Note to readers: I just received a copy of this private memo regarding the Ayn Rand Institute’s recent column, "A Passion Against Man," about Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion. I eagerly pass it on:
March 15, 2004
TO:The Ayn Rand Institute
FROM:Mel Morris, President, The Image Consulting Group, LLC, Inc., Etc., Los Angeles
RE:Recent Column on The Passion
Oy, oy, oy. Quite an interesting piece you guys put out the other day, called "A Passion Against Man." Very good, Onkar, or should I call you Dr. Ghate? I could almost hear Ayn reading it out loud, dramatic-style. As your image consultant, I’m pleased to see ARI engage in timely debates. That’s a good sign. But we need to do lunch pretty soon to talk about "tone."
I know you’re sick of my kvetching. But, really, guys, I’m on your side. I love Ayn Rand. I didn’t actually love her per se, although I know many people did. But I so much enjoy (if that’s the right word for it) her writing, especially that big long book with the gazillion page speech subtly implanted in the middle of it. Smooth. Can’t shrug it off (excuse the pun!). Great stuff, really.
I’ve read it so many times it hurts.
But, you know, we’ve got to sell some of these books and institute memberships to average people. I know you guys are smart, really smart. And did I mention heroic and noble also? But not everyone can be that way, and we need to package some of this writing a little more craftily, to appeal to the wider masses. I know that word, masses, is a no-no. But let’s be blunt here, if you don’t mind.
You know how much I hate to say it. But sometimes — well, maybe a little more than sometimes — these columns sound as if the writer forgot to take his meds. Let’s go back to Dr. Ghate’s "A Passion Against Man." It was great, really. I loved it. Brilliant stuff. Except for a couple places in the beginning, middle, and end, it would be perfect.
OK, let’s cut to the chase. Ayn wouldn’t beat around the bush, would she?
Third paragraph, in reference to the message of the Passion portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie: "It is frightening that so evil a message could receive so welcome a reception."
Maybe I’m picking nits here, but do we have to call the Christian faith, er, religion, "evil"? You know what I’m saying, bubbala, don’t you? A lot of people follow the words of what you call "a man killed some two thousand years ago?" No, don’t freak out. I’m not saying they should follow Him, I mean him. But they do. And, quite frankly, if you want to get your heroic ideas out to the public, it might be wise not to start by insulting their most hallowed traditions.
Just a thought.
Second, I’m no expert here, but you guys really need to read up on your Christian theology a little bit. From paragraph five, last line: "For the anti-Semite, to be Jewish is to be evil. For the devout Christian, to be human is to be evil." Now, I see your point, and I’m not against a little overstatement now and again. I have your best interests at heart, remember. But Christians don’t really believe that to be human is to be evil.
Christians merely think that human beings are sinners, and to avoid being evil they need to be repentant of their sins. I’m just playing devil’s advocate here (ha, ha!), but perhaps some of your readers — I’m going out on a limb, but not all Christians are stupid you know — will not take you seriously when such glaring mistakes go unchecked.
Two paragraphs later, the article suggests: "To possess an inquisitive mind, a mind eager to explore the world and gain knowledge, is to commit the first sin." It’s been a while since I cracked open the Bible, but I think the first sin was a little more basic than that.
Then you add this piece of analysis: "To cherish the pleasures that the earth and one’s own body afford, including one’s sexual capacity is to be denounced as u2018selfish’ and even depraved." Well, here again, I think you are misstating the Christian position just a tad. Christians don’t argue that "exploring one’s sexual capacity" is a sin; it’s only a sin if you choose to explore it outside of marriage.
Now, now, you might notice that members of one Christian institution are in a bit of trouble for doing a little too much exploring of their own (and some other people’s) sexual capacity in inappropriate ways. We wouldn’t want everyone in society being so explorative, would we? You really have to address the whole issue of human sin or misbehavior to be taken seriously when writing about weighty theological issues. We don’t want everyone acting without self-restraint, do we? Bear with me. I’m not trying to convince you of the virgin birth here, but even incorrigible atheists have to be at least somewhat glad that so many of their fellow citizens don’t act without Christian restraint.
Another thing. The article refers to the Christian "anti-man approach," and warns that believers in the Christian message become "ripe for any mystical dictator, who will wield the whip that is supposed to make man atone for his u2018transgressions.’ Deprive man of self-esteem, teach him to spit in his face, and one paves the way for another Dark Ages."
First, a point of style. Regular people don’t usually use terms such as "anti-man approach" or "mystical dictator." You might want to loosen up a little and declare a holiday from using terms such as "mystic" and "looter." Just for fun. Then try varying the sentence structure a little. It gives columns a better cadence, making them easier to read and less like banging one’s head against the garage door.
Oh yeah, and one of my associates asked me to broach the subject of humor. I know, what’s funny to one person isn’t to another. But give it a whirl. Throw in a lighter comment, even toss a barb at St. Ayn Rand herself (that was a joke — I’m demonstrating by example!) just to see if you can disarm the reader.
Can’t hurt, can it?
Back to that Dark Ages passage. I dunno, but you probably need to deal with an obvious substantive point: As people become more apt to view Christ in your way, and to live without restraints, this world becomes a scarier place, more like the Dark Ages than the Enlightenment. Are you sure a lack of self-esteem is really the world’s biggest problem? Food for thought, that’s all.
There I go. Now you’re probably sure I’m some kind of mystic. I’m not, though. I’m just offering advice to help you get Ayn’s words and thoughts out to a wider public. Just trying to help you put out columns that actually get published and read. Enough said.
Let’s do lunch, soon, in LA.
Yours In Ayn,
Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register.