Man of Steel: Just a guy

Original
With the release of “Man of Steel,” the Superman franchise has been given new life. For generations, he has been one of America’s most iconic heroes. But should he be? How does he stack up, as a role model and embodiment of what we should admire most?
Joe-duarte

Imagine that you’re a neurosurgeon. You knew that this is what you wanted to do with your life since you were 14 years old.

You’ve undergone more than eight years of intensive medical training and residency and have developed some very rare skills — you can cut into a person’s skull and conduct extremely precise and complex surgery on the brain, using the latest imaging and surgical tools, saving a few dozen lives a year.

You love what you do — you love conducting surgeries, publishing research articles, and helping your patients.

Now imagine that one day you wake up and have superhuman strength. Also, you can fly. How would this impact your life? How would it impact what you are able to do in the operating room?

It would have virtually no impact. Since you love being a neurosurgeon, you would continue to be a neurosurgeon. And super strength or flying ability won’t help you at all in the operating room.

In Man of Steel, Superman (Henry Cavill) is sent to Earth as an infant. His parents send him so that he can escape the death of his home planet, Krypton. For some reason, this civilization that has traversed space for centuries can only launch one baby into space — the rest of the population is mysteriously unable to get off the planet.

Russell Crowe as Superman’s father, Jor-El

What’s more interesting is why he was sent to earth. His father (Russell Crowe) declares, “You will give the people an ideal to strive towards ... In time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” This premise is consistent with past Superman films — the people of Earth need to be saved or transformed.

Assuming we actually needed to be saved, the above mission sounds like that of a great thinker, perhaps a philosopher, scientist, or Steve Jobs. Superman is none of those things – he’s strong, and he can fly. How would a strong flying man give us an ideal to strive towards? What does Superman do that we should or could emulate?

Well, Superman is essentially a cop and fireman. He confronts bad guys and overpowers them, or rescues people from drowning. In the film, he gets in a lot of knock-down, drag-out slugfests with General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his crew — Kryptonian criminals who escaped their sentence and arrive on Earth when Superman is a young man.

“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards ... In time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

It bears repeating that Superman is a cop. And a good Samaritan. That’s all he is. He is not a better person than your average good cop or rescue worker. He doesn’t embody any sort of moral ideal that many millions of humans don’t already embody. You very likely know several people who are at least as noble as Superman, perhaps even yourself.

On further consideration, Superman is less of a hero than your average cop or fireman. Superman is generally invulnerable. He can’t get hurt. He can’t die. He takes no risks when he saves people. Even when facing his own kind — like Zod — he is much less vulnerable than a cop responding to a shooting.

So Superman is a really strong guy who flies around saving people from fires, drowning, and traffic accidents with no risk of harm to himself. An ideal to strive towards? In the NFL, coaches have a term for players who are pretty average, just serviceable enough to plug into a game when a starter gets injured: JAG. Just A Guy. Morally and philosophically, Superman is just a guy.

Superman’s morality is simple-minded altruism.

And he’s a very destructive guy. In at least one scene, he wantonly destroys people’s property when he clearly doesn’t need to. He’s wrapped up with Zod outside of Smallville, with wide-open fields all around — so he chooses to specifically fly Zod through Smallville, destroying several buildings. It’s as though he has no intuitive understanding that a person’s car or house or business is very important to that person’s life and goals, and that destroying those things severely harms their owners.

In one scene, Superman’s wanton destruction almost certainly kills innocent people — assuming that buildings generally have people in them. Granted, these scenes are probably thoughtless artifacts of special-effects-driven moviemaking, but we probably shouldn’t become desensitized to scenes where our heroes must certainly be killing innocent people (e.g. see The Hulk).

Henry Cavill as Superman

Superman’s morality is simple-minded altruism — go fly around and find people who are in trouble and use super-strength to save them. As such, it’s a very reactive, second-handed morality. Superman doesn’t create anything. He doesn’t introduce new ideas or inventions that will change the world. He just reacts, on a merely physical level, to happenstance. He’s earth’s Whac-A-Mole.

What do we need him for? If we thought deeply about the vexing problems facing the world, and we converged on possible solutions, would we conclude: “You know, we could really fix this mess if we just had one super strong dude who could fly. In a cape.”?

This point exposes the pointlessness of action heroes. Muscles don’t change the world. The earth is not suffering from the lack of a Supercop. To change the world, Superman would need Super Brains — which would make his physical strength superfluous.

Ideas change the world. If you had a son, would you want him to be super strong or super smart? Would you want him to be a flying Band-Aid, constantly at the mercy of random events and tragedies, or would you want him to have a life of his own?

To be fair, my critique shouldn’t single out Man of Steel — it’s no worse than the rest of the Superman franchise. Kevin Costner does a fine job of playing Superman’s earth-father, a tender man who embodies what small-town Americans like me mean when we say someone is “good people.”

I can’t fault Henry Cavill’s performance. I mean, he was given the job of playing a flying hunk — what do you want from the man? Superman has never been a complex character. Cavill’s acting ability will be tested in other future roles.

Ultimately, Superman is pointless because we don’t need to be saved by action heroes.

Michael Shannon adeptly portrays the evil archvillain, but his motives are strange — slaughter all of us and give birth to a new Krypton. You would think he would pay attention to the exoplanet research — the sky of is full of stars with potentially habitable planets.

And the fact that Kryponians are evidently homo sapiens is one of those 1930s comic cobwebs, but it’s hard to buy into a universe where Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin don’t exist, and first contact with alien life seems to have the same news impact as a terrorist bombing.

Ultimately, Superman is pointless because we don’t need to be saved by action heroes. We are surrounded by real heroes — entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, cops, your neighbors, your kids. And we can already fly — look up.

José Duarte is earning a PhD in Social Psychology at Arizona State University. He can be reached at joe@joseduarte.com.

52 comments from readers  

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Small
Mr.Duarte's review is wrong on every central point from start to finish:

To start with, on a factual level he misinterprets much of what happens in the movie. More important are the philosophical mistakes: He is wrong about what the 'altruism' of Superman. He has a mind/body dichotomoy about heroism, achievement and effort.

I'll deal with the last two, the philosophical mistakes. I'll postpone mistakes about the movie for a separate post and suggest that people go see the movie for themselves with an open mind: It is a ~wonderful~ movie. And one that ought to appeal to Objectivists and Rand admirers.

1. No Reason to View it as Altruism

> Superman’s morality is simple-minded altruism — go fly around and find people who are in trouble and use super-strength to save them. [Joe Duarte]

So, if someone chooses a profession which involves or results in helping or defending people -- medically, like a doctor or nurse - spiritually or psychologically, like a therapist or coach or counselor - educationally, like a teacher - protectively, like a judge or cop or soldier -- does that make his choice of life path altruistic.

> Would you want [a son of yours] to be a flying Band-Aid, constantly at the mercy of random events and tragedies, or would you want him to have a life of his own? [JD]

If you choose a career as a protector or defender, as in the cases I mentioned, you are sometimes called in to 'put out a fire', to respond in an emergency. And if you are good at it, you take pride in it. Also, in the movie, we see that Superman very clearly has a life and interests of his own. His romantic attraction to Lois Lane and effort to save her.

One final question: Ayn Rand felt a devotion to saving the world, defending the human race, not letting civilization fall (just like the lead character in this movie). Does Mr. Duarte think that makes her an altruist?

2. Heroism, Courage, Great Effort or Achivement can be Physical or Mental or Both

> Superman is generally invulnerable. He can’t get hurt. He can’t die.

False on all three: The movie shows his physical limits, the strain and effort to lift a collapsing oil rig and other things. And it shows that he is at risk when he fights people who are also from his home planet and thus just as strong as he is. But they are not invulnerable either. We see one dies in an explosion and another one when his neck is snapped by Superman. It could just as easily have been him who dot his neck snapped. And it is common sense that they are not invulnerable - earth's sun and atmosphere and the 'dense molecular structure' makes them super strong but not infinitely so.

3. Don't Take Fantasy or Fiction Literally: The Enjoyment and 'Role Model' Aspect comes from Translating it into the Appropriate Context

> ...the pointlessness of action heroes. Muscles don’t change the world...To change the world, Superman would need Super Brains.

The action hero, the Hercules or Batman or Superman, in his physical prowess and skills ~symbolizes~ any kind of excellence or strength: of mind, of body, of character. Don't take literally that the physical strength of Hercules is what people admire. Mr. Duarte seems to have too narrow an idea of what purposes fiction serves, too literal-minded an idea of a hero. He is too limited in his view that only a genius can be a hero. Not a solider, not someone who risks his life for his country or for loved ones. This is a form of mind/body dichotomy about what constitutes excellence. Or is worth pointing to with admiration. Intellectuals are not the only kind of heroes. Intellectual effort is not the only kind of effort. Intellectual excellence or achievement are not the only kinds of achievement.

