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Feature Interview With Ayn Rand Enthusiast Ginette Lamontagne
Ayn Rand and her magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged," continue to hold deep significance for present times, from both a philosophical and popular culture perspective. The book's themes and Rand's philosophy of Objectivism remain relevant for several reasons:
Individualism and Freedom: Rand's philosophy champions individualism, personal freedom, along with laissez-faire capitalism. In a world grappling with debates about government overreach, economic systems, and individual rights, Rand’s ideas continue to shape dialogue and debate on the role of government, regulation, and the balance between personal ambition and societal well-being.
Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Atlas Shrugged celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation as driving forces behind progress. In today's rapidly changing global economy, where startups and technological advancements shape industries, Rand's emphasis on the role of creative individuals and risk-taking resonates.
Ethics and Morality: Rand's Objectivism offers a distinctive ethical framework centered on rational self-interest. In a world where questions about moral relativism and ethical principles persist, her philosophy prompts discussions on the basis of morality and the pursuit of one's values.
Government and Freedom: Rand's critique of excessive government power and its potential to stifle individual initiative echoes contemporary debates over the size and scope of government. Discussions on the proper role of government in areas such as healthcare, education, and social programs continue to reference Rand's ideas.
Personal Responsibility: The emphasis on personal responsibility and accountability in "Atlas Shrugged" remains pertinent in discussions on social issues, individual agency, and the balance between societal support and self-sufficiency.
Critique of Collectivism: Rand's critique of collectivism and its potential to erode individual rights and creativity remains relevant as societies grapple with the tension between community well-being and individual liberties.
Cultural Impact: "Atlas Shrugged" has left an indelible mark on popular culture, inspiring movements, art, and public figures. Its influence can be seen in discussions about literature, film, and politics.
While Rand and her philosophy have passionate proponents and critics, there is no denying the ongoing impact of "Atlas Shrugged" on contemporary discussions about politics, economics, ethics, and the individual's place in society. Whether embraced or challenged, her ideas continue to stimulate dialogue and reflection in a world navigating complex challenges and opportunities.
Ginette Lamontagne, a bilingual (FR/EN) Canadian citizen was born and raised in a middle-class family in the suburbs of Saint-Boniface (annexed to Winnipeg), Manitoba, Canada.
In light of the ethnic diversity in Winnipeg, Ginette says that she made friends with people from a wide variety of backgrounds noting that she was naturally inclined at a very young age to judge individuals based on their character and their actions, and not on superficial attributes, or their words only.
“I was raised in a family composed of six girls. We were taught that there were no limits to the activities we could undertake, to our potential growth and to what we could achieve. Sex was not a barrier, and intelligence, capabilities and talent were to be developed through reasoning, the acquisition of knowledge, practice, and experience. This gave us the confidence needed to start off on the right foot in life.”
In the 70’s, in the summers of her childhood, Ginette recalls feeling free to come and go as she pleased. She was permitted to leave home for hours on end to explore her surroundings, on the condition that she was back home by dusk.
Ginette discovered an interest in drawing at about eight years old, winning a few contests, and in oil painting at 14 years old.
“I took three years of formal training in art for which I had mixed feelings given the varying approaches taught. I took part in a few art exhibitions in which my paintings were showcased. At the time, I was eager to learn and practice my art.”
In her household, she adds that ideas were taken seriously. Animated intellectual debate about religion, philosophy, politics, economics, etc. were commonplace with many views and opinions represented.
“I consciously adopted my principles and convictions and chose my values independently rather than blindly adopting those of my parents, authority figures or other people.”
Ginette attended French public schools. While excelling in school, she says that she found the overall experience dull and uninspiring. In high school, she chose courses in advanced math and sciences.
