Ayn Rand in many ways is one of my favorite writers. I literally came upon two of my most fascinating books by accident. When my father moved to Canada we lived in Ontario. At the time being a single father, he wanted me to grow close to his sister who lives in British Columbia, so we moved here. When we arrived we stayed at his sister’s for a few days while my father found the right place for us and furnished it. I love reading, I always have; one of the best gifts people can ever give me, is a book. I will read it regardless of whether I like it or not or whether I agree with it or not. However, if I do happen to enjoy it, I will read that book over and over again in order to better comprehend its meaning.
One night as I could not sleep (this happens a lot to me) I decided to browse through my cousin Robert’s old closet (He was in university and I was staying in his old room). I was certain, I would find a good book; after all Robert was my “hero” at the time, the person I wanted to grow up to be like; smart, hardworking, dedicated, focused, and seemed oblivious that most women found him very attractive, this added to his charm, for simplicity is something I love and respect in family, friends, partners. Anyway, there was a shelf which was too high for me to reach and being late I did not want to make so much noise; somehow as I was about to walk away, 2 books fell on my head. One of them was “Out on a Limb” and the other was “Atlas Shrugged”. I don’t usually read fiction, but these two books aren’t novels, they are philosophies, specially the second one. Those two books helped me discover so many other authors, expanding my perspective, I will forever be thankful to life for that “little” accident.
During most of her years, Ayn Rand was best know for her literally works, not so much as a philosopher. At the end of her career, she decided to explain to the world what guided the ideals behind her characters. The philosophy of objectivism is probably one of the few original philosophical movements of the 20th century. Her philosophy is based on three very important components; rationality, freedom and selfishness.
Many thinkers have spoken on the importance of philosophy and how it can enrich life; few however, have defended with the same passion as Rand did. She was convinced it is not possible to live without a philosophy to guide our steps. Even among those who have never thought about it, we all live according to a philosophy; might as well make it a philosophy which encourages our growth as human beings.
To live, human beings need to think, make decisions, feel them and act upon them; hopefully in that order. In order to better use such method, we need to know who we are, where we are going and understand the duality of life without getting caught up within the radical dogmatic views of “good” and “evil”, instead we need to properly understand them. Rand knew many of the things people consider “good” are actually poison to the mind and soul.
According to Rand, the only choice we have is either to develop our own philosophy or to take one that already exists. Within this last group, Rand also included religions as they were meant to be originally; a compass not a dogma–where a person could use his or her own thinking vs. having something imposed as the “law” or “right” way to do things and where a mediator is needed. Rand always preferred the first option–to create your own philosophy– Why? “It will always be better to live according to a truth we have arrived at by ourselves than to do it according to truths accepted by faith, because if we fail, we can solve it. However, if we accept imposed dogmas and solutions without proof, the only thing we will do is destroy our ability to find the truth”
Rand’s entire approach is based on a very specific thesis: reality is true and we are able to understand it. As much as we live within a duality, she believed in our capacity to navigate those waters, to discover what is hidden, to test, to comprehend it. First ;like Nietzsche; she encourages us to stop trying to ran away from life by living within confinements, in hopes of earning a place within a mythological heaven and to avoid a make believe hell–heaven and hell can already be experienced in this plane of life; why worry about another when we haven’t even figure out how to navigate this one? first let’s try to do the best we can here.
Rand considered herself a disciple or student of Aristotle; to her, he was the most brilliant mind mankind had ever known. In no way this meant she agreed with him on everything; after all, she took pride on being an individualistic thinker and although she loved the philosopher, she was against his ethics when it came to “golden mediocrity”–her dislike for mediocrity becomes quiet apparent within each of her books. She had this beautiful concept that there are issues where things ARE black or white and cannot be negated. Furthermore, she believed to do so, to try to be political or diplomatic about it, wasn’t a virtue but blasphemy, as it desecrates anything beautiful and divine within human beings.
One aspect of Rand’s philosophy which has caught the attention of the public and made her a character of great controversy, was her unambiguous defense of selfishness as the only natural, rational attitude – Her ideology on selfishness was not based on false ego nor was it ever to contradict Nietzsche on his view’s regarding irrational selfishness (false ego). If one actually takes the time to study them both properly, the conclusion is this: they are both talking about the same thing, just from different perspectives; however their motivation was the same.
For Rand, to love your neighbor over yourself is not only impossible, but completely immoral; furthermore, the bible would agree with her. Although many people know the quote few understand it. Christ said “love your neighbor as yourself”, he never said “love your neighbor first then love yourself” –the second quote would imply a kind of unconditional love that is meant to enslave and strip you of your dignity. In reality the second quote would be telling us to love no one, because as Rand saw it, it implies loving without taking into account what values the loved one possesses or does not possess. As I like to see it, if you give it all to others, what is there left for you? Isn’t there a saying that tells us to fill our glass with water first before offering it to others? Rand’s view may be a bit colder than mine; however, if we step out of our self righteous attitudes, we can begin to understand it. Would it be healthy to “love” someone who keeps hurting you? Dogma would say yes, it is the loving thing to do. What a horrible concept, it means you sacrifice yourself like an animal so you may earn your place in a mythological heaven. On the other hand if you stay with someone because of reputation or gain; then be honest about it and stop coating it as something which is not. Sounds cold but we cannot negate it would make life much easier and certainly more honest.
