Confession time! I, like many other intellectually-precocious teenagers, read Ayn Rand when I was younger. And not only did I read Ayn Rand, I loved her. (Please don’t think less of me.)
“Atlas Shrugged” blew my mind the first time I read it, with all of Rand’s ideas about the individual and logic and reason. Her writing didn’t do much for me – she seemed sorely in need of an editor who would slap the word “astonishing” out of her vocabulary – but her ideas provided a nice antidote to the hardcore religiosity in which I’d been raised.
And then an interesting thing happened. I read “Atlas Shrugged” again, and I was less than overwhelmed. Whelmed, was more like it. I read it one more time, when I was about 22, and I was horrified. The glorious pro-individual ideas fell away, and what remained was revealed as nothing more than the pathology of a woman deranged by a raging meth habit and her upbringing in a communist society.
I used to be deeply ashamed of my once-fervent fangirldom, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to see my dalliance with Rand’s writings as just one of the many stepping stones I’ve trod upon as I make my way through life. I’ve also come to realize that such deep levels of egocentricism and self-centered-ness are not all that abnormal in older adolescents. After all, most of us grow out of it, right?
Which is why I regard those who haven’t grown out of it with a healthy dose of skepticism and wariness. I mean, it’s one thing to be 18 years old and to believe you understand everything there is to know about the world, but it’s quite another thing to be 40 and still thinking that way.
Like me, Lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, read Rand at 18 and thought he had found the keys to the world. Unlike me, Wilson never realized just how deeply flawed those ideas were and continued barreling right down the rabbit hole of selfishness and egocentricism.
In fact, he is so deeply invested in his belief in Rand’s rightness that the company’s bags now boast the text “Who is John Galt?”
From the company’s blog:
What do we want to create for our lives right now? We can do it. It might be hard but there is nothing stopping us. Think about the reasons and excuses that come up when we envision our best lives; it is remarkable how manipulative and clever mediocrity can be, sneakily convincing us to continue existing without what we desire most.
Our bags are visual reminders for ourselves to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity. We all have a John Galt inside of us, cheering us on. How are we going to live lives we love?
Part of me agrees with this, that we do put a lot of limitations on ourselves that keep us from pursuing the lives we want. BUT. A lot of limitations? Actually exist! They are actual things in the world! Poverty, disability, bigotry, violence – these are not just things that many of us can will out of existence. You cannot simply dream them away or wish them out of existence.
Yesterday, I read a series of statistics about Native Americans, how they are so much more likely to suffer from alcoholism, to commit suicide, to be raped than white people. It caused me to think about trans* people, and how their average life span is so much lower than the life spans of cisgendered people. This is not because trans* people and Native Americans have just created rules for themselves in which they die earlier than the rest of us, or because they have chosen to experience fear instead of pursuing a life they love. This is because they live in a world that has actively sought to destroy them.
It is the mark of someone who is not only privileged, but who is also oblivious to their privilege, to think that matters of greatness and mediocrity and success and loved lives are things that can simply be chosen, and that those who fail to attain success do so because they just didn’t want it badly enough.
Do you need more proof of this? Look at the smoking wreckage of our economy. People are not broke and jobless because they are lazy slobs. They are broke and jobless because the economic system has crumbled beneath their feet. To blame huge swaths of humanity for the way economics and political systems have failed them is immoral, in my humble opinion.
Some people have remarked that it’s odd that someone whose company caters to a yoga lifestyle would hold such arch-conservative ideals. I actually don’t think it’s all that weird. The idea that a person is somehow more enlightened or more compassionate simply because they do yoga is nonsense. The only thing you can tell about a person who likes to do yoga is that they like to do yoga. I mean, it’s entirely possible to be a selfish asshole who does yoga.
Besides, look at who Lululemon caters to. What kind of person spends $60 on tank tops and $90 on pants for yoga? A person with a lot of money, that’s who. A person of privilege. You could be a very good person but you still have loads of privilege.
Lululemon has already indicated that it isn’t all that interested in catering to anyone who is not among the most privileged members of society, simply by virtue of its prices. Is it any surprise that the founder would come out and openly embrace a similarly elitist belief system?
I might admire the pretty Lululemon clothes featured in glossy magazine spreads, but when it comes time to plunk down my hard-earned cash, I’m sticking with Old Navy and Target gear. Target and Old Navy may have 99 problems, but promoting hack “philosophers” who are partially responsible for destroying the nation’s economy ain’t one.