Most people assume GOP conservatives are reflexively pro-capitalist, that they embrace free markets, profit-making, and the pursuit of happiness through worldly success. But this assumption is far from the truth, as should now be evident after the anti-capitalist harangues launched at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by the much-touted “conservative alternatives” in the race – Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.
Now conservative voters in South Carolina have through the ballot box stated that they prefer Mr. Gingrich, with his ethically challenged public and private lives, to Mr. Romney, whose personal life and professional career have been morally and productively impeccable. Evangelicals representing 60% of GOP voters in the South Carolina primary claimed to care most about family values and the sanctity of marriage, yet revealed their hypocrisy by disproportionately favoring Gingrich to Romney.
Sad to say, but conservatives and leftists alike don’t actually believe Mr. Romney’s career as a financier has been moral, because they assume the finance profession itself is fundamentally unproductive and parasitical, that it somehow saps or robs the “real” economy, which is popularly defined as that mass of common folk who work not with their minds for profits, but with their muscles, backs and callused hands for plain wages. This is the age-old Marxist myth that only manual labor creates wealth or value-added (profit). It’s one of the worst myths in the whole history of political economy, because in truth the mind is the main source of wealth; widespread ignorance of that basic truth makes people demonize financiers as exploitative thieves.
Myths aside, one of the world’s hardest jobs is that of financial capitalist, and sustained success at such work simply isn’t had by luck. It’s akin to being a consistently successful investor. Who can say this is a commonly held skill? It isn’t. The venture capitalist or private equity specialist must study and comprehend how best to allocate pools of capital (savings) to their most productive, efficient and profitable use. He must choose among thousands of potential companies, industries, and financial instruments. Most people find such work to be far too complex, too difficult, too time-consuming, and too ill-paid to undertake alone; yet most such spectators are also suspicious or even hateful toward the very few who earn millions succeeding at finance.
The profession of financial capitalist aside, it’s even more difficult today being a consistent ideological capitalist – i.e., an advocate of capitalism as a moral socio-economic system that enshrines rational self-interest, profit seeking, individual rights, the rule of law, and the pursuit of earthly happiness. Historically, capitalism is the radical system, and most religions (Marxism included) have decried it.
[…] Finally, take the case of Newt Gingrich, who despite posing earlier as the sober GOP candidate who’d run a positive campaign and wouldn’t trash his GOP rivals, this week chose to trash one of them: Mitt Romney, the only genuine wealth-maker among the entire GOP bunch. For context, note that when Gingrich first won a House seat in 1978 he was making a mere $10,000 a year; he went on to win nine more terms, the last couple as Speaker of the House (1995-1999). In 1994, the year before he became Speaker, Gingrich reported annual income of $675,000 a year – or many multiples of his official salary. In 1999 Gingrich was forced to resign from the GOP-controlled House and as Speaker, after being disciplined for wrongdoing (with a lop-sided vote of 395-28) and paying a $300,000 fine; it was the first time in U.S. history a Speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing.
By the time Gingrich left as Speaker in 1999 – as a so-called public servant – his net worth had grown to astounding $7.5 million. What possible market value did Gingrich produce to attain such net worth while occupying political office?
[…] Mitt Romney, in contrast, has been a genuine creator-maker of wealth who
earned his millions honestly and productively, first as a management
consultant and then as a venture capitalist.
[…] That Gingrich would equate his record of taking with Romney’s record of
making is truly despicable. This is a career-long taker of wealth
viciously and shamelessly assaulting a career-long maker of wealth, to
the glee and applause of GOP conservatives, Barack Obama and the liberal
media alike. This is Newt Gingrich the demagogue, assaulting Mitt
Romney the epitome of a good, productive capitalist. Indeed, this is the
same smear campaign run against Mitt Romney by Ted Kennedy in 1994. Newt Gingrich is a corrupt, unprincipled power-luster who’ll say
anything and take any position necessary to attain high office, and if
he can’t do that, he seeks to take wealth by selling his access to
Nothing reveals more the deep rot within the GOP itself than the fact
that its conservatives-evangelicals so despise wealth-makers like Mitt
Romney and so sympathize with wealth-takers like Ted Kennedy, Barack
Obama and Newt Gingrich.
