When Worlds Collide

If you have far too much time on your hands, and basic cable, you might catch the 1951 film When Worlds Collide – and it’s a hoot. But it’s in quite vivid extreme Technicolor, even if the available print is now rather washed out, and it’s George Pal at his best – it won the 1951 Oscar for Special Effects. And the sweet young thing in the movie is Barbara Rush, back when she was a sweet young thing. Of course it’s the usual fifties end-of-the-world science fiction stuff – from the days when everyone tested massive nuclear bombs right out in the open and school kids practiced duck-and-cover in the classroom and your father was thinking about building a bomb shelter in the backyard and Joe McCarthy was just ramping up his hair-on-fire Red Scare hearings. There really was a market for end-of-the-world science fiction yarns back in the day. Yes, we were all going to die. It might happen.

And this movie is a parable, even if a rather crude one. You see, astronomers unexpectedly discover a small star is on a collision course with Earth, and alarmingly we have only eight months to do something about it. And the only thing to do is get out of here – and get out fast. And of course this involves building a giant spaceship to transport those worth saving to Zyra, the planet in orbit around this nasty rogue star, in the faint hope that Zyra can sustain life and save the human race from extinction. Hey, you have to do what you have to do.

But of course the question is just who is worthy of saving. And that leads to a whole lot of posturing and weeping and shouting back and forth – all the b-list actors get their chance to chew the scenery, as they say. And in the end they have to settle on a lottery. No one really has the smarts or the moral authority to decide this sort of thing, no matter what they say about themselves. And thus some folks end up just lucky. Everyone else ends up dead. Hey, life really is a crap shoot.

That’s a pretty bleak parable. But you can overanalyze old movies meant as nothing more than whiz-bang scare-the-rubes light entertainment. The movie was way-cool in its day, and now it has become charming fifties kitsch, like the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, by the awesome Ayn Rand. And of course worlds still collide:

Paul Ryan was chased by a protester waving a giant Bible and decrying libertarian author Ayn Rand on his way out of the Faith and Freedom Conference, a social conservative gathering in DC where he delivered a speech on his budget.

“Why did you choose to model your budget on the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than the faith of economic justice in the Bible?” the blond, twenty-something male asked. He said he wanted to “present” Ryan with a Bible to teach him how to help the “most vulnerable.”

Damn, it really is like a scene from that same old movie. Of course the question is just who is worthy of saving. And there is a video of the confrontation – but not in vivid extreme Technicolor this time. And Ryan talked to reporters briefly and signed autographs for fans, and pretty much blew off the protester. And Ryan never mentioned Rand in his speech, even though he has cited her as a hero in the past. In fact he discussed his faith and its connection to American government and all that sort of thing – “Our rights our not given to us from government, our rights are given to us naturally, given by God.” And he said that “applying these principles” is what keeps America from entering decline with each new generation. But of course Ayn Rand was a total atheist, and proud of it. The blond, twenty-something evangelical fellow has smelled a rat.

And Amy Sullivan at Time’s Swampland notes Paul Ryan’s Ayn Rand Problem:

I am fairly certain that when Paul Ryan first decided to publicly share his admiration of Ayn Rand, he could not have imagined it would lead to him speed-walking to his SUV to avoid a young Catholic trying to give him a Bible and telling him to pay more attention to the Gospel of Luke.

But she has to mention that there is a bit of a problem here:

These days, when people question a politician’s “morality,” they usually mean his or her personal behavior and choices. But an interesting thing is happening right now around the GOP budget proposal. A broad coalition of religious voices is criticizing the morality of the choices reflected in budget cuts and tax policy. And they’ve specifically targeted Ryan and his praise for Rand, the philosopher who once said she “promoted the ethic of selfishness.”

Across the street from the Faith & Freedom Conference Friday afternoon, a group of religious leaders continued the attack on what they now consistently refer to as “The Ayn Rand Budget.” Father Cletus Kiley, a Catholic priest, declared the Ryan budget “does not pass our test” of Catholic teachings, and suggested that supporters of the budget “drop Ayn Rand’s books and pick up their sacred texts.”

And Rand’s influence on Ryan’s politics is now the subject of a new ad produced by the religious group called American Values Network, and they’re going to run the spot in Ryan’s district:

It’s a stinging attack, and again, one that was wholly unanticipated by the Republican rising star.