When art shows someone who defeats the bad guys with enormous feats of speed or strength, you should take it as symbolic and translate that into your own life in terms of taking risks, pursuing perfection, exerting fortitude or courage or great effort or vigilance in all sorts of other down to earth contexts.

Someone could watch Superman and draw from him the courage to be a scientist or philosopher or writer who is bold enough to "fly higher and stronger" than anyone else ever has.

> He doesn’t embody any sort of moral ideal that many millions of humans don’t already embody.

> You very likely know several people who are at least as noble as Superman.

No you don't.

As the movie shows, Superman represents someone who is super- vigilant, super-dedicated to his cause, super-protective of those who matter. Overcomes the temptation to show off or beat up tormentors. Exerts titanic effort. Takes great physical effort and determination. Is willing to learn from mentors. Lacks hubris or arrogance. Resists the temptation to kill off mankind for his 'people'. Experiences and overcomes physical (breathing a hostile atmosphere and thus growing from a sickly child) and emotional struggle (being alienated and frightened by his strange powers and struggling to master them as a child).

Those are ~all~ moral ideas. And you'd be lucky to have met more than a tiny handful of people who display all of them in your lifetime (as opposed to people who talk a good game.)
Jeff O
9 points
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I read all the comments. I am interested in the way people see Superman as a hero. He's strong. he can fly, even in space. x-ray and heat vision. He has a percular attitude towards women, they somehow or other have a similar effect to Krytonite. So what should this mythical being do with his time?

He could have picked up every nuclear submarine and carefully set it down a hundred miles inland. He could render all weapons of mass destruction unusable. He could safely blow up all landmines from space with his heat vision. He could drop terrorists down naked at a NRA rally. Unfortunately, He did none of these things.

He would have been more interesting to me if he charged for his services. The one Objectivist angle I have never heard is he didn't go bad and he should have. He was, for practical purposes, omnipotent. He could do anything he wanted. He could have been Chaka-zulu but with all his power he wanted to be good. But why? What philosophy could allow a man to be a god but remain a decent person? Could Objectivism?
Small
Thank you all for your comments. I'll respond to a few of the points made:

I'm puzzled by Phil Coates' treatment of interpretive issues as binary facts about which one can be right or wrong, like an addition problem. On the issue of altruism, I think helping people is great. I think saving someone's life is immensely noble. By altruism in this context, I mean the fact that Superman doesn't have a life. He did not *choose* to be a cop or a fireman or an EMT. People in those fields generally work in them because they chose them. Superman's role or job is thrust on him -- his father decided it for him when he was an infant, and Superman never seems to approach it with any volition. He just does what he's told he's supposed to do, is remarkably passive about it, and henceforth is flying Band-Aid, just constantly at the mercy of events. I think it's sad.

On the issue of his invulnerability and the implications for his praiseworthiness: I don't think we can dispute that he's generally invulnerable in his normal conduct of his role. Now, in theory other Kryptonians might be able to hurt him, but this never seems to be in play. The limits of his invulnerability are hazy, and ultimately any serious exploration of them will have to yield to the nature of coarsely-drawn fantasy superheroes -- we'll never really know.

I will concede that it's not completely true that he can't be hurt -- but for the most part, when he's not dealing with his own kind, and he's just having another day at the office lifting buses and stopping runaway trains, he can't be hurt.

Why is this relevant to the praiseworthiness of his actions? Because being a hero is supposed to be *hard*. Embodying virtues is hard, or at least requires some significant effort. When police step into a home in response to a shooting, they know they're in danger. Their hearts are racing, and they're trying to remember every step of the procedure they've drilled, a procedure designed to keep them alive. They have to face fear and overcome it. Same with firemen and rescue workers. Superman doesn't. He has nothing to fear normally. Doing the things he does is trivial for him -- it's as heroic as you or I taking out the trash. Courage by definition entails *risk*. Superman does not exhibit courage most of the time, and certainly not simply by virtue of being Superman.

Which leads to a key point about strength. Phil wants to treat feats of speed and strength as a virtue. Superman's speed and strength cannot be virtues -- he did nothing to attain them. He does have to feel out his powers and develop them a bit, but they're fundamentally just given to him, and he certainly doesn't have to do a thing to maintain them. The reason strength is a virtue in realityville is that it has to be *built*. Olympic lifters spend years forging themselves, as do sprinters. Put differently, elephants aren't heroes.

I'm surprised at the idea that no, we don't know anyone who is at least as noble as Superman. Really? Phil, have you met your neighbors? What does Superman do that is hard or advanced? How is he "super-vigilant"? Does he form a worldwide network of informants or deploy a bunch of satellites to alert him to crises? I really don't understand the idea of super-vigilance or any other super-virtue. Superman is one dude. Super-vigilance would do nothing for him -- it wouldn't help him. Because he's one dude with one body. He can't possibly respond to everything happening in the world. In the time since I started typing this comment, some number of women have been raped. There are some number of homes burning. Someone is drowning. Hundreds of terrorists have chatted with each other. A number of dictators carried on. A bunch of dissidents are in jail. Perhaps there have been thousands of muggings and carjackings, not to mention murders. This is one reason why action heroes are of limited use -- their reach is limited to their hands.

Of course superheroes can serve symbolic purposes and can inspire legions of people to act heroically, which is the whole point. But Superman isn't heroic -- he doesn't do anything that's hard or interesting. Boom boom whack whack is pretty pointless. As Jeff Olstad noted, upon just a few minutes of simple reasoning, Superman could radically increase his positive impact. Fighting crime is an incredible waste of his abilities. But he never thinks. He's one of the most passive people imaginable. He doesn't *do anything*, not really, not anything thoughtful. He never stops to think, he just follows the absurd orders of his hologram father and has about the minimal utilitarian impact a person with his gifts would have if they just went with the flow and never thought about it.

In this, he reminds me of Harry Potter. They're both guilty of the sin of being dumb. Harry was much braver though -- he actually did things that were risky, things that could hurt him very much. In the end though, we need more Hermiones. In this world, you won't accomplish much without thinking. That doesn't mean heroism is restricted to intellectuals. Not at all. Life requires action. Intelligent action.
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Joe Duarte wants to label Superman an "altruist" - not because he has chosen to defend and protect people, but because he supposedly drifted into his career: "His father decided it for him when he was an infant, and Superman never seems to approach it with any volition."

The fact that Superman chooses to try to to save the world doesn't prove he did it only because his father urged it on him. Joe is reading into the movie something not in evidence there. Many movies or works of fiction start with the hero having already chosen and not being in doubt about the fight he will undertake. Doesn't mean it was mindless or done obediently or robotically.

Take another example: We are shown John Galt and Howard Roark fully formed, fully embarked on their life purpose. The fact that we don't see any thought or questions or backstory about the early steps that took them there or formed them does not mean we can assume they never existed and fault them for 'lack of volition', does it? A movie has to be even more selective than a novel. It doesn't show everything, every aspect of a life or what formed a person. This is not an encyclopedia. It's a movie.

And even let's suppose a career choice was not fully, thoughtfully, independently made. It was influenced by others. That alone is not enough to make the dismissive, totalistic diagnosis that someone is "an altruist".

> "He just does what he's told he's supposed to do, is remarkably passive about it."

Where was the "remarkable passivity"? That's not the movie I saw. I saw moments of fierce intensity. I saw his horror and revulsion when Zod speaks calmly of transforming the planet so humans die out: Superman imagines drowning in the pile of skulls that the genocide would involve if he lets Zod do what he wishes.

> "when he's not dealing with his own kind, and he's just having another day at the office lifting buses and stopping runaway trains, he can't be hurt...being a hero is supposed to be *hard*."

But the movie is not about just another day at the office. The struggles of this movie ~are~ hard. You can't criticize "Man of Steel" for what you take to be Superman's easier tasks - criticize the sequel if it only shows those. Criticize some other superman movie. Fighting the aliens and a race against time while the 'world engine' is destroying the world are not just another day at the office. It's quite clear in ~this~ movie that he could lose, he could be killed, he could arrive too late, he could fail to force his way through the gravitational forces emanating from the 'world engine'.

> "Courage by definition entails *risk*. Superman does not exhibit courage most of the time."

