Ayn Rand Anthem Book Review

downloadIn the future, after the Great Rebirth, in Ayn Rand dystopian novel, Anthem, men are not called by their own names rather they are referred to by numbers ‘written on an iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon.’ They have no rights, conversely there is no I, instead men are referred to as we, and this has formed the baseness of slavery to which every man has to live as per the collective laws set by the society.

Equality 7–2521, at twenty one years, goes contrary to the set societal code of living as stipulated by the Council of Vocations, and everything in his life changes.

Anthem Story line by Any Rand

Men live in a collective city and are governed by the World Council under the directive of the Council of Vocation. Children, when they are born, are taken away from their mothers, and placed in the Home of Infants, where they live until they are five years old then they are taken to the Home of Students, where they conversely stay for ten years before being assigned their work by the Council of Vocations. Every spring, one night, during the Time of Mating, men, who are older than twenty years of age, and women, who are over eighteen, are sent to the City Palace of Mating to have sex. This is usually perceived as a disgusting and shameful act that ought not to be thought of or talked about. Men work on their assigned roles, whilst women work and live in the Home of the Peasant, until both turn forty whereby they retire in the Home of the Useless, where the State takes care of them until they die. At this age they are referred to as the Old Ones, and many die at this age, those who are fortunate enough to reach the age of forty five are called the Ancient Ones, and they are looked down upon by society, and die at that age. No men live past this age. Such is the life in Anthem, by Ayn Rand.

download (1)Ever since they were young, Equality 7–2521 have always had a tough time to fit in the totality of other men; they found the classes insanely hard, not because of what they learned was complex, on the contrary, it was too simple that even before the teacher uttered anything, they knew before hand, therefore they were lashed for it; they loved the Science of Things, consequently they asked too many questions as a result they were thrashed more and forbade to ask any more questions; they were always told their body was too big, they fought too much with other kids, consequently spent most of their time in the Collective Detention – in short, their life was unbearable.

Things get worse for Equality 7–2521 when they reach the age of fifteen, for they are given their vocation by the Council of Vocations in the Home of the Street Sweeper instead of the Home of the Scholars, to which they are passionate about. The life of a Street Sweeper is dull, for they wake up in the morning, dress and eat breakfast, go to work for five hours with rakes and brooms, only to return for half an hour for lunch, then go back to work for five hours again and return for dinner in the dining hall for an hour. Later the bells rings for the Social Meeting in the City Halls, where the candles are lit, where other men from different trades join in, and different Councils give lectures written by the City Council on duties and the importance of toiling for other brother men. This is followed by singing the hymn of Brotherhood, Equality and Collective Spirit. After this the bell rings and all men proceed to the City Theatre for three hours for Social Recreation, here they watch plays by the Home of Actors, on how imperative it is to toil and how beneficial it is for other brother men. What follows later is going to sleep. Such is the life of Equality 7–2521. He can’t stand it.

Two major things happen that change Equality 7–2521 life forever. One he notices and strikes a relationship with Liberty 5–3000, to whom he refers to as the Golden One, second he discovers an abandoned hole that leads into an alley while sweeping with International 4–8818. He deducts that it must have been built during the Unmentionable Times.

These two things drastically change Equality 7–2521 perception. He develops himself immensely by learning all sorts of things, until he discovers electricity. He is awfully excited and plans to share this knowledge with the Home of the Scholars, however one day he delays in the tunnel for so long until, when he comes back to the Home of Street Sweepers, everyone has slept. He is reprimanded for this action. He refuses to say where he was and what he was doing, therefore he is sent to the Collective Detention where he is thrashed mercilessly and tortured, until he escapes and approaches the Home of the Scholars to share his creation weeks afterwards.

He is looked down upon by the Home of the Scholars. He runs away into the Uncharted Forest, only to be joined by Liberty 5–3000 a day after. Both set off into the wildness hand in hand until, after many days, come across a house built by the Unmentioned Times where they finally settle down. Here Equality 7–2521 reads from the books he finds in the house. He finally gains the realisation of who he is, what life is, what the Unmentioned Times were, the huge lie behind what he had been taught ever since he was born, and what it means both to love a woman and to be an independent man free from other men’s obligations. He names The Golden one Gaea and himself Prometheus.

download (2)The Ego/ The Self/ the I in Ayn Rand Anthem

Like all her works, Ayn Rand philosophy of objectivism is introduced in this germ of wisdom, showing how it is essential for the individual to rise above the collective, to know who he is and do what he wills, to fathom why it is important for him to be free – to be original without any particular influence –, to refuse completely to live a life of altruism and suffer for others, and to live according to his own way of thinking.

