From the December 2003 Idaho Observer:
Real New Year's resolve
The following passage from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (1957) is much more than the fictitious observations of a fictitious character in a novel. It explains the dirty trick that has been played on mankind since it began organizing itself into jurisdictions. This trick has evolved into an angry and confused mess of global proportions; there is not another person, place, plant, animal or inanimate thing on earth that is safe from our collective frustration. We have been tricked into believing that our virtues (love, compassion, honor, happiness, generosity, intelligence and reason) are to be punished so that our vices (hate, fear, mistrust, greed, jealousy, covetousness, anger, force and brutality) can be rewarded. This trick has been played upon us by taxing authorities in governments because virtue, by nature is self-governing.
He remembered the formula of the punishment Lillian had sought to impose on him, the formula he had considered too monstrous to believe -- and he saw it now in its full application, as a system of thought, as a way of life and on a world scale. There it was: The punishment that required the victim's own virtue as the fuel to make it work -- his invention of Rearden Metal being used as the cause of his expropriation....and in the Peoples' states of Europe, millions of men being held in bondage in forced labor, by means of their ability to feed their masters, by means of the hostage system, of their love for their children or wives or friends -- by means of love, ability and pleasure as the fodder for threats and the bait for extortion, with love tied to fear, ability to punishment, ambition to confiscation, with blackmail as law, with escape from pain, not quest for pleasure, as the only incentive to effort and the only reward of achievement -- men held enslaved by means of whatever living power they possessed and of whatever joy they found in life. Such was the code that the world had accepted and such was the key to the code: That it hooked man's love of existence to a circuit of torture, so that only the man who had nothing to offer would have nothing to fear, so that the virtues which made life possible and the values which gave it meaning became the agents of its destruction, so that one's best became the tool of one's agony, and man's life on earth became impractical.
Why had the world accepted it? How had the victims come to sanction a code that pronounced them guilty of the fact of existing?
The point of this exercise is not to merely point out yet another failing of ourselves and the world we live in. Quite to the contrary, the point is to illustrate the code of conduct we have been tricked into accepting, recognize its source and encourage those who care enough to make a real New Year's Resolution for 2004. Instead of making a mockery of the New Year's Resolution concept by resolving to quit something we won't, resolve instead to view our enemies as teachers; strive to be better than our competition by working harder or producing a better product; be kind and patient to those close to us and resist impulses that prompt us to be unkind or impatient and; strive to leave every place and every situation better for our having been there.
We should always keep in mind that we alone will never change the world. All we can do is become the example we wish others to follow.