Pop culture experiment #1: The Ayn Rand Investigation

Nunc Scio is pleased to announce a new feature on the site - The Pop Culture Experiment. The concept is simple: I'll take a cultural touchstone and conduct an experiment on it. Does watching "Boys on the Side" make you a lesbian? Will Slayer's "Reign in Blood" turn you into Satan, or at the very least, a lesser demon? Find out here!

fountainhead

Ah, the indiscretions of youth. As a young university student, I was a suburban champagne Marxist. I did the whole deal. I read Gramsci and The Communist Manifesto. I had a bright red bowling shirt with a picture of Lenin on it, sporting the slogan "Join the Bowlsheviks!" I listened to outrageously left-wing music. Often, I would un-ironically discuss the oppression of the working classes while drinking a Starbucks latte. It was a strange and giddy time.

Convinced that the free market was a devilish construct hell-bent on the destruction of decent humanity, I was deeply suspicious of Ayn Rand. She was not only an advocate of market economics. No, Rand went one stop further and espoused a sort of freaky super capitalism and hyper individualism totally anathema to my ideas about "the greater good". This, coupled with several distasteful run-ins with my university's Objectivist Club, led me to conclude that reading Ayn Rand would turn anyone into a total ass for at least three months.

Now that I am older and balder, I have come to realize this is unfair. I have never actually read any Ayn Rand, so it's a bit specious for me to rail against it. Mt politics have also mellowed, and I find the free market to be a sort of comfy companion to my daily activities- an economic bunny rabbit that hops along contentedly beside me, furnishing me with excting toys. Say what you will, but Soviet Russia could never have produced the iPhone. Well, it could have, but it would be 75 pounds, filled with vacuum tubes, and powered by kerosene. Beyond all that, I also have many good friends who have read, enjoyed, and taken some lesson from Rand and her oeuvre. They are not asses, so it appears something may be wrong with my arithmetic.

In the face of these revelations, I have decided to shine the harsh light of science upon this vexing question. Nunc Scio's inaugural Pop Culture Experiment will attempt to determine if there is anything worthwhile to reading Rand, or if her work is better left to tiresome angry young men and aspiring architects.

Hypothesis: Reading Ayn Rand makes you a jerk.

Methodology: For the purposes of this investigation, I will be reading Rand's 1952 classic, The Fountainhead. Why? Because her other giant-ass book, Atlas Shrugged, has recently enjoyed a kind of renaissance among people searching for some deeper meaning to the current financiapocalypse. Since I have dedicated my life to avoiding anything "cool" or "popular" or "enjoyable", The Fountainhead seemed like the logical choice. Plus, the last name "Roark" makes me giggle.

At regular intervals throughout my read - and since the book is 700 pages, I expect to be finished in early 2010 - I will report my reaction using the following metrics:

  • Rage at the depredations of strangers
  • Rage at taxes
  • Consideration for others
  • Extent to which my romantic relationship has become a titanic struggle
  • Sense that I am a genius being dragged down by mediocre society
  • Desire to build tall buildings

Each of the above will be evaluated on a ten-point scale, where '1' is 'low' and '10' is 'huge'. This scale may seem incoherent, but such are the vagaries of cutting-edge cultural research.

My first update will be on Friday. Let the investigation commence!

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P.S. I just read the first line:

Howard Roark laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff.

This does not fill me with confidence.