Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Introduction: A Brit sees the light.

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

My name is Adrian Roberts. I have recently become interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and I'm hoping that people on this forum can help me thrash out a few questions, to see whether I can truly be an Objectivist, or just someone who has sympathy with some aspects of Objectivism.

 

I must be pretty unusual on this forum. I'm British, I live near London, and I work in the National Health Service [NHS], which must be the ultimate exercise in Statism and Altruism. I'm 56, and hadn't heard of Ayn Rand until a couple of years ago. For much of my life I have been a Christian, but I have moved away from that position now, for reasons too long to go into here but mainly due to being unable to reconcile a supposedly all-loving and all-powerful God with human suffering and the way the world actually is. At last I am free to think and reason without constraint.

 

I can't remember exactly how I came across AR. It might have been on one of the Atheist websites. But over the last few months I started by reading the Wikipedia article and the book reviews on Amazon, and now I have read “Voice of Reason” and “The Romantic Manifesto”. Tackling the novels is somewhat daunting; I don't have that much time to read a thousand-page novel, but I am wondering about asking for “Atlas Shrugged” for Christmas even if it takes me another year to read it. What strikes a chord for me is the emphasis on individualism, on Freedom, the notion of Man as Romantic hero who seeks self-actualisation in achieving great things in whatever field he chooses. I have always tried to live by these principles, or at at least admire those who do: heroes such as Lindbergh.

 

I have even watched the film “The Passion of Ayn Rand”, mainly to get some more idea of how she was as a person. I realise the film was made from the Branden's point of view so is bound to be somewhat skewed, but interestingly it didn't put me off Ayn Rand. To what extent the reason that I continue to be drawn to her is about Reason and to what extent it is about more deep-seated psychological reasons, is another matter. But I do still moderate all this in the manner of Barbara's last words in the film: “Compassion! It's what humans do!”

 

For much of my life I would have said that my politics were difficult to define in left-right terms, which I see is a description applied to AR in one of the Objectivist websites. When I have been more politically active at various points in my life, I have been drawn to the left, even to socialism. But in Europe, this is more normal and less weird or shocking than it would be to Americans. In America, you react to the threat of Big Government by turning to the Right; over here people tend to react by turning to the Left. Of course, what idealistic Left-wingers forget is that a socialist solution is by its very nature going to mean more control by the state, not less. George Orwell realised this long ago. True freedom can only mean Anarcho-Capitalism; Anarcho-Socialism is a contradiction in terms. I have always believed that having a Collectivist Utopia where everyone has enough to eat, is pointless if no-one has great things to aspire to (AR's Apollo 11 article argues this point).

 

I joined the NHS to train as a Psychiatric Nurse when I was young and idealistic. I still enjoy the job. But the NHS is in massive financial trouble; the country cannot afford it. I do understand the American opposition to Obamacare. But a solution that involves Privatisation is politically impossible at the moment in the UK. Until recently I would have gone along with the knee-jerk opposition to privatising the NHS that pervades most of UK society, but exposing myself to Objectivist thought has caused me to think that at least, I need to be open-minded about it and such a decision must be made on the grounds of Reason not of political ideology. In the meantime, how can I live out Objectivist principles in a State Institution that thrives on Altruism? If caring for my patients and doing a good job counts as Altruism, then I will continue to be guilty. But I am very good at compartmentalising my life; however much of my self-esteem comes from my job, I have things that inspire and motivate me outside of it. I fly gliders as a hobby; this is the principal example of where I have exercised Rational Self-Interest and achieved self-actualisation in what matters to me (though if I was being truly Rational I would be saving the money not spending it!). And I have always said that my aspiration for my clients is to be able to fulfil their maximum potential and achieve self-actualisation in whatever way they wish.

 

Finally for the moment, I will qualify all this by saying that I certainly would only ever consider myself an Open Objectivist, rather than a Strict AR loyalist. I am not sure which way this forum leans; if that gets me kicked off the forum, so be it. The world is too complex for one ideology to be the answer to everything. I haven't spent all my life capitulating to one ideology (Christianity), in order to now surrender my intellectual freedom to another (Objectivism or anything else). Surely it is incongruous for an ideology that values human freedom and Reason to insist on a narrow interpretation of its ideas and to allow no dissent. There is a lot about Objectivism that resonates with me, but if the above means that I am at best an Objectivist sympathiser, or just “interested in Objectivism”, then so be it.

