Ayn Rand could be wrong, or is she?
"Who is John Galt?" This is the famous opening of the novel, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand which became famous in the country during the 70's. This is about the disappearance of intellectuals, artists, industrialists and innovators thereby putting production at a stand still. In the story, the question "Who is John Galt?" became a byword for things or people unexplainably missing although the owner of the name was not known. As the story unfolds, we see the protagonist try to unravel the mystery of the question. it turns out that John Galt is a man who is no longer contented with how the world is turning out to be. He observed that people are becoming lazy as they become dependent on the very limited producers there are, who in turn, do nothing about it. Thus, he decided to "stop the motor of the world" by luring all these innovators and industrialists by setting up an ideal world of his own where only producers can live.
Ayn Rand is a philosopher who used literature as her venue to propagate her philosophy she calls "Objectivism". She is not the only philosopher who did that. If I recall correctly, French novelist, playwright, existentialist philosopher, and literary critic Jean Paul Sartre and lover and collaborator Simone de Beauvoir, author of
The Second Sex, among others, also used literature as a base for their teachings.
In a nutshell, Objectivism is based on Aristotle's equation that A is A. Hence, in Rand's point of view, there are no gray areas. A lie is a lie. White lies don't exist. In the same manner does she question the validity of religion and ultimately, the existence of God. In her frame of mind, alruism is a no-no for it breeds dependence. In her book, The virute of selfishness, she defines selfishness as different from our common usage of the word, but rather, a "self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others." In this book, she teaches us that self-sacrifice does not exist. She defines self-sacrifice as the giving up of a higher value in favor of a lower value. Given this definition, self-sacrifice is non-existent since all of man's actions are dictated by what he seems to be the higher value.
I better stop there. I am not a philosopher! As a matter of fact, I flunked Philosophy because I was ill-advised. I took it during my very first year in college because a friend who was "breaking me in", a third year student, was taking it. I never knew about pre-requisites. And don't ask me why the university where I studied, which will remain unnamed, allowed it. (In fairness, the professor did question it, but my gallant friend argued, "Why not? We will never know if he's prepared or not until the course card is given, right? Some friend, huh?) That and Political Science II. Guess who was also in it. And yes, Samantha, I was not an A student. Well, at least, I took it as a challenge later and tried learning Philosophy on my own. My understanding might seem derailed or even demented but at least, I have a framework to live by :-)
Anyway, I think Rand committed a mistake. She denied the fact that people are different. That some are blessed with intellect some are not. Most importantly, in our context, some are born rich, and some are born poor. In our present world, that spells a lot of difference. It's all a matter of opportunity. The haves will have more opportunity than the have-nots. The former study in good schools, the latter hardly go to one. And if they do, the education they receive may not be up to par. The former have access on the most recent trends in technology, the latter don't. The former have more books to read, the latter don't. The former is concerned on learning, the latter is more concerned about survival. In this scenario, t is only in real altruism, not the kind that propagates dependence, that will even the score.
But is she totally wrong then? In fairness, let me first paraphrase Dr. Emerita Quito who said that there is no philosophy that is so right that we must take it in its entirety or a philosophy that is so wrong we should throw it altogether. To study Rand, we must understand the spatio-temporal aspect of her circumstances.
Ayn Rand was born Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum and educated in Russia and moved to the United States in 1926 thereafter moving to Hollywood to begin a career as a screenwriter. That says it all, doesn't it? She experienced the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. She experienced the shift from autocracy to communism. In her move to the States, she lived a life from "each according to his need" to "each according to his ability". Working in Hollywood, a very capitlalistic place with a very capitalistic industry and making it big, what conclusion do you think one can have?
However, that is no longer the point. The correct question to ask is can she be relevant to us, Filipinos? Can we espouse her teachings? I would answer in the affirmative. Yes, when I see poor people in the slums drinking early in the morning instead of trying to earn a living. Yes, when I see children of poor families turning to pick pockets or mendicants begging for a dime. Yes, when it is now apparent that the order of the day in media is mediocrity and "xeroxed" art. Yes when the biggest tv networks are competing for soap operas so that the average person can stayed glued on the boob tube, thinking that being the underdog is noble. Yes, when I see rich kids wasting their parent's money by playing hookey and not studying their lessons. Yes when I see young boys and girls doing nothing but daydream of becoming a hot rock star of an actor or actress. Yes, when I see people standing in a long queue to purchase a lotto ticket for "easy street" instead of making everything possible to make himself/herself better. Yes, when i couldn't walk late at night without worrying to be mugged by someone who has given up the fight to survive squarely. Yes, when the people are governed by a defeatist attitude that everything is lost.
Ah, this is such a complicated world. And philosophy is too complicated I don't know why I even bothered.