Old men and Ayn Rand

Working at a pool where primarily old people swim tends to bring me pretty interesting experiences. Since they’ve been living for decades they have their minds made up about things and of course, whatever they say goes. You know what they say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This was proved to me when a nice old man named Eugene decided to have a conversation with me about Ayn Rand.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of Rand, the first word that comes to my mind is crazy. Her views are pretty wild and I disagree with them completely, however I didn’t realize this until after my repeated conversations with Eugene. The first time I met him he told me all about logic and how that was the only thing important in the world. Religion, community, and other people were all irrelevant and all that matters is the self. Obviously, I was flabbergasted at the fact that he felt comfortable saying this to me (at the time I was an 18 year old lifeguard and definitely not one of his work or swim buddies), but I humored his ideas and was always polite in my responses. After our conversations began to become monotonous and he realized that I wasn’t going to become a follower of Rand, he stopped talking to me about it and that was it.

So, my views on Ayn Rand’s ideas regarding liberalism and the importance of selfishness were limited to what I had learned from crazy Eugene. Obviously, from what I’ve said, those views were (and still are) negative. I will admit, though, that my views lacked information, the most important piece of that information being the reason why it is important (to Rand) to be selfish. Rand believes that our goal in life should be achievement and that all other things are just boundaries that cause us to fall short of that goal. In her novel, the Fountainhead, a man is on trial and pleads his case for why he did what he did. Through this character, Rand states that the most brilliant and innovative thinkers all went against the people that were around them, even when it was to their detriment and that in order to be successful everyone must do the same. This makes complete sense to me. If I discover a new more efficient way of doing things that completely contradicts what society wants, but I know it’s what’s best for me (and most likely everyone else), then I’ll probably go against society, as Rand wants. But unfortunately for Rand and Eugene, I won’t be signing up to join a band of Rand followers and disregard my family, religion, and people that are in my community for the sake of success.

Also, can we note the irony in what Eugene wanted me to do? Join a CLUB of Rand FOLLOWERS. How does this make sense? That’s right, it doesn’t.

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One Response to Old men and Ayn Rand

  1. andycraft says:

    My Introduction to Ms. Ayn Rand was in this very class, however much different than your pool-side chat with Eugene, the crazy septuagenarian. Attending catholic school all my life, doing everything your parents told you to do, and keeping the family surname proud (by holding to conservative values), I found Rand’s excerpt from The Fountainhead quite groundbreaking. Catholic schools do not necessarily encourage the readings of atheists, however when I finished the piece, my ideologies took a 360 degree turn.
    Crazy, yes. Hard to reconcile, absolutely. But, damn, did she make a statement that has stuck with me for a good three weeks since reading her. Had I been an egoist all along? My authority figures in my life have always told me to be a leader and not a follower, then I recanted and asked, “aren’t most of us followers?” Contemporarily, everything in society is done for us whether we know it or not. Technology makes everyday things so simple. We feed off the innovations of others and are quick to reject something that is foreign to us.
    Something that is also a little too pervasive is government. The government is more involved in individual affairs now than it ever has been. Universal Healthcare is a prime example. Why do we need the government intervening in our medical decisions and costs. We are all “second-handers” of the government, but to what extent? Like Roark said, “nothing is given to man on earth, Everything he needs has to be produced.”
    Another example deals with patent law. Innovators an inventors are bogged down by the government and its lengthy stipulations of when the U.S. Patent Office can approve a patent. Roark and I say, “Hands off!” The Huffington Post’s article on Obama’s new patent reform law is a Godsend to Creators.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/16/patent-reform-obama_n_966136.html
    Although I think she’s crazy, I can’t say I disagree with her, like you said, we have to draw a fine line between what Rand’s actual definition of selfish and ego mean. We have to be selfish in the sense that by being indifferent toward government, the excellent Creators (individuals) not only survive, but change the world.

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