T Nation

Negative Self Image: Isn't It Scary?


I don’t like the idea that disagreeing with an author’s viewpoints mean their works cant be good. I love Atlas Shrugged, i find it to be an entertaining novel on most all acounts. Do i agree with everything Rand says? no, but its a fiction book and I can appreciate a good story. Calling the book bad because you disagree with the authors view is like saying any non-christian will hate the Narnia books.


The sales taxes on her books alone would pay for a lot of cancer treatment, right? For herself and others? If she was forced to support and pay into a system that did things she did not agree with, you can hardly call her a hypocrite for taking some of her money back if she had the opportunity.


When Nicholas Sparks got divorced, I took my copy of The Notebook outside and lit that thing on fire.:wink:


This is really fundamental for me. Communism often presents itself as compassion. As @Jewbacca so profoundly stated, it’s a counterfeit of something good - on the surface it looks like love thy brother, but it’s turned in to something that justifies the removal of freedom, coercion or enslavement “for the greater good.”

Much of the Christian message can be taken to extremes or distorted in some way. For most of us, I’m safely including you here, Turn the other cheek never means that the slave must accept his chains. Love thine enemies does not require me to do nothing while the Hitlers of the world do their thing. Rand’s heroes do nothing to tear down or destroy. They have no issue with ordinary people living their lives, and supporting their families. The only evil in the book comes from those who would enslave or destroy, or take by force, turning the Edisons of the world in to beasts of burden “for the greater good.” I guess it depends on how far you want to go with justifying “looters” as giving someone your coat and your cloak also. If a patient sues you without good cause, will you defend yourself, or just give them all that you have? Even Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple.


Very difficult to say, given that so much of the taxes went to more ‘hidden’ services she enjoyed. Don’t know how much was left over for her cancer treatment.

To my knowledge, no one was preventing her from emigrating. Thus, I think it’s an overstatement to say she was “forced to support and pay into a system that did things she did not agree with.” So, yeah, I think I can call her a hypocrite.


All of us pay for things we don’t agree with, right? Maybe it’s a war. Maybe it’s some goofy thing like the Dept of Agriculture using your tax money to advertise for Christmas tree farms. You have to be a bit careful with this. It makes a lot of us hypocrites in some way, if we’re not willing to leave or go to jail. Neither of us share her extreme political views in terms of social programs and taxes, so maybe it’s harder to make a hypocrite out of you or I, at least on that front. When someone really gets up on an ideological pedestal, and stands on principle very firmly, it’s a bit easier to find inconsistencies or hypocrisy. It’s the problem of imperfect humans again.

I don’t know anything about her personal finances either, but she would not be described as a “looter or moocher” in Atlas. That definition in Atlas is pretty narrow. You’d need to want to seize someone’s farm, or demand that Edison owes you a light bulb, or attempt to force him to make one for you on your terms. If she plagiarized the books, she’d be a looter. Atlas and Fountainhead alone have generated quite a lot of tax revenue, wealth for publishing companies, bookstores. I would not could call her cancer treatment mooching if she participated in paying into a system, (likely in ways that most of us will never do).


I would say us it makes us hypocrites only if we claim we’re being forced to pay for things we don’t agree with.

Actually, it’s when someone ‘really gets up on an ideological pedestal, then doesn’t stand on principle very firmly’ that s/he becomes vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.

Her actual definition was far broader, and extended to any form of wealth re-distribution. From the (not-surprisingly) very pro-Rand website aynrand.org:

"Rand argues that a country dedicated to individualism must oppose every “redistribution” of wealth for a simple but profound reason: it’s not our wealth to redistribute. If I walk into your garage and drive your Camry across the street to your neighbor’s garage, I haven’t redistributed our “collective” wealth, I’ve stolen yours. If I help pass a law that allows the government to “redistribute” your Camry to your neighbor, I’ve only made the situation worse by legalizing the theft.

Yet this is what programs like Social Security do. In essence, Social Security seizes the money of a young worker and gives it to an older person to pay for his retirement. This is combined with the grisly hope, falsely labeled a promise, that when this young victim reaches retirement age, there will be enough new young workers earning enough money for the government to now victimize them to pay for his retirement."


