Friday, August 14, 2009

Being Ayn Rand II

In thinking of Ayn Rand I am reminded that we are all products of our environment. Let me say outright, as I have already said here in more than a few posts, that I am a big fan of Rand's towering intellect and literary capacity. How can anyone not be? Think Fountainhead. Think Atlas Shrugged. But our past often shapes the here and now and our futures. Rand's past included some harrowing inequities associated with tyranny seems to have affected her outlook. This is obvious in her writing.

Rand's philosophy of rugged individualism, laissez-faire capitalism and her fierce ideas of freedom can probably be associated with the tyranny of the Bolsheviks. Her absolute unequivocal support of free markets is probably due to her past. Okay. That was her reality which came to bear on some great thoughts and actions. But why must we take the whole of the past and forever associate it with the here and now and build a future on it? We perhaps do this more readily as a mere philosophy, an ideology which may or may not affect actuality.

The wise thing seems to be to make adjustments along the way. People and systems are imperfect. We can go to the extreme in one way or another for great lengths of time to the detriment of many. Ego and protectionism probably play unyielding roles here. We can go on ad infinitum doing things that are detrimental for fear of change, unwillingness to back down, or admit wrong. We all understand this on very personal levels. What were those seven deadly sins again: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride? Balance is needed; regulation is needed too of the personal and professional kind, of the individual and collective.

There is no problem with Rand's grand philosophy, especially considering the particular time in history and the perspective from which she writes. The surprising thing, however, is our inability to see what a thing has become anytime in history and make needed adjustments along the way. All systems are the outgrowth of natural inclinations in need of regulations and constant adjustments. All systems come from us, our histories, our impulses, our environments. The market is us. Society is us. Communion is us.

The Wealth of Nations seems akin to the natural self-driven impulses of man. These impulses can be seen in every system, capitalism socialism or communism. The question is how should we continue in ways that are equitable for all while not hampering freedom? There's nothing new here. What perhaps needs to be new is how we look at changing times with the backdrop of history and forward thinking of the whole—which is now much more global.

How was the The Wealth of Nations built? It seems that it was literally built on the backs of others. Whatever the system, the people's back was bent while a few others largely prospered, even when industry benefitted a nation. Think China and India now. Think Persia, Russia, England, Rome, America then. The question becomes what will get us to understand the golden rule of loving our neighbors, those who are near us, as ourselves? And with technology and globalism our neighbors are increasingly nearer. No system seems to have embraced this rule consistently. This rule requires individual and collective checks and balances constantly. The question is how do we do this? A good start is small consistent advances personally and professionally, aided by regulation and law and an even stronger sense of ethics.


septembermom said...

I'm reminded of that famous saying about never stepping in the same river twice. Life is ever in flux. As you say, adjustments are natural and necessary for a civilized society to prosper and mature. A global consciousness and sense of responsibility is imperative for human beings to truly succeed in bridging distances and reconciling conflicts. I have great hope that our President will help create an American consciousness open to global partnership and camaraderie. People and systems are imperfect. However, the human spirit of fellowship can bring us all closer to a truer understanding of why we are all here. Love your neighbor as yourself. Judith, wonderful post.

Judith Ellis said...

"A global consciousness and sense of responsibility is imperative for human beings to truly succeed in bridging distances and reconciling conflicts."

Kelly - This is so true as well as the human spirit of fellowship and the creation of an American global consciousness open to global partnership and camaraderie. Of course, the effort is in the doing and not merely the speaking. But words are most important. They set the tone. Our relationship with Iran and North Korea will be challenging, but the proper tone I believe has been set.

The fellowship you write about is hampered where the acquisition and love of money and power rule. I am not one who believes that money is evil or that leadership that differs from our is bad. Money is indeed valuable and can change people's lives the world over. But what I am concerned with is our love of money to the exclusion of all else. And when it comes to power and leadership I like the idea that a leader leads in a way that pragmatically includes others.

Thanks for your comment, Kelly. I appreciate your words here.