Monday, September 28, 2015

The Signal Light of Objectivism

Despite my doubts, long-time residents of the burg I find myself marooned assure me that it was once a pleasant little place. They say it possessed a genuine down home friendliness and character where everyone walking down the clean and neat streets eagerly waved hello to all the people they encountered along their way. I am also told that at one time it was filled with locally owned businesses that actually cared for the community along with providing the best in customer service.

That might have been the case at one time, but what it is now is a congested tumor filled with disgruntled suburbanites addicted to twenty-first century crass consumerism and the delusion that they are escaping the worst aspects of modern urban life. Driving down the main business section you would see nothing but one continuous run of strip malls, fast food joints, and national chain department stores and sit down restaurants. That is, of course, during the early morning or late at night when traffic is unusually light because with the regularity of mindless insects once it is time for the suburbanites to either leave or return to their hive-like neighborhoods you will be grateful for every inch you move down the congested highways.

But the local inhabitants like it this way and get rather upset should anyone suggest things that might contain or at least blunt suburban sprawl. It would not be an overstatement to say that politically speaking the entire county is so staunchly conservative that I am surprised it doesn’t elect a free-market Libertarian to the state legislature. The main reason they don’t is because they have to kowtow to equally plentiful religious right which when pushed might have some issues with the basic libertarian platform that says everything is cool if it makes someone a buck, namely the legalization of certain drugs, gambling, and prostitution. That still doesn’t prevent the occasional sighting of Ayn Rand supporter from appearing in the general population, which is what happened a few weeks back. This appearance precipitated a few basic questions concerning the beliefs of the founder and her movement that pretty much states that it is not only okay to be a douchbag but that it makes you a better human for being a selfish twit. 

See what happened was that both my wife and I refused to make dinner late one afternoon. She was tired from her long day at work with her mental condition made worse by having to navigate the choked roadways to arrive at our own glorious McMansion. The last thing she wanted to do after that experience was to stand over a hot stove.

I on the other hand had just spent a couple of hours coaxing our daughter into doing her homework, something that I contend is actually worse that driving through rush hour traffic. When you throw in the fact that just a few hours later I would heading off to do my usual night-shift routine at work I wasn’t feeling any warm fuzzies about making dinner either. My lovely spouse and I were at an impasse, so we both quickly agreed on me going to pick up Chinese food at one of the take-out restaurants in the middle of town.

A few minutes later I'm in my car driving to the our usual Chinese restaurant to pick-up our order. By this time the worst part of evening rush hour traffic had faded away but that only meant my five mile trip took just thirty minutes. The major holdup was going to be the intersection just before the strip mall where the restaurant was located, it bisected two major highways and while traffic was easing there were still many irritated and careless drivers hellbent on returning home before everyone else. That intersection does have turn lanes and dedicated traffic light turn signals to help assist the rush hour hordes. Now both the lanes and turn lights are nice efforts but in all honesty they are comparable to trying to putting out a raging forest fire with just a couple of buckets of water.

Much to my pleasant surprise, once I pulled into the left-turn lane of the intersection several of the cars ahead of me were able to slide through before the light changed. The only car in front of me was an ultra high end BMW and I figured once the left turn traffic light came back up he would use every one of his mighty German horses to punch through allowing me to pick up the food. Yeah, not only was I was getting rather hungry, as sure as massive bears leave steamy piles of poop in the deep and dark woods I knew my wife was herself almost peckish enough to take a bite out anything close to organic in origin. So, it was going to behoove me to get home as quickly as possible with the food before I had to explain to my coworkers that night why a chunk of my butt was missing.

For reasons I can't explain the left-turn signal didn't pop up that time forcing me and Mr. BMW to wait. It was then that I noticed the “Who is John Galt” sticker neatly affixed to the dead center of that guy's rear bumper.

Low and behold that afternoon I had stumbled upon one of the local Ayn Rand supporters. While I automatically despise Rand and anyone who supports her ideas to the point I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire I do harbor an intense curiosity at their coldblooded view at life. At the heart of her ideas is the basic premise that simple human compassion is misplaced and that the highest form of behavior a person can emulate is selfishness.

