Thursday, March 31, 2016

Brave New World

Reading Brave New World today, in 2016, compels me to believe that Aldous Huxley was visionary and maybe even a prophet. Some aspects of the book didn’t exist when he wrote it in 1932. For example, genetic testing or conceiving a child in a lab was not even considered possible at the time that he wrote the book. Humans didn’t even know about DNA and that there is a specific genetic makeup that controls who you are. Huxley didn’t know the term DNA or its specifics but he did in some way prophesize what we know today by describing a society that believes there is something during conception that makes the human characteristics visible as an adult. By noticing his creativity, I found it curious as to what his inspirations for the utopia he sets up in his book. Understanding what the social climate was when he wrote the book, can shed light on how we are to interpret it.
Four major events that influenced Huxley work was The Great Depression, World War One, Influenza and a “technology boom”. The first three inspired his perfect place while the last inspired the conditioning factor of the “brave new world”. The Great Depression was a traumatic event in that there was worldwide economic downfall and many people were starving. Although the depression originated in the United States because of the Stock Market Crash, the effects lingered around the world. Seeing these starving people made people think of a world without hunger. It’s a Utopian ideal in that everyone is satisfied and a world with no hungry people. As a conscious adult in this time, Huxley experienced the despair of The Great Depression therefore his utopia had to include a society where that concern no longer holds.
In Huxley's utopia, he also noted that there was peace and no wars because he was appalled by the nightmare World War One inflicted. It was the first war where all major powers were involved and there was such a high casualty rate unlike any war before it.  It was then a normal progression for Huxley to create a Utopia without wars which sounds like a pretty good society to me.
A society without disease cannot be argued as a bad thing as well. Influenza, a deadly virus that raged through the world, is estimated, by BBC News, to have killed more than World War One. These three descriptions of Huxley’s utopia was probably a dream to people suffering of such traumatic events. It was as if Huxley was writing to the people of his time granting them hope. But having read the whole book, it is clear that wasn’t the case. So where did things go wrong? Huxley's fear of technology. Huxley's time experienced a rapid technology boom that introduced new ways of life. One way would be consumerism which arises in the late 1800s because of mass production that is possible because of the new technology. At his time, consumerism was probably seen as a good thing because it increased the quality of life. But Huxley, the visionary that he is, pointed out how it can be disastrous by creating a society that conditions their people to consume to such an exaggerated point and a society which values consumerism over morals. This demonstrated his fear the future held as the economy becomes more and more reliant on consumerism.  What is worrisome is that I cannot say that his fear hasn’t become a reality.
We squirm at the thought of being genetically condition and to live in a society like the one of the brave new world but the reality is we are always being conditioned. The home we are raised in instill within us rules they hold as moral, the society which we live judge our actions and condition us to follow their directives. Ever walked out of you home without seeing an advertisement for a service or product? We ride on a bus, drive a car or simply open our email and we are bombarded with advertisements to a point that it’s as if companies are conditioning us to consume consume consume. Companies are out to sell the most and make the biggest profit putting aside humanity. The characteristics of Huxley's utopia was certainly relevant to the concerns of his time as his warnings, that couldn’t be clearer, are a problem of ours.


Upon reading the work, Anthem, by Ayn Rand, I came to appreciate the value of “I” that I, and probably many others, so often dismiss.  With our lives busy with the endless list of things to do, sometimes things for others like a parent, spouse and/or children, it is easy to lose oneself. We are susceptible to attach our value to those that depend on us so that in turn we feel only as valuable as what we do for them. Rand, through the narrator created a plot that screams to the reader “you are important because of you” . The narrator, Equality 7-2521 later named Prometheus, introduces a collectivist society where the rules are set in place with one goal in mind - to make the society as the one and only valuable entity. Every aspect of their lives were summum bonum. Some of these rules include never saying I, never deterring from the job set to its citizens and wearing the same plain clothing. He always refers to himself as “we” and struggles with his human nature to think and explore because of the rules. The narrator feels a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction in such society. The negativity we feel as a reader with respect to the close-minded society, compared to the relaxed “freedom at last” feeling we get at the end of the work, moves me toward supporting rational egoism. It seems clear the collectivist society described certainly isn’t a way to live yet a deeper understanding of rational egoism doesn’t seem to fit either.
Firstly, it’s important to name what went wrong in the dystopian society created by Rand. It includes dissatisfaction, lack of individuality and the loss of simple pleasures in life. When the narrator breaks free and finds the house in the woods, he feels like he can be a human, not just a number. A human that understands that not everything is vital to “we” and there’s a whole world beyond what the Councils limited them to. After noting that “I” is what is important, rational egoism is a logical extension. It is a theory that proclaims that those selfish acts that are done out of reason are morally right. It is a counter to collectivism in that it asserts that public good should not be a consideration when making decisions. Humanity comes into play as collectivist agree their system would ensure a more humane world while rational egoists say the only human action is the one done for it’s own self. The humane world exists when everybody does the best for themselves because it generates the greatest good.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like Rational Egoism would be such a simple solution. One can be doing something rationally but still bad. For example, when a starving man steals from another as a last resort. The starving man is doing something selfish because he is the only beneficiary and it was within reason because it was his only considerable action to survive. Yet, it still wrong to steal as the victim of his crime suffers to some degree. Some egoist believe there are inherent rules everyone should regard while others don’t. Another problem would be conflicts of interest. We all live in the same world and for the most part are made up the same so it is natural that there will come a time that we would want the same things. Therefore, if we do things for our own benefit, even if it was rational, can cause chaos. Another problem with Rational Egoism is brought forth by Alexander Moseley who describes the Prisoner's Dilemma which negates the proposal that when people make choices that would in their own best interest, the greatest outcome would result. He describes a scenario where there are two prisoners involved in a crime to which the police want a confession for. The police offer a better judgement to the one who confesses first so it would be in the best interest of the prisoners to get the deal. However, when it is mathematically added up, the results show that the total overall prison time, which would signify the best end result, is if neither pursues their best interest and confesses.