Yes, just watch it – clips from an old Mike Wallace interview with Ayn Rand, and she does say all religion is nonsense and she will have nothing to do with it, especially the nonsense about helping other people in any way, ever. Ryan will find this uncomfortable. That happens when worlds collide.

And ThinkProgress has details of what happened at the event – religious conservatives and Republican political leaders gathered at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, and another group of religious leaders held a small gathering across the street to warn against the moral perils of the Republican Party’s fiscal priorities, such as they are. Four members affiliated with the religious group Faith in Public Life held a press conference during the Faith and Freedom Conference afternoon intermission to denounce the Republican Party’s adherence to the philosophies of the obviously anti-government and anti-religion Ayn Rand. The leaders of this small group – Rev. Jennifer Butler, Jim Wallis, Rev. Derrick Harkins, and Father Clete Kiley (yes, an odd name) – argued that the Republican efforts to cut funding from many anti-poverty programs while balancing the budget “on the backs of the poorest Americans” were simply out of line with Christian values:

The sky is falling on poor people in this country. The sky is falling. This time it really is. In the past, when we’ve done deficit reduction – and we’ve done it before – we’ve done poverty reduction at the same time. You can do both together. And every previous attempt there has been a bipartisan agreement to a given, a principle, that poor and low income people are not the ones to make hurt more when you’re making tough decisions. … They don’t bear the brunt of our fiscal irresponsibility because they didn’t cause it. We did not get into fiscal trouble because of poor people. … The poor didn’t cause this. Let’s not make them pay for it.

What we’re saying in the faith community, across the spectrum, is that a nation is judged – our Bible says – by how we treat the poorest and most vulnerable. Period. That’s what God says to us. That’s God’s instruction to us. To be faithful to God, we have to protect poor people.

The video of that is here – and the delivery is a lot less dramatic than the words above. These guys are not second rate actors chewing the scenery. But they do the job well enough:

Wallis and Butler repeatedly asserted that political leaders could not adhere to the teachings of both Rand and the church. “This budget has more to do with the teaching of Ayn Rand than the etchings of Jesus Christ,” Butler said. “I read Rand in high school, and she said, ‘You have to choose me or Jesus,'” Wallis added. “And so I did. She lost.”

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. But ThinkProgress goes on to note that religious leaders have been speaking out on House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) – both of whom are practicing Catholics – telling them, directly, that the cuts in their budget disproportionately target poor Americans and are simply out of line with Christian and Catholic teaching. And in May a group of Catholic bishops sent Boehner a letter denouncing the budget cuts – and Ryan has attempted to persuade Catholic bishops that his budget is in line with religious teaching. They all have the wrong idea about what Jesus was saying, or something. But at this event Kiley was skeptical, saying Ryan handpicked phrases from Catholic teaching in his absurd attempts to justify his budget cuts, simply ignoring the majority of Catholic teaching. So there’s a problem here.

As for the extent of the Republican Rand-mania these days, ThinkProgress offers some background – that film adaptation of the 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, opened a while back, and the release of the film seems to have been an attempt to get some sort of ball rolling. The trailer for Atlas Shrugged had its world premier at this year’s CPAC conference, and the Tea Party group FreedomWorks rolled out a massive campaign to promote the film – and the story’s opening line is “Who is John Galt?” That has popped up on signs at Tea Party rallies.

And yes, Paul Ryan has said Ayn Rand is the reason he entered politics, and he requires his staff to read her work. Both Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul have declared themselves devotees of her writing – that’s how the son got his first name. And Justice Clarence Thomas has his law clerks watch the film adaptation of Rand’s book The Fountainhead – that’s the one with Gary Cooper as the noble architect who will never compromise, because no one should live for other people, or even listen to them. And ThinkProgress runs down those others on the right who just love Ayn Rand – Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, John Stossel, and of course Glenn Beck and Andrew Napolitano. During her lifetime Rand advocated “the virtue of selfishness” and declared altruism to be “evil” and opposed Medicare and all forms of government support for the middle-class and the poor, and she directly condemned Christianity for advocating love and compassion for the less fortunate – so they are okay with all of that, except for the last part.

