“Miserabilism”

The following from Tim Stanley via Johnathan Pearce:

All in all, I’m predicting Skyfall will have the charm and good humour of a night spent manning the phones at the Samaritans. Its miserabilism reflects a culture that thinks suffering automatically creates credibility – a world where X Factor contestants weep for our votes because last week their gran sustained a paper cut while opening a gas bill.

This is something Rand strongly condemned in Atlas. She has one character committing suicide over the fact she was forced to be a part of it, an unwittng X Factor contestant. She loudly bashed this culture of death worship and down-doing in words that I just couldn’t accept as plausible. Apart from Rand’s sci-fi weaponry (both offensive and defensive) this a theme in the book where she was least persuasive. But there is something wrong, she was onto something, and this made-up word “misiberabilism” gets closer to it than several thousand of Rand’s.

4 Comments

  1. There is a lot more to the suicide of the young woman than you have had time to indicate here (but you know that). I found character (whose love and ideas were so utterly betrayed) entirely plausable – she was young and put her faith in the wrong place, and reacted with total passion (as the young often do).

    As for this film – I have not seen it. Will it be an an example of “misiberbilism” (like the “hard boiled” dectective novels that Rand despised – where the supposedly cynical worldly-wise main character comes out with childish crude collectivist “arguments” and every businessman is a corrupt cardboard cutout type), perhaps so.

    To judge by the man’s other films (“American Beauty”, “Revolution Road” and other anticapitalist [really anti civil society] leftist stuff) “Skyfall”is not a film I will be rushing to see.

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  2. I have added two more links of interest, for a total of four. One gives Rand’s interpretation in video form courtesy of Richard Gleaves, the other is an occasion where I unpacked some more of this problem in a comment.

    The biggest issue is whether the rhetorical labels “death worship” and “morality of death” are reasonable descriptions of altruism, and if they aren’t good labels or if Ayn Rand’s chain of reasoning took a wrong turn in the latter part of her analysis, then where should she have ended up? I’m convinced she followed the first part of the story correctly and it’s a shame there is a disconnect between that work (or my undertsanding of it) and the rhetorical label.

    That said, I have not read her romantic manifesto on aesthetics. Perhaps I should.

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  3. Rand was very keen on happiness (like the classical philosophers- or most of them) – but (also like them) it is a happiness of achievement (rather than pleasure seeking) that she favoured.

    The satisfaction of having done a good job – of having built something, created something.

    It seems quite reasonable to me.

    And I am old style conservative minded Christian.

    Yet I have no problem with Rand – none at all. And I am supposed to be the sort of person who should (I am as dark as night – I spend my time looking into the void, and it looked back long ago).

    By the way the attack on “altruism” has got nothing to do with benevolence – some of the most kindly and helpful people I have met have been Objectivists.

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