While Rational Egoism poses some problems, I recognize it is important to value oneself for one’s own sake. It’s important to remember, despite our busy lives, I matter because I am me.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Anthem Response

      Ayn Rand’s book Anthem is about a young lad who thinks he is an outcast because he has self-awareness. He comes to realize then that he may be an outcast but he uses it to his benefit. All his life he wanted to be a scholar, so during the social hour he would escape and use his curiosity to learn new things. In the book Anthem, the society is in fact a collectivist society to the extreme. People are told what to do, and how to do it. They are told who is allowed to mate with whom and are assigned jobs for life which they cannot get out of. The young lad is named Equality 7-2521 and he is assigned to be a street sweeper, he thinks of it as punishment for the fact that he always has crazy thoughts and questions.
      Rational egoism is basically being selfish or egotistic for a rational reason. In my personal opinion rational egoism can be a cure for a collectivist society because of the fact that a person may use their own self awareness and become something. Although in a collectivist society you are told how to act and be, they cannot tell you what to think. If someone like Equality 7-2521 can escape a collectivist society and become his own person so can anyone else. Rational egoism can help cure a collectivist society by one or a group of people who want something better for themselves get it. For example, a group of people in a collectivist society are tired of living that way, they want to free and live how they want to so they decide to escape or takeover the society so they can have their freedom.
     The good about rational egoism is the fact that you are doing it for yourself, although you are told not to be how you want to be. A person who is rationally egoistic does it because they think about themselves and for others (mainly themselves most of the time). Meanwhile in a collectivist society they do it “for the greater good”, where they think everything should be done one way and one way only because it is the best thing for them(or so they think). I mean in a sense a collectivist society could work out because there is structure, but a collectivist society that is extreme like one that tells you who to intimate with and at what time would not work.
    There is always good and bad to everything, and one bad that rational egoism brings is the fact that you would be looked down on. Not only that but you are thinking more about yourself rather than everyone else. Going back to the example I used earlier, someone who does not like the collectivist society they live in wants to take over because they want the freedom, but it backfires because maybe what they want is not what everyone else wants. Then it goes back to them being a collectivist society all over again. Not only does it bring those problems but if you are thinking about yourself you are doing it with intentions of it being the right thing, which is not always the right thing. You may think robbing someone is the right thing to do but in our society it is not and you will get in massive trouble(depending on how bad the theft).

     Our world today compared to Ayn Rand’s Anthem is nowhere near the same. We live in a society where everyone is rationally egoistic and it is not looked down on. I feel if we were forced what to do and how to do it, there would be a revolution. Everyone is someone and no two people are the same. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Response to The Lottery

“The Lottery” does not present a  utopia nor does it present a dystopia. It is just a future community such as the one we live in. Though it does not represent anything but a regular society, it does have aspects of a dystopian society. It promotes stability and civility at the expense of stoning one to death yearly. This idea is mirrored in more recent dystopian works such as The Purge. Also in this work, there are dystopic features like the unwavering following of tradition. The citizens of this community blindly follow through with the lottery without questioning why they are doing it. It is not until they are being the one killed that they begin to question the tradition- but by then it is too late. 
In our society, we have many traditions that we follow just because, well, they are traditions. Some examples of these traditions is a bride wearing white on her wedding day to show her purity, celebrating Columbus as the first person to “find” America or waiting to see if a groundhog saw his shadow to see what the next six week’s temperatures will be like. These traditions seem harmless to us. Many around the world don’t necessarily see all these as so. It is hard to decide whether a tradition is harmless or not. Does wearing a white dress to get married harm anyone? Probably not. But does celebrating Columbus day as a federal holiday harm anyone? Of course! We are celebrating a man who murdered so many Natives, yet we still celebrate this holiday!
It is hard to decide wether something is harmful when one is so closely tied to the situation. The people of the lottery community are very closely to tied to their tradition and they see it as rubbish that other communities have done away with it. That is one of the great questions that I believe that Jackson is posing: how do you truly know if something is harmful if you cannot or do not want to see both sides of the issue. 
One aspect of this work that I really thought made this short story great was the foreshadowing. Tessa, the woman who ended up being killed, was late to the lottery. Jackson writes that this woman was in her home and at the last moment, she remembers that the lottery was that day. The lottery was so normal to the people of this town that it did not even make a difference. This day was just like any day. Of course it ended up that the woman who forgot about the lottery was the one who was chosen by the lottery. 
This piece is full of small literary devices that make the story great. One of which is the foreshadowing. Another is the description of how the community was acting on a day they could die. The people were talking, the kids were playing. It seemed like nothing was out of the ordinary. Until the very last moment, the reader was wondering what was this lottery for? With our current definition, when you win the lottery, you win tons of money. Was their lottery the same? At the last moment, Tessa is killed. I think this could be a commentary for everyday life. We each live our day as any ordinary day. We never know when something horrible will happen. Every tragic event is a shock, just as Tessa’s death is a shock (to us and to her). This is something to think about: is “The Lottery” just about a random event somewhere at sometime or is it a piece that speaks to a larger realistic idea in our lives?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Response to Anthem