On the first point, courage is not always about ~physical~ risk. It can be courageous for Superman to come out in the open and risk revealing his abilities (lifting the school bus) when he was more comfortable being in hiding (as his adoptive father would have advised). It can be courageous for him to be willing to turn himself over and put himself in the hands of Zod, not knowing what he has in mind. ... And on the second poin, why is there a time factor involved? Even someone who is courageous or takes risks doesn't have to do it 24/7. It doesn't lessen the man or detract from his character or virtues that sometimes he can relax or do something easy.

It seems to me at some points, Joe is confusing what he has seen of "Superman", the character in popular culture or in other stories, other movies with the events, the conflicts, and the person this movie actually shows.

> "upon just a few minutes of simple reasoning, Superman could radically increase his positive impact."

Joe, again in a sort of perfectionist overkill, you are criticizing a two and half hour movie for the story lines it ~didn't~ include.

Maybe in the sequel or maybe six months from now, Superman could address nuclear submarines and nuclear proliferation and get philosophical. Right now, I'd say he's got his hands full, wouldn't you?

> "Fighting crime is an incredible waste of his abilities. But he never thinks."

Really? Saving the planet from being rendered uninhabitable is a waste of abilities? Can you think of some other way to "increase positive impact" if the world is destroyed?

> "He reminds me of Harry Potter. They're both guilty of the sin of being dumb...In the end though, we need more Hermiones."

Again Joe, I think you are assuming something not in evidence, reading something into the movie (as well as into Harry Potter, the character - but let's stick with one topic at a time). The fact that someone is swept up in dealing with threats and crises exploding around him and is in vigorous active motion to deal with them, doesn't mean he can't think or is "dumb".

It just means the times call for action to deal with the immediate crisis.

Harry and Clark Kent can collaborate on their treatise on epistemology at a later date.
James K
8 points
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It's interesting that the column by Robert Bidinotto on this site talks about the transformational effect of fictional heroes. He specifically mentions how he loved Superman as a boy and appears to argue that Superman represented, not altruism, but the importance of justice.
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I'll probably write a full blog post taking inspiration from yours and cover all the things I do like about Superman, but for now, If found this one paragraph from your article particularly disturbing:

"On further consideration, Superman is less of a hero than your average cop or fireman. Superman is generally invulnerable. He can’t get hurt. He can’t die. He takes no risks when he saves people. Even when facing his own kind — like Zod — he is much less vulnerable than a cop responding to a shooting."

So, if you save a dying stranger without any risk to yourself, that is not as good as you saving him while you risk losing a limb in the process, is it? Even better to let your friend/brother/lover die while you save that stranger's life?

Another example: if you're a millionaire and donate $20k towards helping a dying man, that's not as heroic as taking out a $20k loan that you can't afford to help him while you risk your and your family's future in the process, is it?

Doesn't that very definition of heroism and righteousness make all ratonal folk cringe?
Now just to indulge in some good natured facetiousness: if a neurosurgeon suddenly had superman's powers, he wouldn't need an x-ray machine, he would have super sturdy hands and the ability to cut through and sew up things superfast without letting his patients lose as much blood as they would if a human operated on them, he would have superaccurate heat vision at the cellular level to cauterize the tissues that were causing trouble to the healthy ones around them, and I'm sure the list could go on.

Don't get me wrong: I think the movie makers are out of their minds when they look at Superman's seemingly altruistic nature and laud it in their own flawed ways. However, I think Superman has been loosely defined and changed enough over the years that it's ultimately up to you whether you choose to be sanctimonious about his films, or look at them keeping in mind that the story writers aren't philosophers and could get the essense of a superhero wrong; it is the same for a superhero as it is for an army officer, which is that he risks life to save goodness in the world because he wouldn't care to live in one that isn't good anymore. And Superman does risk his life: even in Man of Steel he does it, when he surrenders to Zod and his powers get zapped. He was as good as dead if Lois hadn't inserted that key into the ship, switcing Jor-El's consciousness on.

To sum it up, I appreciate your critical thinking and even applaud the effort at analyzing it, but I think you're all kinds of wrong on this one :)
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I love the concepts of hero, heroics and heroism as the ideals for children and adults to emulate and/or strive for. I am a hero-worshipper of the first order,and I encouraged all of our children to learn how to identify the qualities of heroism and strive to develop those qualities in themselves. However, I am opposed to the media idea of a "super" hero, because it implies that real life human beings cannot achieve such a status. The super hero is something other than and greater than man, himself, and cannot be achieved by human beings who cannot fly, do not have x-ray vision, and cannot spin and send out webs that enable them to scale skyscrapers, etc. In fact, it excludes man from the real action, and renders him a mere spectator of the super heroics. While I have enjoyed and been entertained by the superhero comic books and movies, I would never idealize the unachievable, or use such characters as models for children -- or for myself. I found it more effective to introduce my children, both sons and daughters, to the adventure stories and real life heroes portrayed in the books by Louis L'Amour, and the old historical biographies that were written for children. They dealt with ideas, and people who had to think and make value judgments, discerning between choices that were heroic and life-oriented and those that were not. And best of all, they led to wonderful conversations in which children could discuss what they liked and disliked, and parents could reinforce accurate interpretations and correct the kinds of misinterpretations that lead to contradictory values.

The culture is in desperate need of media heroes, but real human beings who use their minds and muscles for heroics that do not revolve exclusively around "last resort" behaviors which should only be used when reason and rationality have failed; real human adventurers who are motivated by the love and pursuit of their own happiness.

I agree with many points made by Mr. Duarte. And I especially resent the recurring Hollywood message that implicitly or explicitly states that human beings on earth need to be saved from their ignorance, avarice and other moral failings by some semi-guy in tights from another planet -- a planet that wasn't able to save itself.
James K
0 points
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You, like Mr. Duarte, seem to be assuming readers take a "super" hero literally. I certainly would never interpret "Superman," or any fantasy character, to mean that "real" human beings cannot achieve greatness or have the human characteristics that make such a fantasy character truly great -- and I don't think my children do either.

By your argument, if I'm interpreting it correctly, fantasy ipso facto does not or cannot deal with real life human "ideas" or "value judgments," and that's just not true. You would exclude a wide range of literary possibilities based on what I would consider to be a confusion of "style" or "genre" with the underlying ideas expressed. And, just so that we're clear, I'm not saying that one could not take issue with values expressed in a particular fantasy/fairy tale/myth, etc. -- just that the genre does not, by its nature, produce the an understanding that human beings cannot achieve "super hero" status. This sort of reminds me of certain Christians who object to the Narnia series because it (gasp!) includes witchcraft or to the Harry Potter series (arguably some of the most "Christian" children's literature since the Narnia series) on the grounds that children will be lead to practice magic. Children are smart enough to understand the purpose of fantasy. Again, I look to my six-year-old who knows in his bones that he IS Superman and that he can save the world but also knows that Superman is "make-believe".

James K
7 points
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This is an interesting analysis, but it misses the entire point.

Remember that "Superman" started out as a series of comic books. By definition the stories were aimed at children -- particularly male children. They were, and are, fairy tales for a modern age when wolves and witches and woods were giving way to space travel, Stalin and super computers.

Fairy tales are far from pointless but cannot be taken literally. They are not about "how to kill witches who live in candy houses" or "how to avoid collateral damage when defeating Zod" or even about "being saved by an action hero." Ultimately, the fights in these stories are a metaphor for a struggle between good and evil -- but I would argue that it is a metaphor for the internal struggle to identify and defeat evil, not an external one. Superman, like all fairy tales, is designed to allow children to sort out good and evil, to internalize the idea that our "dragons can be beaten" (Quoting Neil Gaiman, sometimes misattributed to G.K. Chesterton) -- and to remind adults of that truth. Thus, to require that Superman avoid blowing up buildings that might contain people makes about as much sense as complaining that the dwarves are not providing Snow White with a living wage.

Mr. Duarte is correct at one level when he states that "we don't need to be saved by action heroes" since, in context, he is clearly referring to an external actor doing the saving. And he is also correct in his statement that "we can already fly." But he needs to spend an afternoon watching my six-year-old son run around my backyard in his Superman cape, defeating evil and undoubtedly blowing up a few buildings in the process. My son understands the point of Superman, even if Mr. Duarte does not: we don't need to be saved by super heroes; we need to be superheroes.
Small
I quite liked the movie despite my personal opinion that the fight scenes were unnecessarily drawn out. I thought the movie presented a range of interesting and competing ideas that haven’t been here discussed.

