Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Postscript for Monument Builders

In 1962, Ayn Rand wrote an essay, "The Monument Builders" (reprinted in The Virtue of Selfishness), where she named the real nature of this special type of parasite:
...Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.
Think of Occupy Wall Street. But to continue the quote:
What, then, is the motive of such intellectuals? Power-lust. Power-lust —-as a manifestation of helplessness, of self-loathing, and of the desire for the unearned.
Which gets to the subject of monument builders. Rand goes on,
The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By "spirit" I mean: man's consciousness.) These two aspects are necessarily interrelated, but a man's desire may be focused predominantly on one or the other. The desire for the unearned in spirit is the desire for unearned greatness: it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term 'prestige.'

Unearned greatness is so unreal, so neurotic a concept that the wretch who seeks it cannot identify it even to himself: to identify it, is to make it impossible. He needs the irrational, undefinable slogans of altruism and collectivism to give a semiplausible form to his nameless urge and anchor it to reality—-to support his own self-deception more than to deceive his victims. "The public," "the public interest," "service to the public" are the means, the tools, the swinging pendulums of the power-luster’s self-hypnosis.

Since there is no such entity as "the public," since ...the concept is so conveniently undefinable, its use rests only on any given gang’s ability to proclaim that "The public, c’est moi"—and to maintain the claim at the point of a gun.
Think of "We are the 99%".  She continues,
...Greatness is achieved by the productive effort of a man's mind in the pursuit of clearly defined, rational goals. But a delusion of grandeur can be served only by the switching, undefinable chimera of a public monument—which is presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it—which is dedicated to the service of all and none, owned by all and none, gaped at by all and enjoyed by none.

This is the ruler's only way to appease his obsession: "prestige." Prestige—-in whose eyes? In anyone's. In the eyes of his tortured victims, of the beggars in the streets of his kingdom, of the bootlickers at his court, of the foreign tribes and their rulers beyond the borders. It is to impress all those eyes-—the eyes of everyone and no one—-that the blood of generations of subjects has been spilled and spent.
Now we come to an interesting essay that appeared yesterday in Pajamas Media, titled Stealing as Policy, from the Iron Curtain to Robert Byrd, by Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Lieutenant General in the Romanian Army.  Pacepa was "the highest official who has ever defected from the Soviet bloc. In 1989 Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial whose main accusations came out of Pacepa's book Red Horizons (Regnery Publishing, 1987), subsequently republished in 27 countries."

Over a year ago, I wrote a post, Maybe there ARE commies under every rock...  that quoted Pacepa at length, in an interview where he and two other former communists explained old Soviet plans for taking over Western countries using fifth columns of thousands of communist agents burrowed into every government in Europe.  So Pacepa's name caught my eye when I saw the column he penned yesterday for PJ, about how socialists inevitably become monument builders, and how this disease has infected the United States.  For instance, he cites the example of the late Senator Robert Byrd:
"Over his long career in the U.S. Congress, the late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd was able to steal $3.3 billion, with a “b,” of tax money in order to build his West Virginia into a monument to himself. Several transportation projects named after him gained national notoriety. The Robert C. Byrd Highway, also known as the Appalachian Development Highway System, was dubbed “West Virginia’s road to nowhere” in 2009, after it received a $9.5 million earmark in the $410 billion Omnibus Appropriation Act and $21 million more from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. More than 50 buildings erected with tax money stolen by Senator Byrd are now named for him. Here are a few: Robert C. Byrd Community Center, Pine Grove, WV; Robert C. Byrd Federal Correction Institution, Hazelton, WV; Robert C. Byrd Visitor Center, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, WV; Robert C. Byrd United States R Courthouse and Federal Building, Charleston, WV; Robert C. Byrd Academic and Technology Center, Marshall University in Huntington, WV; Robert C. Byrd Auditorium, National Conservation Center, WV; Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, Green Bank, WV; Robert C. Byrd Library, Wheeling, WV."
And this reminded me of Ayn Rand's essay.  For years, I've myself lamented and condemned the proliferation of monuments to public officials — especially living public officials. For instance, we no longer name naval ships after things like "Enterprise", "Kitty Hawk", "Lexington" or "Independence" — we name them after John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman, John C. Stennis or George W. Bush.

This habit of politicians has grown so malignant that it's now de rigueur in many of the bills passed by Congress: the real payment for securing funding for some kind of pork is not the votes-- it's the right of a politician to have his name attached to the bridges, roads, buildings, ships, airports, parks, public housing projects and just about anything else that he connived via backroom deals to get funded.

The right to be immortalized for being a looter of the people they pretend to "serve".

The movement is just getting under way for Barack Obama.  As Pacepa notes:
President Obama’s current redistribution of the country’s wealth caused the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating for the first time in our country’s history, but it helped the young president to start transforming the U.S. into a monument to himself. Below is just a partial list of projects and places already named after President Obama.
California: President Barack Obama Parkway, Orlando; Obama Way, Seaside; Barack Obama Charter School, Compton; Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy, Los Angeles; Barack Obama Academy, Oakland.
Florida: Barack Obama Avenue, Opa-loka; Barack Obama Boulevard, West Park.
Maryland: Barack Obama Elementary School, Upper Marlboro.
Missouri: Barack Obama Elementary School, Pine Lawn.
Minnesota:  Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary, Saint Paul.
New Jersey: Barack Obama Academy, Plainfield; Barack Obama Green Charter High School, Plainfield.
New York: Barack Obama Elementary School, Hempstead.
Pennsylvania: Obama High School, Pittsburgh.
Texas: Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Dallas.
Small potatoes, so far, but these are still the kinds of monuments Ayn Rand talked about in her 1962 essay.  As she said then,
One may see, in certain Biblical movies, a graphic image of the meaning of public monument building: the building of the pyramids. Hordes of starved, ragged, emaciated men straining the last effort of their inadequate muscles at the inhuman task of pulling the ropes that drag large chunks of stone, straining like tortured beasts of burden under the whips of overseers, collapsing on the job and dying in the desert sands—that a dead Pharaoh might lie in an imposingly senseless structure and thus gain eternal "prestige" in the eyes of the unborn of future generations. 
As she notes, our country set itself apart from so many others throughout history:
...The great distinction of the United States of America, up to the last few decades, was the modesty of its public monuments. Such monuments as did exist were genuine: they were not erected for "prestige," but were functional structures that had housed events of great historical importance. If you have seen the austere simplicity of Independence Hall, you have seen the difference between authentic grandeur and the pyramids of "public-spirited" prestige-seekers.
And we come full circle today, to the ideal embraced by Obama:
When you consider the global devastation perpetrated by socialism, the sea of blood and the millions of victims, remember that they were sacrificed, not for "the good of mankind" nor for a "noble ideal," but for the festering vanity of some scared brute or some pretentious mediocrity who craved a mantle of unearned "greatness"—and that the monument to socialism is a pyramid of public factories, public theaters and public parks, erected on a foundation of human corpses, with the figure of the ruler posturing on top, beating his chest and screaming his plea for "prestige" to the starless void above him.
So when you consider the agenda of Barack Obama, contemplate, for a start, the faux Roman forum he had built to celebrate his nomination 3 1/2 years ago--and from that, you may be sure that what he seeks to erect now in this country is exactly what Rand spoke of 50 years ago: monuments to himself, built on a foundation of corpses.