Screw the basic principles of the Judo-Christian ethic that we are in fact our brother and sister's keeper, according to her if you see a destitute family on the street that is cold and hungry the best thing you can do is walk on by and ignore their plight. Even if you are rolling in cash and hypothetically speaking, have a carload or warm clothes. According to Ayn and her fictional creation, John Galt, poor people are probably in that situation for a reason. The usual assumption being a combination of laziness and bad choices. Yeah, some people are poor because they have screwed up their lives but Rand's people completely ignore the vagaries of economic fluctuations and even natural disasters.

So in the end Ayn Rand's philosophy boils down to the simple presumption that compassion is wrong, selfishness is a virtue, and screw everyone else as long as I am happy, healthy, and secure. Which is a funny given what almost happened to Mr. BMW at that intersection.

Since the left-turn signal didn't come up that meant traffic flowed normally forcing Mr. BMW to pull further out into the intersection so he could wait for his chance to turn. Oncoming traffic had built up again and I figured that the light would turn red before I had my own chance to turn so unlike Mr. BMW, I didn't follow him into the intersection. Sure enough, the signal light turned yellow and a couple of seconds later, red leaving Mr. BMW sitting in the middle of the crossroads.
 However before he could scoot across a huge pickup truck, a Ford F-350, came barreling through at a fairly high rate of speed, completely ignoring the red light. If in fact Mr. BMW had tried to make the turn his nice car and himself would have been smashed like an aluminum can. Once the truck had passed Mr. BMW made his left turn and drove away unscathed.

Just a few minutes later the traffic lights cycled through allowing me to reach my intended destination and pick up our food and get home before my wife's hunger turned her completely wild. But as I was driving home the thought occurred to me, given Mr. BMW's obvious Rand/Galt-loving philosophy if in fact the truck had hit his car causing him to be gravely injured would I have been wrong to demand some form of payment BEFORE I tried to gave any aid? I mean since compassion is a weakness and Rand clearly states that selfishness is a virtue so Mr. BMW shouldn't have had a problem with me just exercising the very principles he believes in as his broken body bled all over the nice upholstery?


Pixel Peeper said...

I don't want to say that I wanted the BMW to get crashed...but I'll be honest and say that I would have smirked a little if the vehicle had gotten a ding or two. Heh.

I remember the awful traffic on Sunset Boulevard at rush hour. And that was over eight years ago...I can only imagine how congested it has gotten by now.

A bit off topic, but somewhat related to the traffic issue: one time, one of my conservative co-workers was complaining about government money going to people who were not really poor. His question was why the average "poor" person owned a car. My question back at him was how the average poor person would be able to get to work, the doctor, look for a job, shop for groceries, etc. without a car - being that there was NO public transportation in Lexington county.

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: I completely agree! I swear the poor can't catch a break. Either they are lazy bums or rolling in free stuff from the government. It would be nice if Lexington had a public transportation system but that's a huge fantasy given the county voted down a small tax increase just to fix the roads.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Hope, it wouldn't have been okay if you'd behaved in a Rand-approved manner if that BMW had been hit. While he may, on the surface, support such a lack of compassion, I suspect it wouldn't have extended to the manner in which he believed HE deserved to be treated. But what's more important, it wouldn't have been okay with YOU, because that isn't the kind of man you are.

I just read someone else's blog post about the arrogance of some BMW drivers, so I was kinda anticipating something along those line when I started reading your post. I figured the guy in the BMW was gonna be messing with his phone or tablet or whatever, without paying any attention to the traffic light, and then finally look up just in time for his car to scoot through, while leaving you sitting there seething through another cycle of light changes. (Been there, done that!)

Marja said...

I never hear of Ayn Rand before. Looked her up and saw she is a Russian. Ah well I think
she and Mr BMW might not be worthy of your attention. I hope the chinees tasted nice. Here
we don't have far to go. There is a chinees aka fish and chip shop around every corner in chch
We usually have a pizza or chips in the freezer for the "don't wanna cook nights"
Lots of love from christchurch

The Bug said...

This is why I love living in a small town. If there's a lot of traffic it takes me an extra 5 minutes to get home :)

I kind of feel sorry for people who believe all that Ayn Rand stuff - must be tough to be so terrified that they'll do the wrong thing & end up being poor...