And we learn that Rand dismissed the feminist movement as a “false” and “phony” issue, and said here that a female commander-in-chief would be “unspeakable” – and also characterized Arabs as “almost totally primitive savages” and here called government efforts to aid the handicapped and educate “subnormal children” an attempt to “bring everybody to the level of the handicapped.” What’s not to like?

But she wasn’t okay with Jesus. That is an issue. And the new movie bombed, by the way. On the other hand, a sequel to the 1951 When Worlds Collide is due in theaters next year. Go figure.

But the blog DownWithTyranny explains the issues here:

I’ve been waiting for a Christian right kind of guy to confront Ryan with his hypocrisy. It should happen everywhere he goes, since – like Rand said explicitly – his budget says implicitly that Jesus had it all wrong and that the least among us and most downtrodden actually don’t deserve any help, just a swift kick in the balls. And all that stuff about camels getting through eyes of needles… with the tax breaks Ryan is giving the rich they can breed miniature flying camels.

And there’s this:

Of course Ryan and Boehner worked out a scheme to pacify seniors by promising them that the kill Medicare budget would only impact future generations and that they’re safe. Seniors have overwhelming rejected that sociopathic attitude anyway but now… Ryan even threw the seniors he’s expecting to reelect him under the bus!

If Christians stop taking Ryan seriously – serious Christians I mean, not right-wing fanatics making believe they’re Christians – at least he’ll still have the punditocracy on his side, as Krugman opined yesterday. “Many of the pundits who gushed over the Ryan plan, after being rocked back a bit when the plan was exposed as the nonsense it is, have decided to double down. In particular, they are insisting that anyone who describes a plan to dismantle Medicare as a plan to dismantle Medicare is somehow engaged in disreputable scare tactics.”

But maybe that ad with the Ayn Rand clips can change that. She is damned scary – and most religious folks would indeed use that adjective, damned. And when worlds collide….

Is there a way out of this conundrum? At Rational Nation USA, Left Coast Rebel offers this:

The editors of ThinkProgress, that useless and salacious rag of progressive collectivism have found it convenient to assail Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy in their attack on Representative Paul Ryan’s budget plan. In doing so, they display both their ignorance of Ayn Rand’s works as well as their ignorance of sound economic theory.

Yes, Ayn Rand was an atheist. She believed that faith in an unknowable, and thus mystical Supreme Being was illogical and irrational. Not unlike millions, or perhaps tens of millions of atheists throughout history. So, what the hell does that have to do with economic theory? You likely got it right. Absolutely nothing.

Yet ThinkProgress is using Rand’s rational advocacy of capitalism, and by this I mean laissez-faire capitalism, to further the collectivist support for altruism. Which is the selfless belief that the individual must sacrifice both their security and happiness for the sake of all others. Altruism represents the most vile and immoral ethical code ever advocated in human existence. Why? Because in its most extreme expression it requires total sacrifice of the self to all others. Which is of course precisely what ThinkProgress, as well as all collectivist theorists call for, and indeed demand. The perfect statist society in other words.

Think Progress’s absolutely disgusting pandering is beyond reprehensible. It is the most dishonest and deceitful pile of excrement I have read in a long while. To disagree with Rand’s positions is one thing. When done honestly and with valid and reasonable argument it is worthy of discussion. When presented as ThinkProgress chooses to do it is beyond disgusting and ought to be dismissed by all reasonable people as nothing more than trash from the clueless progressive collectivist statist, period!

That’s a fine rant. Someone is chewing the scenery, like a b-list actor in a fifties movie:

Make no mistake, the altruists, which all progressive collectivists are, want you to believe that any attempt at fiscal responsibility and sound economic judgment is an attack on the poor and least economically secure amongst us. In fact fiscal responsibility and sound economic policy has been shown to be the only way to raise the standard of living across the board among all people.

Altruist collectivism has been shown on the other hand to do nothing other than to result in people becoming dependent upon others {society} to take care of them. It has the effect of destroying self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Yeah, yeah – and who gets a seat on the big spaceship leaving soon for Zyra? Who is worthy of saving? Maybe some folks do just end up being lucky, and everyone else ends up dead – and life really is a crap shoot. Or maybe only the Ayn Rand folks get a seat.

We’ll see how this works out. For now the issue is how these folks hold both Ayn Rand and Jesus in their heads, without their heads exploding. But that’s another science fiction movie, for another day.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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