Capitalism is the greatest socio-economic system in human history, because it’s so moral and so productive – the two features so essential to human survival and flourishing. It’s moral because it enshrines and fosters rationality and self-interest – “enlightened greed,” if you will – the two key virtues we all must consciously adopt and practice if we’re to pursue and attain life and love, health and wealth, adventure and inspiration. It produces not only material-economic abundance but the aesthetic values seen in the arts and entertainment.
But what is capitalism, exactly? How do we know it when we see it or have it – or when we haven’t, or don’t?
Capitalism has been blamed for the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and
for the financial crisis and bailouts of 2008, but it’s not “capitalism”
but the mixed economy and corporatism-cronyism that did it. We’ve had
corporatism in the U.S. for roughly the past century, and it’s getting
worse over time; it’s also the system we’ve seen in Europe since at
least the time of Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, who launched the
womb-to-tomb welfare state in the 1870s. In the interim, of course,
Europe also imposed communism, socialism and fascism. The result, we
know, was mass murder, world war, and the continent-wide destruction of
Capitalism’s greatest intellectual champion, Ayn Rand (1905-1982),
once defined it as “a social system based on the recognition of
individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is
privately owned.” This recognition of genuine rights (not “rights” to
force others to get us what we wish) is all-crucial and it has a
distinctive moral foundation, according to Rand:
recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical
force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only
by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate
the use of physical force against others. The only function of the
government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights,
i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government
acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only
in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the
government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under
objective control.” “The moral justification of capitalism does not lie
in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the
common good.” It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has
any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral
justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system
consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival
qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.
Elaborating, Rand explained in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
(1966) that historically, politically, economically, and morally,
capitalism was the superior socio-economic system, yet also how, for
decades, its achievements and virtues had been hidden and buried
deliberately in an avalanche of prejudice, distortion, and falsehood.
Rand argued that capitalism is a moral ideal yet also was made real, and
to the greatest extent, in America in the 19th century,
especially during the Gilded Age (1865-1890). Thus she called the U.S.
“the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the
only moral country in the history of the world.”
I will be doing a three-day course on Greece in the early fourth-century: The History of Ancient Greece: The Early Fourth Century.
The fourth century BC is often seen as the decline of the Greeks, a process that began with the defeat of Athens by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. But this gives short-shrift to a vital period. At this time the Athenians achieved a stable government under decent legal processes, the Greeks developed nascent federal political systems, markets thrived, orators brought forth groundbreaking ideas, and the philosophical schools of Plato, Aristotle and others were established. In bloody clashes the slave society of Sparta was neutralized, and freedom greatly extended. This course focuses on the defining political events of the first half of the century. Emphasis is placed on the political and military events that set the stage for the rise of the Macedonians under Alexander the Great.
The course draws in part from chapter two of Dr. Lewis’s book, Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History.
In this wide-ranging and exclusive New Romanticist interview, ex-Muslim artist extraordinaire Bosch Fawstin discusses: his new graphic novel series The Infidel and its’ hero Pigman — the Jihadist’s Terrorist; the influence of Frank Miller, Alex Toth and Ayn Rand on his work; the errors of George W. Bush and his contemporaries; his appearance on the Daily Show and the solution to dealing with Islamic terrorists. Enjoy!
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who is Bosch Fawstin?
BOSCH: A life-long comic book fan whose love of heroes led him to Ayn Rand’s novels and her philosophy of Objectivism, which my own fictional heroes embody.
I decided in my mid-20’s that I would turn my love of comic books into a career and released my first graphic novel, TABLE FOR ONE in 2004. The book led to a “Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer” award nomination, as well as an “Eisner Award” nomination for “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition”.
I’m currently working on my second graphic novel, THE INFIDEL, featuring PIGMAN, the pigskin-clad, counter-jihad superhero.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Ayn Rand? Yes, I see the author of Atlas Shrugged she even makes an appearance in Table For One. What inspires you about Ayn Rand and her philosophy Objectivism in regards to your art?
