Socialism, Christians, and Ayn Rand’s Anthem

By Chloe Olson

    An apple is not an orange.  Even if I desire that apple to be an orange and call my desire true, it is not.  You might disagree and tell me that apple can be whatever I wish it to be.  These questions concern philosophy: when one dwells on existence,  and forms ideas and beliefs around it.  The unique thing about humankind is that we are capable of thinking for ourselves.  Our minds have the capacity to understand, then apply, to question, and to make and choose beliefs.  Humans love wisdom and strive to know.  We create our own philosophies because of our quest for knowledge, for philosophy does mean the love of wisdom.  The human brain is so complex that it allows us to dig deeper than understanding how.  We can seek to understand why.  Discovering one’s philosophy is integral part of being.  One cannot navigate through life purposefully or make a meaningful impact on the world without knowing their mind, what goodness is, and what is true.  Knowing our philosophy aids in discerning between truth and falsehood in all we see, and causes us to debate with ideas we hear.  For example, on the branch of philosophy that is metaphysics, one can decide that an apple is an apple and not an orange.  Anthem, by Ayn Rand, holds a clear message of her philosophy that is objectivism, and reading this pushes one to debate and compare their philosophy with Rand’s.  Anthem illustrates a world where no one says “I”.  Rand describes a place in which there is no freedom to choose one’s path in life, where to live, how to live, or who to be.  Everyone has a name that refers to group identity; individualism is outlawed.  Equality 7-2521 was another piece of this society’s plain white puzzle, but unlike all others, he did what was forbidden.  He learned by himself.  He discovered, he grew, and began to doubt the collectivist ideology that was ingrained in the minds of everyone around him.  He escaped this world and taught himself to have a new mindset about self.  Most importantly, he learned what was stolen from every human.  Equality discovered ego and traded equality for ego.  This story line not only screams Rand’s beliefs about truth, morals, and politics, but it causes one to question her philosophy of what is true, what is moral, and what the role of the government should be.  Anthem is filled with messages from Ayn Rand that I agree and disagree with: truth exists independent of man’s consciousness, truth is known through sensory experience and reason, self-interest is morally right and altruism is morally wrong, and socialism must be rejected. 
   
Ayn Rand’s thoughts on reality are that truth exists independent of man’s consciousness.  Her idea of reality is that reality is what is real and nothing else.  Imagine two men looking at a dog.  One man sees the dog as what it truly is: a dog.  The other man says that the dog is a cow.  Rand’s philosophy would suggest that both men cannot be correct, but only the man who claims the creature is a dog would be correct.  Rand’s idea is that truth is truth: A is A, and A cannot be B.  Man’s consciousness may cause one to believe that A is B, but Rand suggests that man’s consciousness cannot decide what truth is.  Men may see the truth but cannot manipulate it or choose it.  In Anthem,  Equality and all other people are not taught reality.  As Equality 7-2521 described the way of life in his society, he spoke about education and said,

         â€œWe think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and in the plants which grow.  But the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things.  And we learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes day and night” (5).
   
What Equality is describing is the teaching of falsehood; we know the earth is round and revolves around the sun.  Rand includes this to convey her message: not everything said is true, and even if the world said A was B, A is still A.  The Council of Scholars tells others that they know everything, and they do not.  They explain the earth to function in a way that it does not.  They have freedom to speak and believe this, but that does not make it qualify as truth.  Ayn Rand said, “Reality, the external world, exists independent of man’s consciousness, independent of any observer’s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires, or fears.  This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are—and that the task of man’s consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it.”  Though his society may make falsehood part of his curriculum, it is Equality’s job to understand the true facts through a discerning mind.  Equality described the Unmentionable Times which were before his society was reformed.  He described how the world used to function and how it was considered evil.  He said, “But those times were evil.  And those times passed away, when men saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all men together” (3).

Humans in this time are taught that the past and individuality are evil.  This is wrong in Rand’s eyes as the desire of B does not make A false.  Just because people hate the idea of an individual does not mean the concept of an individual is bad.  The Council claims this is the Great Truth, but it is not truth.  It is not grasped through experience and logic, but it is thought about through teaching and stories.  A thought of man cannot always be considered fact because truth is truth, and if man’s thoughts contradict what is true they are not facts.  Will does exist regardless of whether or not people want it to exist.  There is no editing the truth.  I agree with Rand on all but her thought of truth only in the physical.  My philosophy is that there is an absolute and uncompromising truth, pertaining to the physical and spiritual, which is authenticated by sensory experience, logic, and revelation.  Like Rand, I believe that there is one truth and one reality in the world around us.  Contrary to her ideas, I believe there is absolute spiritual truth.  I agree with Rand’s philosophy that A is A, and the world in Anthem is saying that A is B physically and spiritually.  What, however, deems truth to be the truth and the teachings of the Council to be false?  The answer lies in our ability to distinguish between A and B.
   