The issue of how a Christian ought to respond to violence is very complex, and highly contentious. I think you’re dismissing as ‘extreme’ viewpoints for which compelling arguments can (and have) been made.

I don’t see what this has to do with living a Christian life (as opposed to simply being a good neighbor/citizen).

Again, the overt enslavement of individuals in the book is but a metaphor for the relationship between a collectivist state and its citizens.

As an aside, did Jesus spend more time with the Howard Roarks, Dagny Taggarts and John Galts of his time, or with the moochers?


Yes. I assumed a typical protestant viewpoint from you, since I know you aren’t a Quaker, or another group who has a specific anti-war stance under any circumstance. I know you support civil rights, but maybe I’m assuming that we agree more than we do.

Yes. That’s right. Thanks for correcting that.

Ok. Well, she still participated in wealth redistribution, right? Her option was jail or leave the US.

That’s one reason I’m trying to limit my responses to talking about the characters in her fiction, since this thread was about self-image and achievement. I’m not about to defend everything Rand thinks or says about religion or politics, particularly since I don’t share her views on so many things. As I said, the themes of her books are not about compassion. Mentioning the New Testament seems to have set us off on this tangent of going back and forth about what is Christian and what isn’t. You and I may disagree about that too. I’m not sure how much common ground there is. Maybe not much since you seem to have disagreed with pretty much everything I have said. Why ask my opinion? I assume you see in me a polar opposite?

You’re calling ordinary people, or poor people moochers here. That’s not how I would use that term.

Does this relationship ever become abusive? I’m assuming you don’t have a Fidel or Mao t-shirt in your closet. Why would it offend you to have someone write a dystopian novel about the evils of communism?



Let’s just say I’m deeply conflicted regarding what constitutes a Christian response to violence, and leave it at that.

‘Polar opposite’? No, although obviously our opinions/beliefs differ in many regards.

As for inquiring about your opinion, I do so because I’m interested to hear it.

I meant moochers literally (as in, beggars). He spent a fair amount of time with looters (= tax collectors) as well.

In this regard, could it be argued that, from a Christian perspective, we are all moochers and looters before God? (Just sort of thinking out loud here.)

It can, certainly. And most of us have strong opinions regarding where the line between acceptable and abusive is. Ideally, we work through/resolve differences among these opinions at the ballot box, and occasionally via the courts.

If Rand’s novels were about communism, I would not be troubled by them.


I am 54+. I read both Rand novels in my early 20s I think and remembered really liking them. Years later, I found an Ayn Rand philosophy book in the discount bin somewhere and bought it on a whim; to the best of my recollection I don’t think I ever got past the first page.

I don’t know much about Rand’s philosophy except I think she glorified the individual (googling her philosophy just gives me a bunch of words blah blah).

Seems ironic to me though that anyone who obsesses with a totally self-serving “sport” like competitive bodybuilding, physique, bikini etc. (if not actually requiring the passive participation/support of the participant’s friends, colleagues, and anyone around them during the misery phase) would be against such a philosphy no? …just thinking out loud…

full disclosure: my current reading material consists of campy science fiction and manly man fiction of the detective, western, etc genre so my degree of sophistication would not be considered high


Why do you think Atlas is not about communism? So much of these things from her childhood are in her dystopian world. The setting becomes almost a replica of this. The novel is more than that, but this is certainly there.

In the eight years before she left the Soviet Union in 1925, Rand lived through the economic chaos and desperate poverty it caused, as the communists nationalized businesses and expropriated private wealth. Her father was a pharmacist, and Rand was in the shop when soldiers arrived to close the business and seize the property, depriving the family of work, property, and income. In the years before she left, she lived through the tyranny of statism, as the communists used every means to expand their power—including secret police, terror tactics, and executing enemies or shipping them to Siberia. Under the new communist regime, more and more of private life was politicized, including speech, ideas, and education.
Rand was appalled by this system. She was appalled not merely by its visible effects on herself and the people she knew. She was appalled by the underlying ideology of communism, especially the ideas of moral collectivism that made communism possible and were used to justify it as a noble ideal.

