In the preceding chapter, Cicero writes of battles such as Salamis, Thermopylae, Plataea, and Leuctra, and persons who he felt embodied the virtues of which he wrote. Italics are mine
"But if the high spirit which shines in toil and danger is divorced from justice and fights for private ends, and not for the public good, it is anything but a virtue; it is a brutal vice, repulsive to all our finer feelings. Fortitude is therefore admirably defined by the Stoics as the virtue which fights for equity, and no one ever acquired true glory whose reputation for fortitude was founded on craft and cunning, for there can be no honor without justice"
Ayn Rand had gained much attention lately from conservatives due to her works such as Atlas Shrugged, which portrayed a Socialist type of society that reveled in its own dysfunction (Like Real Time with Bill Maher), systematically controlled the populace by encouraging and enforcing a general state of apathy, and removed any any desire of initiative, risk-taking, and hard work. I confess to never having read any of her works, but I understand that she did bring up numerous good points in Atlas Shrugged about how a society can be ruined by the state.
This post is the result of some poking around that I did after the post on the renewed calls for infanticide, which the "Ethicists" (If I did three hits of LSD I still could not imagine how they got that label) referred to as "After Birth Abortion"*. In that post, I noted that, while the Left does all that it can to removed the hallmarks of Western Culture such as private property, individual freedoms and bravery, the nuclear family (Especially any concept of paternal Authority - or masculine behavior period), religion and morals, and national sovereignty, they here seek to bring the West back to an era from which we had improved drastically - the care and protection of the weakest and most vulnerable. Infanticide was more than accepted in many ancient Western cultures. In Rome and Sparta, it was required in certain cases. I found a terrible irony in their quest to remove all of our good practices and bring us back to something that we were fortunate to have excised long ago.
While researching some notable Western Leaders who advocated eugenics, namely the reduction of populations of so-called inferior peoples (Generally blacks, the disabled, and those with cognitive disorders) I came to find out that, in addition to those such as Margaret Sanger, terribly disturbing rogues gallery began to appear. Winston Churchill (Whom I will no longer quote as a source), Teddy Roosevelt, and many others held to this awful concept.
Upon being informed that Ayn Rand had too had been part of the Eugenics bandwagon, I searched for details. What I found about her was so beyond awful, I had to give it a day before I could even pull myself together to treat the subject even with brevity.
Ms. Rand had apparently taken the idea of the free individual and the liberty associated with him to a terrible extreme. While our concept of the free individual in Western Culture was of one who should not forget his responsibility to society and knew that true freedom included disciplining himself from the most base of his desires and impulses, she had an entirely different view. Her idea was not that someone who gave in to such impulses was actually a slave, but that he was an example of true independence and strength. This is still difficult for me to digest, but she actually expressed admiration for the motivations behind the actions of a horrible murderer of a 12 year-old girl.
The following is a description of the murder of Marion Parker committed by William Hickman:
Abduction and murder
Hickman took Marion from her school, Mount Vernon Junior High School in the Lafayette Square section of Los Angeles, by telling the registrar, Mary Holt, that Perry Parker had been seriously injured in an accident and wished to see his daughter. Hickman was posing as an employee of the bank where Perry Parker worked. Mary Holt said during Hickman's trial that she "never would have let Marion go but for the apparent sincerity and disarming manner of the man."
Hickman then sent letters demanding money for several days. All the communications were signed with names such as "Fate," "Death," and "The Fox." A first attempt to deliver the ransom was ruined when Hickman saw police in the area. Continued communications from Hickman set up a new meeting to exchange ransom at the corner of 5th Avenue and South Manhattan Street in Los Angeles. Mr. Parker arrived alone at the place with the ransom money, $1,500 in $20 gold certificates. Mr. Parker handed over the money to a young man who was waiting for him in a parked car. When he paid the ransom, he could see his daughter Marion sitting in the passenger seat next to the suspect, wrapped up to her neck and apparently unable to move. As soon as the money was exchanged, Hickman drove off, pushing Marion's body out of the car at the end of the street. The coroner later testified that she had been dead for about 12 hours. Her arms and legs had been cut off and she had been disemboweled and stuffed with rags. Her eyes were wired open so as to make her appear alive.[Italics mine] Hickman later said that he had strangled her and cut her throat first, but he believed that she was still alive when he began to dismember her. Her arms and legs were found on December 18 in Elysian Park wrapped in newspaper.
Hickman also confessed that he originally had no intention of killing Marion but did so because she had learned his identity and because he had been previously employed by her father at the bank. He also said that he had cut up the body with the intention of disposing of it but later realized that the father would want to see his daughter before paying the ransom. He then attempted to reconstruct and disguise the body to appear alive.
Note that Hickman, upon arrving in his car and receiving the ransom, had kept the eyes-wired body of the girl positioned to appear that she was still alive, probably to ensure that the father would not doubt that his daughter would be returned alive. Hickman then took the money, drove down the street, and dumped Marion's torso, still with her eyes open, onto the street.
Was Rand's ideal man a sociopath? The suggestion seems shockingly unfair - until you read her very own words..........
In her early notes for The Fountainhead: "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself. Fine!" (Journals, p. 78.)
Of The Fountainhead's hero, Howard Roark: He "has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world." (Journals, p. 93.)
In the original version of her first novel We the Living: "What are your masses [of humanity] but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?" (This declaration is made by the heroine Kira, Rand's stand-in; it is quoted in The Ideas of Ayn Rand by Ronald Merrill, pp. 38 - 39; the passage was altered when the book was reissued years after its original publication.)