Ayn Rand’s Anthem takes a look at a future in an unknown time that focuses on collectivism in order to run a society. Individuals are placed in separate divisions and are taught that it is a sin to want to  move out of the divisions that they are born in. The main character that we focus on is Equality 7-2521. He commits a sin by wanting to move from being a Street Sweeper to being placed at the House of Scholars. This then brings up a question, is rational egoism better than collectivism?
Is rational egoism better than collectivism? Within Anthem, collectivism is not a choice, it is a requirement and lifestyle that every single person must follow. If you do not follow collectivism you are put to death. When breaking it down to its simplest form collectivism is where all people work for the good of the entire group. On the other hand when you break down rational egoism to it simplest form, you get an individual prioritizing themselves over the good of the group. Since they are polar opposites of each other they cannot both fully exist within a single society. This being said I do not think that rational egoism is a possible cure for collectivism. A major problem of collectivism includes that in the real world it is simply not possible. There may be some people that would not mind having their necessities met and not getting the chance to move from where they are now, but most people will want to challenge themselves to do better and advance themselves in their own life. In the real world people need to move forward and try to better themselves in order to thrive in their current situation. I have been making rational egoism seem pretty good and that people need to put some work in next be able to  succeed. Just like collectivism, rational egoism also has it problems. A major one would be that if a person does not try to advance themselves fast enough , they may end up being left behind and possibly lose everything that they have worked for. This is not right because, they may not be advancing as fast as they were before but, for all we know in the past they were working as hard as possibly could. Does this mean that they should still be punished? No, they still put in their work and got what they worked for, so it should not be taken away form them.
This is why rational egoism is better than collectivism are both necessary in a continuously advancing world that we actually live in.
Within our world we would need both. They may be polar opposites and cannot have both completely coexist with one another in a single society. They can instead take some ideas of both types of society and put them together. By doing this you would end up in the kind of society that we are living in. It uses some parts of collectivism because, families and some friends will help each other in different situations and it also uses some parts of rational egoism because, people seek further education  and promotions in their job in order to better themselves thus diving themselves towards their own goals. This is why I do not think that either rational egoism or collectives I better than one another but, instead the because solution would be to take parts of both and combine them in order for everyone to do what they feel would be best suited for themselves.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Winning" The Lottery - Christian Mangone

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a short story that does a superb job of keeping the reader in a state of hesitant fear, similar to H.P. Lovecraft's works. Like Lovecraft, heavy foreshadowing keeps us on the outskirts of fear and panic, along with the theme of small towns, keeping very dark secrets(I.E. Shadow Over innsmouth). Minute, yet, important details such as "Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones"(Page 1) or "their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed"(Page 1). These minor details pollute the air with an ominous sense of growing oppression like a stranglehold. The true intentions of these events is revealed once they begin "The Lottery", ironically hosted by "Mr.Graves".  If you draw a black mark, you are sentenced to death by stoning, a grizzly fate by any measurement.

This tale, as pointed out by one of my intelligent group mate, is driven by post-draft policy. The short story was written in 1949, after one the grandest war ever waged. In this conflict, the USA was forced to draft citizen into it's military in order to seized victory. Many members of the citizenry found these draft letters to be death sentences. Draft letters would be the equivalent of "winning" the lottery. The draft would continue into the Korean War and into the Vietnam War with similar opinions and stigmata.

Shirley Jackson has done a magnificent job in crafting this world and filling the air with dark omens foreshadowing the dark secret of the town. Once sprung, the tension reaches a boiling point and leaves the reading hooked. This novel shows that a society, that may seem perfect, but with one fatal flaw, it undoes all the good the society stands for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Response to Ayn Rand