BOSCH: Ayn Rand is the most fully realized artist I’ve ever come across. She wrote the truth as if her life depended on it, and she made me conscious of the fact that my favorite artists have always been the most honest. Her philosophy of Objectivism is what helps keep my life and the lives of my heroes in full intellectual engagement with reality. Its focus on what really matters helps me better recognize the unimportant and the unnecessary in my life and in my art, which is a great value in keeping my stories anchored to reality and true to themselves.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who are your influences from comics – both in writing and art?
BOSCH: Frank Miller and Alex Toth are the big two, the ones whose work most challenged me to get real serious about my writing and drawing in order to show and tell my stories in the best way I can. Miller, mainly for his writing, and Toth for his inimitable drawing and storytelling ability.
NEW ROMANTICIST: For those new to Toth, what do you recommend as your favorite?
BOSCH: When it comes to the work of Alex Toth, I find it very difficult to play favorites because when thinking of your question I had a flood of images and stories in my head. But here’s a link to a short story that he drew that really shows how singularly great he was as a comic book artist. You can imagine how I felt when, less than a week after I sent him a black and white xerox copy of Table for One, I received a handwritten post card from Alex Toth himself, praising my efforts. I had heard about his famous post cards, which were truly a work of art in and of themselves. The one thing his appreciation for my work did is to make me dig deeper to get better, which is something he did throughout his entire career.
NEW ROMANTICIST: I see some John Romita Jr. in there too – particularly in the panel with your character Killian inking his comic with his library in the background. Also, some of those characters seem reminiscent at times of Herge’s Tintin. Wasn’t Miller an Ayn Rand fan too (though by no means could one call him an Objectivist)? I remember reading that Miller was particularly influenced by her work on esthetics, The Romantic Manifesto, which I assume you have also read?
BOSCH: Definitely, I read it a number of times, and I recall that when I first heard of Rand’s influence on Miller, I felt “Of course”, after having read his work for a number of years. John Romita Jr. was my favorite penciler in comics for a good number of years, especially when he had his early runs in Amazing Spider-Man and X-men, and I still appreciate his work, but I’d love for him to draw stories that he thinks are truly worth telling because when he’s asked about his best work he goes back nearly twenty years to his collaboration with Frank Miller in Daredevil: Man Without Fear.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Miller also has been fairly vocal against the Jihadists and in his defense of Western Civilization, to the point that many of the left-leaning of those in the comic world label him a “fascist” etc., despite the fact that Miller is a defender of free speech. Are there others in the comic world with your views, and how do your views on 9/11 differ with his?
BOSCH: I do know of a number of creators in comics who understand the threat we face, but I’m not sure they’d want to associate themselves with my particular position, so they’ll go unmentioned by me. I do know that Miller intended to pit Batman against al Qaeda in a story he called “Holy Terror, Batman!”, but for whatever reasons (we can imagine what they were), Miller has now replaced Batman with his own creation, “The Fixer”. To think that Batman went from taking on Jihad to now taking on a Muslim to be his “French Batman” shines some light on why Miller’s project didn’t go through. Nonetheless I personally think Batman is not built to take on mass murderers anyway, since DC doesn’t allow him to kill, and being willing to kill is a requisite for fighting jihadists. Regarding any differing views Miller and I may have with respect to our approach in taking on this enemy, the Infidel takes on all of Islam — it’s laws, its doctrine of warfare, etc.. By contrast, from what I’ve read about Miller’s views and his project, I’ve never heard him get explicit about Islam per se, so he may just be focusing on al Qaeda. The fact that even that is considered controversial is just another sign of how far removed our culture is from where we need to be during this war.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What are your thoughts of Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen?
BOSCH: While I appreciate the craft Moore brought to Watchmen, because it must have taken a lot of thought and a lot of work to put it together the way he did, I’ve never been moved by his stories. The only time I felt there was something strong and true happening in Watchmen is when Rorschach entered the story. Not surprisingly, Rorschach was based on Steve Ditko’s Objectivist-leaning character, The Question. I think Moore tried his best to cut The Question down to size in order to characterize him as a psycho, but I think the character ended up being the most compelling in the story, despite Moore’s intent.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who did you discover first – Miller or Rand?
NEW ROMANTICIST: Have you sent a copy of The Infidel to Miller?
