songs strike you as objective?

    (Let me know, I may have forgotten his songs)

    If listening to MJ would make you think more of A.R. for example, I would agree with you.
    But does it really? Tell me which song of his is uplifting and we will discuss it. I would
    really like to know.

    Yes he revolutionized the pop culture, he introduced moon walk, he was a cool dude when he was
    all black, and he was a great entertainer no doubt, and I liked him too, but .. objective .. ?

    Again, "we are the world" and that "children stuff" is social stuff. A romantic song is "the way
    you make me feel", but how can you prove that that song is about the ideal "I-met-you-finally" kind
    of love and not simple sexual attraction? Nothing in the video suggests that. In fact everything in the
    video suggests that its about a pretty lady (and she was pretty no doubt)

    "do you remember the time" is about love gone sour.

    He did have the gangster / hooligan element in a lot of his song videos. He did have gyrations in his choreography.
    So yes, that was new and bold. But objective he was not.

    Insofar as he might have helped a rebel streak in you that implored you to enjoy life and not be a dodo somewhere,
    insofar as he was a stepping stone in your discovery of other things, fine. Pay your tributes. I would have too.

    But if Ayn Rand was alive, and I was her chaprasi and had to filter out people-reports that she saw :), you bet I would
    have blocked MJ out. Not unless I was convinced myself, and not without a rational explanation.

    And Vikram, no chivalry please unless you believe what you are saying logically. You are yourself saying that "inspite of the sordidness of his life". Are you a Hank Rearden who is willing to overlook certain aspects and not see the thing in its complete picture? Are you willing to be beholden to your emotional feelings over logical assertions in reality? Are you telling me that I should show respect to people's subjective feelings? And that is being objective in your opinion?

    So we should respect the artist and overlook his life where he is a molester and a confused introverted personality. I claim that
    such a man is incomplete, in spite of the art he produced. Did you by the way see similar characteristics in Howard Roark's life? If you can recommend Howard Rowark to Ayn Rand, would you in the same breath recommend MJ to Rand? If yes, explain to me Why, if no, don't defend people in the spirit of brotherhood-of-the-affected.

    And it doesn't matter if MJ had a huge impact on people, so has Amitabh Bachan. Or are you saying that because he had a huge impact, and because I was one of the fellows who liked him, and since I now practice objectivism, so everything about my childhood that I love, is by default objective too? And it not only deserves my respect, but also the respect of Ayn Rand?

    I have to end this or I will end up laughing.

  7. In view of the discussion on Ayn Rand's view of pop culture, and the significance of Michael Jackson, the following post by Prof Jennifer Burns is quite appropriate. And so I am reposting it below, along with the link to an original article by Ayn Rand on Merilyn Monroe's death.

    This is also relevant in the context of MJ's death. Personally, I did not have any affinity for MJ's music. But I was quite fascinated by his dance moves and the dramatic postures that he stuck. And it is possible to isolate aspects of ones performance, and not necessarily admire his total body of work, or even less the person concerned.

    Just as for me, and I suspect for many others, Ayn Rand the person was of only cursory interest, having discovered her a year after her death. But the writings of Ayn Rand attracted me to her ideas, without any knowledge of about its author at that time. As Ayn Rand herself had said that she would rest her case just as Howard Roark did, at the end of his first trial, by submitting copy of Atlas Shrugged. AR did not want to rest her case with a personal biography!

    Ayn Rand heart Farrah Fawcett
    Jennifer Burns
    July 2nd, 2009

    One of the little known factoids about Ayn Rand is that she harbored a deep love of good-old fashioned American kitsch, as this article about her and Farrah Fawcett makes clear: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-06-25/farrahs-brainy-side/2/. I knew Rand loved Fawcett – she made no secret of the fact “Charlie’s Angels” was her favorite TV show – but it is fascinating to hear Fawcett’s take on Rand. As she did for many people, Rand seems to have inspired Farrah to believe in herself, despite the critics and haters. Rand’s affection for Fawcett was part of her longstanding appreciation for pop culture, which dated from her teen fascination with American movies while she was trapped in Soviet Russia. And Rand had a special place in her heart for the sex kitten. In fact, one of my favorite pieces of writing by Rand is her 1962 obituary of Marilyn Monroe, where she celebrates the singer’s “glowing innocent sexuality uncorrupted by guilt.” http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3247
    Were she around today, Rand might write the same sentiments about Farrah Fawcett. May both rest in peace.

  8. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my previous post, so let me re-state my views and the context in which I posted:

    1. I find nothing wrong if an individual finds a value in a piece of art or music where the artist himself/herself is not virtuous.

    2. I think it is absolutely proper to try and identify that value in conceptual or 'sense of life' terms and to attempt to relate/integrate it to one's consciously held beliefs.

    3. Such an attempt may be unsuccessful (or not), be misguided (or not) or may even lead to a re-evaluation of one's beliefs/emotional responses. But, the attempt itself is totally justified and is a form of much-needed introspection.

