Friday, December 2, 2011

How About ARI Commercials?

I've been daydreaming about this for so many months that I might as well release the idea from my head. Several months ago the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) had a contest with monetary prizes where people would compete to make the best video that represented the theme of the book Atlas Shrugged. I didn't watch most of the entries, but the one I remember most is the video about two kids who have competing lemonade stands with greatly differing standards. For instance, one kid would be unsanitary and made his beverage with powdered mix, while the other was very cleanly and made his with only real lemons and sugar. The latter kid with the better practices is the one who ends up getting all the costumers while the other one gets not a single visitor. The successful kid's father comes home near the end and asks him about his stand, and afterwards he asks him to share the profits with the undeserving "friend" across the street who made not a single sale.

This got me thinking and daydreaming: What if the institute itself made commercials to advertise itself, using the commercial style of showing how some philosophies would play out in real life if consistently followed?

One of the bad things in the world today that allows bad ideas to take hold is that people too often don't take them seriously. When read word for word many ideologies are obscenely absurd beyond the point of comedy, and in order to adopt those ideas people approximate them to different forms and degrees so that they seem reasonable, thus allowing people to believe in and practice absurdities.

Let's take the philosophy of pragmatism for example. I believe it was in the article The Menace of Pragmatism that I learned that pragmatic metaphysics holds that the nature of existence is in flux: That the identity of things today may be different tomorrow. For example, a cup of coffee could be as you know it today, but tomorrow turn into a winged monster that flies around spewing lava. Yes, that's really weird, but this is an example of pragmatic metaphysics would literally amount to if we were to take it literally. Obviously the world does not change from day to day like that, but this is what this ideology holds.

But people who believe in pragmatism don't take it that consistently. It would be consistent of their ideology to expect a candle flame to only burn you today and do something different tomorrow, but if you conducted a survey I doubt you'd find a single pragmatic volunteer that would continually subject himself to burns in order to practice his theory.

Building off this, I thought to myself: What if the ARI had a commercial showing rational people dealing with people who took these types of ideas seriously and practiced them consistently?

What plays in my imagination is a scene of a guy driving to an oil change place called "Pragmatic Mechanics" having its grand opening, getting a routine service. It's not a quick oil change place, so he gets out and talks to the boss, who assures him a top-quality service since they're pragmatics concerned with nothing but practical results. The guy is pleased and then goes across the street to get a coffee, and upon coming back he sees the workers doing all sorts of random stuff to his car. One guy is driving a pick axe into the body and tires; another guy wearing a giant foam cowboy hat is tossing laboratory chemicals under the hood, creating smoke and loud cackling noises; another is wearing a blindfold and smearing toothpaste on the back window, and another is on the side playing an electronic keyboard while three females vocalize. The car owner drops his coffee in horror and inquires frantically as to what's going on, and the shop owner runs up to him covered in Christmas wreaths shouting, "We tried everything; you can't blame us!" The commercial then closes with Debi Ghate's narration: "Pragmatism isn't very practical, is it? Check out the Ayn Rand Institute at Ayn Rand dot org for a rational alternative, where you can find writing, videos, audio, and more on how to approach life with reason."

I've thought of some other ones too. To take a morality angle, there could be a video that shows a person attending an outdoor rally that advocates altruism, stating that the world has deviated too far from it. After some discussion a person in the crowd notes that it's selfish to breathe since they're taking air away from other people. The crowd mutters agreement, makes a loud exhalation, and then all but one person faints. Honing in on that lone, semi-rational person's baffled face, another ARI representative narrates: "Looking for a better way to live your life? Check out the Ayn Rand Institute at Ayn Rand dot org for a rational alternative, where you can find writing, videos, audio, and more on how to approach life with reason."

Wouldn't it be great if commercials like these did air? Aside from pointing out the absurdities many ideas lead to, the single rational people these videos emphasize, such as the car owner and rally attendee, could be directed at those people who possess an active mind and yet don't understand what's destroying the world these days. The car owner didn't know that pragmatic methods could lead to the destruction of his vehicle, and the attendee doesn't want to commit suicide and is shocked to see people actually attempt self-suffocation. This type of people give an innocent nod to ideas and ideals like these and then don't know what to make of the results. That would be a great angle for ARI to make its pitch.

However, I admit these aren't serious proposals. Just daydreaming.

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