BOSCH: I did ask a mutual friend to pass it on to him, so I’ll wait and see what happens. I’d love to discuss taking on Jihad through comics with him, and find out exactly where our approaches differ.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What is The Infidel about?
BOSCH: The Infidel is a story about twin brothers Killian Duke and Salaam Duka, whose Muslim background comes crashing to the forefront of their lives on 9/11. Killian responds by creating a comic book featuring a pigskin-clad superhero named Pigman, who takes on Jihad. Salaam’s response is full submission to Islam. Pigman’s battle against his arch-enemy, SuperJihad, echoes the escalating conflict between the twins.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Who is Pigman and how did he come about?
BOSCH: Pigman is aka Frank Warner, an ex-Muslim who, prior to 9/11, wrote and published books critical of Islam and Jihad. After the atrocity, Frank realized that he would have to take the war into his own hands when he saw Washington’s pathetic response to 9/11. The idea of Pigman came about when I started thinking about the enemy and what would be their worst nightmare personified. He’s a pigskin-clad superhero, a physically big, strong, ruthless defender of Western Civilization who fully understands the enemy and speaks his language. He is the perfect weapon against jihad.
NEW ROMANTICIST: What would you have rather seen Washington do? What do you think of those who said that Bush went “too far” in Iraq, and look what that has led to?
BOSCH: In addition to immediately bombing the mountain ranges of Afghanistan to wipe out most of al Qaeda, I would have wanted Washington to bomb Iran to show what happens to the world’s greatest state sponsor of jihad terrorism after an attack like 9/11, not to mention as a long overdue response to years of aggression against us.
George “Islam means peace” Bush, after having the green light from the American people to do whatever it took to End the threat facing us, decided to show our enemies that they can get away with mass murdering Americans if they belong to a religion. I really think Bush went after Iraq in order to avoid confronting Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two greatest threats we face in the region, which just happen to be the two most Islamic countries in the Muslim world. I think Bush’s decision to go after Saddam Hussein is because he appeared to be the least Islamic – i.e. “religious” — of our enemies in the Muslim world. And the fact that there was no love lost between Sadaam and his neighbors meant Bush could avoid Iran and Saudi Arabia without too much of a price to pay from an American public uninformed about who our greatest enemies actually are.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we needed an American president who understood that an enemy who flies planes into buildings, and a culture that celebrates that evil, would have to be dealt a devastating blow that would force it to end its jihad once and for all and begin to accept that we live in the 21st century.
NEW ROMANTICIST: How did you come about your views of Islam?
BOSCH: I was born into a Muslim family and, while my parents were not devout, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a rejection of all those outside of our own kind was the norm in my upbringing. Only after 9/11 did I read the Koran and study Islam and its jihad. I needed to know firsthand whether Islam sanctioned the atrocity and I found that it did — that however insane the act seemed to the civilized world, Islam gave the 9/11 Muslim mass murderers a moral sanction for their evil act. We are still so far removed from the realization that Islam’s heroes are its jihadists, from Mohammad to Osama bin Laden.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Wow! Leaving Islam. Doesn’t that make you an Apostate?
BOSCH: It does, and according to Islam, I’m to be killed for it. It’s similar to how deserters of armies have been dealt with by their superiors when caught, which only emphasizes the militant nature of Islam.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Well at least you are in good company. So I take it you would not put Mohammad in the same category of Jesus or Buddha?
BOSCH: Mohammad was unique among those who claimed to be prophets as he had his critics assassinated, he waged wars against neighboring tribes and spread his religion by the sword. Mohammad made the founders of other religions seem rational by comparison.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Well how would you reply to Former President George W. Bush and President Obama who say that Islam is a “religion of peace”, and that Osama and those violent Muslims are “extremists?”
BOSCH: Islam means submission, submission to the will of the malevolent Muslim God, Allah. Osama bin Laden has never been repudiated as a deviant Muslim by any honest Muslim who knows Islam. The mass-murderer Osama bin Laden is revered in the Muslim world as the closest thing to Mohammad today, which really is all one needs to know about Islam and what it truly means.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Yeah, but those moderate Muslims aren’t killing anybody. In fact you have a peaceful, moderate Muslim as a character in your comic-book. What does that make them?
