“I hate that book. I hate her. I wrote a thesis paper in school about her hatred for people and the human race.” If that’s how you feel, you might have clicked on this link by mistake. No matter – I’m glad you are here! You are welcome and I do hope you stick around. The earlier invective was unloaded on an unwary fellow who dared to answer “Atlas Shrugged” to the innocent question “What’s your favorite book?” Sort of over the top, don’t you think? Have you ever heard statements like that about Barbara Kingsolver? Or Suzanne Collins? Or Clive Cussler?
But we hear this all the time from different folks about Ayn Rand. And the world really is divided in their response to Atlas Shrugged, or my favorite The Fountainhead. Some see Rand as a Philosopher Queen standing above society; some in her “Objectivist” movement wish to set in place another ‘smelly little orthodoxy’ by establishing a closed system with purity tests and excommunication processes (I think she’d be displeased); while others call her the devil and revile her for telling the story of men and women who dare to stand alone.
That is if folks are even allowed to read her at all these days. The nouveau guardians of wisdom have deemed the works of Ayn Rand a violation of the “safe spaces” they wish to create – and her work is not read as much as it should be in colleges. Those who do acknowledge her find their defense in mockery; attempting to lampoon what they cannot silence. “Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up,” as President Obama once said. The more honest rejection comes from the socialists and their communist cousins who attempt to turn the argument against their centrally planned systems on the Rand-readers. “Ya, it’s nice in theory. A utopian world, and I can see the appeal – but those ideas have never worked in real life. You have to grow out of them.” A friend of mine – who I often look to for insight, as usual has the best response to this assertion, “Free markets are what happens when you leave people alone to produce and trade peacefully without intervention. There is no “perfect free market utopia.” Just like the equilibrium in economics is never a reality, just a tendency. Of course, some libertarians argue differently and that’s why they argue “they didn’t do it right.” Freedom allows people to act on their ideas and to create things in reality and then they trade with each other for what they want; the more freedom the better that happens. No one can guess the end goal, because there is no fixed collective goal. Its apples and oranges to compare a free market to a planned economy, because the fundamental premises are so different.”
And through it all, Rand does find her way – a cult classic that is slipped under doors and handed over at the bottom of laundry baskets in darkened dorms policed by the know-nothings. So again, why the odd reactions to Rand? I don’t know.
But, for fun, I’m gonna guess. My theory is that the reactions are so visceral because of how the books make the reader feel. And those feelings reveal a lot about the reader, to themselves and to others. So I’ll tell you how The Fountainhead makes me feel. Unafraid. That’s the best word for it. Sure, empowered or encouraged could also work. To know that opposition is natural, that popularity is often a front for surrender, that success is not guaranteed, and that we alone must be the judges of our work, of our ideas, of our lives – of ourselves. And that life is a struggle; for our beliefs and for our place and for our freedom. All of these are things that I have felt naturally, that I have experienced in life and that I have seen in the world around me – put to a good if sometimes loquacious prose by a gifted storyteller. That is all.
So why the hate? Since that is not an emotion I share about Rand, I can only make the following educated guess – if Rand makes me feel unafraid, it is likely that the people who hate her do so because reading Rand makes them afraid. For them – I suppose – a world where people are asked to stand alone; a world where “you did build that, you did make that happen,” must be scary because they feel like they are placed at the mercy of others. Now, depending on others doesn’t bother them – that is the heart of socialism, as the comfortable cushion of “somebody else made that happen” proves. What is truly scary however is if they are dependent on people who they need, but who don’t need them in return and know it: and have the audacity to say it, thereby shattering the illusion. Of people who they don’t understand, of instincts they don’t share, of motive power they do not possess. While they feel need – they also feel unneeded. That certainly is scary, isn’t it?
The camera moved to Galt. He remained still for a moment. Then, with so swift and expert a movement that his secretary’s hand was unable to match it, he rose to his feet, leaning sidewise, leaving the pointed gun momentarily exposed to the sight of the world – then, standing straight, facing the cameras, looking at all his invisible viewers, he said: “Get the hell out of my way!” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Thank you for your piece on Ayn Rand. It should be remembered that even the greatest man who ever lived, Aristotle, did not become dean of his school on the death of Plato, because of ‘THE PHILOSOPHER’S radical views. Ironically, those views of Aristotle have now made possible our industrial civilization. So, Collectivist should get a grip: Ayn Rands ideas will have their day in the sun.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks. I’d suggest her day in the sun is happening now. Like Hayek was instrumental post-WWII England in helping that country pull itself back from the brink, so now men of the mind read and think and work.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I, for one, hope that this morally bankrupt fraud of a fiction writer does not have a day in the sun. Her supposed maxim of maximizing individual freedom can only appeal to upper class rich whites. Ask a working man if he would like to live in a world where his boss has total control at the workplace and he has no recourse other than to quit and go work at some equally oppressive job and you’ll get my drift. Regulation is simply an injection of democracy into an otherwise totalitarian workplace giving the workers some recourse when they are abused. Stripping out regulation, as is the libertarian dream, only means the institution of total slavery in the workplace.
I think Rand’s ‘day in the sun’ has come and stayed. Atlas is now a classic – and one of the most read in the USA.
“. . some in her “Objectivist” movement wish to set in place another ‘smelly little orthodoxy’ by establishing a closed system with purity tests and excommunication processes”. Who does that? Names please.
If you don’t know the internal debates in the objectivist crowd, there’s not a lot I can do to help you.
I think the reasons people in general oppose Rand is 1: They haven’t read it and just take their opinion from what they hear about it. 2: they react to the “selfish = good” narrative negatively without understading the message she’s trying to convey and 3: they see Rand as a cult leader when in fact she encouranges her readers not to follow and to think for themselves.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“the odd reactions to Rand? I don’t know.
But, for fun, I’m gonna guess. My theory is that the reactions are so visceral because of how the books make the reader feel”
You give people far too much credit. The VAST MAJORITY of anti-Rand hatred is parroted ignorance from people who have never even read her books, and who only know distortions of her ideas.
People who smear Rand, having read her books, are usually avowed enemies of individualism.
LikeLiked by 1 person
For years I’ve had a hard time explaining to people about one of my all-time favorite books, The Fountainhead, which moved me when I was a young kid and still does today, and the contrast with one of the worst books I’ve ever read, Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged marked the first book I made myself finish hoping I would find a nugget of wisdom in the last half of the book, only to be disappointed with repetitive, poorly written prose. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book tremendously, but then… At least 500 pages could have been deleted in my opinion.
I can say, however, that I look forward to re-reading The Fountainhead once again 🙂
Thats interesting, I’ve never heard that before. I too preferred The Fountainhead – I found it more “human” and more natural and less preachy. But I certainly did like Atlas too.
I find myself in the position of agreeing with Objectivism as a philosophy and believing very strongly that the free market is the source of wealth and human happiness, while at the same time loathing Rand as a stylist and a novelist. I love her non fiction works, but I have never been able to get through any of her fiction works except Anthem, and that only because it’s very short. I just can’t get past her tin ear for dialogue.
Everybody has styles they like and ones they don’t, part of what makes us human. You should try mine – same sort of ideas but perhaps less “two-dimensional” https://www.amazon.com/Burning-San-Porfirio-Sequel-Lieutenant/dp/1491785187/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1516605064&sr=8-2&keywords=joel+hirst