I listened to the masterful reading of this amazing audiobook with much admiration for the author’s almost incredible power to predict the behavioral evolution that I have witnessed in the years since she died, not to mention the additional intervening decades since she completed “Atlas Shrugged”. The novel was published in an era when American energy, its will to work and determination to excel among nations remained at its peak, its admiration for those who produced the goods we consumed was in full blossom, and its tolerance for, indeed expectation of rewards for those whose brains and effort were the engine of that production reflected the public’s regard for those who elevated everybody’s standard of living. The sorry trend of affairs set out by Ayn Rand must have been as incomprehensible to the people of that era as it would have been to me as a high school graduate at that time had I spent my time reading “Atlas Shrugged” instead of “Peyton Place” at that moment in history.
But, in 2011, we ponder Rand’s prescience. Or perhaps, we muse, not prescience but inevitably what we hope to be a mere predictable cycle wherein the essential laws of being are overridden by fiat for a period, only to return to observance when the folly, and worse, of the inexplicable cycle becomes manifest and the masses somehow lose the “ability to pretend that what they are told is sane” and are able to believe that enlightened people live not for themselves, but for the benefit of others.
Author Rand spoke of a most peculiar stage in sociological evolution, the ultimate result of which is that a man’s “desire for money he cannot earn is regarded as a righteous wish, while “(another man) is damned for what he earns,” resulting in the latter’s lament against “helping people who despise me”. And she described with uncanny accuracy the emergence of the current ideology of “To each man according to his needs; from each man according to his ability”, together with the consequence of that ideology that achievements would no longer be men’s logical pursuit, but rather to be as needy as possible. The model automobile manufacturer, (in the book) 20th Century Motors, a trail blazer in this respect, became the home of thousands of “panhandlers” as the logical outcome of this philosophy as the only real means of getting along became manifest.
Altruism, the antithesis of the self-interest that has from the beginning of time exacted from mankind the best it has to offer, is presented by the author as what I capsule as a society-wide Ponzi scheme, ultimately for the benefit of the few who ironically are, in fact, pursuing thereby their own self-interest. Wide acceptance of the scheme is gained by sharing some of the spoils gained by punishing the achievers who are vilified to gain the widest possible complicity in that program of punishment. With trinkets and a minimal subsistence that has the virtue of being gained without effort, and with suggestion that greater such fruits from looting are being denied by rewards paid to greedy producers, the wrath of humanity is set upon the very people who are paying the bills. Perhaps the readers will find these concepts familiar.
The response of author Rand’s industry leaders was to deprive the inert masses of their benefactors' intellect and initiative and disappear into a secret enclave to wait for society and the economy to collapse upon itself, whereupon it would be possible to return, pick up the pieces and recommence the process of living for one’s own best interests as the only natural and sustainably productive type of human behavior.
Of course, this is a novel, and one must make some allowance for the manner in which the author makes her allegorical points. Industrialists and other engines of productivity, for instance, do not have to disappear into a crease in the Rockies as Rand’s players did, nor realistically could they. In fact, the human progression through all the seemingly inevitable ugliness requires far longer than a human’s lifespan. Many such leaders ultimately disappear in a mortal sense, being poorly replaced, if at all, and the remainder are simply finally destroyed by separating their labors from the rewards that fuel their labors. In the wake of this, we hope the common sense that first created the desire to achieve (man’s highest moral purpose) and inevitably benefit all society will create others of their ilk when the folly has, at last, run its course.
John Galt’s lengthy and spellbinding radio address is a particular masterpiece. Therein, the author articulates masterfully her own message and the essence of her reason for undertaking this substantial tome. Anyone deciding to read this novel (which I sense that some of the commenters here perhaps have not) should, even if abandoning the book because of its length, challenging concepts, and/or its unusually broad vocabulary and gifted expression, at least read and understand Galt’s words and, having done so, consider their logic and application in a logical and constructive daily life and as the valid reason for living.
I waited too many years to read “Atlas Shrugged”, but it was my good fortune that the processes of sincere personal effort and eating were so inextricably linked for me in the early years, and that the causes and effects that Ayn Rand deems so logical were as much so for me. For later generations, the work of those coming before and the wealth and ease created by them has loosened that perception of linkage in the thinking of many. A lack of understanding that there is no virtue in living for the benefit of others and that living off of the efforts of others is unsustainable and destructive philosophy, personally and for society as a whole, is the result.
I do not propose that anybody or any generation is bad or good, nor do I disparage any point in the sadly logical cycle that Ayn Rand so ably describes. I do propose that an understanding of the spectrum of that cycle is well worthwhile, and that such an understanding will enable the reader to see and understand the impact of the current drama actors, so ably profiled long ago by Ayn Rand that a thoughtful and observant reader can clearly equate key players in the book to key live actors now playing the same parts in the ruinous downcycle now upon us in the United States. Lastly, I propose that nothing I have ever read promotes that essential understanding as fully and logically as this book.
Even if the novel somehow fails to stimulate an individual reader’s ability to see and react to the transparently destructive vortex of misguided philosophy at work in our country, he/she will, If nothing else, learn some new words and observe practically unparalleled skill in putting them on paper. Happy and thoughtful reading.