General Zod is a good example. Toward the end of the movie, he makes it clear, in his own and passionate words, that he is creature of his genetic nature, programmed to do whatever it takes to ensure the survival of his race. He is committed, competent, and passionate in his love for his race and fulfilling his mission. He is pained that others fall short and have compromised the continued, healthy existence of his species. From his perspective and the people who serve him, he is noble, the pinnacle of an ideal “man”. He will kill off any inferior species in the process of ensuring the health and well-being of his species with no more regard for them than might most humans have for an anthill that is in the way of a housing development.

He is contrasted with Superman who was genetically programmed to assist the human race to rise above the less constructive, less cooperative and less noble aspects of its nature. In Superman’s view, Zod was a monster and calls him that to his face. In Zod’s view, Superman and his father were monsters, traitors to their own blood, with Superman engineered to ensure the continued existence of an ant colony at the expense of a far superior species (at least in Zod’s eyes) and their own species to top it off. His contempt for Superman, and at the end of the movie for Superman's father, is genuine, not the contempt of a weak man, but of a principled one.

In Zod’s view, It could be argued Superman is akin to having a human being of unusually gifted abilities work incessantly to ensure the continued existence of porpoises even if it means the extermination of the Human Race. Most humans, right or wrong, would not be pleased with this imagined SuperGuy siding with the porpoises, and Rand gives plenty of examples in her novels of those who would, and makes them the bad guys.

Within this struggle is an ancient one trying to get at the meaning of Being and the reality, or lack of it, of free Will. Given basic premises in the movie, could either Zod or Superman have acted differently than they did? Was one a monster and the other not? Were both just genetic automatons? Were both free men making reasoned, moral choices? Could either have made choices any different than the ones they made? Did either of them think of themselves as monsters, or was each convinced they were noble, authentic, ethical beings in the choices they made and the actions they took? Did they struggle in this kind of introspection in a way that any other outcome for either of them was possible? Could either have taken a different road, or ever have found common, mutually constructive ground?

Given discoveries of modern brain science and genetics, it raises questions, based on objective, scientific evidence, that were not, in context, front of mind in Rand’s day. These discoveries present challenges to our thinking about ethics, responsibility, culpability, and nobility with added perspective and added conundrum. I thought the movie brought the discussion forward in an interesting and entertaining way. In the end the writers took sides, with Superman, probably a good box office choice. But was it the right side?

I’m not attempting here to pick sides in this often contentious discussion about free Will so much as to point out that the movie Superman, in my view, had an underlying theme about it, in the context of modern genetics and brain science, and poses a lot of good food for thought. I don’t have the intellectual prowess to propose answers or conclusions. But I can see, much like being a witness in the little play "Night of January 16th", that how we cast our vote in the jury room may at least tell us at first glance how we feel about such things, and then, no matter where we first land, challenge us to reflect a little deeper.

On a different note, if I have any problem with the movie, it is the presentation of Superman as a Christ figure - an outside Superforce necessary for Humanity to achieve salvation. I've decided not to dwell on this theme and accept that others can as easily see Superman simply being presented as an inspirational ideal that has inspirational benefit for, especially, young people. So I won't quibble. Far more interesting to me, and what I thought made the movie special, was the underlying themes reviewed above. My view is that it makes the movie a cut above most of the other SuperHero movies of the last few years. Consequently, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And finally, I thought it was visually stunning.
Small
Excellent observation. Few realize their inconsistencies because few understand definitions. Altruism exists within the realm of sacrifice. Danger to one's physical well being is one of those sacrifices. Superman exists outside of that box.
It is actually exhausting realizing that you just wasted 2 hours of your life with no inspiration to show for it. Iron Man was inspirational.
Someone made ref to 'helping because it makes him feel good' then goes on to compare to Roark's feelings from designing buildings. Roark worked hard for his powers. Superman didn't. Roark was challenged by every new project, Superman isn't. Therein lies the joy of work - the joy of overcoming. If anyone of us were Superman, we would be deathly bored in less than a week. It would only be a matter of time before we used our superpowers to overcome that boredom. That is - push the beaten pathed envelope.

What keeps good men moral is the choice between life and death, happiness and suffering. Understanding the rules that observation teaches us leads most likely to happiness is our best bet. Everything else is simply ignorance, stupidity or evil - in that order of immorality.
Small
Excellent analysis. I also get annoyed when heroism in a Hollywood movie is about altruism, rather than enlightened self-interest. And, I find it interesting that Hollywood writers are able to switch back and forth between altruism-based motivation and reason-based motivation without noticing their own inconsistencies. In particular, I love the point that since Superman is invulnerable, his altruism (taking risks to save others) is fake anyway.
Small
Subject: Joe Duarte's Errors about What Actually Happens in the Movie

In addition to claiming (i) that Superman embodies altruism and (ii) that Superman is not a genuine hero worthy of admiration [see my previous post on 07/12 for why both claims are mistaken], Duarte's review makes serious mistakes about the events of the movie itself. In apparent eagerness to portray "Man of Steel" as lacking redeeming value on multiple levels, he portrays it as full of logical errors or inconsistencies.

In doing this he is highly unfair to the movie, as he gets ~what actually happens~ wrong repeatedly:

> "For some reason, this civilization that has traversed space for centuries [Krypton] can only launch one baby into space — the rest of the population is mysteriously unable to get off the planet." [Joe Duarte]

Did you miss the fact that virtually no one else believed the planet was doomed? And that it would cost enormous amounts of money and a years long building program to construct ships to evacuate and traverse light years? And that he apparently had to do it in hiding and against the will of the state?

> "Superman’s wanton destruction almost certainly kills innocent people...he wantonly destroys people’s property when he clearly doesn’t need to. He’s wrapped up with Zod outside of Smallville, with wide-open fields all around — so he chooses to specifically fly Zod through Smallville, destroying several buildings."

That's simply not accurate.

I went back and saw the movie another time to check this. It is Zod who comes to the farm just outside Smallville and attacks S's mother at which point S tackles Zod at supersonic speed, and the momentum and the midair life-and-death struggle immediately carries them into town. It's not "wanton" or unnecessary as Mr. Duarte implies. It's not as if Superman said, "Hey, let's see if I can maneuver this fight so as to destroy part of the town."

{ SIDE POINT: Furthermore, in a war innocent people do get killed. But you don't morally blame the nation or individual soldiers who are defending for the deaths that result. You can only morally blame the aggressor for the deaths of innocents who are in effect held hostage. I wrote an essay about this many years ago and called this "the hostage principle", but it seems each generation of Rand fans needs to reconsider this point.}

> "[Zod's] motives are strange — slaughter all of us and give birth to a new Krypton. You would think he would pay attention to the exoplanet research — the sky of is full of stars with potentially habitable planets."

Space is vast. And crossing it hardly as easy as a walk down the block. "Exoplanet research" suggests that habitable planets (right atmosphere, neither too hot nor too cold, right plants and right animals to provide food, right gravity, solid surface, fertile soil, not a gas giant like Jupiter...and much more) are probably thinly scattered and so require a huge search. And then what if you get there and you find something which will kill you or not allow you to survive and breed? The last ship from a dead planet does not have infinite time or resources - or life span - to explore multiple planets across enormous distances of light years.

> "...a flying hunk...Superman has never been a complex character."

Is complexity always a virtue? Can't a character be simple, yet powerful? But more importantly, Mr. Duarte's charge is not even fully fair to start with. One of the virtues of the Superman story down the years, is that Clark Kent / Superman is ~not~ one-dimensional, that he has a personality and is not just a "flying hunk": And the movie clearly shows this, shows that he has an interesting backstory, that he has to struggle with confusion and with his 'human' as well as his super-human attributes. [I developed this point a bit more in my previous post replying to Joe Duarte's review.]

SUMMING UP: Mr. Duarte's review of "Man of Steel" is unfair, inaccurate, and full of philosophical mistakes pretty much from start to finish.

This was a very good, very rewarding, and at many points quite inspiring movie. [I'd have to write my own review to explain all its many virtues; I may check with the website proprietor to see if he's open to that.]

Go see it for yourself. Big screen is best. You've probably got another week before it leaves many American theaters.

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Interesting argument, but he forgot that Superman was created at a time when the world was simpler. Good was doing right and helping people out and bad was chaos. Daunted by nature's worst, villains intent upon destruction, and at the mercy of Nature's whims, what is better than someone who can get to the scene of disaster faster than a speeding bullet and save the day, pick up all the debris, tunnel into the earth and save miners trapped by a cave-in or earthquake, and generally put things to rights? Best of all, he did it all for free, working tirelessly at any time of the day or night, without striking or calling a blue flu because he wanted more benefits and a pay hike. There is still some good in the simple ways. If Superman is no more than cop or fireman, he is at least willing to work for free without a second thought. He needs nothing from us and yet gives us something to believe in and hope for.

