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Writer: A friend you don’t know you have

I need to get something off my chest.

Phew. Here we go.

Wow. This really is harder than it seems. All right.

You may or may not (hopeful emphasis on the may not) have heard of Ayn Rand, and what she’s written. She’s widely regarded as immensely problematic; her writing has championed, and even been the cornerstone of, neoliberal thinking. She has written novels such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and they’re novels of ideas, specifically engineered to help her prove her point. I’ve heard her disparaged, slandered, hated. I’ve kept my mouth shut.

So, here goes: Ayn Rand saved my life.

I know, getting personal! So fast! I feel so close to you, it’s like you’ve known me my whole life.

How did this seemingly cold, neoliberal mastermind save my life? With a clever speech that Howard Roark makes in The Fountainhead.

I’ve still got it memorized, five years after I first read it. The messages I’ve learnt from it have shaped me and freed me; allowed me to become well-rounded and critical; have taught me curiosity and, most importantly, that elusive art that is self-love. Let me take you on a journey. Set aside, if you can, those preconceptions I’ve just thrown at you. Let me walk you through the speech’s finer points.

Freedom comes from realizing your strength as an individual. Of course, relating to people and communities is human: most importantly, the way in which you relate to them is your choice. Nobody has the right to claim any part of you, your mind, your thoughts, your feelings, that you do not allow them to take. It is simply not theirs to claim. You are always allowed to say no. If you create, you are allowed to create for you: your mind, when you attempt to please, is being restricted. Let your kindness, your gentleness, your sweetness, come genuinely, without being compelled by any person. Sacrifice, in my opinion, is a noble and beautiful thing. No one is allowed to force you into it. Choice is gold, above all.

That is how Ayn Rand’s ideas changed my life. Always to be taken with a pinch of salt, like all ideologies. I read her and I found someone ready to champion my right to exist by my own rules. Now yours, too. Thanks for listening.


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