A whole bunch of white women who can't pour pee out of a boot. The only smart white woman in the book is a female jewish publisher from New York like those the author got to know in her professional career. A black woman "across the bridge" sitting at home, denied an education, after a hard day's work teaching her employer how to boil beans, reading "Walden" that has been bootlegged to her from the local library by some covert do-gooder. Gimme a break. Who ever read "Walden" voluntarily, even being stoked with the thrill of doing so furtively? Granted that white women and the State of Mississippi are not on any of the Congressional lists of people and things it is illegal to hate and speak ill of, doing so nevertheless sends an unproductive signal; i.e., "Relax, you don't have to be very smart to be as smart as or smarter than Southern white folks." That doesn't move the ball at all. Why does the author promote satisfaction with an intellectual status quo instead of promoting aspirations to greatness? What is this supposed to do for society, black and white? No, folks, all white women in the South were not and are not stupid. No, all white folks in the South had or have no clue how to cook a decent meal without outside "Help". In fact, many were legendary, locally and some beyond, in the culinary arts. No, white women in the south were not incapable of doing their share in rearing their children without intellectual guidance from outside "Help". I knew many of them, and lived during this period. They were decent people for the most part; and a few who I knew and could afford to do so had "Help" that was treated with respect. Supply and demand at work; a day's work for a day's wages; some could afford "Help", most couldn't. That was the economic reality of the era and in the place the book covers, but take no sociological lessons from this pap. The book admits to being fiction, and it is, in every way.
The pleasant Spanish guitar tune that played briefly at the opening of the Audiobook hinted to me that I was about to be transported to one of my favorite places on the entire earth: the rugged Trans-Pecos and southward along the Mexican border with Texas, where Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson spent his career. To some, it is beautiful countryside and a place where survival doesn’t come easy. Things that do survive and thrive here have tough skin, thorns, stingers, fangs, the innate focus on preserving precious water, the ability to hide themselves in plain sight, and always a knowledge of where the next water is. This land draws visitors who define beauty in terms of endless sky, stark and forbidding mountain vistas, and solitude. Distances and emptiness can be daunting to the unprepared and fatal to the careless, and one enjoys its treasures at their own risk. One particular type of risk and one particular kind of visitor has long been the business of the Texas Ranger.
In this part of Texas, some do what they think they can do and still walk away. It is a long way between beacons of justice. As the author says, dead people have voted often and alphabetically here. Mexicans are literally dying to cross this difficult countryside and smuggle cocaine into the pipeline feeding the habits of the “elite” across our country. It is a dicey living, as long as one lives. Illicit money flows and corrupts those it touches. Ranger Jackson tells the story of his corrupt friend and fellow lawman, Rick Thompson, sheriff of Presidio County and it makes one wonder how law enforcement holds up under the proposition of money for those in the club and the continuous threat of nastiness for those who aren’t. Sheriff Thompson at some point joined the club. At trial, he was made an example for others who would defile the badge and he will never see the outside of prison. There undoubtedly was more to this sobering story than was told. For sure, if one thinks about it, being a peace officer in this part of the country is a challenging proposition.
For me, “One Ranger” was many things: high tension, informative, emotional, and very frequently humorous. And it also was one that I did not want to see end. It led me back to a time when trained professionals were clothed with authority with which they pursued results benefitting decent mankind free of thousands of regulations prescribing all manner of minutiae and of lawyers with their proctoscopes. If a little liberty was taken, that was the result of the inability of regulations to foresee all contingencies and was why trained and experienced professionals were assigned the tasks of tending to the peoples’ business as God and decent raising gave them the light to do so. That sort of latitude breeds people capable of making good decisions, and it breeds careful people loathe to lose the authority to do the job that is their responsibility. It bred, among others, the late generation of Texas Rangers. As government and law enforcement devolve apace into mediocrity, a million trees are felled to provide the paper to print limitations on authority in every conceivable situation, and uninspired and hamstrung officers enforce a new generation of laws that have less and less to do with protecting the innocent, read this book and hang out for a spell in a pleasant time when it wasn’t that way.
I remembered the harrowing tragedy in Colorado Canyon along the Rio Grande, described in detail by the author, when an adventuring couple and their guide were ambushed by two Mexicans and one American and tormented with gunfire as they rafted helplessly down the sheer-walled Canyon with no hiding places. I remembered the story; I remembered the guide’s name from around 30 years ago; I remembered the male adventurer, after begging for the lives of the three, finally being delivered by a .44 magnum round and the other two being wounded and the woman being saved by playing dead, but I didn’t know or remember how the Texas Rangers played appropriately loosely with the national borders and with the “cooperation” of local Mexican officials, literally tracked all three murderers to their home: a place called El Mulato, a Mexican village more or less established many years ago by deserting U. S. “Buffalo Soldiers”. As a result, all three were brought to justice. That would be quite impossible in 2012, but Joaquin Jackson and other Rangers made it look easy by simply doing what professional lawmen once did when guided by their responsibility for achieving results on behalf of those who trusted them to do just that.
