Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Ayn Rand Still Resonates

Last week,
FoxNews.com ran a fine piece by Dr. Onkar Ghate, a teacher at the Objectivist Academic Center, defending Ayn Rand's influence on America's youth...

From the pages of The New York Times to the signs of tea party protesters to Jon Stewart’s "Daily Show," Ayn Rand is everywhere…

As an educator I can attest to the fact that she is wildly popular among the young, who typically are not very political. Some 27,000 students submitted entries this year to essay contests on her novels and, in the past three years alone, high-school teachers have requested over 900,000 copies of "Anthem" and "The Fountainhead" to use in their classrooms. They know that students respond to her stories and heroes as to few other books.

Sadly, however, it remains all too common for a young person to be told--as I was told in high school--that interest in Rand is a stage he will (or should) grow out of. You may have seen versions of this attitude in the many recent stories about her. “It’s fine to believe in that now,” the refrain goes, “but wait until you’re older. You’ll discover that life isn’t like that…”

The key to Rand’s enduring popularity is that she appeals not to the immaturity but to the idealism of youth…To sustain this youthful conviction throughout life, Rand teaches, you must achieve a radical independence of mind. Independence does not mean doing whatever you feel like doing but rather forging your convictions and choosing your actions rationally, carefully, scientifically. It is refusal to subordinate your ideas or values to the “public interest,” as liberals demand, or to the “glory of God,” as conservatives demand. It is refusal to grant obedience to any authority, human or divine.

The independent mind rejects faith -- secular or supernatural -- and embraces reason as an absolute. “The noblest act you have ever performed,” declares the hero of "Atlas Shrugged," “is the act of your mind in the process of grasping that two and two make four.” Rand meant it…

Hold your own life as your highest value, follow reason, submit to no authority, pursue unwaveringly the true and the good, create a life of productive achievement and personal, selfish joy--enact these demanding values and virtues, Rand teaches, and an ideal world, here on earth, is “real, it's possible--it's yours.”

Does an adult world that dismisses this philosophy as “simplistic” not convict itself?

Thankfully, Rand had the courage to take on that world and challenge its rampant skepticism, eager cynicism and unyielding demand for compromise, to portray and explain--at the most fundamental level--the heroic in man.

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