Hated—The Individualist In a Collectivist World
If you choose to live your life as an independent individualist, holding your life and your love of it as your highest purpose, desiring and seeking nothing but the best in all things, unwilling to sacrifice any good to any evil, which means, unwilling to subordinate any aspect of your life to any other or any aspect of another’s life to yours, you will find yourself an alien in this world.
It is not the physical world of nature to which you will be alien—in that world you will be the only true native—but in the world of men, you will be deemed a freak, a troublemaker, uncooperative, a misfit, “a lone wolf;” at best misunderstood, but, more likely, hated. You, yourself, will be bewildered both by the hatred and misunderstanding of others, and by the irrationality that dominates their own lives, because what motivates them is totally foreign to you. The men of this world are motivated primarily by fear, and it is you they are most afraid of.
This will bewilder you too. Of all the people in this world, you are the only one who is not a threat to anyone, because you seek nothing from other men but what they are willing to give, and have no desire to interfere in anyone else’s life. Why would anyone be afraid of you, why would anyone hate you? You, who seek nothing from others except to be left alone, who have nothing but good will toward them, who seek nothing but what you have earned and deserve and nothing at all from others except what you and they can both agree is to your mutual benefit, are the least dangerous and harmless of men.
That is what they hate and fear about you, that very independence that frees you from any reliance or dependence on others, and especially the fact you do not “need” them. It’s the one thing they cannot bear, the independent individual that needs no one else in any way. They are terrified of the individual who can stand alone.
“Notice how they’ll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once …. There’s a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. … They need ties. They’ve got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them—because they don’t exist within him and that’s the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man…. [Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, The Fountainhead, “The Nature Of The Second-Hander”]
It is your self-confidence they hate. “The man of authentic self-confidence is the man who relies on the judgment of his own mind. … he may be mistaken, he may be fooled in a given instance, but he is inflexible in regard to the absolutism of reality, i.e., in seeking and demanding truth. … There is only one source of authentic self-confidence: reason.” [Emphasis mine.] [Ayn Rand, The Objectivist, July 1971, “The Age Of Envy”]
Because you reason for yourself, and will never suspend your own critical judgment in favor of any other individual’s authority, opinion, or views, your virtues and success, the product of your self-confidence, will be despised; as Rand said, it is “… hatred of reason and of all its manifestations and consequences: of intelligence, of certainty, of ambition, of success, of achievement, of virtue, of happiness, of pride. [Ayn Rand, The Objectivist, July 1971, “The Age Of Envy”]
Hated by Non-entities
Most of all, they’ll hate the fact you do not care that they hate you. It is more than they can bear to know you have no need of them, that their hatred cannot touch you, and it cannot for two reasons: one is what you have that they do not; the other is what you know explicitly, and they know only as a haunting suspicion, but explicitly deny.
What you have, which none of them have, is an identity. Their entire existence is in others—their group, their clique, their society, their religion, their movement, their cause, their adopted philosophy or ideology; because in those whose philosophy is learned from others and embraced as an end in itself, the philosophy ceases to be a tool of intellectual discovery and becomes, instead, a set of doctrines to which one adheres without question—it becomes an ideology.
They have no values of their own, only the approval, agreement, and assurance of others; they have no purpose of their own except to be accepted by their latest group; they have no sense of achievement except whatever influence they can exert on others. They despise you, because you need no one’s approval, agreement, or assurance and they know they can never have any of these from you; they despise you, because you neither choose or desire to be part of, much less accepted by, any group. They despise you, because all you achieve is by your own effort and for your own sake and you have no interest in influencing others.
They use the processes and tools of reason, not to discover the truth, but to “rationalize” and make all things “fit” their preconceived ideology. They use the language of reason and objectivity, but, in fact, have abandoned them and what should produce self-confidence, in them, only produces terror.
“When men abandon reason, … they can experience no emotions save one: terror. … Observe … [their] terror of independence and their frantic desire to “belong,” to attach themselves to some group, clique or gang. … ” [All quotes above from: The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. III, No. 8 January 14, 1974, “Philosophy: Who Needs It.”]
“They have no self. They live within others. They live second-hand. … What is [their] aim in life? Greatness—in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy—all that which comes from others. Others dictate [their] convictions, which [they do] not hold, but [they are] satisfied that others believe they hold them. Others [are their] motive power and [their] prime concern. [They don’t] want to be great, but to be thought great. … [They] don’t want to [write philosophy], but to be admired as [philosophers]. … [They’re] not really struggling even for [success], but for the second-hander’s delusion—prestige. A stamp of approval ….” [Ayn Rand, paraphrased, For the New Intellectual, The Fountainhead, “The Nature Of The Second-Hander”]
The Collectivist Spirit
Rand’s description of the second-hander is of the extreme case, of one who has completely surrendered his autonomy. Most people are not so extreme, and their views and practices exhibit a mixture of autonomy and collectivism, independent in some areas of their lives, but dependent second-handers in others. There are many self-styled individualists, for example, who are apparently independent and individualistic in some ways, holding and espousing some or even most aspects of individualism, but are nevertheless collectivist in other areas of their lives, believing and practicing things which are inimical to individualism.