I remembered faintly, if at all, the other episodes related by Ranger Jackson, but all were entertaining while underscoring the professionalism and dedication to duty felt by the few wearing the badge cut from the “cinco peso”.
Ranger Jackson wove into his “Memoir” the story of his own son, now in prison. “A slow, cold rain”, he called the time passing since that awful experience that any parent would break into a cold sweat just thinking about. Well done. I cannot imagine the pain, nor can I understand the author’s willingness to spread the family’s grief before the readers, or in my case, listener. But it fit somehow. I empathized with the whole family, and I wondered yet again why bad things happen to good people. I understand that both of the Jacksons’ sons and Mrs. Jackson speak in the sequel book, which I am eager to read.
Rex Linn does a good job reading. I felt that since I had paid extra to have him read the book to me, he could have done a proper noun search and taken a couple of hours learning the correct pronunciation of the names of certain people, places, and things in the book. But no matter. He was always close enough that I knew what and where he was talking about, and he read it with great clarity and appropriately in the tone and with the authority of a Ranger. That was plenty good enough.
If your philosophy is that in any situation you either make a positive difference or, at best, waste your time, you will admire, as I did, how Chris Kyle spent his time in the service of our country.
You can bemoan the number of our enemies he killed, or you can exult in the number of fine young Americans he saved from being killed, whatever your priority or choice of news commentators, but there is no denying his signal achievements in the service he chose, his dedication to what he did, his pride in what he did, and the fact that he seems to spend no time in at all in analyzing all the aspects of war that the pseudo-peace-seekers wail about.
The book is surprisingly educational, clear-thinking, and most surprising of all, very frequently humorous. Of course, there is some sadness too; it is, after all, about war. If you are open to constructive philosophy about the necessary sacrificies a democracy must be prepared to make, read or listen to Part 1, Chapter 4 where the author pauses to reflect briefly but logically and effectively, I thought, on that subject. If you would like to become acquainted with the tools of the sniper's trade, in training, temperament and equipment, that is provided too.
My entire life, I have heard the term "(he) cusses like a sailor". Well, Mr. Kyle is a sailor; a particular effective one, with a vocabulary that may be the envy of the entire U. S. Navy. But, it's all in context at least.
Scott McEwan does a fine job reading.
This book is an intense and quite entertaining account of the life of Army Air Corps Lieutenant Louie Zamperini and his tribulations as a Pacific POW in the Second World War.
First, Louie Zamperini is a hero. Every man who dons a uniform in wartime is a hero in the minds of many, including me. Some heroes place themselves generally in harms’ way as our warriors and protectors of home and hearth; others place themselves in harms’ way in a very specific way, forfeiting or intentionally taking a substantial risk of forfeiting their own lives to save someone else’s. This is a story of a hero whose place on that continuum undoubtedly will vary among readers.
A serviceman serving in the Pacific was in many ways a special kind of hero. In a fight, one might be killed, captured, or wounded. In a fight with the Japanese, there was statistically much less difference that here should have been between the first two, and capture often was simply a very long and painful death sentence. The risks in a fight were therefore greater that in one against a humane enemy, as Germany basically proved to be in its treatment of POWs.
Louie Zamperini was captured after facing almost certain death for many weeks and, for the remainder of the War, suffered brutal and inhumane treatment so familiar to the special bunch who were called Pacific POWs, especially those who, like Louie Zamperini, were directly under the heel of a particularly sadistic villain who became #7 on the United States list of Japanese war criminals (Tojo was #1).
This book is a study in the resiliency of the human spirit and “doing what you gotta do”. The depth of character, the strength of will, even the humor shown in the pages of this book is something to savor, even as the reader is repulsed by the unbridled cruelty practiced by people whose dark side decided what was to be normal in the treatment of other human beings and who were answerable to nobody; certainly nobody with any respect for human dignity and, in fact, whose purpose was not to destroy it.
The book tells of how the essential grit of Louie Zamperini was attained, and how it glittered under the pressure of terrific tests. The story is artistically crafted, replete with imagery that plays better than a movie as one listens. Audiobook reader Edward Herrmann does a splendid job.
I read the book neither cynically nor gullibly. In that vein, I note that the book was written after all the witnesses were dead. Hero Louie Zamperini has lived a very long time, and yet lives to my knowledge. When one is beyond the critique of witnesses, license can be taken by relater, author, editor, and anybody else having an interest in the book’s success, constrained only by recorded history and the relater’s own modesty if any. The work of the various licensees, then, reasonably might be presumed by the reader to have been favorably spiced with a measure of fiction.
A seminal event in the post-War life of Louie Zamperini was his embrace of Christianity. True to the faith, he forgave all his former tormentors including the worst one, and went on with his life, intent on emphasizing the positive. Yet, in his closing years on earth, he was able to reach back into the muck of the awful prison camps where he resided in filth and depredation, and produce in fine detail, this story. That, in itself, is truly amazing.
This book is an excellent read, and I came away even more proud to live in a country where the ilk of Louie Zamperini yet breathes.
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