Some writing becomes outdated as fast as a newspaper. There must be millions of books and magazines from the 1970's that are now of interest to no one but scholars and perhaps the mothers of those who wrote them. But Ayn Rand, because she thought in philosophic principles, actually becomes more interesting as time passes.
Take the speech she gave at the Ford Hall Forum in 1977, "Global Balkanization," which can now be found in The Return of the Primitive. When I read it in the '70s, I could see her point, but tribalism in America was still somewhat theoretical to me. I could not imagine that things would get as bad as the Balkans or Belgium or the Basques in Spain and France. 30 years later we have seen the growth of multiculturalism in our culture and Rand's speech seems remarkably prescient. We have seen blacks relabeled "African-Americans" because definition by ethnicity is so important to the New Left. Now we see immigrants from Latin America who spend their lives in the USA without bothering to learn English.
I believe OJ was acquitted in large part because of the influence of multiculturalism on the jury. The jury's stultified minds had been trained to think of everything in tribal terms. OJ was a black man against racist white cops; the facts of the case were not as important to the jury as the fact that OJ was part of their ethnicity, part of their tribe.
Now we see the Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival worried about the ethnic makeup not just of his actors and playwrights but his audience. Now children get pious lectures about different "cultures" -- asians are supposed to have certain traits, African-Americans other traits and Hispanics another set of traits. Now we see politicians elected because they're the first woman/black/hispanic/fill-in-the-blank to run for an office.
I was inspired to reread "Global Balkanization" by the Jena 6 incident. The case is about six black kids who jumped a white kid and beat him unconscious. It's not a civil rights case, and comparisons to Selma, Alabama strike me as laughable. However, to leftists and people such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton the facts are unimportant; it only matters that this is a case of "our tribe vs. their tribe." Black kids are on trial in the South; they must be defended by other blacks, regardless of the facts of the case. Multiculturalism has spread so far through our culture that many can only think of this case through its distorting lens.
There are many quotable passages in "Global Balkanization," not the least Rand's immortal observation of folk dancing, "if you've seen one group of people clapping their hands while jumping up and down, you've seen them all." Here she looks at the nature and causes of modern tribalism:
Philosophically, tribalism is the product of irrationalism and collectivism. It is a logical consequence of modern philosophy. If men accept the notion that reason is not valid, what is to guide them and how are they to live? Obviously, they will seek to join some group -- any group -- which claims the ability to lead them and to provide some sort of knowledge acquired by some sort of unspecified means. If men accept the notion that the individual is helpless, intellectually and morally, that he has no mind and no rights, that he is nothing, but the group is all, and his only moral significance lies in selfless service to the group -- they will be pulled obediently to join a group. But which group? Well, if you believe that you have no mind and no moral value, you cannot have the confidence to make choices -- so the only thing for you to do is to join an unchosen group, the group into which you were born, the group to which you were predestined to belong by the sovereign, omnipotent omniscient power of your body chemistry.
This, of course, is racism. But if your group is small enough, it will not be called "racism": it will be called "ethnicity."
Rand explains the function of the word ethnicity:
Observe that ever since World War II, racism has been regarded as a vicious falsehood and a great evil, which it certainly is. It is not the root of all social evils -- the root is collectivism -- but, as I have written before (in The Virtue of Selfishness), "Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism." One would think that Hitler had given a sufficient demonstration of racism's evil. Yet today's intellectuals, particularly the liberals, are supporting and propagating the most virulent form of racism on earth: tribalism.
The cover-up that makes it possible lies in a single word: ethnicity.
Today multiculturalism is held as an unquestioned ideal. Using such words as culture and ethnicity as a cover, schoolchildren are indoctrinated with racist ideas.
The tragedy of multiculturalism is that instead of helping people be color blind so that they judge others by "the content of their character," it forces people to categorize everyone by race. I get the sense that race consciousness is spreading among whites. Whites are beginning to judge policies and candidates on how they will benefit the caucasian race. If racism spreads among whites as well as among all minorities, the consequences could be disastrous.
Multiculturalism poses as a force for tolerance and brotherly love, when it really leads to the opposite -- to civil strife, hatred and violence. Multiculturalism places everyone into a pressure group by race that looks to the government for preferences at the expense of all the other groups. The now reviled "Melting Pot," in which people were encouraged to forget their ethnicity and be an American like everyone else, did lead to dignity, peace and respect; it was an individualist policy in a country that had a freer market than today. But when the state intervenes in the economy and people divide into pressure groups hoping to get a bigger piece of the handout pie than other groups, the result is group conflict and hatred.
Freedom cannot last when any form of collectivism dominates a culture. For our children and our children's children to grow up in a free country, we need to return to individualism. Instead, our children are being indoctrinated with racism in government schools -- and this might be the greatest scandal nobody cares about.