Irony

Don't judge a book...

I came across this at Paragraphe the other day. The image on the cover caught my eye before I even realized what I was looking at, I knew I had seen this image somewhere else. But where?

It dawned on me as I glanced around – the economics and world affairs section of the bookstore is adjacent to the military history section, itself adjacent to general Canadian history. My mind connected the dots – I had seen this image in one of my father’s old war books.

A little bit of johnny-on-the-spot research confirmed my suspicions; the image is an interpretation of an old recruitment poster. Here’s the original:

The Torch

So here’s the deal.

A book promoting the Ayn Rand school of free market capitalism uses a Canadian Second World War recruitment poster produced by the National Film Board, which, if I’m not mistaken, was created specifically to generate government propaganda and diverse public education media during WW2 (post-war it was redeveloped into the world class film studio we know and love today) as its cover image – a dramatic and intriguing aesthetic embellishment to what I can only assume is little more than a high school sophomore’s praise for the apparent ingenuity of a highly individualistic brand of economics and anti-societal social organization.

Rand’s is an argument in favour of extreme selfishness and greed disguised as an appeal for individual humans realizing their ‘inner ubermensch’ and the protection of the purity of an individual spirit. As you might expect, Rand’s devotees worship her like a god and their affiliated websites read like those of evangelizing missions or self-help gurus.

Put another way, I couldn’t find anything but positive reviews of this book when I googled it, and furthermore all the reviews I did read were written by people affiliated with various Rand inspired think tanks.

They’ve got the market cornered, shall we say, when it comes to ensuring positive reviews of their own work. Objectivism in its finest form; praise from slack-jawed sycophantic reductionists. The followers of Rand are merely LaRouche aficionados you can take out in public, possibly to a cocktail party. Definitely more rhetorically put-together and conversationally competent, but driven purely by the irresponsible joy that comes with unabashed self-interest.

As I said, junior league philosophy that doesn’t ultimately hold much weight – Rand herself applied for medicare and social security in her old age, by which time her unflinching individualism had soured just about every relationship she ever had.

She died alone, living off the fat of the land, just like countless millions of other less fortunate Americans, then as today.

But let’s get back on point – the image.

It’s obvious why it was chosen – it’s a stark, minimalist interpretation of the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France, used (along with an out-of-context line from John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, itself discussing the responsibilities of the living towards the dead) as a propaganda tool during the war. I don’t know how well you can make it out, but the Christian Cross on the side of the real-life memorial is itself less apparent but subconsciously still there, doubtless a shameful ploy to sucker in more readers with a poor knowledge of Weber’s Protestant Ethic theory. It’s perverse (to me at least) that modern-day American and Canadian social conservatives permit themselves to fawn over Rand like a minor deity without ever trying to untie the logical knot posed by Rand’s infamous in-your-face atheism.

But more on the poster…

It was produced by a crown corporation, by itself an egregious example of ‘big government’ (that is, by Objectivist standards) and further still doubtless the collaborative work of many artists employed, collectively, to preach rationing, sharing and cooperation during what was perhaps the most highly socialized era in Canadian history.

But hey, by now the copyright has expired, and rather than pay good money for an original artwork to grace the book jacket cover, the authors (themselves affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute) instead demonstrated their utter, almost cynical disconnect some of the fundamentals of the philosophy they ostensibly espouse.

To put it another way, Ayn Rand probably designed a lot of her own book covers (and not just because she was self-published) and would be rolling around in her grave if she knew the authors had picked this particular cover.

Anyways, thought I’d share. I would still recommend giving an awkward sixteen-year-old a copy of The Fountainhead, but only because it’ll keep them off drugs until their out of high school.

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