Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Atlas Shrugged for Dummies

            My greatest achievement so far and for many years to come has not been and will not be academic prowess, the progress toward any number of difficult goals, or being a professional musician while some of my contemporaries were still struggling to write in complete sentences; it will be that I have completed Ayn Rand's manifesto of Objectivism, her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged. The novel is such a time commitment that even "Jack," our former connoisseur of literature and media, refused to touch it.
            In this post, I will reconcile Objectivism, a philosophy coined by Ayn Rand with the basic tenets of being in direct contact with reality and having one's end goal being personal happiness, and Christianity as well as provide a few personal conflicts I have with Rand's philosophy.
            The biggest conflict I must settle between Objectivism and religion (mainly Christianity since it is the only religion I know enough about to be any semblance of an authority on) is the fact that pure Objectivism denies any higher power. However, since Objectivism says one's happiness is the end goal, why wouldn't an eternity in Heaven be preferable to one in Hell? This also coincides with the ideas of egoism, a philosophy that states that one ought to do what works out best for them in the long run. If there is a chance of an afterlife that is better than anything that exists now, egoism would require an individual to strive to enter such a realm. And, if there is no God or afterlife, that is something we cannot prove. Objectivism states that we should work with the limited facts we do have. (Side note: Objectivism denies naïve realism on the grounds that it is impossible to prove that one's sensings of reality is truly reality. That's a great idea to blow your mind. You don't know that's a table; you only know that it seems like a table to you... Who needs drugs when you have thinking?) For me, those limited facts point toward all of existence being created by a supreme being that is the Abrahamic God, and the Bible is a source more reliable than any other work in the catalog of human literature to describe His nature. The Bible also often reinforces the Objectivist idea of never wavering in one's attempt to do their best. If you, oh reader, disagree, all the more power to you, and I sincerely hope you will point out the flaws in my arguments in the comments section below.
             Complete adherence to Objectivism should allow an individual to spend his or her time and resources on others (an idea actually contradictory to Objectivism on the surface) because doing so may bring about more immediate pleasure than hoarding money could (one can only buy so much stuff before it's more entertaining to see one's money help another than to buy another Porsche) and because helping others is a small part of the requested actions for an individual seeking to spend his or her afterlife in Heaven. (Not that those actions get one into Heaven, but they are expected of those who believe in Jesus, etc., etc. Contact me personally for a sermon; this essay isn't the place for it.) The point here is that one should have the ability but not the requirement to support others in any capacity he or she wishes.
             Two smaller but still relevant disagreements I have with Objectivism are on the views of love and need for government police and justice systems.
            Objectivism advocates romantic love while I believe love is glorified settling for a significant other who can meet one's needs and represents his or her goals, respected intangible attributes (sense of humor, intelligence, emotional volatility, etc.) and moral code. My view allows for the idea that there is more than one person in the world compatible with me; that seems logical given the current global population.
            Rand's position believes that there should still be a government run justice system to keep the police and the courts off the market. My rebuttal to that is the fact that having a government run justice system is exactly how one puts a price-tag on the law. Corporations put an almost unimaginable amount of money into political campaigns to insure that their ideals become the law.
             I would strongly suggest Atlas Shrugged to any soul willing to take on a real time drain of a book. For everyone else, here's the SparkNotes summary. There's no shame in not wanting to read 1,088 pages of talk of trains and scabs; I skipped a 100 page speech that was supposed to last 3 hours. I may be nerdy, but I still have the attention span of a 21st century teenager.

"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." -John Galt

-Jason Rossiter

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