J M Cornwell
Small
Is there ever really a "simpler time" or do we just simplify the past to make it seem "nicer"?
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I think the times of our childhood seem simpler because they are not so full of rancor, hatred, aggression, greed, etc., times when dreaming was acceptable and there was no time clock to punch, no Welfare or food stamps, no money to earn to keep the roof repaired, the car running, the bills paid, the taxes covered, or the refrigerator full. Those are not the concerns of childhood or the time in which a child grows up. Those are adult concerns glimpsed and not really understood while children wish to be older, bigger, stronger, and able to take the freedom they imagine in their own hands.

I don't know about your past, but mine was pretty simple and a whole lot safer and less complicated.
Small
I suppose childhood is simpler but I reject the idea that "the past" was simpler. I think our parents felt just as overwhelmed as we do sometimes or that the CEO of Ford in 1950 (just as an example) is just as "busy" as the CEO of Ford today.
This comment by Dale H has been hidden by users, for lack of value. »
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To: J. M. CORNWELL

Simpler time! What a bunch of nonsense. Even simpler times were when the founders of the US wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was not their super human strength that made the US the greatest country in the world, or that allowed for the greatest explosion in technology and human well being ever seen, it was their mind and ethics. That ethics was simpler than Rand’s, but still profound. It was Natural Rights and it was based on the premise that you own yourself and everything that logically follows from that.

“Best of all” he did it for free? What is good about that? If he doesn’t get paid, doesn’t reason out his actions, how does he know they are good? Superman might just as easily fly to Russia and turn in Eric Snowden, since he doesn’t think about what is good and bad morally.

Superman is in the mindless tradition of Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill, etc. Fine for little kids, but basically premised on the “mystics of muscle” as Rand would put it.

Do you celebrate the real life inventors who made it possible to save the miners in Chile, by digging a tunnel twice as fast as previous technology? Do you celebrate the people who created airplane that allows you to travel at 200 times the speed of a person in founders day? Do you celebrate the inventors who allow you to communicate with people around the world almost instantly – something Superman cannot do? It’s hard to understand why you are on this site.
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Superman was a man created for his time, in that period between the Great Depression and the next World War. He was from a society, having acheived space flight, turned its sights on perfecting themselves and their world. They were looking inward, whcih is why they weren't paying attention to the activities of their sun. Jor-El created a craft to send his child to a planet where the people were simpler and a sung that would give his infant son an advantage that would make him stronger, faster, and virtually indestructible, a power that must be used wisely and for the good of all and not to set himself up as ruler, something it would be very easy to do.

Had Superman been created at an earlier time, he would have been accused of witchcraft or worse -- heresy -- and the people would have been so fearful they would have tried to destroy him. Created in this modern world where technology rules, and he would have been superfluous. Consider Superman in his time and of his world, a world for children and dreamers that want a symbol to believe in.

Superman came to earth at a time of turmoil where Martha and Jonathan Kent found him and took him in, teaching him to hide his abilities. All of this is part of the myth of Superman. What's not to like about a man who seems mild mannered and in reality is strong and fast enough to help people? Just because he does not get paid doesn't mean he does not reason out his action or know that they are good. He was taught basic moral principles by the Kents and he can reason out his actions by the training he received from Jor-El and the Kents.

It is a mistake to equate the orginal comic book Superman and the movie Superman. These are two very different entities. The comic book Superman was an ideal, a man who could fly and would think nothing of saving the world from an evil genius like Lex Luthor and still take the time to rescue a cat from a tree for a child. The movies are all about destruction, explosions, and the biggest fireworks displays, not about the basic premise of a man from another planet willing to be involved intimately with the people of a world he could conquer without a second thought. Superman was a man of his times, just as were Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and many other mythic heroes who were bigger and stronger than the men among whom they lived.

Since this review of the movie is not about real life inventors or real life heroes, there is no need to compare them against Superman. Superman is myth and reality is what we live every day. Superman allows us to, for a little while, imagine a different world, to escape from reality, and dream a different dream. To compare the two is apples and stones.
James K
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I take your point regarding the differences between the comic book versus the movie -- I haven't actually seen the movie -- but Duarte seems to be talking about both, and as I recall there was a certain amount of destruction in the comic books, albeit without the impact of special effects. I absolutely agree that to object to the character because he is not a "real life" hero, and does things that would clearly be both impossible and immoral in "real life" is silly. This is a fantasy world where the actions are symbolic. You use the word "myth," and I used the words "fairy tale," but with Superman it comes down to the same thing. I would not find fault if Duarte had made an effective argument that the lesson of Superman (whether movie or comic book version) was self-sacrifice, and objected to the philosophy of represented by Superman on that basis alone, but since he, himself, makes the point that Superman DOESN'T put his life on the line (except when there's that pesky Kriptonite around) that argument is somewhat undercut. I certainly don't view Superman as a poster boy for self-sacrifice: a symbol of duty, perhaps or a symbol of an obligation to use one's power for good rather than evil, but not sacrifice.
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" I certainly don't view Superman as a poster boy for self-sacrifice: a symbol of duty, perhaps or a symbol of an obligation to use one's power for good rather than evil, but not sacrifice. "

There is no physical sacrifice, but there is a personal sacrifice. He cannot have a love life or procreate or have a normal life, not even as Clark Kent, because he would put everyone he loves and cherishes at risk. Sacrifice is sacrifice whether it is physical or emotional/personal. When you get down to it, even with Kryptonite in the game, he still strives to do his "duty." That is also sacrifice and heroic, rather like crawling toward the detonator button while bleeding to death or missing limbs to destroy the enemy and protect family, friends, and country. It's all in there.

I don't think there would be many boys who would be so awestruck by Superman if there wasn't a little devastation and destruction. That's all part of the whole comic book superhero message. Creation out of destruction, order from chaos. Good triumphing over evil and all that truth, justice, and the American way. ;-)
James K
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"He cannot have a love life or procreate or have a normal life, not even as Clark Kent, because he would put everyone he loves and cherishes at risk."

The last clause of the sentence says it all: it's not "sacrifice" because to do anything other than what he's doing puts what he loves at risk. "Duty," as far as I am concerned, is ordering your priorities and taking the long view -- is the cause enough to justify risking my life? Enough to justify not sleeping with Lois Lane -- (except, I think, in that first, cringe-worthy movie)? For the Man of Steel, the answer, clearly, is "yes."

Small
The last sentence and the beginning total dismissal of 'what a bunch of nonsense' are rude and uncivil. (Plus the accusatory sentences suggesting the opponent doesn't value other things which are good.)

There seems to be a tendency among too many Rand fans to use nuclear weapons in disagreement, to 'cast someone out completely' and claim they are opponents ofd or know nothing about the philosophy or shouldn't even be here if they disagree. Especially if it is something you feel heated about.

Then, too often, when the incivility or rudeness is pointed out, they dig in heels and won't recognize it. Too often they will say hey, I'm just a blunt guy who tells it like it is.... Best advice: Edit out this sort of thing before hitting 'send'.
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I think you missed the point of Superman. He was meant to be an ideal, something for people to strive for. With all his incredible strength and power he still does the right thing when he could easily be a power mad tyrant. He represents self control where those who were 'evil' wanted to abuse that power. Kind of opposite of the people we have in charge.
Maybe if we had politicians who took their queue from him and not some corrupt leader, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.
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A site devoted to Ayn Rand and people are saying "Best of All he did it for FREE"?
Small
Movies are basically an escape from reality for 2 hours for most people. Within that context I think Man of Steel is a good movie. You can certainly find things that don't make any sense or may not fit your morality in anything, especially if you are an Objectivist. That is really exhausting though and not really the point of going to a Summer movie.
Small
The movie was ok
I enjoyed World War Z more actually
They over did it on the crashing through building stuff.
If he was such a smart hero, he would have said, lets take this outside......the city
Don't get me wrong; I'm all for heroes since society needs good role models
that are cool but also have character; hmm characters with character
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Please read the book, the movie did not do it justice, the book is far more interesting, and the zombies don't run. The book is really great, it explores geopolitical issues, how some societies turn to socialism, how others get rid of prisons and simply lash people for minor crimes, execute them for major crimes. It's a fantastic book, can't stress that enough.
Small
Thanks for the heads up. Did you chuckle at the end when the zombie behind the door kept clicking his teeth? I heard a soft laughter all around me
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I didn't laugh, but felt it was a little weird. The zombies were weirder than in other movies, that's for sure.
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I don't see him as an altruist, yes, he does save people, but he does it because it makes him feel good, thus there's a selfish motive.

