I agree with Ayn Rand


Well, that’s probably too much of a stretch..haha. I believe Ayn Rand has made some points that I’ve cherry picked for my own selfish agenda. I mean the point of this post that that I’m selfish. I often don’t feel like being nice, especially if I’m tired. I tend to ignore homeless people if they ask for money (unless I can give them food). I don’t talk to people unless I feel like it, and I quickly dismiss people if I don’t think they know what they are talking about. I find myself constantly assessing whether or not people are making a good use of my time, and I usually say no when the self checkout asks me if I want to donate $1 (as I pay for my groceries).

My use of technology is also very selfish. I only use twitter to keep track of what I’m doing and the random thoughts that cross my mind. I use facebook to steal and post interesting links that I want to remember for later and, also, as my personal address book. I blog to keep track of my own ideas and events, and I take photographs to quickly log the activities of my life. I care a little, but not whole lot about who reads my thoughts or agrees with me. I do all this mostly for me.

So, why do I love Ayn Rand? Maybe I like her independence and her immunity towards conformity. By no means do I fully understand what Ayn Rand was about (besides what I learned from Bioshock, Google, and Wikipedia). In her interviews, I found her to be an adorable woman who takes herself very very seriously. All joking a side, her book, Fountainhead, is probably one of my favorite works of fiction.


Fountainhead (spoilers)

If there were two things I didn’t like about Fountainhead, it was the “happy ending” and the lack of emotions. Since Rand left out much of the emotional introspection of her characters, I was able to satisfiably assign my own (as I told myself her story). What Fountainhead did for me was that it uniquely captured the lonely road of social deviance, refusing to live a world less-than what one believes is ideal. The ridicule and misunderstandings that the main characters experienced felt validating.

Not only was it validating, but it was eye-opening. Evil, in this story, came in the form of corrupt altruism. Corrupt altruism is indeed corrupt. In fact, I think it’s even worse than non-altruistic malice. It reminds me of the Bible verse: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Charity should come from a place of joy and freedom, not from compulsion or obligation.

Does she believe that all altruism is immoral? From reading Fountainhead, it sounds like she thinks that altruism is impossible. This is what Jesus had to say about those who’d hope to clothe themselves in altruism: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Just read all of Matthew 23.

Rand also agrees that you should give only when you mean it, not out of compulsion. In her interview with Mike Wallace in 1959, she gives an example of where it is appropriate to act selflessly. The loop-holes are endless!

Wallace: You are married?
Rand: Yes.
Wallace: Your husband, is he an industrialist?
Rand: No. He’s an artist. His name is Frank O’Conner.
Wallace: Does he live from his painting?
Rand: He’s just beginning to study painting. He was a designer before.
Wallace: Is he supported in his efforts by the state?
Rand: Most certainly not.
Wallace: He’s supported by you for the time being?
Rand: No, by his own work actually in the past. By me if necessary, but that isn’t quite necessary.
Wallace: There is no contradiction here, in that you help him.
Rand: No, because you see I am in love with him selfishly. It is to my own interest to help him if he ever needed it. I would not call that a sacrifice, because I take selfish pleasure in it. 

(Transcript pt1 pt2 pt3)

I’m not a nice person, and if I am ever nice, it is because I get selfish pleasure from it. (It’s funny that I can only find studies on second order altruism, but not anything on second order selfishness.) Anyhow, it’s even worse that I’m not a follower of Ayn Rand, but of Jesus Christ. I admire people being nice and I think, “wow, I should be more like that.” It’s as if I am jealous that this nice person appears more Christ-like than I, and in that sense, I’m not too different than those hypocrites that only care about the “outsides of their cups.”

So, these days when people ask me why I’m going to Africa in December, I say well, I’m taking the “objectivist” point of view on it, and I’m going for my own selfish reasons. I’m not better than anyone, and I don’t need to be. I do the things I do, b/c I like doing them 🙂

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

Maybe I’m just saying all this b/c I’m afraid of the KONY2012 backlash. As Feminist Frequency has experienced, the internet can be a nasty place these days, but more on that later.

10 thoughts on “I agree with Ayn Rand

  1. Here I thought this would be another mindless diversion while I wait on shadow of the colossus hd to download. But very profound is instead what I have read. Most people use ayn rand to kiss the hinny of their false Gods of achievement, extreme individualism, crony capitalism, greed or money. Maybe you are acknowledging vanity, but in a real and vulnerable way. I’ve also found it funny that people do charitable things for themselves. Glad you can call a spade a spade. I don’t know the path to enlightenment but my hunch is that humility is a good start.

      1. I need to get back to writing again too. I’ve been kinda drained by my recent work routine. On the brightside, I’m actually getting paid a little, unlike my two start up game companies. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

  2. A drowning person doesn’t care if the person giving them a life preserver truly loves them in their heart or is just doing it to look good for their next promotion. The important thing to them is getting the life preserver. Someone giving them a life preserver selfishly is still better than no one giving them one at all.

    That said, Christians who chatter about loving Jesus and then don’t take action about it get an eyeroll from me. And praying and patting each other on the back don’t count as an actions with me. (I grant most people don’t really care what I think).

    Going to Africa might or might not, depends on how much good is accomplished. I’ve read a lot of people with good intentions don’t actually have the skills to make a difference and end up just being a burden, eating the food and going home. Still, trying to make a difference is more than not trying at all, which is the default standard.

    1. Shane, that’s a good point. I also find, though, that even though we never quite as selfless as we think, we also aren’t as selfish as we may think as well.

      On a first-degree, being selfish would be to not extend effort that doesn’t benefit oneself. On a second-degree, being selfish would be that the victim is being used as a means to acquire glory.

      In regards to religion, I like how James puts it:

      Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

      I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

      Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

      Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

      Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

      The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

      As for Africa, more on that later 🙂

  3. Christianity is a lightning rod. Ayn Rand is a lightning rod. Sure, you can trigger a response with them, but I’m not sure what if any compelling, intellectual thunder is left afterward.

    1. yea, we should all just kill ourselves.. it’s all meaningless..

      There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke.
      What's there to show for a lifetime of work,
      a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
      One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
      but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth.
      The sun comes up and the sun goes down,
      then does it again, and again—the same old round.
      The wind blows south, the wind blows north.
      Around and around and around it blows,
      blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind.
      All the rivers flow into the sea,
      but the sea never fills up.
      The rivers keep flowing to the same old place,
      and then start all over and do it again.
      Everything's boring, utterly boring—
      no one can find any meaning in it.
      Boring to the eye,
      boring to the ear.
      What was will be again,
      what happened will happen again.
      There's nothing new on this earth.
      Year after year it's the same old thing.
      Does someone call out, "Hey, this is new"?
      Don't get excited—it's the same old story.
      Nobody remembers what happened yesterday.
      And the things that will happen tomorrow?
      Nobody'll remember them either.
      Don't count on being remembered.

  4. I usually hate the way ayn rand is used, basically to say we are all individuals and dont have any need to care for each other – here if selfish altruism is the way i read it, it is somewhat the opposite, we are all selfish individuals and to be effectively selfish means taking care of the people we care about. – am I right?

    1. Josh, This was all the scholarship I could find on it: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501163455.htm

      It seems once we introduce additional orders of intent, a new dimension of interpretation arises… You’d think there’d be more research on it… Well, there probably is, but wikipedia and google were unable to easily retrieve these theories via the amount of effort i was willing to give.

      I mean, the most disagreeable parts of Ayn Rand, I found, was less of what she was saying, but that she just didn’t seem like a very happy person.

      Your comment reminds me of the spoon allegory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_long_spoons

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