On Rejecting One’s Passion
Topic 3: Atlas Shrugged is a story that portrays a dramatic conflict of characters and their values. What is the most significant conflict in the story? Is it the conflict between the creators and the looters? Is it the conflict the creators experience in their own souls? Is it something else? Explain your answer.
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is an inimitable manifesto for the modern day capitalist. Rand has created a world of relatable characters that, if read with an open mind, can show readers their deepest struggles. This seemingly simple story speaks volumes on the timeless argument about wealth, its place in society, and why capitalism is not an objectively negative economic system. It has been consciously and subconsciously beaten into most western citizens’ minds that capitalism is about greed and the pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake. However, if one comes to understand the misunderstood characters in Atlas Shrugged, an understanding can be developed that not all capitalists are merely greedy people. In fact, that mindset is a product of jealousy. Capitalism has a negative connotation to most people in modern society and the characters of Atlas Shrugged because they are jealous of those who have pursued their passions and soared higher than can be imagined without the same experience.
Dagny Taggart: the fearless leader of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It is so ironic that in today’s day and age this book isn’t currently exploding on social media. Dagny Taggart: a female capitalist whose “purpose” is to run “Taggart Transcontinental” simply to please herself. Her “purpose” is to reach her goals, and a select few other people, who care enough to understand her, are who she chooses to spend her precious time with. Isn’t that awfully similar to the self-empowerment movement currently taking place in our generation? When she is broken down to her core, Dagny Taggart is the embodiment of what all men and women should strive to be: not necessarily wealth-seekers in the traditional sense in pursuit of wealth, but wealth-seekers in their own utterly subjective way.
When one contemplates life in this generation, it is all too easy to buy into certain predetermined concepts at our disposal. From birth we are made to believe whatever idea makes sense to us first and not challenge it. Conformity, like most aspects of life, can be seen as good or bad. Humans naturally conform, but don’t naturally challenge. It’s up to an individual to decide what social norms they are willing to conform to, and which ones to disregard in order to find their own balance.
Characters on the opposite side of heroes Dagny and Hank are not at fault for their jealousy. The concept of “fair” gets tossed around throughout Atlas Shrugged and, once again, the reader must take a step behind their preconceived notions of right and wrong to contemplate what Rand is trying to demonstrate. Is it fair to demonstrate anger and hatred towards a fellow human being because they are seemingly successful? What is “fair” anyhow? Suppose “fair” is the meaning of life. What is the meaning of life? In secular terms, the meaning of life should simply be the pursuit of “meaning.” However, meaning is subjective. So why not look at the objective similarities people have associated with the word?
Meaning is what connects humans no matter what religion, belief system, or background they have. Humans have been associating their subjective “meaning” with a sense of “purpose” since the dawn of time. And what else is “purpose” than the things that fill a person with joy? Why should a person spend their long life being miserable if they are pursuing their purpose and not harming anyone else?
The answer is simple, yet because our previous generations have convoluted simple words such as “meaning” and “purpose” our current generations are stuck in dark places because we have failed to recognize what these terms mean for ourselves and future. Call it what you will, but mental health has been over-complicated for just as long as those words have been misconstrued.
Society is just now opening up to these topics, but it is still a struggle every day for countless humans who have been silenced. For example, this can be applied to significant historical events, such as the French Revolution, the Freedom Movement of the 1960s, and now the mental-health crisis. What should be contemplated first and foremost is this: What has gone wrong in our past, and what solutions have we ignored?
We, as a species, have tried positive social change before, but failed because we have confused society into thinking that the pursuit of meaning is evil. We have silenced innocent people merely for being themselves. We have been arrogant out of jealousy and misunderstanding. Haven’t we?
It doesn’t matter what our past looks like. We live in the perfect time period to come to terms with it. This is the time period of positive social change. This is the time period of acceptance and closure. This is the time period of social media.
Social media is the Salem Witch trials of our time. Social media is subjective. Social media either gives people a sense of purpose or destroys them. It isn’t complicated when looking at it with historical context how to solve this issue. We can keep living in fear of the misunderstood. Or, like Dagny Taggart of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, we can embrace this thing that creates subjective meaning and stop only when we reach every goal we set for ourselves. Only when we come to terms with misunderstanding will we live in a truly positive world.