All My Sons, Big Business, Moral Responsibility
I recently saw the Arthur Miller play, All My Sons. It reminded me of how much Miller was in tune with so much of American culture.
The play revolves around Joe Keller, an entrepreneur, who owns a factory that shipped out cracked warplane cylinder heads during World War II. Twenty one pilots died in crashes as a result. His associate, Steve Deever, warned him of the defective engines, and Joe told him to seal the cracks. Deever tried to call him, not wanting to take sole responsibility for the shipment. Joe, later, claims that he had the flu and was not able to answer the call.
After a courtroom trial, Deever is sent to prison. Joe is exonerated in an appeal of his case. The rest of the play is about all the collateral damage Joe’s big lie has on his own family and the family of his associate. Continue reading
Prosperity and the Good Life
“Who doesn’t want to see their kids prosperous?” says the mother of Qin and Yang in the documentary, Last Train Home. This is a refrain begun earlier by the grandmother: “But who doesn’t want their children to live a good life?”
If we are to believe the mother and the grandmother, prosperity and the good life are the two goals of all families. China appears to be no exception to this rule in Lixin Fan’s brilliant documentary of one family’s attempts to achieve some form of prosperity in the new hypercapitalist China.
But it is a prosperity that has a profound emotional price tag. Over a period of thirteen years, the Zhang family becomes fractured when the mother and father leave their two children home with the grandmother as the parents pursue the Chinese dream to succeed.
And they don’t just leave home to go to a nearby city. They travel a little over 1300 miles to work in a makeshift factory in the city of Guangzhou in Guandong Province. Like the other 130 million migrant workers working in cities all over China, the Zhang couple returns only once a year to their small village.
Ayn Rand once wrote that a butcher, a brewer, and a baker do not make a dinner a success because of their “benevolence”; they are motivated by their own “self-interest.” She also believed that humans should participate in the world as heroic beings pursuing their own happiness and their own “productive achievement(s),” limited only by what she calls the facts of “reality.”
Rand refers to her reason-based philosophy as objectivism, a hard-edged ism that focuses on objective reality as the only rational plain on which humans can, and ought to live. All other forms—faith, religion, theism—are nothing more than subjective, irrational, even delusional venues that humans have devised for any of a number of subjective motives. Continue reading