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In the novel Anthem, Ayn Rand discusses the issue of individual personality and the destructive power of collectivism. The author creates a model of a society with socialist politics, where people are forbidden to be different and are punished for the slightest dissimilarity with their brothers. It is described as a dystopian future of people who sacrifice their life, talents, and interests in order to please the government. Rand’s philosophy about the importance of protection and the development of personal identity and uniqueness can be compared with a number of historical events. Communism in Russia, World War II, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in China can be taken into account to argue in favor of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of individualism.
The World Council in Anthem is an absolute copy of communist Russia, where Ayn grew up and whose policies made her immigrate to the U.S.A. Censorship in the Soviet Union was strictly implemented as it is done in Anthem, where everything is controlled by the Council. In her novel, she supports people’s right to have their own life, because she knows all the terror of communist movements from her childhood experience. Some people claim that in the Communist dictatorship that human rights were suppressed, and the issues raised in Ayn Rand’s novel resemble historic and political circumstances of that time. They are convinced that doing something for themselves, not for the country, is a great crime: “It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no other think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is a base and evil. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws”. Equality 7-2521 is the prototype of the author and her parents. He is eager to be a scientist but he was forced to be a street sweeper by The World Council. He belonged to the group of people, that was not ready to put up with the policy of the Soviet Union and left the country so as not to be exiled to Siberia or shot for dissent. People in the novel cannot choose friends and soul mates. Moreover, the state has control over their private lives: “This is an evil thing to say, for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends,” “ And we take no heed of the law which says that the man may not think of women. Save at the Time of Mating.”.
Citizens in the novel have no choice. Instead, they work continuously and hard, but they receive nothing for their work, even the right to do what they really like. “We were guilty and we confess it here: we were guilty of the great Transgression of Preference. We preferred some work and some lessons to the others. We did not listen well to the history of all the Councils elected since the Great Birth. But we loved the Science of Things”.
During the Second World War, in the detachment of troops out of two hundred soldiers, ten of the most talented soldiers are chosen to control and have power over the others. That is why a sense of collectivism ensured unquestioning submission. The Council was afraid of the independence of citizens, who knew the taste of freedom can overthrow it: “We are nothing. Mankind is all. By the grace of our brothers we are allowed our life. We exist through, by and for our brothers who are the State. Amen”. In World War II everyone who opposed fascism and Nazism was killed. The same situation is provided in Ayn Rand’s novella where no one can be against, and whoever does it, is regarded as a traitor: “No single one possesses greater wisdom than the many Scholars who are elected by all men for their wisdom. Yet we can. We do. We have fought against saying it, but now is said”. People in Germany during the World War II period realized that their own personality was more important for them. With Nazi politics, human freedom is at stake. “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”.
Equality 7-2521, as Chinese people on Tiananmen Square protest, were seeking for a better future, and wanted to be free out of laws, “But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing else”. Both students in China and Equality 7-2521 want to be free from collective slavery and pursue their own happiness: “At first, the 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, and 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”. The struggle for personal happiness is the supreme and main goal of each person. However, it is different for everyone, and everyone is happy in his own way. That is why the protesters and Equality are obsessed with this goal, for their sake they are ready to give everything, even their own lives: “And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to an end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose”.
To conclude, Ayn Rand’s philosophy and raised problems in the novella Anthem are relevant and can be reflected even now. World history has enough examples to refute the need for collectivism and the suppression of creativity. All people must have a right to choose by themselves what to do, how to live, who to make friends with. This should not be dictated by the majority, or by the politicians, or by anyone, except of the people themselves. The events that took place in China, the Soviet Union, and World War II once again proved that people are not an instrument for managing the country, and the policy of severe tyranny is always a failure.
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