Note: Content Warning for some frank discussion of sex, extreme violence, rape and childhood abuse, some of it referring to fictional works. One work is “Better Days” by Jay Naylor, another is “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.
After reading Brad Warner’s “Hardcore Zen”, I question myself in a way that’s more harsh than usual. Friends and family often note that I am very hard on myself. Well, it’s because I was raised in a world that taught me that it has no time for softness when it comes to people like me. No, I don’t necessarily mean because of my race, though that affects a lot of people’s perceptions, apparently. I mean this: I am a survivor of childhood abuse, and it is this experience that teaches me how to cope…along with how to hurt myself.
Granted, none of that excuses a goddamn thing if I’m a really shitty person. Idi Amin could’ve been bullied when he was a kid, that wouldn’t have excused a goddamn thing…yes, that’s hyperbolic, but I believe there’s an Idi Amin inside me. I believe it, because I’ve been looking at myself hard before and ever since I made the decision to move out of my old home, trying to live with the help of other family, friends, and (insert gasp of horror here) the government. However, my abuse does not excuse me being creepy, pushy, clingy, distant, neglectful, lazy, narcissistic, immature, insecure, aloof and a know-it-all. Yet the unsavory things (or at least I describe myself as those things) have allowed me to have my current job, and enable me to build the computer I’m using to type this right now. The things that make a person “subhuman” to some is what allows those very people to get jobs, to Keep Civilization Running For Now (well, that, and networking, studying for various types of work certification, and a hefty shake of economic luck/privilege). No matter what, I have to take a wider look and see what I’ve done, and what I am doing.
I’ll just make things a little short by describing my various beliefs from young to older: Jehovah’s Witness, then Born-Again Christian, then New Age stuff, and finally Atheism, intensified by immense shame/guilt…which became inverted due to growing skepticism. You can thank QualiaSoup, TheraminTrees, some bits of FreeThought Blog (including Zinna Jones. Because Zinna Jones fucking ROCKS) and some episodes of South Park/The Simpsons/Family Guy for that. Mix all of that with a life where even though things are physical, I did not have a real sense of belonging or “love” beyond…well, me being an easy utility for whatever the moment called for me to be by people who were supposed to raise me. I was promised unconditional love, but the closest I could get was the classic self-proclamation, “God loves me”…despite all evidence to the contrary. It was this that forced me to craft a more stable world inside my head. A stable world full of freaky things.
A friend once asked me if I act like the main character of “Inception”, where I just dive in and make up my own world. I answered, “Yes, but eventually reality finds a way to smash through” (just paraphrasing, here). I’ve been living the world of “Inception” before it was considered cool, in order to protect myself, to help myself grow even if others could not…though the end result is not cool. Oh, I may be the current smart-ass spouting off stuff, but it feels that right now I am just using stuff to hold myself together like glue on a broken statue. I am (or was, I can’t tell) a broken person who was taught to please, and so kept working, kept pleasing, until one day they realized it would not be enough to stop the abuse.
Somehow, I discovered the work of Jay Naylor, seeing the vitrol his then-running webcomic “Better Days” got in forums. I looked, and read and…ok, you know what? Just read Better Days in its entirety. No, seriously, read it if you dare. If you think that webcomic is horrible, pretentious and bigoted with lackluster art and a ridiculous plot…well, it is. But look at it from the perspective of a skeptical and introspective, yet vulnerable, fragile and impressionable teenager who thought they were on the cusp of figuring out How The World Works. The kind of person who believes they have the key to make it, if only they could use their wits hard enough.
Which is exactly who I was…and which was the condition that brought me to Objectivism. Just ONE binge read of The Fountainhead (after Jay Naylor talked about it on his Livejournal or something) and suddenly I was all in. Then I witness Jay Naylor himself become an Objectivist, which somehow got him even MORE shit than I thought possible. Younger Me thinks, “Gosh, Jay Naylor is popular, and he believes This Thing. Maybe I should, too!” Suddenly, I read a bunch of books by Ayn Rand over and over, internalizing their philosophy like the religious folk I mocked. Sure, I wasn’t a bible thumper anymore, but I traded God and Society for the Individualist Mary Sue and the belief that although Adam Smith was a cool dude, he didn’t go far enough in worshiping the Free Market (note that at this point I haven’t read a single page of “The Wealth of Nations”. I just had it paraphrased to me by Leonard Peikoff or whomever).
And on it goes…at least in private. I was so into Objectivism I actually printed a bunch of Ayn Rand Institute-made posters and planned on attending a Tea Party march just so I could distribute them. It is only thanks to me being chickenshit that made me not commit (man, thinking over that makes the Many Worlds Theory kinda terrifying). Sure I engaged in society, but I was still dirt poor to the point where I needed aid to go to college. Hell, I ate thanks to fucking FOOD STAMPS, yet somehow I clung to those Ayn Rand books…The Fountainhead (which I shied away from the moment I was reminded that the lead character, Howard Roark, is a rapist. No, really, read it if you dare), Atlas Shrugged, We The Living (which I could barely get through, though even Objectivists think of it the way Daft Punk fans think of the album “Human After All”), The Objectivist Lexicon (bought that pile of shit with money I barely had)…I read it all. Even attended an Objectivist group meeting…a group that didn’t last long and had only, like, 2 other people attend the first day, but at least I did it for The Team. I guess.