Once one knows that truth is unwavering and definite, they must learn to distinguish between what exists and what does not.  Epistemology is a question of how.  If the truth is objective as Rand states, what is the difference between real and fake?  Her philosophy states that we know reality to be reality through reason.  She also rejects mysticism and faith, and does not believe they contribute to our knowledge.  Ayn Rand stated, “Man’s reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality.  Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.  Reason is man’s only means of acquiring knowledge.”  When Equality discovered his friendship he said,

        “International 4-8818 and we are friends.  This is an evil thing to say, for it is a             transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends.  So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it. But we know.  We know when we look into each other’s eyes.  And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighted us” (9).

Equality and International never established their fondness of each other.  They never conversed about their friendship.  They simply did their jobs in the presence of one another.  They knew they were friends without saying that fact but simply by looking each other in the eyes.  This is similar to our knowing truth because we use logic through senses.  We may not be able to see wind, but we know it exists because of the effect it leaves on earth.  We can reason to discover truth using what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. 

Once Equality flees, he reflects on his new understanding: “The forest rose among cliffs, and whenever we walked out upon a barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks before us in the west, and to the north of us, and to the south, as far as our eyes could see.  The peaks were red and brown, with the green streaks of forests as veins upon them, with blue mists as veils over their heads.  We had never heard of these mountains, nor seen them marked on any map.  The Uncharted Forest has protected them from the Cities and from the men of the Cities… And there before us, on a broad summit, with the mountains rising behind it, stood  a house such as we had never seen….We turned to the Golden One and we asked: ‘Are you afraid?’ But they shook their head” (48).

What was once nonexistent to Equality and the Golden One became reality when they learned to discern truth.  They then used their physical senses to see the real world as it truly was: with mountains and cliffs they never thought existed.  Not only did they never know that this truth was the truth, but they were taught that the forest and what was beyond was dangerous.  Equality’s first thought when they saw a house was to ask the Golden One if she was scared, as they were told to be scared of knowledge.  This is a lie that the two distinguished from the truth as they were not scared.  They had no fear because they discovered it was not dangerous through seeing the house as it was.  They used their sensory experience and reason to know there is nothing to fear about a house and some trees just as we use this to decipher between what is real and what is not.  I agree with Rand in that I think that the senses and reasons are key parts of knowing what exists, but I believe there are more factors.  My philosophy on distinguishing reality from the false is this:  the truth is not subjective, but our “truth” is.  Our “truth” is not the truth, but it is a lack of sensory experience, logic, revelation, and submission to God.  Rand is clearly not a believer in any faith, so she would debate me on revelation as a means of knowing.  Ayn Rand brings up a truth that people called fake when describing those who broke laws and did what was dangerous and evil in the Council’s eyes.  Equality said,

        “We do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest.  We do not wish to think of it.  But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky… It is whispered once or twice in a hundred years, one among the men of the city escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason.  These men do not return.  They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which          roam the forest.  But our Councils say that this is only a legend” (20-21).

Again, a desire of the Council to place opinion over fact and create truth is displayed.  Rand is using this passage to  show once more that what one may say is truth is not always truth.  When referring to the men who ran away, she may be saying that their urge to run came from knowing the physical truth about the world that was hidden for them, but how did they know it was truth without reason?  Without sensory experience and reason, truth can only be known through revelation.  Perhaps unintentionally, Rand may have included an argument that is contradictory to her beliefs.  Regardless of this, there was a discovery of the truth through discerning lies.  We can distinguish between real and fake as truth is objective, and this means we can also distinguish between right and wrong.

Good is Good, but what is Good?  There must be an absolute morally right and morally wrong.  Rand thinks this morally right is self-interest, and the morally wrong is altruism.  She thinks sacrificing oneself for the sake of other is evil and rejects putting others first.  Rand says that reason can be the only judge of values, and what a man needs for survival is reason, purpose, and self-esteem.  She believes that selflessness is evil and that “man is an end in himself.”  Rand conveys this mindset when Equality discovered the Unspeakable word, and he said,

        “And my happiness needs no greater aim to vindicate it.  My happiness is not the means to any end.  It is the end.  It is its own goal.  It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to end others may wish to accomplish.  I am not a tool for their use.  I am not a servant if their needs.  I am not a bandage for their wounds.  I am not a sacrifice on their altars” (52).

