I am not a kid anymore. I was bothered by people who tell others how they should behave, what the right thing to do is or how things should (not) be done or dealt with in the past. I also let them prescribe me the standards and values that I was supposed to stick to.
I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and I know better since then.
This book is about people and their relationships. It tells many stories about how self-evident it is for people to impose something on others or how to create expectations, trust upon the principle that if you scratch my back I will scratch yours and conduct emotional blackmail. In real life almost everyone behaves like this. It is painful to realize that this is done with good intentions as an excuse: “I do this not for myself but for the benefit of another or for a greater good.” An appeal is made on feelings of guilt and shame.
The book provides an evident example for this behavior in the dialogue between Hank Rearden (one of the main characters) and his mother, who unexpectedly visits his office. Hank Rearden is a selfmademan who is now the owner of a metal factory. Both his mother and his brother live with him and are financially dependent on him. During that visit, the mother asks Hank Rearden to provide a job within his company for her other son Philip. In that way Philip earns his income instead of retrieving it as an allowance.
Hank Rearden wouldn’t even think about it. There is no job that he would have let his brother have, for the simple reason that he thinks Philip is incapable. His mother insists, because it is his brother. Hank Rearden refuses to give in and calls it a form of fraud. He would not be able to face any competent man who needed the work and deserved it. Again here the argument ‘but he’s your brother’ is mentioned. If the desired outcome is not reached, she accuses him of immoral behavior. Although she makes an appeal to his conscience, Hank Rearden keeps refusing and his brother does not get a job in the metal factory: ‘I am running a steel plant – not a whorehouse.’ (p. 208)
I want to be Hank Rearden. I want to be insensitive to this kind of ludicrous logic and manipulation. I want to be indifferent if someone criticizes me of immoral behavior, because I trust upon my own insight, knowledge, feeling, in other words: to follow nothing but my own morality.
A life dominated by guilt and shame has no freedom. I believe that an act is only of value if it is done sincerely, the core of it being real.
I try not to impose my ideas on others. You have the freedom to decide whether or not to read this book that is over 1100 pages thick. Though I strongly advise you to read Atlas Shrugged. It is with the best intentions.
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1957 – Plume Printing (1999)
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