Despite her art teacher saying that she was her best student, Ginette enrolled in a 4-year bachelor’s degree with a double major in biochemistry and microbiology. With her parents nudging and advice, she thought this choice was a more reasonable and practical one to make a living. She also believed that by choosing the natural sciences, she might encounter and collaborate with more objectively minded people. So, her central purpose became finding ways to contribute to research and development efforts in the human health sciences.
To pay for her academic studies and life, Ginette earned her way entirely on her own, with no help or favors adding//
“I took on no less than a dozen various jobs in parallel to my high school and university studies. These were difficult distractions, and time and energy consumers.”
At the age of 23, she moved to Québec city, Québec, Canada away from family and friends, to do her master’s in microbiology and immunology noting
“I wanted to expand my horizons and be more immersed in the French language and the architecture of the old Québec, founded in 1608.”
Throughout her twenties, Ginette experienced many personal hardships, including raising my first child largely on her own, occupying a professional leadership role, and losing her mother to pancreatic cancer at age of 58, not to mention the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. By chance, thankfully, she met her life partner at the age of 33.
“He is a dairy farmer, a rational, independent, and honest man, a man of integrity, with an exceptional work ethic. I moved to his hometown south of Québec, we had two children and undertook several construction projects together. Since my husband was fully burdened with the farming business, I took responsibility for the children, the home and maintaining my professional career which required regular travel. Despite my challenging schedule, I continued to produce oil paintings on rare occasions.”
The Covid pandemic period, she says, was challenging in multiple ways adding:
“Not only were we dealing with the restrictions and mandates, but I was directly involved in the hectic development and validation of Covid Dx tests at work. I felt like I was living and breathing Covid19 (pun intended). During that period, we also had a major garage fire, we lost four close family members including my dad, and I developed my own set of health-related issues.”
During her lengthy professional career, Ginette shared with me how she achieved many successes, took part in the development and validation of cutting-edge technology and numerous novel diagnostic products, systems, and services, and took away valuable lessons.
However, she became fatigued with corporate life due to internal politics which she generally tried to avoid, pockets of opaqueness impeding product development, DEI and ESG policies that she did not support, a few hostile or toxic colleagues, ridiculous Keynesian macroeconomic pressures on businesses for financial growth, etc. Still, she admits that she loved collaborating with project teams, contributing to novel product development, and problem solving scientific and technical issues. She says that those remain cherished memories.
In the most recent past, Ginette found that she was confronted with different obstacles to her professional advancement. So given her personal hierarchy of values, she came to the realization that her career in science was no longer viable. This fact led her back to my first passion in art and philosophy.
“Currently, I am completing a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies, building my business in fine art, and working as a part time dairy farmer meaning I am up by 5 am! As a hobby, I enjoy connecting with people on social media for non-commercial purposes to share my thoughts on philosophy from my formal readings and life experiences. Regarding my children, my eldest daughter is completing her doctorate in psychology and my two younger children are heavily involved in the family farming operation and will likely take over the business in the not-too-distant future.”
I then asked Ginette to share a bit about what led to her passion around the intersection between philosophy, free enterprise, and the fine arts? She had this to say:
“Firstly, philosophy has provided me with a vision and a thread of continuity throughout my life. It inhabits me. Among other things, it enables me to integrate concepts and think abstractly rather than simply be concrete bound.”
On the importance of philosophy in her life and, she believes, in the life of every human being, she cited this quote from Ayn Rand:
“Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics) – and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics.”
The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 1971, p. 107
Secondly, Ginette believes that free enterprise in a free market is the only means by which rational people can collaborate and trade voluntarily, in a non-coercive manner. This, she asserts, is a moral requirement for all human activity based on our nature, noting that humans have free will and must be able to exercise it without impediments. The recognition of individual rights, she says, is essential.
“[The concept of] individual rights is the only proper [moral] principle of human coexistence, because it rests on man’s nature, i.e., the nature and requirements of a conceptual consciousness. Man gains enormous values from dealing with other men; living in a human society is his proper way of life – but only on certain conditions. Man is not a lone wolf and he is not a social animal. He is a contractual animal. He has to plan his life long-range, make his choices, and deal with other men by voluntary agreement (and he has to be able to rely on their observance of the agreements they entered).”