 

Adrian Roberts 29th November 2015.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Adrian Roberts,

Speaking on my own behalf, you are most welcome to join in the discussion. If you've read any of the many posts in this forum, you will find that, where they apply to current events and personal conundrums, there are varied interpretations of Ayn Rand's principles. You need not feel guilty of performing your chosen profession, as long as you've arrived at it with intellectual honesty and you do it well. It is not necessarily altruism that motivates you, but rather your sense of life. As you investigate the writings of Ayn Rand, you will learn more. America certainly has a mixed economy, with aspects of both capitalism and socialism. (How long this will last, who knows?) Each person has to decides what is in their own best interest as to how to cope with their circumstances. As long as you're not lying to yourself, you'll come to terms with your career. But it seems you're on the right track.

To be sure, much of what you explain in your introduction resonates with my own experience. I, too, have only late in life discovered the works of Ayn Rand. I,too, have walked the awkward line of agnostic (most of the sometimes), and Catholic/Christian (when it seemed suitable). It was roughly eight years ago, after finishing The Virtue of Selfishness, that I decided it was time to "get off the fence", and get real. Once again, welcome to the forum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi! Welcome to the forum. 

Lot's of things in your post and many of them probably merit a topic of their own. So, I'm going to respond only with a few quick and most important points.

First, and most important, working in the NHS and helping people is not altruism. Since you're my age, regardless of philosophy, you've probably realized that working purposefully is the most important thing for your own happiness. Family, friends etc. are important, of course, but your own purpose is what animates you and makes you you, and enables you to make the most of those relationships. Obviously that does not mean that the job does not suck much of the time :), but that's life: the ups , the downs and the boring too.

Second... if you're intimidated by the size of Atlas, why not try The Fountainhead. It is a less ambitious book because its theme is more personal, but that's good too. Too many people agree with Rand's political message, but give secondary importance to her message about making the most of one's own personal (and only) life on earth. 

Don't be too intimidated. If you like a good yarn, Rand's fiction will grip you and you'll find the philosophy secondary even though it is pervasive. In other words, the books are not propaganda; they're novels. I'd love to send you a Xmas gift, welcoming you to a journey I begun decades ago. If you message me your address, it'll be in the mail this weekend. My only advice: don't start it until you think you have 3 or 4 hours to sit down without interruption and dive into it. You need to focus and get into the swing at the beginning.

Whether you stay with Objectivism or choose something else after exploring this, I wish you all the best. One life: have fun.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the forum Adrian. I am a fellow brit, also living in London.

I similarly would classify myself as an Open Objectivist.

Having received care from the NHS myself, and knowing good friends who have had their lives saved, it without doubt provides some amazing services. You shouldn't be ashamed of the work you do. I suspect you are not responsible for the poor management and damage done by political meddling over the years.

Look forward to seeing more of your contributions to the forum.

Jon 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, Keith, Jon and "sNerd" for all your replies. You have all been immensely reassuring. Having found something that I found so inspiring and which resonated with the ideals that have always driven me, but which I am aware puts me "against the tide" of much of popular sentiment, it is great to know that it can still be applicable to the live which I lead (through choice in many respects).

I shall certainly bounce some questions off people in other parts of the forum in the future.

Admin/sNerd - thank you very much for your kind offer. However, only today I took the plunge and bought Atlas Shrugged! It is very tempting to start it straight away, but I have one or two other things to finish so it will be my Christmas present. In our household, we have long since abandoned any pretence of "surprise" presents which are certain to be wrong, so we ask for what we want or even buy it ourselves and someone else wraps it. Cynical, but it works for us. My wife is still a Christian so it will be interesting to see what she makes of it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Welcome to the site buddy. I'm a Brit who just joined as well.. looks interesting huh.

As for tackling Atlas Shrugged; why not try the audio book? 'Audible' offers 1 free book if you are a new customer. The 63hr audiobook is on there (make sure you choose the UNabridged version). Same story for Fountainhead.. only 32 hours! You can listen on the train or bus or when you are doing the dishes.

One other thing I'd say is check out the Leonard Peikoff 'History of Philosophy' courses on the ARI website. They are quite involved but I found them exceptional. For me personally, I don't think I could properly understand just what Ayn Rand achieved (or what she was on about half the time!) until I heard the context in terms of the history of philosophy. 

For example, this, my favourite quote, made so much more sense after that course,

"Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish to spill all the blood it required. You damned man, you damned existence, you damned this earth, but never dared to question your code.

Your victims took the blame and struggled on, with your curses as reward for their martyrdom-while you went on crying that your code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. And no one rose to ask the question: Good? -by what standard?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I think objectivism has a great appeal. One good reason to be a part of objectivism, is the amount of intelligent output amoung the members, some of whom have great personal magnetism.

It's ideal to surround yourself with people you want to be like. The old belief that your IQ is the average of the 3 people you hang around with most, is Peru'feaipeur (don't know what this word means, but it sounds nice)

Most other people you might encounter come across as ppl whose brains are essentially just Homer Simpsons pushing buttons and pulling levers in their head.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...