The Ayn Rand Institute has made it it’s goal to change the culture. They specifically have chosen young people (high school through college aged) as their main target for spreading Objectivism, as these are the years when people form their belief systems. It’s much easier to try to convince a 19-year-old of new modes of thinking than a middle-aged person set in their ways. I think ARI is right to do this.
To reach young people ARI offers essay and video contests, supports campus clubs, has a summer internship, finances books for teachers, runs the Objectivist Academic Center, and supports the Clemson summer conference on Atlas Shrugged. I might be missing some others, but it’s clear that the ARI does put a lot of time, effort, and money into spreading Ayn Rand’s ideas to young people. Without those efforts I’m sure thousands of kids never would have read Ayn Rand.
It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. But I don’t think it’s all that can be done.
Since ARI goes through teachers and academic clubs to promote Ayn Rand, most of their materials center around academic subjects: philosophy, economics, science, history, and politics. There are countless pamphlets about environmentalism, government policies, socialism, economics, etc. And that’s great!
But where are the pamphlets about getting a girlfriend? Where are the guides to choosing a major? What about all the other things in our life that go on outside the classroom: art, parties, relationships, movies, sex, hobbies, shopping, parenting, and so on? If Objectivism is a philosophy for living, shouldn’t there be pamphlets for all aspects of our lives, not just the political side of things?
Even non-ARI Objectivist sources such as The Objective Standard or The Undercurrent (which is specifically for college students) focus mainly on those topics. There’s definitely a wider breadth on Objectivist blogs. Diana’s weekly practical ethics webcast and the advent of mini-conferences across the country is certainly changing the tide as well, but it still only represents a small amount.
I’m not saying that what ARI, The Objective Standard, and The Undercurrent are doing is wrong. I’m glad they exist and the should keep on keeping on. I just think there should be other sources to balance them out, especially if we want more young people.
I think that if you want to get the message out to a group, you need to speak their language. Today’s generation speaks in tweets, Faceook updates, YouTube videos, magazine articles, and blogs. I think the best way to spread Objectivism is to make a lot of noise on these platforms. And not just noise, interesting noise!
I think that we need to put forth answers to young people’s questions from an Objectivist point of view. We need blogs, magazines, and YouTube channels giving advice on everyday problems with school, parents, sex, time management, and friends. There should be a magazine for young Objectivists with reviews of good books, movies, and music.
I think we need to intrigue young people. We need more art based in rational values. We need teen novels with selfish characters, movies that have romantic plots, and music with a good sense of life. I think the Atlas Shrugged movie might be a step in that direction, but I’m not sure.
I think Ayn Rand should pop up on social networking. We need an Objectivist video to go viral. Atlas Shrugged needs to be common among people’s favorite books on Facebook. #OCON should be a trending topic. Dominique needs a Sassy Gay Friend. Can you imagine how many people would read Rand if there was a meme about it?
Objectivism needs to look good. We should have kick ass clothes. Not just lengthy quotes screen-printed on t-shirts, but clever and cute designs that even people who haven’t read the books would like and wear. (And Rearden Metal bracelets!) Our websites should be dynamic and easy to navigate. There should be a photo calendar of hot, selfish boys with their shirts off on dorm room walls.
I think most importantly Objectivism needs to be fun. We’re happy people, right? We should be inviting college kids to our interesting and fun conferences. We should have lots socials that bring rational people together for brunches and karaoke and laser tag. There should be laughter and dancing!
I think if we are truly going to change the culture, Objectivism needs to be in more than just classrooms, academic journals, and John Stossel. It needs to be in all areas of life, on platforms that a majority of normal people access. After all, it is a philosophy for life!
I’m not suggesting that ARI or other Objectivist institutions change their ways. I think it would be disastrous if ARI tried to to start an internet meme or The Objective Standard had a “Dear Abby”-esque column. That’s not their function and they should stick to the academic stuff. What I’m suggesting is that other Objectivists step up and fill the gap. I see it already with Jenn and Kelly in regards to parenting, ATLOS in regards to socializing, and Diana Hsieh in regards to doling out practical advice. Some of the Atlas Shrugged video contest entries were fresh and interesting calls to activism that truly speak to young people. I try fill the gap with my own blog by presenting instructional, funny, inspiring, and benevolent content. I try to do it in my work with ATLOS. It’s what I hope to do in the future through whatever work I do, whether it be design, photography, or nude modeling.
What are you going to do?