Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

The Anti-Misanthrope's Manifesto
by Barbara Branden

I was slightly dubious when I read your earlier denunciation of the young women of your generation. I am completely opposed to your denunciation of . . . just about everybody except, perhaps, some Soloists.

You wrote: "For those of us who want to live a good life -- one filled with joy and quality of achievement -- we quickly come to find out that others don't want that. Around most people, we are reviled for our striving to be admirably happy and content, and for our need to achieve. The others, they have apparently gotten together to establish a 'safe zone' to roll around in their own filth, undisturbed."

I live in the world, too (and have lived in it much longer than you), and I haven't found that others don't want lives filled with joy; nor have I found myself reviled for wanting to be happy; nor have I found that most people want to roll around in their own filth. I have found that people often don't know how to create happy lives for themselves, although they struggle to do so. I have found that most people are relatively decent, and have little filth in their lives to roll around in.

As Objectivists and Soloists, we all have exalted dreams which we try to reach -- and some of us assume that we are alone to have such dreams. Life is not easy for anyone, and many give up their dreams in despair, but that does not make them monsters. There are monsters in the world, but let's reserve that condemnation for those who deserve it.

I have a picture in my mind of millions of people saying to themselves: "I have great dreams, and great goals -- and I am bitterly lonely because no one else has them." Surely there's a contradiction in this picture worth thinking about.

You wrote: "Too often, it becomes an either-or choice, as to whether you can have your integrity or be around people." Where did you get such an idea? What do other people have to do with the maintenance of one's own integrity? Are you saying that because we are "around people," we have to be dishonest because some of them are? Do we have to cheat and rob and murder because other people do?

I know people who are concentration camp survivors, but who have not given up on the human race or on themselves, who have not given in to despair, who have not sentenced themselves to lives of loneliness and misanthropy. If they haven't done so, by what right do we?

You wrote: "Do I crave the company of people so much that I am willing to become someone I would frankly loathe?"

"The company of people" does not make anyone become someone he loathes. If that occurs, he has done it to himself, and to blame others is simply a cop-out. Look around you without fear, and you will see that there are decent people everywhere -- even if many of them do not agree with you in every particular. Yes, we have to be able to be loners -- for the joy of being alone with ourselves, not out of hatred of others.

George Washington said, of America, "We must set a standard to which the wise and honest will repair." That is what all of us can do when we are "among people."

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