BOSCH: “Moderate Muslims” aren’t Muslim in any way that Islam would recognize. The problem with them is that they give Islam a better face than it deserves, and some mistake them for Islam itself, sometimes citing a decent person who happens to be Muslim as proving that Islam’s fine, outside of its “extremists.” I’ve thought about this for a while, and I think I’ve found a good way to make my point about it: Your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammad. They are individual human beings who may or may not be a problem. It’s Islam’s consistent practitioners, especially those who are active in Organized Islam, who are the problem.
NEW ROMANTICIST: It’s quite intriguing how you have a story within a story. You have the counter-jihad superhero, PIGMAN, whom is the fictional creation of Killian Duke, who is himself is a fictional creation by you. It works on so many layers tailored to multiple audiences. How did you come up with that idea?
BOSCH: At a certain point in putting together my ideas for the story, I thought about the fact that not only must we wage a ruthless battle against the jihadist enemy, but we also, as individuals, have to fight through the self-destructive barriers that our culture has built around us in order to dissuade anyone from taking on a project such as The Infidel. It’s as if somehow those who are most invested in these barriers think that they can protect themselves from acknowledging certain terrible truths without paying any real world consequences for it. As Ayn Rand has stated, “To fear to face an issue is to believe that the worst is true.” So the story of Pigman took on a whole new dimension for me when I decided to write about the kind of cartoonist who would create such a comic book in a world that demanded it, but that does its best to ignore the necessity for it, which made me even more interested in taking the project on.
NEW ROMANTICIST: If you could describe Pigman in one or two words what would you call him?
BOSCH: Jihadists’ Terrorist.
NEW ROMANTICIST: And would it be safe to say, given the similarities, that Killian Duke is an autobiographical version of you?
BOSCH: Yes, he is.
NEW ROMANTICIST: So how has been the response to Issue#1 of The Infidel so far?
BOSCH: The response to The Infidel #1 has been gratifying. There have been two reviews published so far, both positive. One was written by someone who disagrees with the theme of the work; one by someone who is sympathetic with it. Reader response has been as good as I could have hoped for, both from long-time comic book fans and from those for whom this may have been a first-time comic book purchase. Nearly ten years after 9/11, The Infidel #1 is the first comic that has taken on jihad in a significant way. I believe today’s pop culture has to show and tell the truth about what we are facing in the post-9/11 world; it has to bring it to the enemy the way the culture of the WWII generation did.
NEW ROMANTICIST: …and it also looks like you will be making an appearance on The John Stewart show?
BOSCH: Yes, after they read my critical comments about the “Muslim” Batman, they found out about Pigman and invited me on to discuss both in an “interview” conducted by their “Liberal Muslim”. And even though I thought the actual shoot went pretty well, who knows what will air, since their job is get as much laughter as they can from their segments. But I figured this would be a good way to get Pigman out there to a culture that has seemed to want to keep him out. The segment I’m on has been rescheduled a few times already, but it looks like it will now air either Mon. Feb. 28, but more likely Tues., March 1st. I’ll keep everyone updated about that on my blog.
NEW ROMANTICIST: So what can we expect in Issue #2?
BOSCH: The twins engage in a war of words that only makes matters worse between them, but sheds more light on who these men are. In Pigman’s world, SuperJihad makes his first strike.
NEW ROMANTICIST: Fantastic…thank you for sharing your time with us Bosch, and we hope to hear from you again.
BOSCH: I appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about my work, thank you.
Excerpts from Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History (Princeton University Press, 2010) by John David Lewis, Ph.D.
“The causes of war and peace run far deeper than the movements of armies and troops (strategy and tactics) into the reasons why armies form and move at all” writes John David Lewis. Those causes are to be found in the ideas that motivate an aggressor to attack, or a defender to rise to the defense.
“The wellspring of every war is that which makes us human: our capacity to think abstractly, to conceive, and to create. It is our conceptual capacity that allows us to choose a nation’s policy goals; to identify a moral purpose for good or for ill; to select allies and enemies; to make a political decision to fight; to manufacture the weapons, technologies, strategies, and tactics needed to sustain the decision over time; and to motivate whole populations into killing—or dissidents into protest. Both war and peace are the consequences of ideas—especially moral ideas—that can propel whole nations into bloody slaughter on behalf of a Führer, a tribe, or a deity, or into peaceful coexistence under governments that defend the rights and liberties of their citizens.”