Well, back at ya. I think you may also see me as a bit of a foil character. Honestly. I’ve had that same impression when we talked about Kroc many months ago. Do you think it’s impossible to see good in her fictional characters, without having an adolescent understanding of politics or religion? I know that was a quip about Tolkien and Rand and orcs, but I’m pretty sure you think I’m blind, or more blind. I’ve acknowledged the part about seeing what I expect to see. - “you and me.” I know you have a cognitive psych background, so talking about a bias blind spot and confirmation bias should be speaking your language. :slight_smile:

Yes. In my tradition, we owe all that we have to God. We are always in His debt.
Book of Mormon, Mosiah 4:19 “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”


Hi punnyguy. punnygirl here. haha. Time to revisit the books! Me too, it’s been a long time since I read The Fountainhead. I should revisit it and see if I still like Howard Roark as much as I did the first time around. As far as books go, the LOTR are still wonderful to me. I like them as an adult.

Certainly we could say that many of us have some internal motivation or drive to reach our own potential. My motives are mixed, but mostly they are just related to the joy I feel in my own progress, learning something new, doing something physically and mentally difficult. There are other less internal motives, but yeah, for me it’s not a team thing. It’s mostly a very individual or solitary type of experience. One of my kids benefits from my ability to lift her, but it’s not about altruism for me. That’s just a side benefit.

Edited to ad -

WHOOT! I fully support some escapist fiction. I once got my husband to read one of my favorite romance novels. I about died with all his comical commentary and teasing. It was hilarious. Good times.


Because she felt contempt for all collectivist governments, including ours. (See the AynRand.org quote I provided above about Social Security). That said, no doubt communism represented the pinnacle of collectivist evil for her.

Her protagonists are explicitly heroic in their construction, so it would be difficult not to see good in them. This is part of what makes her work so appealing and seductive. And if someone finds her novels qua novels enjoyable, who am I to say they’re wrong? But at its core, her work is propaganda, written to advance a particular socio-political agenda. As such, it deserves a level of scrutiny that is not necessarily applicable to other works of fiction. As she was fond of saying, her premises must be checked.

That’s exactly what I was getting at. “All things come of thee, O God, and of thine own have we given thee.” Or as C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity:

“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what that is really like.

It is like a small child going to its father and saying, ‘Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.’ Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction."

Which prompts me to share a neat little factoid you might not be aware of:



That’s correct.

I am all for this sort of individualism, the sort of individualism that drives some talented people to create, innovate, explore, and so on. If I have it right, that’s the so-called “rugged individualism” that Western societies were built with along with many breakthroughs and advancement within those societies. Aside from that, when people are forced to constantly work for the hive, which includes a great deal of many lazy, thieving, and parasitic people, they don’t work well, especially when such people are completely ungrateful and so stupid that they don’t even know who’s helping them, how they are being helped, or how they are even alive because of such forced assistance.

Gee, the latter sounds like the people I see everyday.

With that said, I am not for the sort of extreme individualism and obsession with so-called “freedom” we see pushed today; that people should be encouraged to do whatever they damn please, as long as it makes them feel good, and it’s perfectly fine to exploit and manipulate others so long as it’s “legal”.

I live in a very diverse area, one of the most diverse areas on this earth. I see how individuals behave and I see how collectives behave. Let’s just say that groups with both intelligence AND team work get ahead, while those who behave as strictly individuals or are left to sink or swim generally lag behind. I live amongst many Northern Asians, and grew up around many of them too. I think they are the most successful ethnic/racial group in New York City because they have the perfect combination of intelligence, discipline, and both individualism and collectivism. They are individualistic in the sense that they use their own individual talents. They start businesses and usually enter challenging fields in which brains are required, with high returns. They are collectivistic in the sense that they are aware that they are Asian, attend Asian churches, start Asian businesses, attend Asian recreational places, and that they are accountable to other Asians. In the summer time, one can see then in the parks playing with other Asians. Generally speaking, they are not distracted by typical, goofy, American diversions and they certainly don’t function as a bunch of atomized, individualistic, naive goofballs pursuing their own versions of happiness who think the world doesn’t function on group dynamics. They’re VERY family oriented as well.