“The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them (pg. 52).” Ayn Rand’s Anthem display the rational egoistic journey of Equality 7-2521, later on as Prometheus, in a society were collectivism rules amongst all people. Rand exaggerates collectivism, like many others in Prometheus’ society, the lack of individualism to act upon their own agency was completely disregarded where the society solely relies as a collectivistic whole. This remove one’s uniqueness to explore and allow themselves to grow, collectively through their own uniqueness under harmony and peace. However, the uniqueness of ideas and interest could spark some conflict within the society itself. The difference in ideas and interest would cause a strain on the direction on which the society is attempting to drive upon instead of being productive society.
In the Anthem, Rand definitely asserts that rational egoism is a cure for collectivism – more importantly on how Prometheus discovers the words “I” and “EGO”. To a certain extent, this allow Prometheus to challenge his society through their ideas of individualism and provided the courage for him to grow as a unique individual, with his own separate thoughts, interest and actions. Rational egoism definitely highlights individualism and uniqueness, however it does not entirely cure collectivism – a compromise of both would definitely do it justice. If Prometheus succeeded in his plan on introducing egoism to his society, there would be a divide in class due to varied interest, and attempt to overthrow ruling power.
Rand’s experience reflects her own point of view of what a collectivist society could look like – hence why too much or too little of anything is bad. In western society, there’s such a huge focus on individualism, and advancement of self – for oneself, by oneself (sounds like Marc Jacobs). Due to this, we compete for jobs, resources, and favors in order to advance ourselves – for oneself, by oneself – making us   In contrast, most of eastern societies, communal living could be viewed as collectivism due to the similarities that members of that communal society wants to advance themselves together, by themselves, for themselves. The perception of each individual experience definitely allow each member to view their purpose in the world. Prometheus wishes to be part of the council was ignore, however, if he became a member of that society, he would continue to think that the society is great – ignorance is bliss, you were given the reason to doubt.

Response to Anthem

As a proactive supporter of rational egoism, Ayn Rand offers her criticism regarding collectivism through her novel Anthem. The main protagonist, Equality 7-2521, lives as a street sweeper in an utopia based on collectivist principle. Ayn Rand exaggerates collectivism to a point where individualism is forbidden therefore when expressing yourself the words, “We” and “Us” are taught. Jobs and mates were pre-determined for the residents and mirrors were not present which made individualism lost in the city. Equality 7-2521 took the liberty of acting on his own by secretly communicating with the Golden One and created a lightbulb with using electricity. He showed the Council of Scholars his discovery of the lightbulb but rather than praising at the significance of the lightbulb, he was punished for attempting to act as an individual.

Collectivism may be present to bring order and safety for the society, but it stifles discoveries and excitement. Ayn Rand used the eldest and wisest council member, Collective 0-0009, to represent collectivism which is a principle that prioritizes the group instead of the individual. Under collectivism, any act or thought that does not involve the group is considered immoral and wrong. Even though Equality 7-2521 thought the lightbulb was a significant power for the city the Council did not think so, therefore it was decided by the Council that it would be destroyed. The Council would rather settle with candles and fire since it was discovered and considered safe by the group. Throughout Equality 7-2521’s life in the city as a street sweeper, he lived his normal life, but ever since he started to act upon his self interests he felt self fulfillment. He began to live his life under the rational egoism principle.   

Equality 7-2521 ran away with the lightbulb to the forest and encountered the Golden One there where they discovered an abandoned house and learned the word “I” and “Ego”. He could not understand how man refused to live for himself and his own individual rights. Why sacrifice man’s rights for a city that follows “We” and ignores individuality? Is it immoral to pursue your desires, have interests, and make your own decisions?

Ayn Rand compares collectivism and rational egoism to be black and white. You are either one or the other. However in the Anthem, collectivism is taken to the extreme and the protagonist discovers fulfillment when becoming a rational egotist. Rational egoism is not necessarily better than collectivism. She states that it is irrational to not pursue your self interests but is it immoral? Since rational egoism justifies an action is rational only and if it maximizes one’s self-interest. For example, Robin Hood robs from the wealthy because he wants to ease the lives of the poor villagers. It may give him self fulfillment and satisfaction but does it justify his immoral act? If everyone were to follow this example, we would be living in a society where we can say robberies are acceptable as long as it benefits the robbers and third parties even if the victims were to suffer a loss.

There can be a balance between rational egoism and collectivism. Equality 7-2521 may have acted on his self interests but he decided to show the Council of Scholars his discovery because he thought of the benefits the society would gain as a whole knowing that he would be punished for his selfish actions. If the lightbulbs were to be released in the city, rational egoism and collectivism would have occurred provided that there would be no harm done to both the individual and society.
Ayn Rand's Anthem is the story about a person known as Equality 7- 2521. In this response I'll be referring to him as equal because the 7-2521 part takes me a while to type out. Equal lives in a Dystopia, a society that on the outside seems to be perfect but is far from it when you examine it with any level of analysis. Everyone seems to get along from day to day, no one is poor, everyone has a job etc... The issue with this particular society is that it is controlled by people who hate the word "I" so much so that it doesn't seem to exist to most people. Those who use the word are severely ostracized and sentenced to death.
      Equal was labeled a street sweeper, he had no choice in the matter for everyone was assigned jobs, doesn't matter if they wanted to do it for the rest of their lives. Do it...or else. However equal was a bit different from most people on his society. He wasn't fully conforming for he did believe in the unspeakable word "I". He enjoyed freedom and exploration, he often wrote in a hidden tunnel, expressing numerous thoughts and Idea's away from the eyes of the collectivist society he lived in. At the age of 10 he saw the public execution of the Transgressor of the unspeakable word, however as he burned to death he showed no pain, instead he looked at equal a sign equal took as at that moment the Transgressor appointing him as his disciple. Equal began experimenting with his thoughts and Idea's no longer just writing them down. He soon discovers electricity and with it builds a light bulb. 
     Even knowing what may happen equal wanted to show his invention to society. He wanted to show his individuality, for he believed in the power and importance of the word "I". He was an rational egoist.
     Rational egoism can't exist in a collectivist society, everyone can't be equal and have their own thoughts, idea's, will etc... I don't believe rational egoism is a cure for a collectivist society because it doesn't fix any issues that may arise from that type of society, it outright changes the whole way that the society works. As mentioned earlier rational egoism can't exist in a collectivist society, once it does it is no longer a collectivist society. It becomes a mixture of egoism and collectivism, with different people acting differently based on what they believe. In other words it becomes similar to our world today, at least when talking about free countries and states.
     Rational egoism alone isn't the answer to everything either, it may end up being just as bad as a collectivist society or worse. If everybody did anything they want, that wouldn't be a good thing, even if it is rational. People have a different definition of what it means to be rational. The society may end up destroying itself along with the lives of each of it's occupants. Through Anthem, Ayn Rand showed us one possibility of a collectivist society, one that was taken to an extreme. I have no doubt that her life experiences influenced her writing but that all depends on what she was trying to say through her work. If she just wanted to tell a story about a collectivist society then I think her experiences influenced her writing but if she wanted to tell a story about a collectivist society taken to an extreme then I don't think her personal life had any influence on her.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Anthem by C 3-1594