To defend this claim, Professor Lewis examines seven events in history, derived from six major wars, to show how a long-term resolution to the causes of the conflict was only possible with a complete victory over an enemy’s will to fight. About the attack by Persia against the Greeks, Lewis writes:
“Xerxes began with the inherited passion for conquest that had motivated three generations of predecessors. But when his army and navy were mutilated by the Greeks and he saw his men sink beneath the waves, he confronted serious personal defeat for the first time. As his Great Pyramid collapsed, the effect on the king was immediate; he set off posthaste to secure his own retreat. His defeat was open and public, and despite his likely attempts to make it appear a victory, he knew that this could be fatal to the dynasty. His position had demanded that he demonstrate his splendor—but at the moment of defeat he reached the point of greatest danger. His task now was to reestablish his position inside his own territory—and this required a permanent change in policy. The legitimacy of his throne had to be disengaged from the conquest of the Greeks.”
Writing of the defeat of the Spartans by the Theban leader Epaminondas—in which generations of slavery were ended in a single winter campaign directed against Sparta itself—Lewis writes that:
“such wars are powered from an ideological center, for both aggressors and defenders, which relies upon an economic and social base for its material sustenance and its affi rmation. This is the intersection of theory and practice. For the Spartans, this economic center was their hold over their Messenian helots, but when the Spartans were defeated and their helots found a political voice, more was lost than someone to do the dirty work. The Spartan ethos and its ideological center—the system of ideas that placed them at the top of a social hierarchy and that anchored their excellence in physical dominance—was discredited, its failure in action made undeniable.”
The result? Sparta never again invaded the land of Thebes.
Sherman’s march through Georgai and the Carolinas had the same positive effect, demonstrating the hopelessness of the southern cause and undercutting their motivations to fight:
“Sherman’s tactics—like those of the cavalry commander Philip Sheridan, who was set to operate in the Shenandoah Valley—would shock southern society to its roots by the sheer force of his demonstration. This was not an unattended consequence; it was central to Sherman’s plan, and it centered on destroying property while avoiding the loss of life. An army burning its way through Georgia plantations is not a compassionate thought, but the creation of peace out of war was not a compassionate process. Sherman knew that the war could not be won as long as southern civilians thought that they were winning the war and were able to send men, arms, supplies, and psychological comfort to their army in the north.”
In defeating the Japanese will to fight in World War II, Lewis shows a specific campaign to end military indoctrination in schools, and to sever the ties between the religion of Shinto and those using it to motivate a population into suicidal war:
“State-mandated Shinto—the coercion of the Japanese people to follow this mythology and its rituals—was the cardinal means by which the Japanese government was able to motivate the population into suicidal military action.81 MacArthur’s so-called Shinto Directive left the shrines open—a very important issue to many Japanese—but it severed the connection between Shinto and the government. Shinto was reduced from a political mandate to a private matter; this was key to ending the sacrificial, nationalistic mind-set that had infected the Japanese people.”
Lewis applies the lessons derived from such events in a brief but provocative description, in the conclusion, about American involvement in Vietnam:
“The Americans had only two courses of action open to them: to accept the existence of the North Vietnamese government and therefore the fall of the South, or to destroy the government in the North as a necessary condition to an independent South. In either case, [the ancient Chinese military thinker] Sun-tzu should have been consulted, for the protracted campaign that followed was more damaging than either a fast destruction of the northern capital or the swift fall of the South without a fight would have been.”
Lest anyone think that Lewis is a warmonger, who glories in the idea of mass civilian casualties, this is what he writes of the Roman destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War:
“The Third Punic War of 149–146 BC was not a war. It was a massacre. Rome was wrong; the peace of Scipio Africanus [following the Second Punic War] was good, and the Romans could have preserved it by just mediation of the Carthaginian complaints. The Romans . . . could have ended the Numidian [North African] attacks [on Carthage]. It is to Romans’ eternal shame—there is no credit due here—that they slaughtered a former enemy that had accepted peace and was living by its word.”
