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I am beginning to see the United States as the oak tree at the beginning of Atlas Shrugged, an empty shell whose heart had rotted away long ago. Ayn Rand writes often of the failure of our age, of seeing corruption rewarded and honesty becoming self-sacrifice, and of seeing these as evidence of our society being doomed. Given the recent, and increased, interest in Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand, I should be hopeful for the future. But is it too little, too late? I have small children, and I never thought it would become generally accepted that America's best days are behind us. How do I cope with the destruction going on today? How can I be optimistic for my children's future? As an Objectivist it seems as though I must be missing the obvious answer.

asked May 10 '11 at 02:12

lysander's gravatar image

lysander
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edited May 10 '11 at 07:34

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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In all honesty, I'm not sure there is an obvious answer. This problem is one that many Objectivists, myself included, wrestle with often. There are so many irrational people, wreaking so much damage to so many crucial things, that it's hard to be optimistic.

All I can offer are a few of my own coping techniques. First, remember that the successful pursuit of values is still possible, even today. Dwelling on all the things you can't achieve in the face of the current culture can easily distract you from all the things you still can, and that leads to an enervating value-deprivation and a vicious cycle of depression. While the scope of your life may be diminished, that doesn't mean it is worthless or that you cannot still find happiness. Find things and people that enhance your life and enjoy the hell out of them to whatever extent you can.

Second, focus on what is in your control. Looking out at the state of the world today it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But much of what is going on is simply outside your direct control. You can't change laws, select the President, alter foreign policy, replace the dominant educational theories, etc. by yourself. But you can engage in personal activism in support of your values on some scale, and you should. "He who works for the future lives in it today." Even small-scale successes on the things you can control serve as a reminder that success is possible, and they do add up over time.

As for your children, the only advice I can offer is to raise them to be rational value-seekers as best you can. That's within your control. Equip them with the best tools you can for living a happy and successful life. What they can and do choose to do with those tools is in their control, not yours, and you have to accept that.

answered May 10 '11 at 17:21

Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

Kyle Haight ♦
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Well, I think United States is in a much better position than what it is in India. Its true that seeking values for yourself exists but if I look around, there is no scope for hope, not soon enough. Atleast, in that sense, I think US is better that it has lot of Objectivist conferences and campus clubs happening all over the country. That is not possible in India. I mean, the number of people with irrationality(faith, caste to name a few) in their method is huge. See the kind of politics that happen in India. Its absurd and no one knows what to do except that they are in a "trap". But I really think that change is possible in the US--not that other countries might not--but the kind of impact it has over the world is huge and we cannot deny that possibility! Look at the ARI, specially Dr. Yaron Brook, I think he is a great entrepreneur in terms of activism and creating awareness--at this time of financial crisis. Im sure you know more than this but if I look around, the only scope for any hope I see is in the US. I think Diana made a point in her podcasts regarding bribing government is immoral or not. I believe she said that that kind of society is really doomed and atleast thats not there in the US. I totally agree with her. Its not as bad as it is there as it is here.

answered May 11 '11 at 03:11

Harsha's gravatar image

Harsha ♦
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I answered this question in a recent episode of my Rationally Selfish Webcast. An audio recording of my response is available as a podcast here: NoodleCast #77: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast. The discussion of this question runs from 52:04 to 1:02:34.

My Answer, In Brief: The key to keep fighting, even if one is pessimistic about the future, is to understand and live Ayn Rand's phrase "Anyone who fights for the future lives in it today." For my full answer, listen to the podcast!

To catch all the Rationally Selfish Podcasts, subscribe to the podcast feeds in iTunes in enhanced M4A format (RSS) or standard MP3 format (RSS). Or better yet, join Greg Perkins and me for the live Rationally Selfish Webcast on Sundays at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET.

answered May 14 '11 at 00:30

Diana%20Hsieh's gravatar image

Diana Hsieh ♦
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edited May 17 '11 at 21:24

Diana, your answer on the podcast was very valuable to me and I thank you. Some things I've been doing for myself: I attended a recent Atlas Shrugged reading group here in St. Louis. Through it, I connected with a number of other Objectivists in the area and we've started regular meetings, and I've been introduced to your podcasts and this and other websites. I'm sending my children to Montessori school and will be hopefully cultivating a love of learning in them. I want to get into activism, but I'm still working out how to do that exactly. Thanks again for all your answers everybody.

(May 19 '11 at 01:01) lysander lysander's gravatar image

I faced this same question, and here's what I ended up doing:

  1. Acknowledged that historically, when politics and economics go sour, it's not uncommon for people to move. There are countries in the world today that are a better match for my values than the US.
  2. Moved out of the US, at least for a while. The main idea was to gain some perspective; with lots of research ahead of time and a little luck, it might work out for the long term, too. I did not view it as "running away" or "deserting my country," but rather as a positive that I am pursuing my personal values.
  3. Don't be afraid to judge others who are acting irrationally. I started doing things like writing OpEds, letters to the editor and making philosophically oriented comments on blogs and forums.
  4. Get involved with other like-minded people. In person if possible, or online if not.

Taking specific actions like these has helped me maintain, and even increase, my optimism.

I should add, though, that I also maintain a sense of realism, in that a country gets the government it deserves. In the same way that acting irrationally can destroy you, it can also destroy entire countries; you can't escape reality. But I am happier knowing that I am actively resisting the process, even though I also realize that I may not be able to avoid the impact of an eventual decline or collapse.

answered Aug 03 '11 at 23:02

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Rick ♦
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Asked: May 10 '11 at 02:12

Seen: 3,098 times

Last updated: Aug 03 '11 at 23:02