Ayn Rand, Narcissism and Democracy

Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum) was an influential fiction writer. Her best sellers were “The Fountainhead” (1943) and “Atlas Shrugged” (1957). She was a Russian who reacted to the crushing uniformity under communism in Russia. She also saw the same dangers in the right-wing fascism of Hitler’s Nazism in Germany. The protagonists in her novels found freedom through the expression of their individualism.

Determined to forge their own way, they not only rejected the conformity of totalitarian regimes, but also, the values of living in a community. If one is to live an “objective” life, one measures events and people by how they effect one’s own success as an individual. In love, they measure how they are served by the ones loving them, not by serving them. They are narcissistic individuals seeking validation through attempting to establish their unique individualism.

The basic principles of Ayn Rand’s philosophy include objective reality, absolute reason, individualism, and laissezfaire capitalism. Objective reality means that the world outside of us exists and is discoverable through science.

Absolute reason means that humans can understand the nature of existence through the systematic application of the scientific method.

Narcissists in today’s society tend to gloss over those characteristics of Rand’s philosophy to concentrate more on extreme individualism and laissezfaire capitalism. Those principles of her philosophy emphasize the qualities of the self-made person. It idealizes the competitive winners in the struggle to realize one’s potential in society. What is good for one, as an individual, is good, regardless of its effects on others in the community.

The Greek myth of Narcissus was that he was very handsome and that he fell in love with his own image while looking in a clear pool of water. In some versions of the myth he spends the rest of his life gazing lovingly at his own image. In other versions he dives into the pool reflecting the illusion of his handsome image, and drowns. In either case, self-love, self-aggrandizement, and self-absorption are destructive. The major religions of the world all see that idolization of the self as a major problem. Jesus rebuked the selfaggrandizing religiosity of the Pharisees. Mohammed and Siddhartha Gautama (a Buddha), strictly prohibited followers to view them as gods, or to have their followers act that way.

They emphasized, instead, walking humbly before god, and serving others. Narcissists, on the other hand, are enamored with their own correctness, power, wealth, and influence. Their followers bask in the image of the illusion of their successful image, often on a screen rather than in a pool.

Reality is complicated. Narcissists see reality through the narrow lens of their own interests and desires. They seek to create a reality in which they can realize those desires. In a society where each individual has their own self-actualization as the primary objective, competing individuals are enemies. In a society based on the humility principle of the major religions, each individual is valued, no matter how different they may appear, or act.

All are sinners, or ignorant, in their own way. Democracy is the best system yet devised to listen and compensate for everyone’s failings while attempting to create a harmonious society built on love and acceptance.