Friday, January 31, 2014

How "UnRandian" of Me

On Tuesday, January 28th Atlanta was hit by a snowstorm. Well to most of you a snowstorm involves more than 3 inches of snow but for Atlanta at noon, on a weekday 3 inches is a disaster of almost biblical proportions. Traffic was gridlocked as if a dirty bomb had been detonated and everyone was tryng to escape for their lives, and in a way that's how folks reacted, except that instead of roads to escape on, they had ice skating rinks. You get the picture? Not good. Not good at all. Well during my trek home which normally would take about 30 minutes, which on this fateful night took 7 hours, I found myself sitting in the car at an intersection about 3 miles from home. And we weren't moving. Having "not moved" for hours with only a few hundred feet at a time giving up ground, it finally caught my attention after 30 minutes that something must truly be messed up. So I got out of my car, and walked forward about 200 yards, where I saw a Coca-Cola truck in the right hand lane of a 3 lane road, with about 15 cars all piled up next to it, blocking all the lanes. On this night, there would be no tow trucks, no ambulances since nobody was critically injured, not that any could make it there anyway, and no police officers. In front of my car was about 6 cars before the melee, and behind my car was hundreds more cars just sitting there. About 200 yards behind my car was an opening that crossed the westbound lanes into a parking lot of McDonalds, an old grocery store turned gym, and a generic strip mall.

So I sprang into action.

I started walking back to my car, telling each person in cars at first in front of me, and then behind me, what was up ahead, that we were either going to get out of this jam or spend the night right there on the road. Luckily nobody behind me decided on spending the night, so I started with the cars that were nearest the crossover point, and was directing them as to which way to turn their wheels, and whether or not reverse or forward was the direction. The road was indeed a solid sheet of ice about 3 inches thick and I was only wearing some beat up running shoes that had about 5% of the traction left. Not a good combination for traction on the ice. So I started pushing cars up this little hill, and folks ahead where my car was, came to help. I was the leader of this little Ice Posse, and about 4 of us moved about 11 cars back up a little hill, and directed them across the other lanes of traffic into the Mcdonalds parking lot. Finally all the cars blocking me had been rescued, so I got in my car, out it in reverse and proceeded to back up, and pull over to the safety of McDonalds parking lot. I then went back across the "rink" to those people that were previously in front of me. Then some true idiots decided to ignore the fellow I had posted up at the turn across point, and came barrelling down on us, causing even more cars to be moved. (Slight aside: Some of these people were true assholes. I guess not seeing what me and the Ice Posse had already done to clear out so many others, they were not as appreciative of us having to push their sorry asses back up the hill.) So finally the Ice Posse got all of the cars that were not in the wreck back up the hill, across the rink of the other lanes to the parking lot and around to wherever they were heading.

One of the Ice Posse stayed up at the top of the hill waving his arms trying to get people stopped and across to where they could escape their icy fate at the bottom of the hill, but some people are oblivious to what is going on appparently and as I was finally getting in my car, aching and exhausted I could see the traffic moving back to where I had already cleared. Sorry. I've done what I could do.

Anyway, what the hell does all of that have to do with Ayn Rand?

Well, one of the motorist I was helping out took my picture and posted it to a local Fox stations webpage. She asked me what my name was and I told her, and I thought that would be the end of that, but apparently one of my friends found the post and posted it to facebook. "This Good Samaritan (name redacted) deserves some major props! He's parked his car across the street and is out here pushing numerous stranded people out of a disaster where a dozen cars slid into each other." That's when things went a little crazy. By yesterday, 6 friends had shared the pic, and the one that posted it on my page got about 112 "likes" and about 130 comments at last count. All but one of these comments were things like "Good job", "that's my friend", "heart of Gold", "A great example of an Eagle Scout". It made me feel good. I like to feel good; dont you? Then a certain friend posted another "good job", and immediately I started thinking of all the times we had argued politics and religion with her taking a statist/secular side and me being the world's only Ragnarian (a combination of Christianity and Objectivism- screw you I do what I want!), but I thought well that was probably a shock to her being that she generally thinks me a heartless bastard who wants old people and kids to starve to death because I see Social Security and Welfare as evil and a cause of the degradiation of society. But it was a positive post, but my mind quickly switched to Ayn Rand, and how many people whom, like myself often speak of selfishness as a virtue, and self reliance as the way things should be.

But of course she followed the comment up within 3 minutes with "How very 'Un-Randian' of you. What the hells going on with you?"

To which I replied that doing this was probably the MOST "Randian" thing that I had done in years.

And it was. To so many people, and perhaps some people who would consider Rand and Atlas Shrugged as influences on their lives, and the way they live, selfish means looking out ONLY for one's self. But this is not what I take away from Ayn Rand. I suppose I should say that I am NOT an Ayn Rand Scholar, and I have never read anything directly about Objectivism as a philosophy. But I dont really give a shit. I took from the books meaning for MYSELF. Anyway, I digress. To me being selfish means that take care of myself and those that are my responsibility because I have chosen that they are my responsibility. My children are my responsibility, as is my wife. All others, although I personally feel my parents fall under my responsibility, are optional whether or not I help them, out of not responsibility but out of generousity. Just because I do things that are in my self interest and make sure my RESPONSIBILITIES are taken care of doesn't stop me from helping others. I help others quite often, probably daily. Why? Because it makes me feel so damn good. I had my own self interest in mind as I started pushing cars up an icy hill, because if I didn't I couldn't get MY car out of there, but I went back after my car was out because it felt good to have an ability and to help others.

Another friend posted that "I was John Galt." Although that is flattering I think I acted more like Francisco in Atlas Shrugged. He had absolutely no reason to help with the furnace break out at Rearden Steel, but he jumped in and helped save lives and the mill. Why? If we "Randians" are really such a bunch of self-centered assholes, why did Frankie (his friends call him Frankie) risk life and limb to save others? Because he had the ability to do so and it feels great to use ability and to help others even when there is no self reward. The feeling is the reward.

So when I say that it was the most "Randian" thing I've done in years I meant it. I had the ability to lead, and to push, and although my body still aches a little 3 days later i can tell you that I felt more alive than I have in a long time. Gonna do a lot more of that in the future when the needs arise, because I am so selfish and it feels so good.


  1. You are completely right in your interpretation of Rand and her philosophy. You were self-directed - not forced by the state - to help your fellow man because YOU wanted to do it. Imposed "volunteerism" isn't self-less at all. I'm glad you were out there to help and did so of your own volition. Misinterpretation of Rand will continue, but those of us who aspire to be Objectivists will keep demonstrating it's positive nuances. Pirate on!

  2. Well said, and Pirate on! There are no contradictions if facts. If your 'friend' has two seemingly contradictory 'facts', they need to re-examine their of them is wrong :-)

  3. Well done, Rags. Well done indeed.