When I told my boyfriend I had been accepted on a scholarship to attend this conference, he was surprised. He had actually been the one to introduce me to Rand and her objectivist philosophy, but I had yet to dive into the ideas. I bought a copy of Atlas Shrugged and, frankly, I am still intimidated by it.
It was an easy to decision to make, everything was already paid for. All I had to do was get to Atlanta and enjoy two days of listening to people speak about the gap between tribalism and individualism. Professors across a broad range of disciplines gave their interpretation of how cultural and political tribalism was disrupting the process of free thought and individual liberties. It was fascinating to listen to, but I have some objections about their ideas and the conference in general.
It would have been a problem if I had come to Ayn Rand Con without some intention of being skeptical of what would be thrown at me. I do agree that some of the lecturers had insightful points about how to maintain free thought in an age where collective intellect and the inherent defense mechanisms within groupthink can lead to a polarization in personal philosophies. It seems that you either sacrifice some of your values to be with the group that you agree with more than the other one, or you stand alone, atop a hill that you are crying is morally correct. Neither sounds appealing to me.
One big question I kept finding myself asking is how would Rand feel about this convention herself? Surely she would object to it on the basis that it is somewhat a deification of her and her ideas. I mean, just naming the conference after her would have been enough to set off a red flag or two in her head. I would like to imagine that Rand would be somewhat approving of the young people that come to this conference and have the courage to disagree with what some of the more experienced thinkers have to say. I think she would see free thought at play.
Despite all of the problems I could pick at within the conference, it really has been fun. I’ve met people from all across the continent in many diverse universities and alternative programs (*cough* Praxis *cough*). Having the opportunity to meet and converse with some profoundly intellectual thinkers has been really wonderful and exciting. I sometimes find myself feeling less intelligent or capable when I am at McGill, but I am beginning to wonder if that may be less a question of my abilities and more a question of my values.