                Anthem, as we know is a dystopian novel about a purely collective society in which individuality is often met with death. Even their names, the one thing that is truly unique to them, is barely so, for example, Equality 7-2521. The character's Storm Trooper-ish names reinforces the ideal of a sole collective society. Equality 7-2521 is a simple cog in the machine with no real outstanding role to play, no person to love, and no real meaning if he is alive, dead, remembering or dreaming. Ironically, this society would be a modern day Plato Republic that would make Plato smile with glee, or be taken aback by the sheer shock of his own folly in his design.

                A few minor grievances I had with the world itself was the technological stagnation that takes place in the universe. In a similar vein of  Moore's Law, technology is expanding at an exponential rate. So I personally found this element a little too unreal. Golden One was also set up as run of the mill love interest in my honest opinion. Understandably, by the act of Equality confessing his love for Golden One he understands individuality. Along with the new names of "Prometheus" and "Gaia" foreshadow the new future in store for the society.

                Now, the main argument is that being egocentric, or rationally egoism a cure for a collective society and can it lead it to new heights? In short, yes it can. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nation talks about the roles greed and selfishness plays into the economy. In minute phrasing, when merchants are motivated by self interest and personal gain, they are the most effective force in the economy. In a fanatical collective society, all economic forces would be heavily regulated leading to inefficiency. Lastly egoism can lead to great ambitious men in society. Men and women who think outside of the box, freethinkers, and creative individuals can move forward crafting art, literature, business and new scientific advancements that are beneficial to all members of society.  

                Uniformity out right egoism and individualism has the potential of leaving a few people out in the fringes of society. Those who don't seem to fit anywhere and quietly moved aside can feel disenfranchised and alone in a hostile world. Greed and corruption would also take hold as people are only looking out for themselves. However, this could be countered by giving a strong sense of purpose to unify the populous to can end goal via extensive patriotism. In the end, a lone choice of collectivism versus individualism in a poor choice, a society must find a balance between the two. America has a leaning towards egoism while Japan has a leaning towards collectivism, and both countries are in the upper echelon of the world's power, a monument display that both choices can work, with their ups and downs.

Response to Rand's Anthem

Rational egoism is based on the principle that an action is only rational if it involves self-interest; so essentially being selfish. Although rational egoism seems like terrible concept that has many problems, it actually has certain aspects that could be good. On one side, rational egoism is a bad thing because if everyone is being selfish, just looking out for themselves and not for each other there would be no kindness or altruism. A world without this would be terrifying to live in. People wouldn't think twice about whether or not they should sacrifice for someone other than themselves.  There would be just a world of egoistic people always worrying about themselves.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, without rational egoism you can say goodbye to individuality and any focus on the self. This idea of collectivism means people don’t care about themselves at all; no dreams, hopes, passion or anything. People would just be living for the greater population. Some aspects of egoism are good for society because it can be argued that a person who can choose their career path could be a productive citizen. This could induce change, originality, growth and progress for the entire society. In the case of Rand's Anthem, rational egoism would give people true purpose, not predetermined destinies. Equality 7-2521 could have been the scholar he so righteously deserved to be, but instead became a lousy street sweeper. He thought of this as a punishment, but society knows best. This lack of individuality started even before that when he was given a code in order to be identified, not a real name. They go as far as excluding the word “I”. Any sole idea is presented as “our idea” and even a simple form of self expressive “I love you” turns into “We love you”. Either way, with exaggeration on both ends of the spectrum would have their problems.
Rational egoism by no means is a complete cure for the problems of collectivism. It could be considered a cure, but only to the extent of helping make it better, not completely relieving all the ideas of collectivism. There are always going to be those certain problems with either of the two. There should be some sort of compromise; taking aspects of both ideas, rational egoism and collectivism, and meeting somewhere in the middle. Having some individuality and some sense of self mixed with sharing ideas and contributing to the greater good, sounds like a great concoction of balance. Having societies at far opposite ends of the spectrum would not be a truly healthy way of living. There really is not a way of choosing one over the other because you should have aspects of both. Taking the good parts of each idea and finding some medium would be the best course of action.
Rand’s ideas in Anthem are certainly valid. If you look at it knowing what we know now and how our world works, in comparison Anthem seems like living in it would be absolute torture. A world with meaningless sex, no love or any sense
Looking at the book from the perspective of one of the characters who isn't Equality 7-2521 could change the way you see collectivism. This system in fact works. Everyone has a job, which gives them a purpose, even if it’s not the purpose they want to fulfill. There is no one left out or deemed worthless. There’s no disorder and chaos; only complete social structure and order within the ranks. A world like that sounds so much like a utopia. If someone offered you to live in a place where you'll have everything you could ever need, you would be quick to take it. You would have a job, a purpose, a sex life, and always being wanted even if  you aren't good enough or don't fit in. A state of complete comfort is a good state for me.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fahrenheit 451: The degrees at which books burn.