Besides, what good is having super powers if you don't use them? Superman is a fantasy, yes, it's true that man overcomes nature by building ships, planes, etc, but who hasn't fantasized about having super powers at some point? Having dreams isn't irrational, ignoring reality in pursuit of unrealistic dreams is irrational.

It's true that the last thing society needs is more saviors, but superman unlike Jesus, requires no sacrifice. You don't have to believe in Superman to be saved by him, you don't have to give your money to the poor, you don't even have to do good deeds. In Superman II, Superman saves Lex Luther from Zod even if Luther is always plotting to destroy him. This reminds me of Howard Roark doing the work of his untalented friend, Roark wasn't altruistic, he simply enjoyed designing buildings as long as he could be faithful to his vision.

In the end, some individuals need someone to root for. I used to hate sports until I started watching Spartacus, if I had lived in ancient Capua, I would have been rooting for the Gods of the Arena, the gladiators that fought better than the Roman soldiers. That's what Superman is, someone to root for. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so.
Small
I've come to believe that there are no real true "altruists". Even if you do something for someone else just because it makes you feel good you are receiving payment.

And I always wanted my super-power to be invisibility.
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If someone does something good for someone else without the other person -- or anyone -- knowing about it, and they feel good about what they've done invisibly and anonymously, does it still count? Is it real?
Small
It is still real. Both parties benefited.
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You're right, Altruism is an ideal, a philosophy, but it's not a reality. Greed, selfishness, win-win trade, Capitalism, objectivism, those are realities. Of course, I do use the term "altruists" to refer to the man haters, the people that demand others sacrifice for the nonexistent "common good." I despise Altruists, when Stephen King and Warren Buffett say they wants to pay more taxes, a part of me wants to see all their money confiscated, I want to see them living in section-8 housing, eating with food stamps. Of course, I also know that deep down these people aren't Altruists, the IRS already allows people to pay extra taxes if they want to, the fact that they need to be forced to do something means they don't really want to do it.
Small
Yes, that always makes my blood boil too. If they want to pay more taxes they are more than welcome to but whey do they want ME to pay more taxes? How can that be "freedom"?
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I think you miss what they are really saying. Paying more taxes means having earned more money and being more successful. It is a mark of success. At least, that is how I see it because my uncle feels the same way. He totals up his earnings and his holdings at the end of the year and counts himself successful that he has made enough money to pay taxes. He has profited and enjoys sharing that profit with the goverment that made it possible. Maybe he wouldn't have profited in a different country under different rulers, tyrants, dictators, etc. He is a success. If he earns more then he can put some of that money bacdk into his town and his local government for better roads, schools, etc.
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No, paying more taxes doesn't necessarily mean having that income. That premise only applies to a flat tax system where everyone pays 5%, 10%, 20%, regardless of income. What America has is a PROGRESSIVE income tax system which punishes people for making more money. It's called the Progressive Income Tax because it was one of the goals of the progressive movement and they ended up getting it under Woodrow Wilson, a huge progressive.

If you're rich, you are paying 45% federal income tax, capital gains, alternative minimum tax, and if you live in New York City then you can add the city and State progressive income tax as well.

Furthermore, the rich don't spend thousands of dollars on accountants to pay more taxes, they do it for the opposite. If you value your money, you want to keep more of it. Money spent in the private sector goes further than money given to the government.

Ironically, Buffett not only fails to practice what he preaches, his companies have been in litigation with the IRS because apparently, they don't like paying the taxes they owe.

I recommend this article from Forbes magazine. The Huffington Post has also documented Buffett's double standard when it comes to taxation.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2012/11/30/buffetts-billions-cant-buy-him-exemption-from-his-tax-averse-past/
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Yes, there is a double standard. Yes, there is greed and malfeasance. Yes, the rich do avoid paying taxes. Yes, the economy rests on the shoulders of the middle class who pay their taxes on money they have earned. That goes without saying whether it is a flat tax or a progressive tax.

The rich paid far more taxes in the 1950s and 1960s than they do now and there was more growth, more productive, and more general wealth. Now we have virtually no productivity, very little growth, and the wealthy avoiding taxes and sending jobs overseas. What is wrong with this picture? Greed. Simple grasping, mean-spirited, greed. Unfortunately, it is the dwindling middle class paying for it as our economy, education, and manufacturing go the way of the dodo.
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So-called "greed" is a good thing in objectivism. As for the economy resting on the middle class, not so. A rich person can employ far more people than middle class people. If you're a contractor, who do you want to work for? Some poor middle class schmo that can barely afford a $10,000 renovation, or some rich guy that's spending $50,000, $100,000, even $200,000 and more.

Secondly, the economic boom of the 1950s had nothing to do with higher taxes. France's Hollande raised the top rate to 75% and all he got was more capital to flee his pathetic socialist nation. The 1950s were the result of unique economic conditions, mainly all those WW2 veterans having savings and breeding lots of kids at the same time. However, the economy started to decline in the 1960s until JFK lowered the top tax rate and saw not only more tax collections, but economic growth. Economists have a theory for this, they call it the Laffer curve. Less Taxes = More Growth = More Tax Collections. The theory works because the rich aren't stupid, they aren't your slaves or the salves of society. If you raise their taxes, they'll take their business elsewhere. If companies with more than 50 employees have to offer Obamacare, they'll fire people, stop hiring people, lower salaries, or simply sell the business to a fool.

I'm afraid you need to read Free Market Revolution, because you don't sound as an objectivist but as some middle-of-the-road centrist. Ayn Rand described the middle as evil, just so you know.

Greed is not mean-spirited, it's altruism that's mean-spirited. A greedy person wants to make more money, which leads him to hire good workers, fire the bad ones, buy businesses, sell businesses, and make all kinds of economic decisions that improve his life and by default, the life of those around him.

An altruists on the other hand, fails to fire people until his business goes bankrupt and has no choice. Altruists are evil because by pretending to care for others, they not only sacrifice them, they sacrifice themselves. Altruists ignore reason for stupid idealism, they could be drowning and instead of buying a lifeboat, they wait for someone to give it to them for free.

After a hurricane, it is the greedy people that sell the water, batteries, and all the things people want, while the Red Cross and the other charities try to get their heads out of their asses. Yet it is those greedy people who are accused of profiteering, as if it was a bad thing to sell for a profit.

What do you what, Cornwell? A 5-year plan? Distribution of wealth? The Soviets, Chinese, Cubans, Vietnamese, and Cambodians try those progressive theories and more, they all fail miserably. China today allows Capitalism because they know it's easier for people to make their own money than for the government to take care of them. Yet here in America, the progressives want to take the country backwards, while China abandons communism, they embrace it here, the scary thing is that most people don't even know what they're embracing because progressives are too dishonest to call a spade a spade. Of course, eventually they tell the truth, what do you think that 99% movement is about? This is class warfare, and I hope for your sake, you get over your socialist leanings and embrace capitalism, objectivism, and individualism. .
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I don't see Objectivism as greedy nor are the people who strive to achieve greedy, not in the sense that rules the wealthy in today's world. Objectivism is about achievement by hard work and brains and not just about raping and pillaging someone else's money to stack it up in some offshore account.

Hank Rearden achieved and bought companies and created his metal, but he treated his employees with dignity and paid them well. Measure Hank Reardon against any of the wealthy robber barons and it is not the same thing at all. They create nothing and their only aim is toi gather together more money. That is not the philosophy in Objectivism.

I do not see how you, Simon, equate what I've said here with socialism. All I have said is that greed is at the heart of most of the problems in this country, greed that has nothing to do with producing anything and taking everything. Greed as you will find in "Atlas Shrugged" in Dagny Taggart's brother and his political cronies leveling the playing field to stop or at least contain people like Hank Reardon. That is greed. Achieving and building and producing has nothing to do ith greed and everything to do with earning money for what one has achieved and brought to life. That is why John Galt dropped out, why Atlas shrugged.

You mistake the selfishisness of Objectivism with the greedy gobbling of money for itself. Money is a tool, not an end in itself. The pursuit of money without achieving or producing something is not what Objectivism is all about.

In that sense, Superman produces results. Criminals are in jail and he thwarts criminals by upsetting and ending their plans. Yes, there is destruction and, yes, there is mayhem, but the result, the product of his actions is not destructive, unless you call gettting rid of greedy criminals bent on gathering wealth without producing anything.

