“If you saw Atlas — the giant who holds the world on his shoulders — If you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling, but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength. And the greater his effort, the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders, what would you tell him to do?”
I have considered myself left-wing, liberal, democrat, whatever you want to call it, for most of my life. It just seemed like a given to me because my environment. If you wanted to help the poor and disenfranchised, you were a leftist.
During my freshman and sophomore years, I did the whole liberal routine — I called myself a feminist, supported Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter and saw everyone with the big red R next to their name as either an evil or ignorant person.
During the early 2010’s, the Gamergate controversy was gaining steam. Gamergate was a movement where multiple feminist game developers launched a campaign, with the aid of media outlets like Kotaku and Polygon, to frame the gaming community as being sexist, racist and homophobic to mask the fact that their games got horrible reviews.
One such individual was Zoey Quinn, who had paid anonymous users on the forum site 4chan.com to send fake death threats and sexual harassment messages towards her in order to further smear gamer’s reputations.
In my experience, gamers generally didn’t want to be bothered with lofty social justice campaigns, but as a result of gaming media sites poking the proverbial beehive one too many times, an otherwise placid community rose up in arms defending what they love.
Many gamers began to fight back against the smear campaign by taking to social media to defend themselves and their industry from the slander of self-righteous elites in media, using the Gamergate hashtag, in reference to the Watergate scandal. I was one of the many who took to Facebook and Twitter as a part of this backlash, and the whole toxic underbelly of social justice world revealed itself to me. My initial change was just recognizing the radicals on the left, distancing myself from their baseless claims of sexism and racism and every other -ism while still supporting social justice and calling myself a progressive.
Many of the Youtube videos I happened upon during this time were those of infamous Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart news and Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire. Though they were conservatives, I still found some of their points to be interesting. At this time though, I had disagreed with them about almost everything, especially Yiannopoulos’ harping on about Trump being the greatest, but slowly, I felt myself sliding towards The Donald.
I learned that many of the feminist points I stood for were inaccurate, that the wage gap was just an average of all the money earned by men working full time and all the money earned by women working full time and did not take into consideration hours worked per week or occupation and was not evidence of any form of discrimination, which was already illegal since the 1950’s. If the wage gap really were a reality, greedy CEOs who only cared about money would hire only women and save money in salaries.
There were also countless disadvantages that men suffered in society such as only a 20% rate of child custody after a divorce and lack of domestic violence shelters that offer refuge to men. I began to understand the economic flaws in welfare for the poor and the immorality of socialism. I opened my eyes to the radical beliefs of Black Lives Matter leaders and how police are actually more fearful to fire upon a black suspect in fear of having their careers ruined.
The absolute freedom of speech, a free marketplace of ideas, is something I once thought was unanimously supported as a fundamental pillar in society, but the doctrines of political correctness and intersectionality deemed it dangerous and reacted with violence. Even my friends at the time would get violent and upset any time I would even question the left-leaning beliefs I had once held by default.
I realized that the left was no longer my home.
During this time period, I lay adrift. I did not know what ideals or fundamentals to cling to. It was in this state of chaos I desperately hopped onto the Trump-train during the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. My stance against political correctness was what seemed most important to me at the time and that was where I stood. I fought tooth and nail on social media and in real life promoting Trump’s presidential campaign and taking shots at Hillary Clinton any time I could.
Looking back on it now, I think what drew me to Trump was that he shared the same anti-establishment attitudes that Sen. Sanders had, which made trashing of Clinton that much easier. But once the election results came in and 2017 rolled out, I was met by disappointment after disappointment.
It was like making wishes to a genie, every one of Trump’s campaign promises came with a weird sick twist. I wanted stronger immigration control, but none of the countries that actively paid terrorists were on Trump’s ban list. On top of that, people visiting other countries who had passports from the listed countries couldn’t re-enter the U.S. I was left feeling empty again, filling my days scrolling through alt-right meme pages.
After my Trump days, I began to identify more with the libertarian set of ideals, one of limited government and enhanced civil liberties. I was drawn to this because with my blind nationalism came an interest with the Founding Fathers and enlightenment philosophy.
“[The] philosophical principle that suggests that a government’s involvement in civil economical and social matters should be limited, and that the issues should be settled amongst civilians. Libertarianism seeks to provide free-will participants the ability to make decisive decisions without the government determining or influencing the outcome, as long as it does not harm other individuals. Libertarianism is based off the belief that each individual owns every aspect of their lives and thus should have the ability to control it.”
It was then that I stumbled onto the philosophies of Ayn Rand, those of rational egoism and objectivism. Ayn Rand was a Jewish refugee from the Soviet Union who came to the U.S. and wrote many novels outlining her philosophy. In her novel “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand powerfully illustrated a dystopia where the innovators and entrepreneurs of society have been so heavily punished that they simply “shrugged” and left society to stagnate and rot.
I see now that the flaws in my former beliefs was that I was acting with an altruistic lense. Rand believed that all of man’s ails were do to altruism, self-sacrifice, whether it be to the government, god or identity group. She believed that ideas are inevitably carried out to their logical extremes, and that the logical extreme of altruism was Marxism.
Rand’s philosophy of objectivism dictated that reality existed independently of consciousness, that true morality and objective truth were quantifiable entities and that man’s best mode of navigating himself through life was through his rational thinking and rejecting emotions, faith or any other authoritarian guide.
She believed that the proper moral purpose in life was to pursue one’s own happiness, as the individual being of consciousness is the most sacred entity of all, and that the only way to justly structure a society with this moral code was through individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism.
At least for now, I see myself firmly situated in Rand’s ideological camp. I now have a moral compass by which to guide in every facet of life, from the personal to political. For those who are in a similar situation as I was, left-wingers displaced by rampant social justice activism, I cannot recommend Rand’s novels “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” enough. For hundreds of years, the prevailing moral guideline for Western society has been altruism. First in the Roman Empire, the individual was subservient to conquest. Then during the Dark Ages, the individual was tortured and burned in subservience to God. In ever present Marxist theory in the modern world, the individual in subservient to a greater collective or identity group.
Even though altruism has been the prevailing moral guideline for hundreds of years in Western society, shedding it gave me the freedom to live for myself and justify my own existence not in the service of others but in the service of myself.