10 July 2007

10. Anthem by Ayn Rand

This old classic...is is more a philosophical tract disguised in a thin plot than an outright story.

Living in some future hyperorganized state, the main character, Equality, is not like the others. He is smarter and more sensitive to the missing element in his society. His whole life is planned for him, right down to the schedule of his daily activities. One day in the midst of his job as a Street Sweeper he and his coworker Equality discover a secret tunnel leading down to some long-forgotten subway platform.

During the next few months he spends his evenings in the tunnel doing experiments and trying to discover some secrets of Mother Nature. He winds up rediscovering electricity.

Bringing his discovery to the Council of Scholars sets the book toward its not very surprising conclusion.

This is a philospohical tract about the evils of collectivism, or, as I read it, the evils of recognizing that we are a community and that we are in fact responsible for our brothers and sisters. In Rand's super-organized state, human emotion is suppressed and social interaction is limited. At one point, Equality reminds Liberty that "anything not permitted is automatically outlawed." Even friendship, because it prefers one individual over another, is banned.

I think this book/author has done more damage to the socialist movement by its gross misinterpretation of what socialism and communism are. Certainly if Rand wants to rail against totalitarianism, that's one thing, but to dismiss and satirize a philosophy that recognizes that we are a community is another. Equality's main goal in the story is to build his house into a fort where he is not obligated to any other person.

Unfortunately for Equality and for Rand we are not a world of self-involved, self-centered two year olds who can't think, feel, or see beyond our own limited field of vision.


Anonymous said...

Um...well...the main character's name is not Liberty; she is his love interest. The main character is Equality. That doesn't even begin to cover what is wrong with your essay. You should actually read the book.

Jarrett said...

Alright, well the name mistake is easy to fix, and I will, but what else do I get so wrong oh Nameless One?