Rand is arguing that one cannot let others use them as a stepping stone on the path to reaching their goal.  It is completely wrong to dedicate any part of oneself in helping another man reach his need in her mind, because if man doesn’t think for himself, he will remain in ignorance.  Rand believes that happiness should not be offered either and no one should give up their happiness to serve another as that would be immoral.  She then described the importance of solitude.  As Equality was walking with the Golden One in the Uncharted Forest after his escape, he said,

        “‘There is no danger in solitude.  We have no need of our brothers.  Let us forget their good and our evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that there is joy as a bond between us.  Give us your hand.  Look ahead.  It is our own world, Golden One, a strange, unknown world, but our own.’… If that which  we have found is the corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save     corruption?  If this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?” (44-45).

Equality is saying that life is much better now that he is alone.  He doubts that isolation is truly evil, and he begins to rewrite what good is and what evil is.  Rand is using this to express the importance of individuality.  To stress this, when Equality finds a house from the Unmentionable times and learns to say “I”, Rand writes,

        “For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought.  This word must never be placed first within man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man’s torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.  The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is             white and black are lost equally in the grey of it.  It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the week steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages” (52-53).

Not only does Rand think self-interest is a virtue, but she thinks that group identity can be the greatest evil.  In her mind, anything collaborative results in stolen wisdom, strength, and goodness.  The only right in life is in oneself.  Rand further demonstrates her love of self when Equality changes after learning the Unspeakable Word and says,

        “And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.  This god, this one word: ‘I’”  (53).

Equality now calls himself “god” instead of calling the group “god.” Now the brothers are not most important to him, and the council is not most important to him.  The only being that should rule his life is him.  He has learned the basic human instinct of selfishness and a rejection of all altruism.  As Rand believes in living for only one’s self, to me, morally right can only be dying to self.  My philosophy is that what is morally good can only be one thing: God.  God invented good and is all that is good on earth.  What is a better way to judge one’s morals than compare oneself to the person God wishes them to be?  Rand is clearly not a follower of God and would debate this theory, but I believe that we do not live for ourselves.  I agree with her that self-interest is constructive and healthful.  However, an interest in only one’s self in very destructive.  Ayn Rand’s rejection of altruism is not only morally wrong, but acts of pure selfishness lead to no reward but one’s demise.  Rand believes that an idea not formed by oneself will not lead to progression or growth.  It is true that a society without individualism will not produce new ideas or succeed, but the importance of individualism should not mean the absence of community or learning from others.  Building as a part of community is essential to growth individually, and if it is argued that altruism is evil, we must properly define the word.  Altruism is not giving up everything about oneself.  It does not mean hating yourself, doing nothing to promote your well being, or giving no care to your own knowledge.  It simply means not placing your own comfort and happiness over serving others and serving your purpose.  I also disagree with Rand on the importance of happiness.  She stresses the value of being happy and how it should be sacrificed for no one.  Acting for another in a way to ensure happiness can be evil to Rand; it is immoral if you yield your happiness.  Where Rand seems to place a high value in happiness, I place value in how I carry out my purpose. Life certainly cannot always be joyful.  Should we call every difficult and sad time evil or immoral?  That would lead to a quite depressing life.  Instead morality should be judged by how well we serve our purpose doing what God made us to do, and how close we become to the people God intended us to be.  Happiness is different from joy, and joy is what is truly important.  Happiness is temporary and can be lost when serving others, but joy is a result of serving others.  Joy in Christ doesn’t leave us, but it is in us.  It empowers us to do God’s work and allows us not to feel drained from it.  I disagree with Rand that serving others is immoral because I believe that Individuality and altruism can both exist in the same heart.  Individuality plays an important role in morals, but it also is a factor in politics.

    A government that allows one to be an individual is important and something both Rand and I agree on.  Ayn Rand is clearly a firm believer in self-interest.  She despises collective thought or identity as she believes it cannot benefit or grow one person in becoming an individual.  She supports capitalism and is very much against socialism.  Socialism is a theory in which there is shared responsibility, collectivism, and no private property.  This type of system leaves little freedom for its people.  Ayn Rand is opposed to the lack of freedom in this ideology, and she is a strong advocate for freedom.  She says, as Equality is discovering his individuality in the Uncharted Forest and house,

        “But what is freedom?  Freedom from what?  There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men.  To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.  That is freedom.  That and nothing else” (57).

