Ayn rand is intriguing to me just because how polarising she is. Finding out that George Hotz is a big fan of Rand was a bit disappointing, but it made me reconsider reading her works just to see what the fuss is about. And I just did that today, read a very short novel of hers named Anthem.
I think Hotz described her works best when he called them pornographic, and understadably there could be an allure in that. Most of the book paints a cartoonish version of dystopic communism which has a lot of similarity to Orwell’s 1984, except 1984 has an extensive worldbuilding which fleshes out the power of censorship in a totalitarian regime, while Anthem lacks any such redeeming qualities. I was cringing out through most of the book except the last two chapters. Those chapters are very clearly just Rand speaking out her philosophy of individualism, and one can understand the novel is mostly a thin badly-written cover around these last few chapters. It’s just that I would prefer if I didn’t have to unwrap all that cover just to get to this.
Rand’s philosophy has a strong tone of existentialism, especially the Nietzchian kind. Some of the following paragraphs from chapter 11 of the book gives a taste
I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
It is my mind which thinks, and the judgement of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.
Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: “I will it!”
Not gonna lie, I dig it. Although this isn’t anything too new, just the typical enlightenment philosophy of individualism, along with existentialism and will to power.
Some of the following stuff could be controversial, understandably.
I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.
But it’s interesting how Rand has not mentioned any material possession when she lists out the treasures she won’t like to share. But she did say that “the fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit”. An obvious reading of this would be a cry against things like taxation. But a more interesting reading would be a statement against market capitalism, and how one should not sacrifice their thought, will and freedom to capitalistic ends, how one should not blow their spirit away into coins of brass. But I need to read more Rand to confirm this, I’m most probably just projecting here.
Maybe I will read more Rand, or maybe not.