Still the Dumbest Book Ever Written

Several years ago, I posted a review of Anthem by Ayn Rand on Amazon.com. As I stated in my review's subject line, the review was completely unfair. Usually, when I review something, I try to adopt a somewhat objective standpoint or, at least, a willing-to-be-generous-if-I-absolutely-have-to-be standpoint. But my review of Anthem is that it is the dumbest book ever written; there's just nothing good to be said about it.

A fan naturally took exception to this and accused me of not understanding the book. Didn't I get that at the end, the narrator is extolling freedom for all mankind and don't I appreciate that "mankind" refers to womenkind as well? How could I miss the equal opportunity message embedded in Anthem?

I decided to rebuttal and reread the end of the book in preparation. I thought I might have to spend some time doing this since it has been awhile. It took me approximately 10 minutes to find material proving my contention that "the hero's solution to his anti-individualist society--creating an 'I'm the only individual that counts' society (in other words, ANOTHER anti-individualist society)--plumbs the depths of idiocy."  (I reread the chapters several times anyway--just to be fair.)

Here is my rebuttal:
Ayn Rand's fundamental philosophy is not one that I actually disagree with: collectivism is the ultimate evil. (Hey, I watch my Star Trek!)

And the main character/narrator does make exactly the argument [stated by commenter]: ". . . no masters and no slaves. Equals."

Unfortunately, accompanying Ayn Rand's philosophy is a soupcon of elitism, namely the belief that a few must convince the many: "in those days, there were a few among men, a few of clear sight and clean soul, who refused to surrender that word."

The narrator obviously places himself in the "few" category and not just the I'm-one-of-the-few-who-needs-to-share-what-I-know category, but the I'm-one-of-the-few-who-needs-to-get-everyone-else-to-be-like-me category.

At one point the narrator states, "The Saint of the pyre had seen the future when he chose me as his heir, as the heir of all the saints and all the martyrs who came before him and who died for the same cause, for the same word, no matter what name they gave to their cause and their truth."

An heir to Saints and martyrs with causes is how the guy sees himself. The continual use of "me" and "I" through the final chapters is NOT symbolic: he does not perceive himself as a messenger of truth but as a leader to whom others will be called:

"They will follow me and I shall lead them to my fortress."

"My chosen friends . . ."

"And the day will come when I shall break the chains of the earth, and raze the cities of the enslaved, and my home will become the capital of a world where each man will be free to exist for his own sake."

If the narrator truly believes that "a man must be free of his brothers," why isn't he encouraging his so-called friends to scatter, to create individual homes (capitals) and lives? Why do they have to help HIM? (Is it possible that the guy likes being in charge? Is it possible that collectives, i.e. armies, have their good points?)

I'm afraid I think the narrator likes being in charge. The book ends with "we," but it isn't the "we" of the corrupt city; it is the NARRATOR'S "we":

"The word [ego] which will not die, should we all perish in battle."

It really makes you wonder what will happen to any of these so-called chosen friends, if any one of them happens to say one day, "Hey, by the way, *I* think collectivism has its points" or "*I* don't really want to fight in a battle. Can I just leave?"

As for the implicit chauvinism, the narrator calls the "Golden One" to himself. Then he talks at her. She doesn't argue with him or question him or provide her own ideas. She doesn't do anything except say, "I love you." Then he names her. Then she gets pregnant with HIS child--not THEIR child ("our child") or, good grief, even HER child--HIS child ("my child").

I'm willing to allow that the book may have some good points (though I concede my bias). And an argument could be made that a religious uprising led by a fanatic IS the pathway to individuality. But the text says what it says.

The movie Equilibrium--though flawed--handles this problem better.
Again--I'm all in favor of individuality and, more importantly, personal freedoms. And I do believe religious uprisings can have their good points (one of the hidden secrets of current histories is the humongous impact that old-fashioned/evangelical Christianity had in ending slavery and promoting other humanistic reforms).

But Anthem was either written by a moron or by a woman going through a moronic period. I recently learned that Ann Coulter had a hissy fit when the rapist of the Central Park jogger was finally identified through DNA (and the prior convictions vacated), accusing all involved parties of political-correctness. These kind of pinch hitters for capitalism are the kind that make me wish they batted for the other side.

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