In her novella Anthem, Ayn Rand describes a futuristic society in which the concept of self, even the pronoun “I”, has been eliminated. Members of this society are expected to submit to a barrage of rules. Ostensibly, these rules are set in place to help the society function as a unit; in reality, they serve only to subjugate its members, to keep them downtrodden and unable to resist their circumstances.
From the time they are children, these people learn the holiness of “we”—that the only good is the good for all, that solitary man is evil. Each day, they stand and recite the mantra, “We are nothing. Mankind is all. We exist through, by, and for our brothers who are the State.” Their entire adult lives are governed by a system of bells, telling them when to eat, when to sleep, when to work, and when to attend the nightly propaganda plays. These daily recitations and nightly performances drill the society’s philosophy into their heads, to the point where they cease to be able to think for themselves. The rigorous schedule, in which every hour of every day is filled with a task, is intended to keep them occupied, to tire their bodies and their minds until they simply accept whatever is told to them. Free time is called evil—the fact that it leads to thinking, which might promote the self, makes it dangerous.
The society also adheres to other, more totalitarian, rules. Men are not allowed to associate with others of different professions. Work, supposedly randomly assigned, leaves the best and brightest often working at menial tasks. This system of job assessment prevents new ideas from threatening the old social order, in the same way that the ban of fraternization prevents the exchange of ideas.
Also, men are prohibited from speaking to women. This rule enjoys only one exception—at the yearly Time of Mating. At this event, men and women are coupled at random and expected to sleep together. Any children conceived on this night are taken and raised by the...
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