Ayn Rand opened The Fountainhead with these lines: “He stood naked at the edge of a cliff…He felt the wind behind him, in the hollow of his spine…He had come here for his only relaxation, to swim, to rest, to think, to be alone and alive, whenever he could find one hour to spare.” Have you ever wanted to see this scene in paint, a portrait of a passionate valuer, alive even at rest?
Young Man Nude by Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864), shows us a man, much like Roark, who seeks the solemn and thoughtful, even at rest, and like Rand’s masterful opening to The Fountainhead, Flanderin uses an intriguing subject, beautiful imagery and simple visual devices to hold our attention.
The man serenely sits with his head upon his knees atop a granite pinnacle high above a sea. He is young, virile and full of health; he is beautiful. The man dominates the painting, and the composition is such that wherever the eye falls upon the painting, it is immediately drawn back to him; the lines of his granite seat thrust our eye upwards, only to be stopped by the angle of his arm, which connects the clouds in the upper-left to the crag in the lower right. The effect is that the composition directs our attention in a circular motion around his torso. If the primary function of painting is contemplation, then Flanderin definitely succeeds.
Flanderin asks us to think about rest as it should be — an act of thinking, an act of valuing, an act of enjoying. Notice how the man is enraptured in himself. Notice how strong he is. Notice where he is and think of what he had to do to get there. Think of the great lengths Flandrin went to focus and direct our eye on his subject. One does not normally conceive of rest in such passionate terms, but Flanderin asks us to think of rest as something other than freedom from activity. Ironically, Flandrin gave us a highly inspirational and beautiful painting — about the act of rest!
If you buy a print of this painting and hang it on your wall, as I have, then let it serve as a reminder to pursue rest with the planning and thought of a career goal or loved one. Make the act of rest highly personal, highly valued, and most of all, highly restful.
Regarding art, Ayn Rand wrote that one’s psycho-epistemological sense of life is “an expression of that level of mental functioning on which the artist feels most at home.”1
Is consciousness active or passive? Is it efficacious or not? The answers to these questions are at the base of one’s psycho-epistemological sense of life and will condition what type of style an artist chooses and how the viewer responds.
To see this, look at Linda Mann’s “Vase and Stones” (1996). Dozens of rocks, a vase, and an oval container sit on a large open box in front of a wall, which is variegated by light and shadow. The clarity is brilliant, and some will grossly mistake this for a painted photograph.
In actuality, “Vase and Stones” is highly stylized in that it presents what the artist wants the viewer to see and how she wants him to see it. By sitting slightly over the edge of the box, the oval container in the lower left pulls the viewer into the composition. The composition then guides the viewer in a circular motion through the painting: from the oval container, to the bag of stones, to the glass vase, to the cache of polished stones on the right, and, finally, back to the oval container by hopping from individual stone to individual stone. The light from the lower left casts a shadow from the direction of the oval container, rolls over the valleys of the cloth bag, and passes through the glass vase to the back wall. “Vase and Stones” is the work of an artist who clearly believes that consciousness is active and efficacious.
The deliberate circular motion and controlled lighting scheme enable Miss Mann to contrast the smooth textures of the open box’s lacquered surface, polished stones, and glass vase with the rough textures of the cloth bag and unpolished stones. By doing this, she enables the viewer easily to differentiate the qualities of one object from another, thereby providing greater clarity and understanding as to the precise nature of each object.
Because of this, one can grasp a fundamental value of good still-life paintings: epistemological joy-a moment of love for consciousness’ relationship to concretes; a relationship that is highly selective, ordered, essentialized-and purposeful; a relationship full of clarity, vivid color, subtlety, and brilliant light; a relationship that can produce an intense emotional response within the viewer that says, to paraphrase Ayn Rand: “These are concretes as I see them!”
Experiencing epistemological joy when looking at art is much like experiencing metaphysical joy, but instead of being based on one’s sense of life, epistemological joy stems from one’s psycho-epistemological sense of life.
Linda Mann always selects those objects that are fine, luxurious, and tantalizing, and they are galvanized by her delight in selectivity, challenging compositions, and technical mastery. To see and order prints of her paintings for yourself, visit her website.
1 Ayn Rand, “Art and Sense of Life,” The Romantic Manifesto (New American Library, New York, 1975), p. 42.