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on the personal choices of its residents, such as significant others, both The Golden One and Equality wouldn't have withdrawn and could have presented society with many advancements.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

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