Depression, people on the streets, begging, homelessness, the end of the American Dream -- sounds like today. Well, today in the new Ayn Rand movie Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. The timing of the movie couldn't have be better, but the cries of purported Rand supporters for less government couldn't be more wrong.
Ayn Rand wrote and published this novel in the late 50's as a warning on the spread of Communism and the Soviet Bloc. With Sputnik flying across America, Communism wasn't an idle threat. It loomed as a real possibility and the movement in the United States was noteworthy. Rand's treatise on the effects of Communism, what happens when individuals are crushed, creativity denied and it's all for the state -- well, this is Atlas Shrugged. Director Paul Johansson visualizes part one of the book -- supposedly on a shoestring budget -- although you would never know it. He contrasts sweeping panoramas with poverty-stricken areas, reminding us that despite the bleakness there is a majesty to our country, a majesty we need to recapture for we, like the protagonists in Atlas Shrugged, need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get back on course.
These independent filmmakers have done just that, raising the money, distributing the film on their own, getting it into theaters through a grass roots movement all without the help of the big guys. Like Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) battles her family, unions, public opinion and the government to save her company, filmmakers battle corporations in their thrust to get their films out to the market place. In the movie, government malfeasance is rampant, assassination by public opinion the order of the day, collusion, collaboration or not with foreign countries the way of the world in the form of Francisco D'Anconia (Jsu Garcia) -- who is, by the way, another independent filmmaker (The Wayshower, Spiritual Warriors) -- and a friend. His scene with Hank Reardon (Grant Bowler) was for me one of the most subtle and nuanced in a film more of ideas than action. In today's world we could substitute corporations for the government -- then Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 would reflect the times realistically not metaphorically.
I admire risk taking in the name of art, free speech, saying what you want to say, showing what you believe, even if I don't agree with the message. That's democracy, what this country is all about. Of the people, by the people, for the people and no matter what the Supreme Court says, corporations are not people. The 'right wing' wants it both ways, strict constructionists ignoring the essential essence of the Constitution then formulating outlandish decisions our forefathers would never have contemplated to support the multinational corporations.
It's corporations exploiting citizens around the world for their own gain, running rampant and the government failing to rein them in and protect individuals. If history is a teacher we can see what happens when we are stifled, when the few rule the many be it in the guise of communism or Tea Party folk. Ideals are perverted then hijacked to serve the interests of our exploiters and we fight for the truth to prevail. We all know what happened to the Soviet Bloc, to communism, why can't we cut to the chase and blend the best of capitalism with the best of socialism as other countries have successfully done without crippling inventors, innovators, thinkers? Isn't this what America is all about? Opportunity.
Is the American dream dead? Do we have to be asleep to believe it? Private ownership, be your own boss, make something out of nothing, what you have, use your talents, your gifts, that's why our ancestors came to this promised land. Freedom, the ultimate aphrodisiac. Unions aren't in control -- in fact, quite the opposite. But just as the proverbial weed in the cement, our spirit cannot be crushed, as witnessed by our independent filmmakers in Atlas Shrugged and the not yet released The Wayshower, among many others deserving of attention and an audience.
If the moviegoers I saw are any indication of the film's success then this is a hit for sure. Facing an Armageddon of our own making, a war with ourselves, these filmmakers took the bull by the horns and did it themselves in the truest expression of what is means to be an American. They have fostered thought and created a means to discuss our opinions in a civilized and constructive manner.
When extremism is allowed to prevail, society crumbles and sooner or later will reshape, refashion itself for the good of all and that means individuals and well as the collective whole because we are all connected. We can't pull at one area without disturbing another. It's not an 'us or them', or a 'me or them' situation, it's a 'we' situation. For me, Ayn Rand was warning us about forgetting about the 'we' and that includes a welfare state as well as a multinational corporate state.