A Journal for Western Man
Seeds of Rationality:
A Review of Stolyarov's
Struggle for the Future
Issue IX- December 9, 2002
What does that quote resemble? Rational egoism, the life-as-the-ultimate value calculus, the placing of one’s own desires and interests above all others and refusing to be a sacrificial lamb for the community, the collective, the tribe… This is a statement from a character which may be expected of a Rand or a Bernstein, but from a high school student who had known of neither at the time of writing it, these words signify a radiant mind beyond its years, already conceptualizing, philosophizing, and crafting value judgments without assistance from a rational culture. From Struggle for the Future, the achievement of a budding thinker at the time when he still, in his own words, “struggled to arrange the fundamental interpretative framework that would facilitate a universal, comprehensive, logical, and scientific worldview to guide me throughout a life that I know will leave a prominent and everlasting legacy.”
Incidentally, the insight at the top is from one of the most intriguing characters of the book, Rodrigo Marcos, a brilliant intellectual forced into the menial job of a taxi cab driver through the slander, scheming, and abuses of envious peers and the conformist/pop-culturist bend of his society.
Fortunately for myself, I am personally acquainted with the novel’s author and have been able to conduct an electronic correspondence with him to elaborate on particular aspects of the book as I read it. Since his high school days, Mr. Stolyarov has taught himself Randian philosophy and the fundamentals of laissez-faire economics, which has sent him leaps forward in his views concerning these subjects. Nevertheless, comparing the author Stolyarov to the Stolyarov of today has convinced me that the most emphasized and underlying themes of the book retain an immense attachment within him and are consistent with Objectivist theory.
Imagine that, in the near future, a scintillatingly prodigious scientist topples one of the least penetrable barriers known to man, that which separates us from navigating the fourth dimension. In other words, he devises a time machine. Unlike the scaremongering “there are some things that man was not meant to know” rhetoric of outmoded social planners and the “there are some consequences to technology that man was not meant to predict” ramblings of the more fashionable enviro-retrogrades, Mr. Stolyarov establishes a benevolent application for the craft, the rescue of the scientist’s, Dr. Max Morton’s, school-age brother from an alcoholic bully who would, absent intervention, have stabbed him to death. Peter, the thereby rescued protagonist of this book, later speaks on the ultimate potential of the technological marvel, “We can finally break the barrier that had separated us from our ancestors, the peoples of the past. We can finally answer the call of those peoples beyond the grave, the call of billions who cry, ‘Help us! Save us from the merciless monster that is death! Make us live again!’ Those peoples can witness the future that they labored for… Leonardo can see his flying machine in action, Jules Verne can travel to the moon in a space shuttle or go underwater in a submarine, Plato can observe a true republic and its workings.” (A note on Plato: Were time travel a genuine possibility, and the infamous statist of antiquity permitted to gaze upon the mechanical miracles that free markets and individual liberty had brought about, he would promptly reformulate his theories upon returning to his time and thereby eradicate an entire breed of paternalists, mystics, and irrationalists before it would ever form. A delicious thought, is it not?)
There is a heroic love present throughout the work, a love that the author most likely had to defend against constant defamations and mockeries from a paradigm that values sacrifice more than progress and shame more than pride. It is a love of technology, of the tools that move man forward in the genuine way of increasing the range of resources to be exploited, the range of frontiers to be conquered, and the range of the life an individual can lead. Mr. Stolyarov, firmly convinced that Man is able to do just about anything he sets his mind to, foretells that, should societal pressures not stifle it, technology shall one day yield for all the ultimate panacea, eternal life. It is a vision that would be branded as hopelessly idealistic or unreal by the range-of-the-moment clerics dominating today’s “ethical discussions” on the subject. Yet Mr. Stolyarov has stuck to his guns. I inquired of him some two weeks ago whether he would still uphold such a conviction. “If anything, it merely grows firmer as I become increasingly aware of man’s potential for eternal greatness,” he replied.
But this is a mere prelude to the central conflict of the book. Mr. Stolyarov seeks to forge an understanding of the social and political barriers a time machine would meet from a leftist/statist government of the near future (a quasi-socialist President, a military strongman who enjoys supreme authority over anything that shoots, and a perhaps insufficiently ridiculed caricature of Al Gore as Speaker of the House), which had instituted a covert crackdown on intellectuals espousing “unpopular doctrines”, scientists performing research into outlawed activities, and self-made businessmen, all with the support of a population subsisting on handouts and an institutionalized aristocracy unwilling to compete with newcomers in a free market. The epitome of the brutish, vacuously snobbish, and fanatically fearful culture against which a small group of scientists, thinkers, and apostates must defend their invention and their careers is FBI Agent James Snorkle VII, whose sole driving force is what Ayn Rand would have termed, “hatred of the good for being the good.” The plot is an action and idea-filled development of this struggle, a struggle for the future of mankind to determine whether it will turn into a flourishing, machine-loving, individual-respecting species or a blind, mindlessly subordinate, stagnant horde of emotionalist apes.
To enhance the experience, I would counsel the Objectivists reading this book to be selective in their receptiveness to its content. Mr. Stolyarov had stated that during its creation, he possessed “a firm footing in absolutist metaphysics and rational epistemology, which had arrived to me via common sense, a nearly complete grasp on an individualist ethics, but an overtly utopian political/economic conviction that the faults of today’s paternalism were not those of excessive regulation and power lusters, but the wrong regulations and the wrong persons in command.” Yet Mr. Stolyarov’s views have since been shaped by such economic thinkers as Rand, Hayek, and Mises, and he professes to “have realized that Councils of Intellectuals and Articles of Utopia will not be able to elevate the culture to morality by legislating it, that ultimately the only means by which the government can facilitate unimpeded technological and ideological progress is to let alone and permit the scientists, businessmen, and intellectuals to outcompete the clerics, scammers, and witch doctors on the free market of ideas.” With this attainment by Mr. Stolyarov’s cognition of the next level of the philosophical edifice have emerged other brilliant analyses of the human condition, including a sequel which he plans to publish shortly, Struggle against Sacrifice, which revolves around the sacrifice-revering anti-civilization of the Mesoamerican Aztecs and the plight of Peter and his allies in foiling a terrorist scheme to arm the natives against Cortes’s arrival and cultural enlightenment.
As Ayn Rand had formulated, the crucial precedent to holding the correct convictions is holding the correct premises, that there is but one knowable reality, and that the task of Man is to interpret it and manipulate its elements for the sake of individual survival. Essentially, this is a yearning for the truth and for progress that advocates with passionate devotion all ideas deemed correct but is willing to adjust them in specific fields should more comprehensive evidence warranting such a shift arise. A man of truth exhibiting this approach will always perfect his understanding and correct any lack thereof because his devotion is to reality and not a particular party line. Such a trait dominates Mr. Stolyarov’s approach and is the reason why, although some of his specific economic analysis or political panaceas in the book may be flawed, the underlying framework of Struggle for the Future’s plot, theme, conflicts, and ideology remains and shall always remain a potent guide for the thinker in his renunciation of mechanistic adherence to collective dictums of stagnation.
Edmund Daleford is an Objectivist and Vice-Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator.
This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.