“We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One, indivisible and forever.” (Anthem Ayn Rand pg. 3) Ayn Rand’s book, Anthem, focuses on the journey from one man only knowing how to live on Earth as a “we”, to a man who decides the only way to live on Earth is without a “we”. The society created in Anthem is the most extreme version of collectivism I have ever read, which is the polar opposite of Ayn Rand’s philosophies. In Anthem Ayn Rand uses an extreme version of a collectivist society to prove a point that collectivism is the downfall of man.
The first chapter of Anthem shows a society that is all together one. No personal thoughts are to be spoken or even thought. This leaves the society in a stand still of technological and anthropological advances. The leaders of the society in Anthem state many times how “What is not thought by all men cannot be true.” (Anthem Ayn Rand pg. 26 ) This forces the society to have very few advances throughout the years, as any man who discovers any new technological advancements will be lashed, or even killed if they are not from the house of scholars. The collectivist philosophies are so extreme in Anthem’s society that no individual talents or rights have ever been known to many in this society.
Anthem is an interesting read as there are two major competing philosophies shown throughout the book, collectivism and objectivism, which are polar opposites. Collectivism, which is what the society in Anthem lives by, is the idea that a group of men should have priority over one individual man’s desires. To the opposite effect, objectivism is the idea that the individual man controls his own happiness, and that no other man can bring him joy without first having joy in himself. The main character, Equality 7-2521, feels the pressure of both these philosophies on his heart through the first few chapters. Slowly he starts to creep away from the idea of collectivism, until by the end of the book he grows into a full blown objectivist. Keeping the two philosophies in mind, I wanted to create a piece of art that held the essence of both inside the one drawing, while still keeping true to the message Ayn Rand was trying to convey in Anthem.
I felt the major change of heart in Equality was in chapter 7 of Anthem when he realized his brothers were too stubborn in their own ways to accept his creation, which he felt was the best thing to have ever been discovered. Equality truly believed with all of his heart that the light he created in his glass box with a wire would have made him loved and even worshipped by his brothers, when the opposite came true and Equality was looked at with hatred and distaste from the council of scholars, he decided that was it. He had to leave the oppressive society he had been stuck in for half his life.
The drawing I created is much inspired by Equality leaving the collectivist society to a new world of objectivism. I thought a great way to show Equality leaving the the city of his brothers would be to show him leaving a rotten heart with his brothers “names” (or as a better description, their numbers) inside of a rotting purple and blue heart, which represents the oppressiveness of the city of the brothers. Around the heart is a quote which I thought represented the society’s extreme collectivist view, “We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One, indivisible and forever.” Stemming out from the bottom of the heart is an orange and yellow trail, which is supposed to represent the light in leaving the suffocating heart of the oppressive society. Two names are shown in the trail of light, first of course Equality, then following his path is Liberty (also known as the Golden One). The two represent a new hope in the world, where people can live as they wish, and not be constantly put down by the thoughts of others. Another symbol of freedom I felt was important to include in the drawing was the forest Equality and the Golden One ran off to. I strategically placed it by the path of light to show that the forest was a place of new beginnings. Overall I wanted to show the difference between the beginning and end of the book through colors and symbols, which to me represent the end of an oppressive era and the beginning of a new life for this society of people.
Overall Anthem taught me a great deal about the extreme versions of objectivism and collectivism, which helped shed light on what I personally believe. As much as I think it is important to think of one’s self and to do everything you possibly can to make yourself happy and content, I feel it is more important to build others up first. I feel the best way to build others up is to encourage them to follow their dreams and ambitions, without bringing others down. I believe it is possible to live in a society where everyone can strive to be the greatest they can be, without having to push others down to get where they want to be. I believe one of the major things that gets in the middle of loving one another, is one’s Ego.
pdf version of Anthem book for quotes