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.”