“The choice is still open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to stand naked in the face of reality and reversing a costly historical error, to declare I am therefore I’ll think. You had known how to take an inventory of your wealth, now take an inventory of your mind…” ~John Galt
It’s like high school all over again- everyone knows of her, everyone has an opinion, but very few actually know her. Ayn Rand is the type of person where when you say their name in public, you’re going to get one of two reactions, either they cheer or they snarl. What is sad is that even those who cheer will still snarl when confronted with the “unpopular” mainstream stance.
I had the opportunity recently to speak at the Atlas Summit 2017 about why Latinos should read Ayn Rand. It was amazing just to get a chance to speak about such a topic I love with a chosen panel from the Atlas Society alone, but it was the crowd of young people that have never read an Ayn Rand that got me excited because, well, I wanted to make them excited. Atlas Society Jennifer Grossman put it best, they are those “lucky people who get to go on the adventure of Ayn Rand” for the first time.
What I noticed early on about a majority of the students in the audience wasn’t just the fact they had a very basic understanding of who Rand was and what she wrote about, but both students of conservative and libertarian bents alike missed a giant factor about her novels- worldview. Conservatives and libertarians who regurgitate the spark notes summary of Rand’s work always identify the basic themes- government bad, capitalism good. I still remember during the 2012 election when Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike was coming out in theaters, many right wingers applauded the film as being anti-socialism, but that still only touched the surface.
The reason both conservatives and libertarians may cheer Rand’s prognosis of the state but still concede certain criticisms to leftists is this- they are insecure individuals with a beta mindset. Rand wasn’t so revolutionary because she stated what so many others have stated about the state, she was revolutionary because she was diving into the root of man, selfishness vs greed. Because of centuries of influence of Judeo-Christian thought distorted by Marxist and progressive cancers, the idea of defending selfishness is in itself the most revolutionary thing any individual can do, because when you stand on that hill you will be attacked by every single corner of society for standing for yourself.
Howard Roark and John Galt are not what most individuals would consider “polite.” Both Roark and Galt were brash, to the point, and cared little of other’s feelings as some may say. The amazing thing about both individuals is that the accusation that they didn’t care for others alone is absurd; Rand herself pointed out in the Fountainhead you can’t say “I love you” without first saying “I.” The promotion of honest relationships and stating what you want proves to the other individual you care for their outcome as much as you care for your own because you know your worth, and hopefully understand they care for their’s as much. There is nothing caring about forcing self sacrifice through coercion, theft, or violence. Stating “my only goal is to make money” as Hank Rearden did should not cause an entire room to freak out and act like you just threatened someone.
Those on the right are often called selfish by those on the left, and when they are they concede, hide, or make up excuses, making the left seem humane and selfless. Every single human on Earth who has ever lived is selfish, the only difference are those who are honest and those who are irredeemable liars.
Roark understands selfishness yet takes things to a different level than the characters in Atlas Shrugged however, because you can’t be selfish without understanding what you want. People get awkward and uncomfortable when they are asked what they want, and the worst answer you can give is “I don’t know.” Roark (and I’m paraphrasing) snaps at the character of Peter Keating in the Fountainhead and essentially asks how you can possible live without knowing what you want? When you don’t know what you want, others will tell you what you want, and that creates the road to losing yourself to the wants of others.
The forced desires of others though that has corrupted the concept of selfishness is greed. Greed is the antithesis of selfishness because greed is inherently evil, it destroys, corrupts, and kills. Greed is not based on consent or honesty, greedy people will do anything and everything to get the results they want. Imagine how the world would change if the word “selfish” was treated the way it should? That brings us to the fear of being honest with ourselves because we fear the judgement of others, which is why I feel so many conservatives and libertarians are afraid to read Ayn Rand, because once you read and understand those “radical” thoughts there is no going back.
Rand is the most revolutionary writer in the human course of events because she forces the reader not to conform to her ways of thinking and worldview, but forces the reader to justify their own. In an interview with Jennifer, she stated it best, “if you are grounded in your faith and beliefs, you have nothing to worry about.” It’s never good enough to know what you believe, but why you believe, and what you want to get out of believing it. On a personal note, I don’t agree with Rand 100%, and I fear any individual who agrees with anyone 100%, yet as a spiritual and mental challenge in the name of the pursuit of happiness, honesty, and reason, there is no better way to know and justify how you defend your very right to exist than the adventure of Ayn Rand’s writings.
She’d probably yell and argue if she were alive today reading this, but from my Christian perspective at least, that’s why I believe she was put on this Earth…
Here is my favorite interpretation of John Galt’s speech.