Book Review: "Anthem" by Ayn Rand
Anthem, one of Ayn Rand’s first and shorter novels is, without a doubt, one of America’s greatest pieces of classical literature. Ayn Rand was one of the first of what we generally call today, Libertarians. This book, surely having drawn inspiration from classical liberals, is a masterpiece of individualist philosophy; celebrating the mind of a single man and taking to it’s logical conclusion, the toxicity of collectivism.
“The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?
But I am done with this creed of corruption.
I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.
And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.
This god, this one word:
― Ayn Rand, Anthem
The book is based in what appears to be some future Earth, where long after the advent of electricity and sky scrapers, man has fallen into cultish primitivism, forgetting the treasures of the past and embracing a sort of wanna-be hive mind. Society at large has forgotten the individual and deemed both open and individual thought and action as evil, and unfair to your brothers and sisters (who you supposedly are a part of). The world she describes is one where man’s primary reason for existence is to serve and sacrifice one’s self in behalf of others; a world devoid of life in any meaningful sense of the word.
This book struck me deeply, especially living in the culture and political climate that we do today, were individuals are looked at as a mere demographic, and given either privilege or restriction based off of things they have no control over; the merit of the individuals action or inaction is thrown to the wind, and a man or woman is looked at as either the victim or the oppressor. For this I am grateful to Ayn and her contribution to freedom. She speaks later on in the book of mans autonomy, and nobility in being; of the sacredness of the ego, that is the self. An idea is presented that man owes nothing to anyone, and is owed nothing in return. Man is an end in himself, and never solely a means to another. She also claims that man is fulfilled by mastery of the mind and of the Earth, something I find inspirational,and useful in my every-day life as a drive and goal; something to find achievement and pride in.
“My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”
― Ayn Rand, Anthem