by The Krell
Growing up, for the most part, in NYC, I was always more interested in stickball and baseball than most anything else. It was not uncommon on summer days to leave home at 9 or 10 in the morning on my bike with a bat and a glove, and get back home close to dinner time having spent the day playing ball. In other words, I was a pretty normal mid 1960s kid. But all that changed when I entered a NYC high school in 1968, though not quite the “radical” I was to become.
After spending two years not quite part of the “in crowd” in the summer of 1970, prior to my senior year, I discovered cannabis; a whole new world was now opened to me. My group of friends began to change from the “geeks” I had been hangin’ with to two different circles of the freaks or the cool kids. One group were the more hardcore druggie types, generally apolitical but spouting the current left wing mantras. The other was also druggies but the intellectual types who imagined themselves as rather deep in the Timothy Leary vein. My favorite band, The Grateful Dead, naturally.
With my intellectual friends we would engage in stoned conversations that revolved around overthrowing the government, the war, and the subjective nature of reality insofar as that no one can ever know how another person experiences “reality”. (At the time I was unaware of Plato’s influence in these “raps”.)
We discussed the evils of being judgmental and having hang-ups. This was a problem for me because, while I played along, not being judgmental seemed impossible and against my nature. I innately knew that one had to judge things in order to evaluate their value to oneself. But I was in the minority on that count and I hadn’t articulated even to myself what I just wrote. It was only a nagging sense that I did not agree with my friends.
However, I viewed that disagreement as something being wrong with me, something holding me back from being a true hippie. I also believed I had many hang-ups. And I only realized much later in life that those “hang-ups” were voices inside telling me that there was something wrong with this whole hippie deal; that those voices were essentially my self-esteem trying desperately to not be totally destroyed.
And, of course, we participated in our share of anti-war demonstrations. One memorable occasion was a rally at Union Square were Sha-Na-Na performed to support the anti-war movement. Somehow my girlfriend and I managed to get right up to the stage and we actually sat on it during their performance. When I got home that night, I watched the news (not something I normally did) and sure enough, there we were, clear as day, body-dancing and singing to the music. Ahhh, fleeting fame for a left wing radical.
I did not go college like everyone else. I tried but I found that it was not yet for me. I was fortunate to have been able to turn a part time job into a full time one, very unhippieish. Furthermore, it was working for a butcher, almost blasphemous. However, I developed a good work ethic, understood the importance of doing honest labor and doing it to the best of your ability, all very unhippieish. Yet I still identified with the culture of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, though a tad light on the sex. (At the time I didn’t view my activities as being counter to the counter culture.) I eventually studied electronics at a technical school which led to my working in a midtown Manhattan recording studio.
It was at this studio that the receptionist suggested I read Atlas Shrugged. This was 1981 or 1982, so I was just shy of 30. I was struck by how much Ayn Rand seemed to be speaking to me. I was so fascinated with what she had to say that I spend the next two or so years reading all the non-fiction collections of hers that I could find. Those titles included The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and For the New Left, The Anti-Intellectual Revolution. She exposed me to many concepts and ideas that I either never considered, or believed but could not articulate. These included:
– That the world is knowable and the vehicle to accomplish that is the human consciousness
– That the tool to accomplish all productive tasks is logic, Aristotelian logic
– That humans are the only living beings whose main tool for existence is its conceptual consciousness
– That we need a moral code in order to survive
– That the moral code must be based on the objective fact of a human life
– That all actions that promote an individual’s life are morally good and those actions that result in a individual’s destruction are morally evil
– That it is forbidden to initiate the use of violence against another person but the use of violence in one’s defense is always permitted
– That the essential aspect of a civilized society is liberty; that without liberty the human mind cannot make the proper judgment about whatever situation is being confronted or about whatever choice has to be made
– That it is immoral for a government to compel people against their own self-interest
– That it is immoral for the government to take the result of one’s effort and give it to someone else who has no right to the wealth of another
– That in essence Atlas Shrugged was about what happens when rights and needs become inverted and that the government, rather than protecting individual rights, is now in the business of satisfying group needs
– Therefore, the only moral system is capitalism because it can only be successful in a political environment whose goal is to protect individual rights, a system based on liberty. This is so because capitalism is the only system that demands from the individual the best of its judgments and abilities to survive and prosper.
The point is that in actuality I unwittingly held many of those views…except that while I “felt” those things I did not understand them nor could I articulate them in a coherent fashion prior to my reading her works.
Over the years I have learned that many people in academia and many “ivory tower” thinkers and philosophers don’t consider Ms. Rand a serious thinker or a real philosopher. I will not address that at this point, in fact I may not be able to address it in the manner necessary for a serious scholarly debate on that issue because of my own limitations in the area of the study of philosophy. What matters is the importance of Ayn Rand in changing my world view and, in my view, who I, the krell, truly am.
The real bottom line is that I was never a hardcore hippie. It was against my nature. I did however feel more comfortable in that environment than with the “straights.” I believe that was because for the majority of my life I question conventional thinking. I was against the government intruding into my decision-making process, and I accepted a wider range of human behavior as being okay than those on the other side of the generation gap.
Therefore, I didn’t really change all that much. Ayn Rand opened my eyes and my brain to who I was and to the convictions I already held even though I didn’t fully realize it. Like I did 40 years ago, I still believe in a limited government, though now I understand why it is a prerequisite to a nation founded on individual liberty.
In coming to these understandings, I learned that politically and economically I was more attuned with the Right then the Left. I still tend to buck conventional wisdom, as I found it is usually less than optimal and I am fairly liberal from a social policy aspect, which is where I tend to disagree with those on the Right. Basically, I am unconcerned with what a person does, so long as they do not attempt to force their life-style onto me.
I realize that this is a somewhat simplistic overview of the issues involved but, while it may lead to other questions, I hope the above was a somewhat entertaining tale of my journey of self-discovery. • (1642 views)