|George: “If your life is built on pessimism, you are not an Objectivist. If you hold the majority of humanity in contempt, you are not an Objectivist. If you have become so jaded that your sanction of a person or concept requires perfection, you are not an Objectivist.”|
Well said, George, although it’s interesting that you feel the need to spell out these sentiments. I guess it’s not surprising that young Objectivists in particular should take a pessimistic view of the world. Right from the opening line of “Atlas Shrugged”, for instance, we are given a view of the world as a cesspool, where the villains are irredeemable sub-humans, the heroes god-like beings, the common people bovine and passive. It’s not surprising that when some young readers adopt this schema as their world-view they fail to find happiness.
A good part of the problem is a failure to adopt a critical attitude. Most Objectivists take at face value Rand’s claim that AS belongs to a genre of art called “romantic realism”, art that tells us something about the world the way it is and the way it should be.
The assumption underlying realism in novels is that the setting, themes and characters will more or less resemble the real world. For example, the reader can believe that the events in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” may well have happened or could happen in the way the author outlines.
AS is not this sort of novel. It’s more akin to the dystopian literature of the likes of Butler’s “Erewhon” and Orwell’s “1984”. Of course, novels of this type may have much to say about the world, but they are not meant to replicate the world that we know. In fact, their power comes from their very strangeness, their peculiar perspective on the world.
When AS is taken as a piece of realism, it’s not hard to see why young Objectivists opt for pessimism. The antidote is to regard AS for what it is, a piece of dystopian literature that shows us the author’s perspective on human beings and their world, rather than as a realist novel that shows us the world “as it is”.