This country has moved away from production and into wealth gathering. We were once the greatest nation in the world because we produced something and now all that production has moved offshore so the robber barons can make more money and pay less for it. I think Ayn Rand would have been appalled as she watched the country she loved so much going to the likes of James Taggart, Lillian Rearden and her brother, and to Wesley Mouch and his thieving crowd. What we need are men like Francisco d'Anconia and John Galt to upset their greedy applecart and put this country back to work. We are seeing what Rand prophesied in "Atlas Shrugged" as more and more people are put out of work and fewer companies are producing anything.

That, Simon, is what I call a spade. It's not class warfare, it's overthrowing the Wesley Mouches currently at the helm in this country and allowing men like Hank Rearden back at the helm.
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"Hank Rearden achieved and bought companies and created his metal, but he treated his employees with dignity and paid them well. "

---Yes, but he didn't do it out of an Altruistic concern for his employees, he did it for his own self-interest. He wanted the best workers, that required paying the best wages. Of course, there's a big difference between working in a steel mill and working at Walmart. If you make a mistake at a steel mill, people could die.

Furthermore, I criticized you because you use the terms of the left. "Robber barons"? This is a myth, the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers weren't robber barons, they were builders, job creators, without their greed and ambition, America would look very different than it does today.

Yes, America has moved away from production into a service economy, so what? If a T-shirt can be made cheaper in Singapoore, let it get made there, Americans will do other jobs.

Besides, it's ironic you condemn James Taggart and Lillian Rearden when you condemn greed. Taggart and Lillian weren't greedy, they threw their money away. Lillian participated in leftwing groups because she felt guilty of being rich, this is the same reason the Mafia leaders like John Gotti made huge donations to the Catholic Church, they feel guilty of murder, racketeering, etc, so they give money to the church as atonement.

An objectivist does not apologize for his greed, he embraces it. The pursuit of money is perfectly fine as long as you don't use force, you don't collide with the government, and you don't steal it.

"The pursuit of money without achieving or producing something is not what Objectivism is all about."

Says who? If I win the lottery, have I produced anything? Of course not, is my money then evil or unworthy? Surely not. It is amazing how society tries to divide the "good rich" vs. the "bad rich," so Bill Gates gets a pass because he gives money to charity while some heiress gets condemned because she spends it on real goods that create real jobs? If you ask me, I have more respect for the heiress. Charity is disgusting and insulting, it creates slaves, it creates guilt, you buy a man lunch and suddenly he owes you, you destroy his self-esteem because you didn't allow him to earn it. On the other hand, you pay people to do stuff, then they feel good about themselves.

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I didn't use Taggart and Lillian Rearden as examples because they threw money away and Taggart certainly didn't throw his money away, especially when he was laid low by d'Anconia's plans to do Taggart and those like him, not because they were rich but because they were speculating on d'Anconia's copper and business decisions, riding on his coattails, so to speak.

Bill Gates produces nothing and the only reason he gives money to charity is to improve his public image. He also created nothing, merely profiting from other peoples' genius.

Rearden paid his employees well because he wanted the best product from the best people; that is just good business. Walmart has a revolving door for employees because old Wally treats his employees like slaves, denying them benefits and decent hourly wages because he knows there are lots more out there just like them. More people to screw over.

Yes, there are good rich and bad rich, just as there are good poor and bad poor. Everything has its opposite. Rand proposed that artists and producers be paid for their work, but it's not the payment that is important. What's important is what is produced and the integrity of the artist. The artist does not work to fit someone else's view, but to satisfy his own creative instincts and plans.

Howard Roark was not interested in money, but in his own artistict creativity and freedom. He would have worked for nothing, and often did manual labor when he couldn't find people who wanted his architectural work.

Your comment about America moving toward a more service oriented economy would be fine if it were not for the same greedy people who send their customer service offshore. No one wins that way, except the people counting the cash and stashing it offshore. If your claim of a service oriented industry were true, we would see better customer service, but customer service is a joke -- when you can find someone in Pakistan or India who speaks the language and knows the product well enough to service what the company sells. There is no service in customer service. What we have is a modern day feudal society where the wealthy keep taking from the poor while giving nothing in return, and now we are back to Rearden again.

Even Dagny Taggart paid her employees well and they did a good job for her. Someone working manual labor would be paid according to his abilities and work, not fobbed off with below standard wages while Dagny expected them to do quality work. That kind of thinking breeds contempt and sets the stage for dangerous mistakes due to lousy work.

If you win the lottery, good for you. What you do with that money is your choice as well, but it would be better to use that money to produce something other than conspicuous consumerism, going through the funds like food through a goose and out the other end until you are once again destitute. Most people who win the lottery end up as impoverished in the end as they were before they won, and some are in worse shape.

As for charity, it is a trap because when you give something to someone you expect something in return. Usually that something is thanks or some beneift from your charity. That does not negate that a wealthy man giving his wife or family gifts is offering charity. Even though he gives the gifts freely, he still expects a return on what he spends in gratitude or in some other way.

I still say Objectivism is not about the money, but about the difference between looters and producers. Rearden and Dagny were producers. Mouch, Taggart, Lillian, and their whole political and financial group are looters. Money does no good if it is not used for something other than collecting interest. The people like John Galt, d'Anconia, Midas, and the rest went on strike because their brains and talents were being used and exploited by looters. If being rich was the only goal, there would be no reason to strike. For someone to benefit from your hard work and offer nothing of value in return is to be a looter. We have become a country top-heavy with looters. We need producers, men and women like those described by Ayn Rand in her books.

And that does not make me leftist or anything but open-eyed and able to understand what objectivism is all about. Consider checking the archives on this site if you still wonder why I am here and why I've taken the time to explain all this instead of ignoring you. I have written several articles for this site, articles that were posted originally elsewhere that caught the attention of the managing staff so that they asked to be allowed to publish it here. I think thatsays a lot.
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Saying that the genius who started Microsoft from his garage produced nothing is ridiculous. You can accuse Gates of being an Altruist, but to say he produces nothing, when he created a product and a company that has made billions, is unreasonable. Without Gates, there is no Microsoft. By your standard, the people who worked for Thomas Edison are as valuable as Edison. They are not.

Howard Roark was interested in money but he wasn't willing to sacrifice his principles for money, there lies the difference. When Roark got the jobs he wanted and was allowed to do what he wanted, he did not undersell his services or do them for free. The only work he did for free was when he helped Peter Keating, but that he did out of pleasure, so you see? Pleasure was the payment.

"Walmart has a revolving door for employees because old Wally treats his employees like slaves, denying them benefits and decent hourly wages because he knows there are lots more out there just like them."

---Like an altruist, you speak of subjectives. What are decent hourly wages? $10 an hour? $20? $50? $500? Wages are neither decent nor indecent, they're just wages. People take them or leave them. The employees are certainly not treated like slaves, you can rape a slave, kill a slave, beat and torture a slave, sell a slave, you are his master. A worker is a trader, he trades his work for your money. The boss then translates his work into more money.

Millions work at Walmart because unlike altruist companies, they're willing to give ANYONE a chance without demanding a college education, experience, and youth. When liberals fight against new Walmarts in NYC and Chicago, what they're really fighting is against jobs for the people who want it. They are using force against people that aren't doing them any harm. In fact, some of the loudest anti-Walmart people are so-called "small businesses" that are afraid of the competition.

"it would be better to use that money to produce something other than conspicuous consumerism,"

---Why? Both uses benefit the individual and those around him. Consumption stimulates production. If more Ferraris are bought, more Ferraris are made. Besides, if the lottery winner or heiress doesn't have the skills to manage a business, it's irrational to start a business. If I don't know anything about selling cars, why would I buy a car dealership? Richard Branson himself once joke that the way to become a millionaire is to become a billionaire and buy an airline. His point was clear, some business ventures are dangerous, Branson knew nothing about the airline business and he had huge loses with Virgin Air.

"That does not negate that a wealthy man giving his wife or family gifts is offering charity."

---Not quite, the wife or family member has earned the charity, otherwise the giver is a fool. Hank Rearden stopped giving his family money when he saw how they were treating him and how his money wasn't appreciated. If Hank had been married to a woman that enjoys sex and doesn't lay there like she's dead, a woman that celebrates her husband's work, a woman that is understanding of her husband, the well would not have gone dry.

Objectivism is about the individual above the group, not below him. It's about self-reliance and relationships with others only through trade, never force, guilt, or dependency. It's about embracing the ego instead of rejecting it.