The common deviation from independent individualism is a kind of collectivism which is usually unrecognized because we tend of think of collectivism in terms of governments or states, but the spirit of collectivism is ubiquitous, and almost everyone is caught up in some form of it. Whenever an individual subordinates any of their own desires, plans, purposes, resources, or any other aspect of their life to anything, a group, a team, an organization, a movement, or a cause, it is a form of collectivism. Seldom explicit, but always implicit is the assumption that the thing one has surrendered their individualism to is, in some unidentified way, more important, significant, or worthy of their time, effort, and allegiance than their own life and purposes.
It is apparent in every “we” of those whose purposes and aims are not entirely their own, but the purposes of some movement, organization, or ideology, such as, “we seek nothing less than to change the world,” or “if we want a free country we have to join the battle for men’s minds.” The collectivist soul does not bother to ask, who we is, so long as he is part of it. The truly independent individual resents any suggestion he is part of any we.
It is apparent in every “our” of those whose identity is at least partly determined, not by what and who they are, but what they are a member of, such as, “our team,” “our movement,” “our organization,” and “our cause.” They do not speak of their own accomplishment and achievements, only of “our accomplishments or achievements,” because, at least in some areas, their values or purposes are not their own, but second-hand—their values, virtues, and only source of “pride,” is not in achieving their own personal objectives and desires, but in, “their contribution,” to the purposes or aims of their latest particular group.
Their collectivism is not total, however, but fragmented, partly individualistic and partly collectivist, kept separate by a kind of mental compartmentalization to avoid the obvious contradictions in their values and actions. Because they hold contradictory views they have correspondingly contradictory feelings, a kind of disintegration apparent in their sporadic and unpredictable hatred for the true independent individualist. So long as the individualist does not address their particular form of collectivism, they will embrace him, but the moment the individualist expresses, implicitly or explicitly, an independence in thought or spirit regarding one of their own collectivist indulgences they become alarmed, frequently hysterical in their reaction. Their seemingly unreasonable hatred of the individualist is because his views and actions reveal their own dependence and second-hand nature by throwing the light of reason on the contradictions in their own collectivist spirit.
Who This Is To and Why
If you choose to live your life as an independent individualist, you will be, at best, misunderstood, but probably hated as well. Individualists are the least understood of all people. This is not theory, it is an obvious fact. If individualists were well understood, they would not be individualists, because what makes them individualists is the fact their view and understanding of the world is different—so different they cannot bring themselves to live as other people live.
Though you pose no threat to anyone, and seek nothing from others but what they are willing to give in exchange for whatever you offer of value to them, the misunderstanding and hatred you will experience will bewilder you. I have written this so you will understand it is what you must expect in this world. But nothing of value is without price, and there is no prize of greater value than the freedom that only an independent individualist can know. It should be no surprise that the highest reward should come at the highest price, and part of that price is the misunderstanding and hatred of others, not for your faults, but for your virtues.
In “Atlas Shrugged: A Model for Individualist Revolution,” under, “The Price of Rebellion,” I listed four things the independent individualist will surely face. They are described as the price of individual rebellion, but rebellion only means living one’s life as one chooses in spite of all the temptations to compromise one’s own values and choices, refusing to submit to anyone else’s demands or expectations. It means living as a free individual.
The most difficult part of that price are the misunderstanding and denunciation of those who speak what seems like the same language you do, claiming the same values and principles you hold. Even the most thick-skinned of individualists will suffer the emotional pain of rejection and persecution made worse by the fact it is at the hands of those you would otherwise choose to love and befriend.
It is easy to dismiss the overtly evil, those second-handers that plainly declare their collectivism and desire to oppress others. It is those who declare themselves to be rational, independent, and freedom loving that are difficult to dismiss when their behavior belies their stated principles. You will be tempted to make them understand you, to see you are not their enemy—and you will not be theirs, but they will be yours. You will be tempted to make them see their error, but every attempt will only add to their hatred of you.
“It is not your job to save everyone’s soul,” Rand said. [“What Can One Do,” The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 7 January 3, 1972]
In fact, it is not your job to save anyone’s soul. It is your job to live and enjoy your life to the best of your ability—any part of that life you spend on other’s who are not truly on your side is a waste of your life.
It is your life. You do not have to justify anything you do to anyone. You do not have to explain or get their approval. If you are truly independent, they will never understand you, never approve of you; they cannot without admitting to themselves their own second-handedness.
But there is one whose approval you already have. I have written this to you, because they will despise you, and it is the very thing they despise which I love. Like Roark, “I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men. I’ve always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. I’ve always recognized it at once—and it’s the only quality I respect in men. I chose my friends by that. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. Nothing else matters.” [Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, Part Four—11]
"The creator is the man who disagrees." -- Ayn Rand