Ayn Rand Seduced Me!


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Atlas Shrugged: A Self-Harm Book by Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged: A Self-Harm Book by Ayn Rand

With hindsight, certain things become obvious. But, the experience which grants hindsight is painfully expensive, to you and everyone around you. I’m writing this for people who may be walking a path similar to the one I walked.

…or, stumbled down.

I want to nudge you in a different direction.

I’m not writing this for a general audience. I’m writing it for a very specific one. Read this post. If you can relate, it’s written for you.

Once, I read Atlas Shrugged.

It was right after college (2007) while I was working as the solo founder of an online dating startup. Her writing exhilarated me. For the entirety of my life up till then, everyone and everything around me communicated two things which felt contradictory:

  1. You’re very smart.
  2. You have to do what other people tell you to do.

Rand confirmed the former while screaming: to hell with the latter! It was intoxicating. I read everything she had written in the course of a month. I embraced the logic of her ideology.

With this embrace came two important conclusions.

  1. I was better than most people. The world told me so. Rand did, too.
  2. The normal rules of society did not apply to me. More than that — they ought not to. I was a maker! A builder! A technologist! An entrepreneur! Without me and people like me, the engine of the world would seize up. We are the ones who carry the world! Unencumbered by the shackles needed to constrain an undulating mob of those who couldn’t create, we would do more! Give us liberty so we can liberate the world with our technological genius!

In my mind at the time, (2) followed from (1). That’s Rand’s core seduction. She doesn’t merely tell you that you’re better; she doesn’t just tell you you deserve more; she leaves you with the sense that, any inconvenience you endure is a moral crime. Then, she points a finger at the perpetrators — those who ask anything from you that you don’t want to give. She renders self-importance and entitlement as heroism and strength of will.

So, there I was, a twenty something white dude entering adulthood in America, fortunate enough to have grown up in a household with a computer as the Information Age throttled up. On one side, there was the cold calculus of realism suggesting: “you are not extraordinary.” On the other, the siren call of Rand, saying, romantically, “You Are A Titan!”

How could I resist?

(Originally published on Medium)