You may have written a lot of articles, the staff may have used you to get more traffic, but your views do not seem objectivistic at all.

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Gates started Microsoft out of his garage, but so did Steve Jobs, and they both started in the same business togethre until Gates stole some of Jobs's ideas and products without giving him value for it. Gates, like Gotti, is trying to buy his way into the heaven of his choice by giving to charity. It has nothing to diwth altruism, but about PR.

Gates's product didn't work and had quite a few bugs in the beginning, which was the reason for so many versions and so many failures. Gates's genius, if you want to call it genius, is in finding people who do have real genius, buying their company or products, and marketing it under his name. Don't confuse being the epitome of P. T. Barnum's quote that a sucker is born every minute. Gates is a looter. He sees suckers and takes advantage of them.

So far, I do not see anything in what you've written that in any way shows your understanding of Objectivism. You understand greed very well and you understand looting, but not the obverse.

Roark's aim wasn't money. He allowed Peter Keating to use his designs with one proviso: Allow no one to make changes. If his main goal had been money, he would have wanted the credit and the cash, or at least his share of the cash. What he wanted was something else entirely, finding the best solution to a problem. For Roark, it was about the integrity of his work, not the money. Consider reading "The Fountainhead" again.

Wally isn't an altruist; he's a looter. He sells substandard goods at cheap prices, which is in keeping with his cheap products. If it were about making good tee-shirts that last a long time and wear like iron, that would be something worth doing, but that isn't what Wally does. Take another look at his business practices and tell me again just how much he does for people. He hires anyone, but it's not about giving anyone a second chance. It's about hiring people that no one else will take for many reasons so he can pay them a pittance and he expects them to be glad to have a job;. He employees illegals and criminals, etc., etc. Again, not altruism, but looting. Taking advantage of people. It's called looting.
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Gates unlike Gotti, wasn't a criminal. As for stealing Jobs' ideas, that's just hearsay. As for the bugs, plenty of Apple products have bugs, only fools become early-adopters. You want a perfect product? You wait for the bugs to be fixed and then buy it. Either way, Microsoft and PC's outsell Apple by a long-shot because Apple's products are way more expensive. So in the end, Microsoft won and Apple will remain a company for trendy hipsters who care more about brand than price.

"Gates's genius, if you want to call it genius, is in finding people who do have real genius, buying their company or products, and marketing it under his name"

---It takes genius to do that, yet you do not see it. You do not see the amount of management and micromanagement that need to be done. Both Gates and Jobs had geniuses under their wing, yet both of them demanded more than what they give. Great bosses bring out the best in you, like the military, it takes a general to lead an army, and army with bad leaders loses wars.

As for you accusing me of looting, I find that laughable. What have I looted? I don't get food stamps, all the money I get is through trade, value for value as Ayn Rand teaches.

I don't need to read The Fountainhead twice to remember that Roark helped Keating with his projects many times, the proviso you're speaking off is the building Roark ends up blowing up. Roark did not blow every building he helped Keating with. If you remember, Keating would draw something terrible, give it to Roark, and Roark would perfect it. This occurred several times.


Wally is a looter? Really? Too bad you didn't see CNBC's documentary on Sam Walton, he started with hardly anything, he saw an opportunity other people didn't see. He bought cheap goods for wholesalers and took them to small towns. Furthermore, he doesn't employ criminals, he employs people with criminal records that have trouble getting a job elsewhere. Is your solution to crime to keep the former criminals unemployed so they have no choice but to become criminals again? Ironic you complain he gives people no second chances, seems to me he does.

Lastly, taking advantage of people is not looting. If you're such an expert on objectivism, you'd know that A is A. Slavery is slavery, looting is looting, black is not white. Looting is stealing, taking something that doesn't belong to you. Taking advantage of people by trade is perfectly fine. When an employee drives his boss to the airport, the boss saves on cab fares, yet the employee gets an opportunity to spend time with his boss and learn from him, perhaps impress him so he gets a raise. So the so-called "advantage" is mutual. By your standard, one should accept a bad deal because it's fair. Who does that? Who goes to a car dealer and says "I want to pay as much as possible" or "I'll pay whatever you say this car is worth." People bargain for a reason, even the super rich will argue with their real estate brokers to pay lower commissions.
James K
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I'm not sure why there is all this vitriol about Bill Gates. IMO, Microsoft became successful primarily because they (a) made a very favorable deal with IBM, and (b) DOS was a heck of a lot easier to deal with and write programs for than the Apple operating system, both technically and contractually. More programs for your system = more people wanting to use your system. And, of course, once a system becomes the de facto standard, it tends to build on itself, and MS took full advantage of that even in the implementation of (at least the earlier versions of) Windows.

Also, as for stealing ideas: I actually attended a few meetings of Homebrew (long after Jobs and Woz had left), and I can tell you that ideas were a dime a dozen. There is genius in being able to select and implement ideas (as well as, speaking from personal experience, negotiating good deals with IBM).
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Not vitriol, just the facts. The deal with IBM was a big push for Gates to ditch Jobs and the deal they had struck and the way Gates has used other inventors and programmers to to further his own wealth is laudable in some circles. However, it is not out of altruism, nor is Gates giving so much money to chairty now. It is out of fear of the peasants storming his castle with pitchforks and torches that fueled the desire to make nice with the little people before they burn his castle down around his ears. I became involved with Apple when they first started up and needed Beta testers for their products.

You are right about DOS being easier to code. It was, and Windows was much easier to deal with then. It didn't come with every computer. ;-)
James K
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"I became involved with Apple when they first started up and needed Beta testers for their products." LOL. Apple does tend to inspire loyalty. I guess I just don't get particularly upset that someone hires programmers and expects them to program and assign inventions (or that someone acquires IP from other companies/programmers) -- or that someone licenses other people's code. Programmers do have a choice to take the risk and develop and license code on their own. I have my own issues with Bill Gates (and with his friend Warren Buffet), but it has nothing to do with his (their) making money through hiring of others.
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I'm no fan of Apple. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I don't even own an Apple device of any kind. I also cheered when Apple got its backside handed to it by the DOJ's ruling about ebooks and antitrust laws.

A work for hire is one thing, but I do think that Gates has exploited patent holders, or inventors who would've been patent holders, and put out products that were not ready for the marketplace all in the name of more money. Gates's practices have changed greatly in the past couple of decades. It used to be your PC arrived with Windows installed and was part of the price; now Windows is still installed, but if you want it to work for more than 90 days, you have to buy it. Somehow I feel the consumer is being cheated by this double dipping. Ah, well, it's all good -- if you're a looter trying to make good for the public.

Every company owner hires employees. How the owner treats the employees is often the issue. Good owners, like Rearden and Dagny, pay good wages and get in return excellent product and service. Few owners these days follow that procedure and instead run the numbers. If my product explodes on impact and it costs X amount of money to fix, is it cheaper to let the dead's surviving heirs sue or fix the problem. That's looting of a very high order.
James K
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How has Microsoft "exploited" patent holders or inventors who "would have been patent holders"? If you are talking about MS employees, they sign up for this and are paid reasonably well to do so both monetarily and in stock options. No one is putting a gun to their head.

With respect to licensing practice changes, you are going to pay for the OS no matter whether it is installed at the time of the purchase of the hardware or not. Would you prefer that they charge hundreds of dollars more for the hardware plus the software? One could even argue that this provides more options since some people would prefer to have Linux on their system, and they don't want to pay for Windows.

And, while I agree that MS has put out some buggy products, producing really good, bug-free software is not an easy proposition (I'd actually say it is virtually impossible). As far as I know, Windows hasn't killed anyone. That's why software for "fail-safe" systems is a lot more costly. If you want that kind of quality, you are going to pay for it since it costs significantly more to develop. Most people are willing to put up with bugs in order to pay less and get the program faster. That's not looting -- that's a balance of cost of production and quality versus value to the consumer. You may disagree with the balance - but if you really hate what they are doing there are other options out there, including Apple and Linux (neither of which, I might add, is bug-free).
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Since when is being selfish antithetical to Ayn Rand's philosophy. All actions that make us feel good are therefore selfish. I do think that altruism has a much deeper meaning for some people and that is to better the lives and the society in which they live, which is an extension of being a parent, who wants children to carry on their name and their genes, from a deeper biological imperative, and to carry on their dreams, to live better and be happier than they were. Biology is all about being selfish, as are self-preservation and striving to succeed. Feelings of satisfaction and self-worth derived from actions for the good of those around us does not negate altruism. We understand it from a different perspective. After all, only masochists do things for the betterment of mankind or to help someone because it is painful.
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