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One common phrase that basically everybody from Ken Levine to GI used
in their coverage of Bioshock was “Ayn Rand.” Rapture was designed and
directly inspired by an Ayn Rand, whatever the hell that was. That
piqued my curiosity. Who was Ayn Rand, and what person or thing or
whatever could have inspired the insanity that was Rapture? Andrew Ryan
was actually based off of something in real life?
The only logical
thing to do was to visit the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia. The
results of my “research” were interesting, to say the least. Let's just
say that after learning the nature of Ayn Rand, I'm not surprised that
Rapture collapsed so brutally. The sharp ideology and arrogance that ran
through Rapture's veins was not just the invention of Andrew Ryan- that
dubious honor belongs to the one and only Ayn Rand.
This is Ayn Rand,
originally Alisa Rosenbaum. She was born in Russia and grew up right in
time for the 1917 Communist takeover that created the Soviet Union.
Although she hated communism, Alisa did absorb the twin Soviet beliefs
of atheism and disdain for all forms of religion or faith. After college
she started writing under the name Ayn Rand and moved to America. She
worked as a screenwriter for a while, but it was her book that really
made her famous.
In 1957, she published Atlas Shrugged, the one
novel that would encompass all of her beliefs, her masterpiece. The book
centered on a fictional scenario where the the best philosophers,
scientists, artists, and businessmen from around the world vanish. They
abandon society and go into the mountains to form their own independent
economy, composed entirely of “great” people. Sound familiar?
Atlas Shrugged is the center of Ayn Rand's philosophy, objectivism.
The name comes from her belief that reality is objective, or something
ordinary that can be explained by logic. The world simply exists- there
is no god or supernatural. She saw objective thinking and not religious
belief as the only valid way to live. She also was a great supporter of
laissez-faire economics, or the idea that the free market should be
completely unrestricted by government interference or rules. Every man
should be entitled to the results of his labor without having to give it
away to the government or to god. Ayn Rand firmly believed that only
the “producers” should survive and that the rest of humanity should
either become similarly great or die. She specifically wrote against
altruism, the idea of helping others. It's survival of the fittest, only
applied to humans.
Objectivism is a weird philosophy because it
molds ludicrously extreme conservative and liberal philosophy. It's
roughly one part Glenn Beck and one part Anderson Cooper if both of them
were strung out on amphetamines. On one hand, Rand takes the idea of a
free market to its very extreme. On the other hand, she despises all
forms of religion, especially Christianity. It's like she mixed together
the worst of conservative and liberal ideology. However, comparisons to
our current right-left political system are ultimately useless though
because she hated the traditional Republican and Democratic parties. I
guess that explains why she was so willing to mix their ideas.
paragraph is strictly my opinion, but objectivism has one massive
problem. Ayn Rand values “great” people, but what defines great? Is
there an set standard that decides whether you're special or one of the
common scum? That's the issue. There isn't. Great people are only great
by comparison to those who are ordinary. There is a Futurama episode
where it's revealed that Leonardo Da Vinci is actually an alien and
considered an idiot on his home planet. Even though we look to him as a
genius, he's stupid when compared to the rest of his brilliant home
world. Objectivism doesn't really work because it hates “common” people,
and that's just it- you can't be special unless there are people who
aren't special. You need ordinary people. Greatness is relative and
defined in relation to common people. In a society of all great people
where everyone can play the piano like Mozart, musical ability means
Or in the land of witless morons, Fry is... well, still a witless moron.
back to factual stuff. Objectivism as a philosophy has been pretty much
ignored for the last 50 years, mostly because of its radical and harsh
nature. It's hard to support a philosophy that condemns you and the idea
of helping others. Some libertarian and extremist groups still believe
in Ayn Rand... but even the Tea Party won't go near objectivism, and
they're not exactly shining examples of moderation. One notable believer
in Rand's ideas is Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal
Reserve. You know, the bank that's in charge on the entire US economy.
He was an avid supporter of de-regulation, a very objectivist idea. He
removed as many governmental controls as possible in an effort to let
the “free market reign.” That's not necessarily a bad idea, but he may
have given Wall Street too much leeway. De-regulation was one of the
main causes of the recent financial collapse.
"We're going to give them this much leeway. What's the worst that could happen?"
case you couldn't tell, I don't like objectivism. In my humble opinion,
the Buddhists have it right: moderation in all things is the best
course. Objectivism and Ayn Rand's ideas strike me as far too extreme to
work in real life. Reality does all sorts of awful things to your
ideas. Communism sounds like the best government ever, but it doesn't
work because of a simple problem. Rapture is another good example of
that same problem, the flaw Rand never addressed: People are sh*theads.
They will gladly screw up your underwater city or communist paradise
when given the chance because that's just human nature. Philosophies
like objectivism and communism just aren't compatible with real people.
nothing else, Ayn Rand's ideas and objectivism make for interesting
reading. What do you think of objectivism, or did I lose you a couple