How bizarre is the world of Ayn Rand.
In ‘Atlas Shrugged John Galt gave Dagny Taggart, newly arrived at Galt’s Gulch, a very serious warning
“Miss Taggart, ” he said, “we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. We come here because we want to rest. But we have certain customs, which we all observe, because they pertain to the things we need to rest from. So I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘ give, ‘ ”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “You’re right.”
He refilled her cup of coffee and extended a package of cigarettes.
She smiled, as she took a cigarette: it bore the sign of the dollar.
“If you’re not too tired by evening,” he said, “Mulligan has invited us for dinner. He’ll have some guests there whom, I think, you’ll want to meet.”
The reason the warning was necessary was that Dagny had expressed surprise that Midas Mulligan should be charging Galt 25 cents for the use of his car. One is left wondering whether he was also going to charge both Galt and Dagny for the dinner. Or even whether Galt would be charging Dagny for the coffee and cigarette.
With that in mind, I had assumed that Christmas would be a time of misery for Rand, unable to ignore the fact that this is a time when all sorts of people are running around giving each other presents and possibly even offering each other lifts in their cars to help with the shopping. I thought, however, that just be sure, I would Google “Rand + Christmas” and see what she and her acolytes and successors had to say on the subject.
I was in for a shock. According to the IMPACT TODAY website, “Christmas was Ayn Rand’s favorite holiday”. I had not even been sure that she would approve of holidays, let alone have a favourite one. And I would have assumed that, if she did have a favourite, it would certainly not be this one. It appears that I was completely wrong, and I was able to find on multiple websites, Including IMPACT TODAY and Objectivism in Depth, her justification for doing so. It went as follows:
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .
The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.
Well, yes, perhaps one would have to be terribly depressed. Or perhaps terribly angry, an emotion that seems more common amongst Rand’s followers. It is all very well to point to the commercial opportunities that Christmas provides, but was this really the sort of commerce her books praise and promote? Her heroes (and one and only heroine) had no time for such fripperies. They were seriously utilitarian. They produced oil and gas, they mined copper and iron, they made steel, they built cars and aircraft, they ran railroads, they designed buildings. Nowhere is there any indication that, as part of their enterprises, they would, at Christmas time, have decorated their factories, enterprises and retail outlets with coloured lights simply to give (that dreaded, unsayable, word again) pleasure. The end users of all this illumination were paying nothing for their enjoyment of it. How could Rand possibly approve of their enjoyment? How, indeed, could she endorse the ‘giving of presents to one’s friends’?
What a hypocrite.