Day Two: Least Favourite Book
by Jacqueline Winter Thomas
Day two of the thirty day reading challenge was surprisingly easy. I have read a lot of bad books over the years—Nicholas Sparks, The Twilight Saga, etc. etc.—but these don’t even really qualify for being discussed. It’s just general knowledge and not worth being mulled over. Ayn Rand, however, is worth being discussed because she is respected and honored in the literary community, and I am not quite sure why. I cannot really choose between The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged for my least favourite book, but it is one of the two, probably Atlas. Regardless, I am going to spend this post ranting about Ayn Rand rather than any of her specific works, because if you haven’t already noticed from my tone, I don’t like her—as a person or an author.
Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand. Where to begin? Well, I suppose in my opinion Ms. Rand represents a whole lot of what is wrong with today’s society, steeped in pseudo-intellectual excuses. If you haven’t ever heard of objectivism, it is the philosophy laden in all her works, and in simplest terms, it is about selfishness, “me-first”, greed, institutionalized social darwinism. What she seems to believe is that our sole purpose in life is “attain our own sense of happiness”. Rand states:
Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values.
Now, you might be thinking, what’s so wrong with that? Isn’t that a lot like existentialism? No, it is not. The former works under the assumption that any necessary steps needed to be taken to assure one’s happiness are permissible; it doesn’t really matter how others feel or are affected by your actions (you might very well be the only one who really exists anyway!).
Well, this is how we get the 1% who refuse to pay the same tax percentage as a starving family. This is how we get people living in 21 million dollar mansions who never think to question how many people they could feed or save with even half their money. This is how we get politicians pandering to the richest rich, only concerned with keeping their own affluence, at the expense of the starving, uneducated, and homeless. Because well, their happiness is all that really matters. They worked for their money—doesn’t matter how many people they trampled to get there—they owe nothing to back to the country. Those who need help, are obviously just riding the “welfare bus”, trying to live off the back’s of others. Now do you understand why I am so repulsed by the works of Rand? Existentialism, one the other hand, only asserts that we give life its own meaning; it makes no excuses for acting selfishly or greedily, in fact it states that the only way we will be remembered is through other’s perceptions—thus, we probably should treat other people well. Yes, both philosophies exist under the premise of an absence of God, but this doesn’t automatically assert their similarity. Ayn Rand uses a lack of God to behave without morality, conscience, or empathy, and these are the motifs carried on in her “fiction” (which is really more philosophy buried under a trite narrative). On the other hand, existentialism uses the absence of God as a means to higher morality: we should be good people because this life is all we have, not because we want to be rewarded in heaven.
So yes, I will proudly declare that my least favourite books of all time are Atlas Shrugged AND The Fountainhead (unless we read these works as satires of ruthless capitalism and darwinian politics, then they’re just fine). I think Ayn Rand is a bad author and a bad person; I think she misappropriates the philosophies of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, and irresponsibly uses the guise of reason to promote immoral, narcissistic behaviour. If some of you reading this are great fans of Ayn Rand, I would love to hear your opinions, but I stand steadfast by my negative outlook on her work and philosophy.
— Beverly Penn