It is hard to believe that valuable teachings, given to us by great illuminated minds, have become so twisted and taken out of contex. It is not only damaging to self but immoral, for it implies one enables behavior (whatever toxic behavior it might be) in the name of love when in reality is in the name of fear. Fear to confront things as they are; because we don’t like to say we are afraid, we twist the meaning of the word and hide behind it, expecting to be “rewarded” for our sacrifice.
Another concept she did not believe in, is the labeling of your “good” desires as “sacrifice”. For example, if your child needs food but you have been thinking of a silk scarf, and you don’t have enough to do both–your choosing to buy food for your child is not “sacrifice”, it is choice born out of love. Sacrifice is not a virtue, it means to give up what you really want for the “sake” of what others want–in other words “charity”. Seeing it from this perspective, I ask most parents, are your children “charity” or do you “love” them. For those who care for and/or chose to have children, the answer will rush forth right away “love”, those who perhaps struggle and wish life would have played out differently, they might label it “sacrifice” yet many will simply say “love”. I am not judging your circumstances; I have not walked in your shoes; just trying to clarify the meaning of things.
The evil of altruism is precisely in its obligation and self-sacrifice. The undisputed and indisputable dogma that we must suffer for the welfare of those around us, whether they deserve it or not, whether we know them or not. Faced with this, it is no surprise Rand wondered how it is possible we accept as moral a theory which states we must necessarily abandon our life, our dreams, our passions in favor of others, making it completely legitimate to put their needs before ours. If I chose to help someone, it is my choice; it cannot be demanded of me. What if I have nothing left to give? Am I supposed to “sacrifice” myself so others can have what they want? How can altruism be good when it teaches us immorality instead. It turns real morality into our enemy; for the morality altruism preaches can only lead to suffering. How is it possible for such aberration to be considered moral , good or even natural?
Under altruism, a social norm is created that says anyone can demand the help of others (even if they are tyrants) otherwise you will not be considered good. Since when being good means being forced to do something? worst yet, there are those use such concept and who pretend to be kind expecting to be praised– are they good or are they using the “system” to feed a false ego? Another great question to ponder on.
Altruism removes the responsibility each one has for his or her life and lays it at the hand of others; it matters not if the other person is just plain lazy, you are supposed to give from what you have so he or she can continue being lazy–that cannot be “Moral”. Our life is ours and so are the responsibilities that come with it. We cannot impose our responsibilities on others nor can we demand help from anyone; specially when we are not even trying to help ourselves. There is a fine balance here, a balance which cannot be attained through any extreme, worst yet through the false virtuosity of altruism.
Human beings have the right to their own existence and therefore to the fruits they get out of it. Every man or woman has the right to enjoy the rewards of their work. You have the right to do with your life as you please without feeling guilty, so long as you are not purposely trying to hurt others, to violate their boundaries or to steal from the live hood of others. There is nothing moral about taking the “bread” from someone else and calling it “your right” because a sick society says so, or an ill system declares it so–that is where your morals show.
Rand’s ideas were caused for so much debate across the ideological spectrum. She was a proud, educated and independent woman who never tolerated the superiority or the norms of anyone, and who defended individual freedom in all orders (freedom to use drugs -although it seemed stupid to her why someone would destroy the mind knowingly-, to abort, to die , to express himself, etc.)
We don’t have to agree with everything she believed; I certainly don’t; but one thing is certain, she did bring out all the little “ugly” things of our ill system and analyzed them openly. She despised political correct people who would take away the choice of others simply because it was what the “collective” or the herd considered “right”. The sad part is those same people usually tend to lobby for the right to choose regarding other subjects. The difference? those subjects usually are what is being pushed by politicians as “the right thing to do” or by dogmatic people as “the good thing to do”.
Rand proposed some very radical ideals. As I said earlier, I don’t have to agree with everything she said; that is the beauty of using my own brain. I do respect many of her philosophies, more importantly I agree wholeheartedly that in order to better understand the complexities of the world around us, and not be used as pawns by a system designed by people who seek only power, we need to educate ourselves. Do not confuse education with “educational dogma” (where only those who have a degree are considered intelligent). First of all there are many types of intelligence; I wrote about them in an older article. More importantly however; our modern educational system is more concerned with indoctrination than to teach kids to think. With that said, it is up to each individual to educate oneself, that way we won’t go around regurgitating whatever the media tries to feed us but will make our choice base on logic and proper analyses. Too many people have an amazing heart and mind, yet they are swayed by political correctness and give up their power to choose in the name of “false freedom” . That is why I believe is important we expose ourselves to various perspectives and not just the ones we find comfortable.
"An alleged right of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, isn't and can't be a right" Ayn Rand