”They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die; they desire nothing, they hate existence…”
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
In her essay, “The Age of Envy,” Rand writes that Western civilization had an Age of Reason and an Age of Enlightenment, during which periods the quest for reason and enlightenment was the dominant intellectual drive, creating an emotional atmosphere that fostered these values. “Today, we live in the Age of Envy.” (She adds that “envy” is not the emotion she has in mind, and yet the clearest term she can come up for hatred of the good for being the good.
I see no evidence that this has changed since she wrote it in 1970. In fact, our current “emotional atmosphere” seems to me even more so. We love to tear down the “idols” we helped build up, the most innovative and successful: Martha Stewart, Oprah, Bill Gates, for example, simply for achieving what they have and the rewards that has brought them. The Enquirer wouldn’t exist if so many of us didn’t revel in the misery it reports about our favorite celebrities.
That commercial (was it make-up or hair color?) with the slogan, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” comes to mind. Hate? Envy? How about some level of acceptance with who and what I am? Whether looks or intelligence or success.
My husband, a long-time Rand fan, shared this particular essay with me because her description of “the hater syndrome,” if you will, reminded him of my son’s behavior during the past year.
“If a child wants to get good grades in school,” she writes, “but is unable or unwilling to achieve them and begins to hate the children who do, that is hatred of the good. If a man regards intelligence as a value, but is troubled by self-doubt and begins to hate the men he judges to be intelligent, that is hatred of the good.
“…moved by nothing but his feelings, the hater cannot tell what makes him act, he is aware only of the hatred and of an overwhelming compulsion to destroy. He does not know what long-since-forgotten whims he is paying for now, he does not know what goal he is trying to achieve—he has no goals, no desires, no whims any longer, his quest for pleasure has petered out—he has nothing to gain or to seek, his hatred is aimless and wholly nonvenal, all he knows is that he must destroy.”
(I had to look up venal: “capable of being bought, open to corrupt influence.”)
There were hints from the very beginning of our reunion (which I tried or chose to ignore) that my son hoped he would find a mother who needed him, whose life was in tatters, who he could rescue and/or lord over her. I truly believe he would have preferred a bag lady to a woman who had built a decent life, had a husband and friends and a career.
His own life has been rocky at least 80% of the time that I have known him — IMHO, his own doing. Through the grapevine, he’s preparing to stir it up again. We have not spoken in almost a year and only had sporadic email communications. When he’s at his lowest, he seeks me out, either for help or to rag.
I have multi-source confirmation of his continuing mission to destroy me, as retribution for the crime I committed — which, of course, is giving him up for adoption.
Since he cycles between some level of normalcy and out-and-out anger and revenge, his current attitude could change. But as our history has proved, I never know which I’m going to get. So I have to remain on guard… icky feeling. We have locked our doors, even when we are home, since December after I learned of his general threats (to get me back into his life by Christmas, whatever the cost… who knows what that meant?) to more specific (his plans to write a letter to our neighbors exposing me as a terrible person). None of which materialized, but the intent was enough.
He has expressed his desire for me to suffer as he has, that I owe him for the pain he has endured as a result of having been relinquished and adopted. He is not clear what he wants or expects. It changes all the time. My time, my money, my hanging myself on some sort of relinquishment cross?
Yes, I know that adoption turned out to have a major negative impact on his life. That was not my intent. Quite the opposite in fact; everyone in my life at the time and I mean EVERYONE said it was the best thing for both of us, that he would be way better off than if I tried to raise him. I didn’t look through adoptive parent profiles and say, “no, they look too nice, give him to the most evil people you can find.”
For more than 12 years, I hung in despite our many ups and downs, spent thousands of dollars on trips (both mine and his) for us to have time together, moved closer (not just for him, although he doesn’t know that — there were huge financial benefits to getting out of California) and then almost two years later he moved three hours away. When he lived here, before his separation from wife #4, I visited at least weekly to spend time with him and his children (most specifically with my granddaughter who was born shortly after our reunion and whose mother deserted her). For years, I caved to almost every one of his demands.
I know without anyone telling me that he is confused and frustrated about my pulling away, setting boundaries around the behavior that I will not tolerate, and foregoing seeing my granddaughter in order to avoid his abuse (he thought she was his trump card… true enough in the past). This reaction on my part is new to him. I have no doubt he is scrambling for yet a new plan to draw me back in.
I am on alert.
Perhaps more on Rand’s writings to come…