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War for Men's Minds

Critics of Objectivism: "I was Howard Roark!"
by Henry Emrich

How often do we see it: a webpage purporting to "criticize" the Objectivist stance on Metaphysics, Ethics, or what have you, which includes the inevitable self-confessional prelude: "I (like so many others) first read Ayn Rand's fiction when very young. Since I was impressionable and nerdy and alienated, I immediately jumped to the conclusions that I must be Howard Roark! Therefore, since it appeals to the rebellious streak of youth, Objectivism is dangerous!"

Time and time again, from the outright-contemptuous dismissals of Scott Ryan, to the inflammatory denouncers of the "Ayn Rand cult", those who MOST STRENUOUSLY criticize Objectivism turn out to be disaffected former "Objectivists" themselves.

A stark illustration of this can be found at http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_03.23.00/columns/pink.html, where one "Sky Gilbert", in appropriately self-effacing embarrassment, seeks to undercut Objectivism-as-a-philosophy, by illustrating his own admittedly pathetic experience with it

Well, at 13, I believed I was Howard Roark.

It made sense at the time. After all, I didn't fit in with my classmates. All they wanted to do was gossip about parties, sports and rock 'n' roll. I was a closeted, effeminate homo, and parties and sports were the last thing that interested me. Of course, I was unwilling to admit I was gay -- to myself or anyone else -- so Rand's theories provided a comfortable rationale for my position as social outcast.

Clearly I was a genius, superior to my mediocre classmates. I imagined I would one day become an architect, never missed a CNE home show, rushing home to scribble fanciful floor plans in my notebooks. I walked alone on windy, rainy afternoons near splendid edifices (my particular favourites included the IBM buildings at Eglinton and Don Mills) and pondered my heroic status as a misunderstood prodigy.

I wrote a novel. My hero was an iconoclastic, romantic composer who created music that was one step beyond atonal. I subscribed to the Objectivist Newsletter, a monthly magazine published by Rand and Branden. I wore a gold-plated bracelet on my wrist for all to see, emblazoned with a dollar sign (Rand's favourite symbol).

In this article, Mr. Disaffected "Former Objectivist" goes on to denounce capitalism (in vague, unformulated terms), the idea of a "free market" and "independent minds" as "dangerous", and then wouldn't you know offer the usual face-saving "anti-censorship" stance. Rand's ideas are evil and "dangerous", he says, but:

Still, I wouldn't want to stop adolescents from reading Rand any more than I'd stop kids from reading C.S. Lewis' Narnia books (which are, after all, just thinly disguised Christian propaganda).

His article is laced with venomous denunciations of Rand because Alan Greenspan is "one of her disciples" (ignoring the fact that U.S. economic policy" is ANYTHING but Objectivist in nature). Nathaniel Branden is laughed off as "ironic" for the fact that his 'dangerous psychological theories" champion Reason over emotion(which they do not.)

Much fun is made of the fact that he and Rand had an illicit love-affair (MOST ironic for a supposedly open-minded Gay man who laments the "puritanism" of Rand's writings). Apparently, disaffected poseurs who did no more than use Objectivism as a CRUTCH at 13, are suddenly entitled to spew vitriol at our philosophy, un-opposed.

Am I the only one who finds this disgusting?

Everywhere in this article is the half-contemptuous notion that Rand's ideas were used to "talk himself out of homosexuality", which is then backed up by the (collectivist?) claim that "I soon found out that I was not the ONLY one wrestling with the impact of her ideas".

Nowhere is there an examination of the philosophy, just dismissals of anybody who could POSSIBLY hold such a philosophy, under the umbrella of "Well, I was an "Objectivist" because I wore a dollar sign on my wrist, and subscribed to a few newsletters"

If this is what a consistent, Individualistic philosophy has to contend with, then we are already as good as dead, friends. So many are so willing to dismiss us as a "cult" who would otherwise be intelligent enough NOT to even USE that term. So many pathetic, broken-down Second-handers have managed to glom onto Objectivism (Neo-Tech comes to mind) that we end up looking stupid, whether we want to or not.

Slavish conformists who think (mistakenly), that subscribing to a few newsletters, or wearing a dollar-sign symbol in pathetic imitation of "their mentor" (with no understanding of WHY that symbol was appealing to her) feel compelled to "comment on Objectivism" on the basis of a sporadic, desperate attempt at self-delusion at 13 years of age? How can we even manage to say anything against that?

Objectivism is more than what symbols you wear, or what slogans you spout, friends: it's a way of life, and commitment to the values that MAKE THAT LIFE POSSIBLE. So long as we are content to sit placidly by and debate "moral sanction" and "contextual certainty", and such, WITHOUT doing anything else, then our philosophy will continue to be seen as a pathetic joke.

The cure? RESPOND! We may not respect Fundamentalist Christians, but they DO have a very good strategy in one respect: when their values and worldview are attacked, THEY RESPOND. It wouldn't take that much effort for any of us to draft a well-reasoned letter to these "critics" explaining exactly where they went wrong, and how they misrepresented our views. With the modern advantage of email, it's even easier.

So what's our excuse, friends? Why are we so willing to allow such crass affrontery as "the floating head of Ayn Rand", or entire websites dedicated to "making fun of Objectivism" to go unopposed?

Allowing our viewpoint to be incessantly slandered and mischaracterized does NOT demonstrate our rationality, or our commitment to Individual Freedom. All it does, is make us look stupid.

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