As proof that her Nietzschean thinking persisted long after her admirers think she abandoned it, this journal entry from 1945, two years subsequent to the publication of The Fountainhead: "Perhaps we really are in the process of evolving from apes to Supermen -- and the rational faculty is the dominant characteristic of the better species, the Superman." (Journals, p. 285.)
So perhaps her thinking did not change quite so much, after all.
And what of William Edward Hickman? What ever became of the man who served as the early prototype of the Randian Superman?
Real life is not fiction, and Hickman's personal credo, which so impressed Ayn Rand - "what is right for me is good" [Italics mine]
After writing the above, I found myself questioning whether it was really possible that Ayn Rand admired William Edward Hickman, the child kidnapper and multiple murderer whose credo Rand quotes with unblinking approval in her journal. Although my opinion of Rand is very low, it has never been quite that low, and I was, after all, relying on secondhand sources. Not having a copy of Journals of Ayn Rand, I thought I was unable to check for myself. Then it occurred to me to use Amazon.com's "Search inside" feature to read the relevant pages.
What I found was, in some ways, actually worse than anything the brief excerpts from the journals had suggested.
Clearly the editor of Journals of Ayn Rand had some qualms about Rand's open admiration of Hickman. He tries to put this admiration into perspective, writing:
"For reasons given in the following notes, AR concluded that the intensity of the public's hatred was primarily 'because of the man who committed the crime and not because of the crime he committed.' The mob hated Hickman for his independence; she chose him as a model for the same reason.
"Hickman served as a model for [her fictional hero] Danny [Renahan] only in strictly limited respects, which AR names in her notes. And he does commit a crime in the story, but it is nothing like Hickman's. To guard against any misinterpretation, I quote her own statement regarding the relationship between her hero and Hickman:
" '[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.' "[Italics mine]
The editor also provides the briefest and most detail-free synopsis of Hickman's crime possible: "He was accused of kidnapping and murdering a young girl. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in February of 1928; he was hanged on October 20, 1928."
Now here are some of Rand's notes on the fictional hero she was developing, with Hickman (or what he "suggested") as a model:
"Other people have no right, no hold, no interest or influence on him. And this is not affected or chosen -- it's inborn, absolute, it can't be changed, he has 'no organ' to be otherwise. In this respect, he has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.' " [Italics Mine]
"He shows how impossible it is for a genuinely beautiful soul to succeed at present, for in all [aspects of] modern life, one has to be a hypocrite, to bend and tolerate. This boy wanted to command and smash away things and people he didn't approve of."[Italics Mine]
Apparently what Hickman suggested to Ayn Rand was "a genuinely beautiful soul." [Italics mine] The soul of Marian Parker, the murdered girl, evidently did not suggest any comparably romantic notions to her.
As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a term for a person who has "no organ" by which to understand other human beings -- a person who "can never realize and feel 'other people.'" That word is sociopath. I mean this quite literally and not as a rhetorical flourish. A sociopath, by definition, is someone who lacks empathy and cannot conceive of other people as fully real. It is precisely because the sociopath objectifies and depersonalizes other human beings that he is able to inflict pain and death without remorse.
It is also fair to say of any sociopath that he "wanted to command and smash away things and people he didn't approve of." How this relates to having "a beautiful soul" is unclear to me -- and I earnestly hope it will continue to be.
In her notes, Rand complains that poor Hickman has become the target of irrational and ugly mob psychology:
"This is not just the case of a terrible crime. It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. [Italics mine] It is the fact that a crime has been committed by one man, alone; that this man knew it was against all laws of humanity and intended that way; that he does not want to recognize it as a crime and that he feels superior to all. It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul."
"A strong man can eventually trample society under his feet. That boy was not strong enough. But is that his crime? Is it his crime that he was too impatient, fiery and proud to go that slow way? That he was not able to serve, when he felt worthy to rule; to obey, when he wanted to command?...
"A strong man can eventually trample society under his feet." This is about as bald-faced a confession of Rand's utter dependence on Nietzsche as we are ever likely to see. "That boy was not strong enough. But is that his crime?" No, Ayn Rand, that was not his crime. His crime, in case you have forgotten, is that he kidnapped a twelve-year-old girl and held her for ransom and murdered her and cut her to pieces and threw her body parts in the street and laughed about it. That was his crime. True, he did not quite "trample society under his feet" -- but it was not for want of trying.
Defending her hero, Rand asks rhetorically:
"What could society answer, if that boy were to say: 'Yes. I am a monstrous criminal, but what are you?' "
Still writing of Hickman, she confesses to her "involuntary, irresistible sympathy for him, which I cannot help feeling just because of [his antisocial nature] and in spite of everything else." Regarding his credo (the full statement of which is, "I am like the state: what is good for me is right"), Rand writes, "Even if he wasn't big enough to live by that attitude, he deserves credit for saying it so brilliantly.
Punctuating the point, Rand writes, "There is a lot that is purposely, senselessly horrible about him. But that does not interest me..." No indeed. Why should it? It's only reality.[Italics Mine]
By the appraisal of any normal mind, there can be little doubt that William Edward Hickman was a vicious psychopath of the worst order. That Ayn Rand saw something heroic, brilliant, and romantic in this despicable creature is perhaps the single worst indictment of her that I have come across. It is enough to make me question not only her judgment, but her sanity.