In her novella Anthem, Any Rand describes a futuristic society In which the concept of self, even the pronoun “l”, 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 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 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 ay that the ban of fertilization 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 state, never to know who their parents are. By making intimacy into a chore and preventing the formation of family bonds, the state keeps loyalty to “we” as the highest priority in the minds of the people. One man refuses to abide by these laws-?Equality 7-2521.
Although he has always demonstrated great talent and a desire to learn, the city council assigns Equality to a Job as a street sweeper. One night he discovers an opening In the ground left from the ancient times of which he is forbidden to speak, “when men knew secrets we have lost. ” Equality begins to sneak away from his daily tasks to sit and think, and it is in this opening that he discovers the great secret of electricity. Equality decides to show the “box of glass” he has created to the World Council of Scholars.
But when he presents this new Innovation to the scholars, they scold him, their ignorance and rigidity. He flees to the dense woods that surround the city, accompanied by his glass box and by Liberty 5-3000, the woman who will become his lover. In the forest, Liberty and Equality come upon a house from the Unspeakable Times-? an apartment building. Here, Equality plans to build a “new land and a new fort,” creating a new society that will not follow the rules and restrictions of the old.
Instead, Equality and his followers will celebrate man’s ego-?man’s self, set apart room all others. Man will be free to follow whatever path he wishes, to learn, to create, and to live. Free from the regulations that chain man to the collective, he can experience creative expression, contentment, and love. Equality has experienced firsthand the discontent that breeds when men are deprived from these humiliating pursuits. He has been forbidden to learn; he has seen his best friend forbidden to draw. He has heard young men cry out in the night, and no one can explain or stop their fits.
Equality wants to rescue man from this fate ND help him realize his potential: to spread ideas and learning, to live a full and happy life, and to be, first and foremost, loyal to himself. Therefore, he will do away with all vestiges of the old society, from the names and numbers that are issued to the strict regulations, because they are counterproductive to his plan. While these rules and regulations tear man down and subjugate him to the will of the collective, Equality wants to build man up. He will teach his followers about humor, love, and Joy -?about a life they never knew existed.