More thoughts on Ayn Rand

As I’ve continued to consider the work of Ayn Rand and read a few more writings related to the topic, I began to notice that there are two radically divergent interpretations of her work.

One is the standard liberal criticism that Rand was advocating selfishness for its own sake, while condemning human notions of sympathy, empathy and egalitarianism. It’s hard, reading Rand’s own words, to dispute this.

But there’s another interpretation of her writing that makes her out to be the first Anthony Robbins. She’s saying, “You can do it! Everything you need to make your dreams happen exists within you!”

And, I think there’s a lot of truth to this interpretation. Rand’s work is fundamentally at the heart of the battle between collectivism (e.g. we’re all in this together) and individualism (one person can rise above the steaming, stinking mediocrities that make up most of the human population.) And I think her work does acknowledge a seldom talked about weakness in collectivism. Perhaps the best summation of collectivism is the title to the Hillary Clinton’s children’s book “it takes a village.” The idea is that “it takes a village” to raise a child, or to put it another way, a person is only as strong as their support system. The problem here is that there’s an implicit message that if you don’t have a strong support system — for whatever reason — you’re fucked. The message of collectivism is that if you can’t group together and bond with people around you, you will suffer. This might explain why Rand’s work has such appeal for gifted children who have difficulty associating with their social peers. Rand’s message to such children is, “you are special! And you can transcend the bullying and idiocy of your cohorts.”

My view is that both collectivism and individualism — at least in their pure, extreme forms — miss something. And trying to apply them as simplistic rules for government is bound to reap numerous unintended consequences.

But, there’s no denying the individualist message has a resonance for me. I do consider myself superior to most people I encounter. Most social interaction consists of me digging my nails into the palm of my hand in order to distract myself from the contemptible, middling mental impairment of the person I’m talking to, an impairment that usually blinds them to my genius and superiority. For that part of me, Rand has a certain appeal.

There’s an interesting neurological question here as well. Do Objectivists and Ayn Rand followers have smaller neuronal networks for parts of the brain dedicated to social interaction? (I’m not putting them down; I suspect that I do.)

2 Responses to “More thoughts on Ayn Rand”

  1. John Saleeby

    I haven’t been commenting in your blog lately because your recent posts have been so thought provoking that after reading each one I am compelled to take long walks in the woods so deep in thought that I get lost and have to spend the night running around and hiding from Big Foot. Big Foot, by the way, thinks you are full of shit although Sasquatches do in fact experience orgasms in their feet. That’s why they are called “Big Foot”. If you really want to offend them, call them “Tiny Penis Only Used For Peeing”. Also of interest, they defecate through their palms. NEVER SHAKE HANDS WITH TINY PENIS ONLY USED FOR PEEING!!!

  2. Wil

    heh – plenty of worthwhile advice here.