Narrative: Guy Montag is a fireman, however, in this world firemen start fires, not to put them out. His job is the incineration of all books regardless of what materials they contain and Montag loves his job. He loved his job until he began to indulge in the forbidden pleasure of books. He soon finds himself at war with society and his role in it. 

Bradbury has done a superb job in effectively crafting his dystopian society by showing how it is maintained and the illusions used by those in power to keep the status quo. For example, during elections there are two parties, similar to the way the duel party system in the United States works. However, the candidate who is in favor of change is always obese, rude, sloppy and during the debate was picking his nose on national television. Meanwhile the conservative candidate was always a smooth talking lady killer who was polite, kind, and immaculately dressed. On paper there were elections, but they were so horrendously rigged that there was only the illusion of choice, even if they fixed the ballots no one would be surprised the liberal candidate lost. Next is the soul crushing sense of despair amplified by the denizens of the city. Montag’s wife tries to commit suicide via sleeping pills and her only passion in life is the “parlor TVs” that surround you while you watch to be part of the story, living a false life while you wallow in your own. Along with the teenagers who has such little regard for life they try to deliberately strike you with their cars. The very skies themselves drone with the mechanical brouhaha of bombers soring overhead in part of a looming war.  

The next most crucial part of the society was the ban on books. Books could contain seditious material or simple encouraged free thought. All books regardless of material, format or detail was torched by the firemen. The book was written during the 1950’s in which “Book barbecues” were surprisingly common place. Bradbury, as an author found this rather upsetting and disturbing. He wrote this work to advocate free thinking and to announced the dangers of censoring books or other works of media.

Montag who is at the helm of the societies effective censorship adored his job. Many dystopian works often have people on the fringes of society “looking in wards” while Montag was in the heart of it all, reveling in the pyromaniac work. It was only until he met Clarisse, a seventeen-year-old girl who asked “why” instead of “how” did he start to think on the causes of “why”. After this peculiar girl, she is suddenly involved in a car accident less than a week later, which causes him to question “why"  and even reads one of the books he is meant to burn in hopes of finding a solution to societies’ problems and his own. Yet, the most interesting part accurse when his boss Captain Beatty comes to Montag’s home and explain how much of an avid reader he once was. Beatty even had a dream where he and Montag did battle by quoting books.  But soon enough he grew to detest books due to their unpleasant content, facts that contradicts the government’s ideas, and opinions he did not agree with. So he chooses to silence their voices in a torrent of fire. This scene shows that all firemen, the ones who do the censoring, all read books at one point in their lives, have come to the concussion that burning is the correct path. This effectively shows how the censoring is protected and continues the cycle of incineration.  In our modern society, when someone who writes or speaks an opinion that does not agree with your own, we often have a discussion or write review works on them, no burn their works and silence their voice.

We should all take a page of warning from this work of art due to the growing militarism of our fellow students in our country. College is a place of learning first and foremost. However, with the growing incidents of silencing your classmate’s opinion due to not agreeing with them, the banning of books that have racial undertones, (et Mark Twain) or silencing a guest speaker who is too conservative. If you disagree with someone, get into an argument, just do not outright silence him like a proto-fascist. In short, in an age of growing censorship on college campuses and the rise of fascist type scare tactics used to push ideas, Bradbury’s novel shines like a beacon of fire in the darkness and serves as warning to the dangers of silencing all other opinions and ideals.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Response to Ayn Rand's Anthem