There are other groups here who work in teams as well and they’re more concerned with security, success, and stability, than they are about personal happiness or diversions.

People who work in teams will beat those who work as individuals–ALWAYS!

That wraps up my take on my blend of my liking for some flavors of both individualism ad collectivism.

[quote=“Powerpuff, post:137, topic:224088”]
Remember, Rand was a product of the former USSR, and a system that took successful and thriving farmers and sent them to die in Siberia. Millions of Ukrainians died as a direct result. Those successful people are the heroes of her books, in a way. [/quote]

Yeah, along with tens of millions of Italians, Poles, Russians, Croats, Serbs, Germans, and Balts, who were sent to Siberia and worked and starved to death, not to mention others who were machine gunned, put on show trials, tortured, hanged, imprisoned, or at best had otherwise had their lives made miserable and repressed. Funny how many people just gloss over this and fail to realize that if the left’s adherents ever got a stranglehold on America, they likely would do the same here, considering the left has always inspired the meanest of people. Look at the left over the past few years; they see no issues with using violence, aggression, and intimidation to get or try to get their ways. Ever see the Twitter posts of some leftists? Violent ideation and the wish for complete ruin of people’s lives seems common amongst them.

I can see it through that lens, especially with what we are experiencing and observing today. The left has ALWAYS made it their business to inspire people who are obsessed with feeling inferior, even when practically no one is seeking to oppress or actually is oppressing such people, but rather are just simply going about their own business.


I like C.S.Lewis, and read Mere Christianity many years ago. I have that song on one of my gym playlists but I didn’t know where it originated. Nice.

Yes, and that’s what I see in Atlas. Not the America of today, but a warning of how something can become abusive, and how a value that is inherently good can be twisted. I don’t want to see communism or fascism here. I fear that kind of power in the hands of evil, or even misguided individuals. I think there are a lot of well intentioned people who have no idea. Their tolerance for flirting with power is much higher than mine and that scares me.

@BrickHead, thanks. I appreciated your post. Yes, I think most of us admire the kind of individualism that drives a person to reach their potential in that sense. Sometimes working with children is really a privilege because you get to see that up close in something pure, and without guile. I still remember testing a young girl for a gifted program. She had grown up in the hood. Poor kid with a fractured family, and she was just so brilliant. Like a flower growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk. I cried driving home just because it was so amazing to see. I wanted to take her home.

We seem to have a very short memory for these kinds of things. Humans seem to only remember things well if they happened to them personally, or if they are right in front of us. Even if we recognize it, we often move too slowly. I remember when the Berlin Wall fell, but of course that’s an abstraction to my children. So many people want to romanticize Fidel right now, and they seem to be able to ignore the thousands who died in front of his firing squads.

Absolutely. Some kind of shared value system, family group, religion, or common bond to tie people together in meaningful ways. Individuals have a hard time agreeing on anything. Without some kind of shared bond, they have no reason to sacrifice for another when times are hard, or even just trust each other. There are some really good things, and some really bad things that can come out of these group behaviors.


Punnygirl? Nice to meet a fellow puntificator…but I’m also a procrasstinator irl so I’m not sure we can be friends… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: (based on how civil and nice you always seem to be in your posts)

I’ve tried more than once to read the LOTR books, but I have never been able to get past the Hobbit. And the fact that Hollywood turned that teensie boring little book into 3!!! movies is not helping any.

Please divulge said romance novel! My current escapist obsession is Hallmark Christmas/Holiday movies -see the similarities there LOL?! (eye candy, bad acting, predictably happy endings…hmmm, double entendre anyone?)