Rand is a strong believer in a capitalism with almost complete freedom.  She believes that freedom is being an individual, thinking alone, and choosing alone.  She also believes that socialism is the ultimate cause of loss of freedom due to sharing all you have.  She elaborates when she depicts Equality dwelling on his newfound freedom and the problems of the past government.  He said,

         â€œWhat is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it?  What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me?  What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters?  What is my life,  if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?  But I am done with this creed if corruption.  I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame” (53).

Equality learned that his time in this collectivist society caused him harm.  There is no goodness if the produce of the garden he cultivated is stolen.  His wisdom is not his own if others can claim or control it, and neither is his life, his freedom, and his joy.  Rand is saying that collective identity and thought leads only to corruption.  There are flaws of socialism additional to the lack of freedom.  When the Council was outraged by his discovery of electricity, they said,

        “How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers?  And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?’ ‘How dared you, gutter cleaner,’ spoke Fraternity 9-3452, ‘to hold yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not the               many?’ ‘You shall be burned at the stake,’ said Democracy 4-6998” (37).

Socialism markets itself as a system of equality and fairness.  It displays itself as a way for no man to be higher in class than another, yet it is deceptive. The Council reprimands Equality for thinking on his own, and they decide they want to discard him.  Ironically, Democracy states that they want to take away Equality’s freedom. They value the good of the many but care not about the individual.  This is similar to socialism as the government says they want you to be equal to those around you and might give you a false sense of care.  In actuality, they care not about the well being of one person.  They only care about the country as a whole.  As Rand is  explaining the flaws of socialism, she listed losses that this type of system causes, and she explains flaws like how socialism causes depression in economics and loss of success in society.  When Equality discovered a new world, one free from the oppression of group identity, he spoke of the harm of collectivism and said,

        “The worship of the word “We.”  When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries collapsed about them, the structure whose every beam had come from the thought of some one man, each in his day down the ages, from the depth of some one spirit, such spirit as existed but for its own sake.  Those men who survived those eager to obey, eager to live for one another, since they had          nothing else to vindicate them—those men could neither carry on, nor preserve what they had received.  Thus did all thought, all science, all wisdom perish  on earth.  Thus did men—men with nothing to offer save their great number— lost the steel towers, the flying ships, the power wires, all the things they had not created and could never keep” (58).

Equality is saying that those who think in groups, and not as individuals, fail to succeed.  In fact, this tears apart society.  It caused all advancement due to individual thought, which is most advancement, to cease.  It destroyed the structure on which the world was made: with the freedom to think for yourself.  This reflects socialism in our world as socialist countries fail to advance.  Socialism doesn’t work because there is no self.  There is no private property or ownership.  All is shared, including thought.  When thought is shared there is no challenge or growth.  I agree with Rand’s political stance on the importance of liberty.  Freedom is integral to a progressing society.  A country cannot flourish without it.  I agree with her that freedom is letting man be man on his own.  My stance is this: man should have freedom to be an individual with the exception of harming others, and one may not have the freedom to take another person’s freedom.  I agree that socialism always fails and produces no fruit.

Rand has a thought-provoking philosophy and one that I both agree and disagree with.   As she is not a Christian, it is interesting to challenge her ideas against God’s word and to see how her philosophy contradicts it.   Rand believes that no God exists or is truth, but John 14:6 says “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  God says that there is a spiritual truth: Him.  Rand would disagree as her philosophy on metaphysics is contrary to this.  When it comes to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, Rand says that only reason and sensory experience contribute to this.  God says that revelation is a key part in knowing the truth.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”   When it comes to morality, Ayn Rand believes that self-interest is moral, but God says love is not self-seeking.  1 Corinthians 10:4 says, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” God commands us to put other people above ourselves: an idea which Rand despises.  Finally, Rand’s view of freedom is that it is necessary.  God says that freedom is a right of ours. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” God explains that freedom is good when used according to His word and will and as long we we do not harm others or dishonor Him.  We know how God would view Rand’s philosophy, and we have seen how her philosophy is displayed in Anthem.   There is an absolute truth, it is discovered through senses, logic, and revelation, that self-interest and individuality are important; but altruism is morally good, and that freedom is essential to thriving society.

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