        Anthem by Ayn Rand is a dystopian novel that documents the journey of Equality 7-2521 as he develops as an individual in a collectivist society where individualism is abolished and removed from society. In the novel, Equality 7-2521 discovers the power of the word "I" and how it is the key to revolting against his superiors so that he can live in a world of individuals. 
       The current society that Equality 7-2521 lives in, everyone is split into different houses determined by the head house, the Council. Under this government, no one is allowed to step out of place and is confined to living under their house. Along with this there are curfews in which every person must return to their houses or face punishment. This structure creates an environment where everybody must live not as individuals, but people who represent their house as a whole. There is absolutely no freedom to think for yourself and no way to explore the world outside of your society. Everything is manipulated by the Council even reproduction and social status.  
        Ayn Rand purposely writes the flaws found in this collectivist society because she believes that it is the terrible society to live in and rational egoism is a better alternative. I do believe that rational egoism is the better alternative because it boasts the idea that every person is free to think. No one is forced into a sphere that is determined by a group of people who most definitely do not know what is best for me. With rational egoism, I get to determine what is best for me and in turn allow other people to decide what is best for them. This very concept of "I" is so powerful that even Equality 7-2521 recognized its power. He used this very concept to disobey the council with every chance he had such as hiding in the tunnel to write out his own thoughts and even discovering how to harness the power of electricity even though scholars were the only ones allowed to make discoveries. 
       However, as great as rational egoism sounds opposed to collectivism, it is not exactly ironclad. With the idea that everything I do is for my greatest benefit means that anyone who opposes me must be eliminated. This means it is inevitable that I will have enemies who will think the same way I do and seek to eliminate me if I opposed them. It is possible that we can compromise, but this won't hold for long if one of us is not full satisfied with the results. Enemies are not the only problems that can arise from rational egoism. Society would have no need for laws anymore if rational egoism were to reign. It would make no sense for me or anyone else to obey a law that did not produce maximum benefits. Without laws, we would be plunged into anarchy and anyone who believes they are fit to be a supreme ruler will do everything in their power to reach that state. Being under the rule of one person does not seem any different that being under the rule of a group which brings us back to square one. 
      In the end, I think Ayn Rand did a great job of exposing the problems to a collectivist society and offered rational egoism as its alternative. However, creating a perfect society is not an easy task and even a promising alternative such as rational egoism is not flawless. I guess this goes to show that we as a society are nowhere near perfect, but it does not mean we cannot try our hardest to improve. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Response to Anthem:

Anthem, a 1937 dystopian novella, written by Ayn Rand, follows the story of Equality 7-2521 as he begins to discover individualistic values and emotions despite living in a collectivist society, that has abandoned the concept of "I" and compelled it's residents to think and behave as a whole. Equality, during his discovery of the self and individual interests, displays a sense of rational egoism, which is vehemently against the core beliefs of collectivism and essentially serves as it's antithesis. Nonetheless, rational egoism is not the cure for a collectivist society, as both collectivism and rational egoism are on two extreme ends of the weighing scale for society, which requires a delicate balance of each philosophy.

Rational egoism, despite not being the cure to a collectivist society, does possess many beneficial aspects that would have solved quite a few problems. Focusing on self-interest and self-preservation, rational egoism holds the capabilities to ironically, advance society as a whole, as if individuals are satisfied, they are less likely to withdraw from a society and more willing to aspire for self-success, which would in turn, benefit the whole. Such an example can be seen by the fact that The Golden One, having fallen in love with Equality, abandoned society in order to spend her life with Equality rather than be assigned a partner during the Time of Mating. Had society not intruded on the personal choices of its residents, such as significant others, both The Golden One and Equality wouldn't have withdrawn and could have presented society with many advancements. This can be seen by the fact that Equality discovered electricity but was rejected by the Council of Scholars and called a "wretch." Had the Council accepted his discovery, society would've flourished, Equality would've been hailed a hero for advancing technology, and would be compelled to further his discoveries for more benefits. Rational egoism, focusing on an individual's happiness, ultimately would have advanced this society as a whole as the happier an individual is, the more likely he/she is to make advancements that may further a society's success.

Nonetheless, rational egoism has many disadvantages as well and can not be considered a cure for the problems of collectivism. Focusing solely on self-interest, rational egoism causes a society to lose it's sense of community, thereby, creating an unjust society. Such an example can be seen in the auditing of big businesses, that often misstate financial gains and information in order to avoid taxation or to gain personal profit. If this was carried out extensively, without checks and balances, society would become corrupt and focus only on material gain. Those who have less opportunities would suffer and may even resort to criminal methods, that would degrade society as a whole. By switching from a society based on solely collectivism to a society based on solely rational egoism, a society is simple trading one set of problems for another. Henceforth, there needs to be a balance in which both philosophies are accepted and acted upon accordingly.

Born in Russia in the early 1900's, Ayn Rand knew firsthand the dangers of collectivism. Growing up in a society where life was essentially predetermined, Rand couldn't help but encourage rational egoism. The fact that Rand and her family, dealt with the confiscation of their fathers business after the October Revolution, furthermore augments her case for rational egoism and validates her ideas as the real world experiences she had to go through, display the dangers that can occur if only one philosophy is strictly followed.