    4. If a person new to Objectivism is attempting the above, then an informed view, or facts, shared by others may help them with their task. But they certainly do not deserve to be ridiculed with sarcasm.

    P.S. Though it's not really relevant, my experience of MJ is limited to the odd song on MTV that I would see. I hardly ever caught the words, but the beat was rivetting, and the action on the videos, both technically and otherwise, was mesmerising. Even if you were in an indolent mood, his videos would get you moving to the beat. If I were to associate words with MJ's image in my mind, they would be 'Energy' and 'Exhuberance'.

  9. As before, the question was: Ayn Rand and MJ?

    The answer is No. You seem to be avoiding that question repeatedly. You also seem to be avoiding my questions. That is very amusing and at the same time, very unfortunate.

    I don't really care in which context you have replied, because your context is irrelevant to the original context of the discussion.

    kirtimalini asked why A.R. didn't think about MJ and I told her why not and why she ought not have. I can tell this any way I want. Usually I prefer the direct way.

    No person needs any help here. If you think you want to help someone, be direct and tell them the truth. Better still, first understand what the other guy is telling you.

    Let me get one thing straight for all you guys of this forum. This is not a social service that you are performing. And it is not your obligation to help the "upcoming objectivists".

    Let each figure out according to their capacity.

    I think you guys as a group need to grow up.

    You guys are not for me.

    Hope you as a group disintegrate as soon as possible before you extend this torture on yourselves and on each other. Your base is built off hypocracy. MJ and Zeenat Aman are not relevant topics of discussionn at all. You will of course be very glad to finally hear the last from me.


  10. Actually let me reply to you point by point.

    1. It is absolutely wrong to linger on to a piece of art or music if you now know that the creater was a sick freak. The sickenss of this guy would be reflective in his art or music, somehow. If you think its not wrong, you need to check a contradiction that is developing in you.

    2. Right, and the sun shines every morning. But that was not the topic of discussion.

    3. You do like to repeat yourself, don't you. Tell me, is my attempt in finding a sense of life by taking marijuana justified? Would you, being an expert observer, sit back and point me nice things and hope not to hurt my feelings?

    4. You're not performing a social service. You are not even performing a human service. You're not performing any service. You want to make profit. And that happens when you see Howard Rowarks walking alongside you. You can't make a Howard Roark. You can't even guide a Howard Roark, because by doing that you just killed his chance of becoming a Howard Roark. You can only search for them. I'm sure you think you're a John Galt who is helping the world, but let me assure you personally, you're not.

    To your "PS", here's my "PS" - Listen to words of music (when there are words). They will tell you much more than the tune. I also see that since you had no reply for "uplifting" you moved to "energy" and "exhuberance". I could argue again with the marijuana principle right there. But I have work to do.

    I will also tell you what exactly would have bought you to my side (or in your parlance, made you "accept me"). If in any of my answers, I would have said "Vikram, I agree with you, but". And you know what that makes you.

    Inspect yourself, and take a long long time at it, take all the time in the world at it. Because that is important, not free advice. Which is why, I quit.


  11. I think you would have done well to quit a long time ago. There is something abnormal for someone to stay behind the veil of anonymity, and yet claiming to speak for Ayn Rand, and represent Howard Roark and John Galt. You don't want us to do social service, yet, that is what you are trying to do yourself, social service - apparently to save our souls!

  12. Hah! I don't care about your soul Barun. (Zeenat Aman might). Be my guest and go to hell!

  13. Hello,

    Dr. Leonard Peikoff has some interesting things to say on the death of Michael Jackson in his podcast (Episode 70 - July 13 2009.)

    The link for the main page of Dr. Peikoff's podcasts is:


    The page has 'Download' links on the right for streaming it in Windows Media Player.

    His comments start from 03:56 and end at 09:18.


  14. i actuallly thought that this would be a good place to start, as i am a belever in the ideas of objectivisim and ayn rand,s ideas and want to develop them further into a system where capitalism (the pure version), - not the social service version would be available in india for me. but i am sorry to say i have to completely agree with the anonymous dude- he hit the nail bang on the head- u guys have sadly succumbed to the indian disease that afflicts many people- making a social service (jaago grahak jaago) out of everything.i disagree with him on only two minor points- one that he thinks ayn rand would have a chaprasi to protect her from the gandhagi of the world-seriously presumptious of him- remember what john galt tells dagny - we will never (treat u like child) and protect you from the knowledge of what is going on in the real world), and another that he even remotely compares what u guys are doing to john galt himself. john did not do anything as a social service, remeber the word that ayn used for him via dagny- "destroyer"- he was causing the destruction of the world as we know it without caring for collateral damage like cheryll and eddie willers- he was not trying to convert people into a better way of thinking!!as i said minor mistakes, but dude i think we should be friends wotsay- find me....uchil.puneeta on facebook

  15. What ever little we are aiming to do, seem to have value even for you and others who don't agree with us! You are still using this platform to try and find each other. And we had no intention of providing such social service!