Beverly Garside

Absolute Truths - The Perils of Ideology

     My interest in Ayn Rand and objectivism stems from their belief in the existence of absolute truth -  that there are some grand truths that are maintained in all circumstances and in all of time. Rand arranged these truths into an overarching structure, an ideology. I have read only two of Rand's works: Atlas Shrugged and the graphic novel version of Anthem. From these I perceive one of the central truths of Rand's ideology to be the supremacy of the individual over others and over the group. I must always be supreme over You, I must always be superior to we.
    Ideologies facinate me. There are a lot of ideologies in the world - political, religious, sexual, gender-based, etc. Communism, which was evil that Rand sought to repudiate, holds that the group must always take precedence over the individual. We is always superior to I. Dr.Spock created an ideology on child-rearing. Feminists create ideologies about men and gender relations.
     I believe that all ideologies ultimately fail. Communism was a disaster. Religions have risen and fallen throughout history. Our own country's ideology about democracy always being the best way to go for all people has run into some bothersome experiences, where dictators fall, democracy blooms, and the result is genocidal wars between rival ethnic or religious groups. The Catholic Church's ideology about prayer and true repentance curing pedophilia was another spectacular failure of what was believed to be an absolute truth. Truth, it seems, may exist in small doses but refuses to be stretched. Democracy may be the best system of government for many societies under many conditions, but not all of them. Repentance may obtain God's forgiveness but it seems powerless against a complex compulsion like pedophilia, which we still don't fully understand.
     Our desire to codify truths into grand systems that explain the universe is very human. If we can understand truth as an absolute beacon, we can devise systems of thought that will always find it, that will always point to the divergence of right and wrong, success and failure. The problem is that the universe refuses to cooperate. The universe, its Creator included, in its unfathomable grandeur,  simply refuses to get into the boxes created by some swarming ants on an obscure planet in an obscure galaxy.
      We can sacrifice all the virgins to the volcano we want, and it will still erupt when it feels like it. We can label anything we want "truth" and "good" and it will still prove to be "false" and "bad" when the circumstances dictate it. Likewise, what is generally accepted as being "bad" can in some circumstances, save the day. The ideology of pacifism is a perfect example of this. Non-violence is so obviously better than aggression and violence. Except when the violent and the evil set about taking over the world. Then what's "right" becomes crushing the vermin Nazis back under the rock they crawled out from under, even if this course of action is less than "good."
    The moral universe refuses to stay in the neat black and white lines we try to draw for it.  Still, it doesn't mean that there is no truth in ideologies, or that we can't learn anything from studying them. The downfall of ideologies lies in their stretching truths too far, so far that they develop cracks. These cracks are what interests me. We try not to notice them. We deny them and attribute them to the propaganda of our enemies. But the cracks are unmoved by our denial. They just keep growing and splitting, like sinkholes under our great palaces of truth and righteousness. 
     Sara Storm is just like many of us. She truly believes in objectivism and the superiority of her country. Sara believes in the supremacy of I over you and we. She believes it's true and right and that it therefore cannot fail. But like Alice and the rabbit hole, the world she discovers when she falls down the cracks is way more interesting than the one on the surface. For Sara, I and You is the curtain that has defined her world as she always knew it. But the heart, like the universe, is no respecter of curtains.

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