-Zainab Dandia

Response to Anthem

Anthem follows the story of Equality 7-2521 as he tries to live in a collective society that he does not necessarily fit in to. In this society, each member is not even seen as an individual. Rather, they are seen as a part of "we." None of the people living in this collective society even have a general understanding of the word "I" or the concept of self.
           In other works, the author, Ayn Rand, explores the philosophical idea of  rational egoism. This idea promotes that one should put themselves before they put any other person in a moderate way. In Anthem, the society that Equality is living in, has no sense of rational ego whatsoever. Had they had a sense of this, their lives, society and government would have turned out quite differently.
           Rational egoism is something, I believe, that is important to a society. It creates a sense of individuality that is important to self-worth. Being that the rational ego, is as it suggests, rational- it is not harming the society. It is important in a society to have a minuscule amount of collectivism- just enough that it amounts to a sense of community and fraternity. Having both a sense of self, as well as a sense of community is the best way for a society to survive and thrive. To be clear, having rational egoism is only part of a cure to an extreme collective society such as shown in Anthem.
         Rational egoism, as I have mentioned before, values the self over the society. Under these terms, individuality would flourish. Each person would continually do what is best for himself. As individuals, we would be the best that we could possibly be. Another benefit of rational egoism is the removal of guilt. In some situations we put ourselves ahead of others. In hindsight of this we would feel guilty for our lack altruism. If a community was following this philosophy, the members of that group would not have to deal with the guilt from a bad situation.
           Though there are many pros of rational egoism, there are also cons.  The benefits of  rational egoism is that each person would do what is best for themselves. Another positive that could come out of rational egoism is the eradication of guilt. If everyone did what was best for themselves, they would not have to feel guilt about putting their own wellbeing in front of others. The biggest downfall though, would be that there would be no one looking out for the community as a whole. People would do what was best for them, putting the overall community at risk. For example, if we all chose to not pay our taxes because we would rather have a few extra dollars in our pocket each month, the surrounding community would physically fall apart. There would be no extra money to spend on the community. Another problem with rational egoism is rampant selfishness. There would be no kindness in a world where everyone always did what was best for them. 
            Rand grew up in Communist Russia where the entire country was under the process of being collectivized. Many of the people living in the USSR were very poor. Those kulaks who did have money were looked down upon. Everyone was comrades. If I were to come from the same situation as Ayn Rand came from, I might too also be all for rational egoism in every or any society. But I do not come from her society. I was born and have always lived in Capitalist America. What I see in our society today, is a sort of rational egoism. Many people look out for themselves and give no thought to anyone else. This can be exemplified by the large level of poverty that we see each day. People think first of their $15 dollar lunches, and not at all about the people who can't even afford a $3 lunch. This shows that rational egoism in America does exist today. As I had said earlier, a community could fall apart if everyone did what was best for themselves. The question I have is whether we will let our society fall apart before we realize that maybe rational egoism is not the only solution. 
           I think Ayn Rand was was on to something when she talked about rational egoism being great in any given society. I think rational egoism can combat extreme versions of  collectivism. It has a lot of great components to it. But I think rational egoism can quickly take a turn towards being more selfish and harmful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Response to Rand's Anthem

Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” portrays an exaggerated collectivist society that was against rational egoism. The extent of equality was so extreme that people believed they were “one with the state,” leaving no room for individualism. Everyone had to be equal in the emotions they felt, the thoughts they had, the words they spoke; there was no “I,” only “We.” In this particular case of extreme collectivism, rational egoism would have helped to fabricate a society where people had a chance to gain a sense of who they were and be their own unique individual self.
Through total control and equality within the society, the chance to reason and make discoveries was out question. For example, there was no electricity so candles were used and when Equality 7-2521 discovered electricity and went to tell the World Council about it, he was threatened and rejected. The Council cared more about the fact that he was a “Transgressor” and went against the rules of the city than the fact that he presented them with a huge “gift.” This specific example was a clear parallel to “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave” because the society was so dark and deprived of knowledge outside their boundaries; when electricity was introduced to them, they took it as a complete joke. In this example, rational egoism would have created equilibrium in the collectivist society in “Anthem” because people would have had a chance to make advances that would not only benefit them, but the society as a whole.
When used on its’ own, collectivism and rational egoism is chaotic and damaging to a society because there is no silver lining to either. There cannot be a proper utopia if people are stripped of their freedom and individuality in order to create “equality” amongst all. There also cannot be a proper utopia if people only looked out for their own self-interest. However, if certain traits of each ideology are combined, there is a chance of instituting a utopia. The self-interest and desires of individuals can lead to new advancements for everyone to use and as for everyone being equal, with shared knowledge, there could be that equality.
While the norms in “Anthem” are extreme to a person like me since I am able to use the word “I” or “me” and be my own individual, I believe that Rand’s real world experience does give validity to her ideas that were exhibited in “Anthem.” Coming from a lower class in an aristocratic society meant that Rand had no voice so she knew what it was like to experience collectivism because her life was in a sense, written for her. Being a part of a lower class also meant that she had less money and minimal power over what happens in her life. While she was used to this kind of life, in our democratic society, we are able to freely express our thoughts and ideas; even if they are not always used. For example, we are free to protest for change such as wanting tuition hikes to stop. Even if we don’t win the battle, our ideas are not dismissed and we have a chance to fight for what we believe in. However, in Rand’s situation, she did not have that opportunity and it was interesting to read about a society where the lack of power was taken to a whole new level where everyone in the society did not have a sense of who they were. The value of oneself was so greatly stressed in this book and made something that we usually do not think twice about, become extremely important. No utopia can be formed if there is no “I” or “me.”