The individual for a long time has been under siege by the numerical group, but it has not always been like this, he was once independent. He had been imprisoned by the gods, the kings and queens, but he broke free, but somehow along the way he lost his reason when he repressed his logic and free will and conformed to the force of the majority:

‘At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. Then he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their chains. He declared to all his brothers that a man has rights which neither god nor king nor other men can take away from him, no matter what their number, for his is the right of man, and there is no right on earth above this right. And he stood on the threshold of freedom for which the blood of the centuries behind him had been spilled.

But then he gave up all he had won, and fell lower than his savage beginning.

What brought it to pass? What disaster took their reason away from men? What whip lashed them to their knees in shame and submission? The worship of the word “We.”‘

But here is where man went astray, as a result he lost the I, the Ego, the Self. He became a slave for others; he was imprisoned by the laws set forth by the State, conversely everything he did was grounded on the basis of the good of others, the majority always won and dictated what was good for him. This is what set ruin to the world as man knew it, for man was no longer himself, rather a reflection of the collective, he could not think, feed or live by himself, everything he did had to be approved by the State. This is what has ruined the world as it is today. Man cannot do what he whims; whatever he does has to be under the parameters of others. He has to get approval, but he needs to understand this:

‘Many words have been granted me, and some are wise, and some are false, but only three are holy: “I will it!”

Whatever road I take, the guiding star is within me; the guiding star and the loadstone which point the way. They point in but one direction. They point to me. I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars.

I am a man. This miracle of me is mine to own and keep, and mine to guard, and mine to use, and mine to kneel before! I do not surrender my treasures, nor do I share them. The fortune of my spirit is not to be blown into coins of brass and flung to the winds as alms for the poor of the spirit. I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.

I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man’s soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.’

imagesThe problem with the world today is that man is no longer a thinker; he lives to get approval from others. The future that Ayn Rand described in Anthem is here with us. Man is a mere shadow of his former self. He is controlled by three things; the State, Media and Religion. If he does something, it is out of influence maybe from a show he watched on TV, or a video online or what the pastor or imam said in church or mosque or what the State has declared as right and proper. He cannot fathom anything for himself. He dresses, not what he wants, but what others want him to; he works, not for his own pleasure and overall well being, but to attain certain things that are regarded by the society as important; he lives, not where he wishes, but in certain places that are thought of as prime, or posh – in short he is a second hander.

Today’s man is weak. He does not appreciate the value of being alone; in fact he cannot stay alone or in a quiet place. If he is in the house, there has to be a background sound running, if he is on a neglected island, he has to get on phone to talk to others or log in to social media, if he is in the countryside, he has to tune in the radio to know what others are up to: it is as if he fears to know himself, to think for himself, to live only for himself; his life is based on the events of others. Man has embraced ‘We’, he has been taught in school, church, and companies not to say ‘I’ rather ‘We’. He has been told that the ego is evil, and that it should be repressed at all times. One should never say, ‘this is mine’, rather, ‘this is ours,’ ‘we own this,’ not ‘I own this.’ His children have been brained washed by religion, the State and media to practice altruism; they live not for themselves, but to serve others. They are chastised when they speak of their desires, they are told it is rude, for a child should never demand or question, rather accept what is. They have been told to compromise on what they want, their happiness, and follow what the society expects and wants.

It is time that man should return to his former self. He should be what he wants to be at all costs whether it will cost him his life or not. He should not compromise himself for others.

‘My hands… My spirit… My sky… My forest… This earth of mine…

What must I say besides? These are the words. This is the answer.

I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world. It is my mind which thinks, and the judgment of my mind is the only searchlight that can find the truth. It is my will which chooses, and the choice of my will is the only edict I must respect.’

download (3)Man must be like Equality 7–2521, – Prometheus – and Liberty 5–3000 – Gaea – who shape their life. Man must now note:

‘For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man’s torture by men, and an unspeakable lie.

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:

“I.”‘

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