You know what? I read right over the second n. I saw puny as in synonym to tiny! Sorry, no extraordinary punning abilities here. I was expecting you to be 5’5" or less. Haha. @ niceness, thank you. @ Hobbit, I can’t bring myself to see the 3 part film version either!! Ridiculous. And the LOTR movies were really pretty good which surprised me a little. When I’ve really loved a book, it’s sometimes really hard to like the movie.

Which brings me back around to romance novels. The Time Traveler’s Wife, is a great read and combines some sci fi with romance. It’s romance but not a total chick book. There’s a really terrible film adaptation. Do NOT bother with the movie, I beg you.

As for the book he teased me about? Oh, man… It was Whitney, My Love. It’s a regency historical with a very, very funny and spunky heroine. It also has a really disturbing scene that makes people want to ban it, and which my husband just hated. A lot. That may make you want to avoid it, or really NEED to read it depending on your personality. Haha.

One other thought. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is a good crossover romance/ historical fiction/ sci fi. A lot of men like them. In terms of romance, she turns some of the typical conventions on their head in Jamie Fraser, and that’s very fun. The Starz network did a series, but I had a hard time watching more than a couple of them. They’re pretty violent, and it’s worse on the screen, and way more racy.



Mmmmmm I can identify with a lot of points made in this thread. Moreso on the negative self image. This is Coming from a recovered bulimic of 14 years. I think it has a lot to do with people comparing themselves to one another. People’s predispositions to OCD, number obsessions (falls into the category of the same thing as OCD), social media’s skewed view of what “beauty” is. I’m mainly speaking for the women here. As I’m sitting and thinking, the image of women who have greatly abused steroids, also comes to mind. I had a long bout with dealing with body dismorphia, and I think that ties in to women who have gone off the deep end on either spectrum (abusing steroids or becoming emaciated). And I think that possibly stems from comparing oneself to others or to objects (when I say objects I mean using objects as a marker for body measurements). I myself contemplated using steroids, but I have to evaluate myself because I realized that I tendency to develop addictive behaviors (which is another reason that fits, with what ,OP first mentioned, with negative self images of oneself). Also stemming from addictive behaviors sometimes I think negative self images happen to the vast majority of the public, because of addictive behaviors. I’m sorry if no one is getting what I’m saying. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten on this subject.


@Powerpuff read Atlas Shrugged over the holidays. I liked the overall message of the book but the philosophical rants were quite long and repetitive. I felt like the length of the rants diluted the message. Specifically the John Galt radio speech was insanly long with rhetorical questions galore. I ended up skim reading the speech after about half way through. Outside of those I enjoyed the book, specifically the heroes presented in it.

@EyeDentist I can’t be bothered to quote where you mentioned you are familiar with Rand’s philosophy but I’m curious what you disagree with. After reading her book and seeing the ‘Essentials of Objectivism’ summary and in its generic form I find it very agreeable, but I think it depends how some of the ideas are interpreted and assume some of the more extreme natures of her beliefs probably take it too far, but I’d like to see more of what you think. I’ll write up how Objectivism is presented below.

Objectivism statement, “concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” I like the statement, but feel like activities related to non-production is where things could get iffy if its taken to the extremes. Incidently, if I’m a hero I definitely deserve a cape or a cooler car.

Four pillars of Objectivism:

  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality. “Reality, the external world, exists independent of man’s conciousness, independent of any observer’s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires, or fears. Facts are facts.”

  2. Epistemology: Reason. "Man’s reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality. Objectivism rejects mysticism (any acceptance of faith or feeling as means of knowledge), and it rejects skepticism (the claim that certainty or knowledge is impossible).

  3. Ethics: Self-Interest. Rationality is man’s basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself, he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life. Objectivism rejects any form of altruism (the claim that morality consists in living for others or for society).

  4. Politics: Capitalism. basic social principle that objectivist ehtics is that no man has the right to seek values from others by means of physical force, meaning no man or group has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. Deal as traders, giving value for value, by free, mutual consent to mutual benefit. The only social system that bars physical force from human relationships is laissez-faire capitalism. Objectivism rejects any form of collectivism, such as fascism or socialism or the current “mixed economy” nothin that the government should regulate the economy and redistribute wealth.