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Ignoble Savages
by Diane Alden

ome call it neo-paganism. Ayn Rand called it the New Left. Peter Schwartz has added contemporary observation to Rand’s views and named it Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.

Return of the Primitive:
The Anti-Industrial Revolution

Ayn Rand,

Peter Schwartz

Random House
304 pp.

The 1960s and ‘70s saw the rise of a social movement which embraced a "free to be you and me and damn the consequences" attitude which has harmed American society, most probably, forever. The movement made heroes of such men as Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and trashed "establishment" culture and political institutions as "corrupt and unjust."

In The New Left, published in 1971, Ayn Rand criticized the movement as mindless nihilism which rejected reason, individualism, capitalism and intellectual progress. In Return of the Primitive, editor and objectivist Peter Schwartz expands on Rand’s criticisms of the movement, examining such ideologies as environmentalism, multiculturalism and feminism. Schwartz maintains that the same primitive anti-intellectual and anti-industrial thought is shaping society today. He adds new essays on those ideologies, filling gaps Rand left when she died.

In the essay "Multicultural Nihilism" Schwartz points out one of the many contradictions in New Left thought. While it vehemently supports non-discrimination policies, it demands affirmative action based on discrimination. The goal is not to enrich people’s understanding of the world and to teach tolerance and respect but simply to trash the Western tradition, proving it harmful to people of color or others. The New Left’s attack on the very notion of the individual and its elevation of group identification is at its core. Multiculturalists insist on equality of results rather than equality of opportunity and seek to destroy intellectual and political institutions which disagree. The quality of truly liberal education suffers, therefore, a decline in substance, while the curriculum abandons Western thought for cultural icons of the moment—ethnic studies, feminist studies or the like. In truth, multiculturalism is revealed as little more than the narcissistic focus upon oneself.

Radical feminism takes a hit in Return of the Primitive as well. According to Schwartz the feminist movement, a key part of ‘60s radicalism, is not geared to reform—nor is it based on intellectual honesty. Totalitarian by nature, it promotes the notion that women are not free at all and that all that troubles women arises from others. As New Left nihilism, feminism can explain everything by following a single line of reasoning: all troubles come from the oppression of women. Changes in the social and cultural aspects of life in order to make the roles of men and women alike is what it intends. The gender aspect of radical feminism attacks not only men but also the institutions of society, such as the family and traditional religion.

The intellectual dishonesty of the feminist movement operates through the notion that human nature is pliable and perfectible. Feminists insist that the differing roles of men and women are not based on biology but on culture. The absurdity in their position that but for cultural conditioning men and women are the same is part of that intellectual dishonesty.

Ayn Rand wrote The New Left around the time that the environmental movement was gaining strength. As part of an anti-human, anti-intellectual, unscientific and anti-free market movement, the New Left in Schwartz’s view has ripened into a very bitter fruit indeed. Environmentalism—like Marxism, feminism or the myriad of other "isms"—rests on the notion that there is a final solution to all perceived injustices and inequities. Nature becomes the supreme good, above all else. Anything—including facts and logic—which flies in the face of even unsupported environmental notions is demonized. "Biodiversity" has become a term which means diversity which does not take humanity into account. Biodiversity becomes an end in itself and denies its very self. The imperative to save the ecology rejects any differences in what "saving" means. Environmentalists choose to forget that human beings, their occupations and living arrangements are part of nature. The more radical among them wish to see man living in enclosed environments and animals roaming free.

Schwartz contends that environmentalism is emotionalism backed by quasi-science with no appreciation for intellectual order or appreciation for the ability of mankind to figure out what is in its own best interests. Denying the capacity of men to adjust and make changes where needed, it prefers to push civilization over the brink by going "back" to some pre-historical or pre-Western culture. According to Schwartz and Rand, the "ecology" of the New Left unhinges society, science, and destroys the things which it supposedly wants—balance and fairness.

Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution is a good read for objectivists who want an updated and revamped version of Ayn Rand—and a good read for those who want to know why Western culture has dropped to new lows. NJ

Diane Alden is a contributing editor of Nevada Journal.


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