Why did I keep it up? Well, because I thought that my believing in it, and my absorbing all the tenets of Objectivism itself, would somehow transform me into…something more. Someone who didn’t have to depend on anyone, someone who could show the (allegedly) anti-capitalist academia what is what, someone who would be a great artist…just like Rand, but in my own way that I believed was The Absolute Hot Shit Of All Time. Well, none of that happened, no matter how much I wished, worked, and studied. Yeah, I could repeat Fox News/Breitbart/Pajama Media talking points and reduce art to bullshit dichotomies (making me miss out on a lot of awesome shit), but what did that do for me? Was I really advancing myself as an individual…or did I just plant my desperate self into yet another intellectual team because somehow their rhetoric hits me in my Special Place? Somehow, the doubt grew…sure, I had Jay Naylor’s website bookmarked, amongst a lot of things, but no matter how much I wrapped myself in and shielded myself, Reality found a way to dick-slap me (or ass rub…or pussy pop. Whichever metaphor you prefer). That was when I begun to realize the truth. To paraphrase David Wong’s rant about how movies like “The Karate Kid” ruined an entire generation, I thought I was going to be The Man, when all I had was The fucking Fountainhead.
Oh, I didn’t drop it all instantly. It took me another late-night round of Bullshiting On The Internet to find another community, a certain one that’s feminist (self-proclaimed) which also mocks Men’s Rights Activists (and still mocks them, though I and several friends have fallen out of favor with the site Because Reasons)…which took me to Feminism. Which lead to me reading bell hook’s “We Real Cool” (great book, by the way). Then I just…lost faith, I guess. Maybe I talked about Objectivism here and there, but eventually all it took was exposure to people of different backgrounds, in a digital community a bit more tight-knit and inclusive, to make me lose faith. My Objectivist idols stopped being…well, inspiring. Some unfollowed me on Twitter after a while, the others I just drifted away from. Trading one intellectual team for another…but in a way that made me see part of my reality, the sight of which made me act. It wasn’t until years later, when I stumbled upon a low-budget review of Better Days made by a guy named Xander that I realized, “Holy shit. I may be a fucknut now, but man was I a fucknut back then”.
It is not individualism and Objectivism that make me the employee, aspiring human being, and all-around smart-ass that I am today. The things mocked by Objectivists and their ilk as signs of Moochers and Parasites…Social Justice, welfare, hell even Sex Work positivism pisses Objectivists off…those things are what allow me to be here today. Warts and all, I’m here because of some of the many enemies of Ayn Rand: the understanding of Immanuel Kant, Collectivism, and Welfare. Though, to be fair, Objectivists don’t FORBID a person from being on welfare…but the line can be very thin. Oh, and before someone mentions Alan Greenspan and him working for the Government during the Reagan Administration and beyond, Objectivists have disowned the guy for not being Objectivist enough. Really.
So, that is what leads me here, sharing a bit of my life after a quick meal of spaghetti with olive oil, pepper, and capers. Yet…none of this satisfies me. No closure is really here (despite some recent things happening). Plus, thanks to Brad Warner’s book, “Hardcore Zen”, I’m thinking that maybe I’m just making up even more bullshit to justify myself. I mean, the guy talks about questioning not just authority, but even how one carries themselves, their own identity, their “past”…to him, there is no future, and the past is just something that can’t exactly be bothered with (though given how Zen Buddhism is, I may be using insufficient words). What really exists is the Right Now, according to Brad Warner…and Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Buber, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger (to that last philosopher: thanks a lot you fascist asshole, you inspired Terrance Malick to eventually make a 3-hour long commercial with a bullshit philosophical dichotomy drilled into the viewer’s head throughout. Fuck you, Heidegger).
Anyway, disputed originality of Brad Warner’s teachings aside, I think a lot about how I justify myself, how I reach out to people, how I hunger for things, and the “Why” behind all of those things…breaking everything about myself down to the point where it feels like I’m breaking apart every week. Maybe I’ll just end up joining another intellectual team because their rhetoric makes me feel good (though if I ever become a Neo-Reactionary, even ironically, you have every permission in the universe to kick my ass). Maybe this limbo is where I will always be. Perhaps this is my life: an intellectual sampler who manages to impress quite a few members of a tribe, until that Faithful Moment where I show a little too much of my humanity, either drifting away afterwards or getting kicked to the curb. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time. Or…maybe I’m just creating a long-winded rationalization for what could be shitty behavior on my part, and so I need to stop that right now before I die alone. Die alone with a Fleshlight in my right hand and a Nintendo 2DS with Super Smash Bros. on my left (no shaming people who use sex toys. I mean, keep on rocking, you kinky folks, you).
However my life turns out, at least I know now that Ayn Rand and her followers are full of shit.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.