A Nation’s Unity, The Ayn Rand Letter, II, 2, 3.
Finally, after her long-standing productive and fulfilling career in the Med Tech industry, for circumstantial reasons mainly beyond her control, Ginette had to make the difficult decision to take a radical turn and to focus on developing her initial passion for art which is largely unsatiated.
“Art enables me to express my soul and my sense of life serenely and completely with no distractions, noise, or interference. Art enables me to portray how life can and ought to be. It is an excellent form of expression and source of inspiration. Art represents an artist’s metaphysics.”
Asked about how the work of Ayn Rand has directly impacted her life along with which of Rands’ books have had the greatest influence on your thinking, Ginette had this to say:
“At age 13, I discovered Aristotle, which was a subject that I chose for a school project. Aristotle was the father of logic and reason to which Ayn Rand was philosophically indebted.”
“From Ayn Rand, starting at age 14, I read Anthem, Night of January 16th, We the Living then, at age 16, I picked up Atlas Shrugged, a 1170-page novel, published in 1957, which I read in just a week, crying tears of joy! It described the core of my being, my sense of life. Thereafter, I read all her fiction and non-fiction books by my early twenties.”
Ginette adds that while many authors have impacted her life, none however have been as influential and inspirational as Ayn Rand.
“She argued the importance of a central purpose, productive achievement, and reason as the sole legitimate tool of thought.”
Order a copy of Atlas Shrugged HERE
Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, says Ginette represents her magnum opus. In this fictional book, she says that Rand laid out her full philosophical system. A succinct description is provided in appendix:
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man [a human] as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
According to Ginette, the novel contains many brilliant and profound passages. To highlight just a few:
Money/production: “So you think that money is the root of all evil?…” pp. 410-415
Age of moral crisis: “…Who is John Galt? This is John Galt speaking. I am the man who loves his life…” pp. 1009-1069
Ayn Rand once briefly summarized the essence of her philosophy as:
“Metaphysics: Objective Reality. ‘Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed’ or ‘Wishing won’t make it so.’
Epistemology and Reason. ‘You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.’
Ethics: [Long-term rational] Self-interest.‘Man [a human] is an end in himself.
Politics: [Laissez-faire] Capitalism. ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ ”
“Her morality of reason is based on the single axiom: existence exists, and on the single choice: to live. Consequently, she held three values as supreme: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Recognizing the relation between existence and consciousness, she stood for the following virtues: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride.”
Of important note, says Ginette, is that Ayn Rand was and remains a controversial figure, in part because she chose to use words according to their exact meaning and dictionary definitions rather than the distorted meaning of words adopted in common usage. This fact led to some confusion up to the wholesale rejection of her philosophy. So, my recommendation is to read her books and evaluate firsthand the magnitude and value of her life’s work.
In our interview discussion I then asked Ginette how books in general have served as a vehicle for her own personal and professional growth.
She offered these thoughts:
“Books have exponentially accelerated my acquisition of knowledge in many fields and have also served to nourish my soul, i.e., consciousness. In this way, they have tremendously helped me advance my career, broaden and deepen my awareness and understanding of things in general and maintain an active mind. On balance, I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction. However each serves a specific desired purpose.”
Good books, according to Ginette, help us deal with reality when we choose to think and integrate the information and facts to expand our knowledge.
“I deeply value ideas but what good are they if you do not put them into action toward a central purpose and reaching your goals? Life is about achieving happiness. This is only possible by being the orchestrator of one’s life, doing the proper thinking, taking the necessary actions, and owning one’s decisions and their consequences. It is not about being a passive onlooker of one’s life!For this reason, I am a strong proponent of the integration of thought and action, and of the need to maintain a balance between the two.“
In terms of how Romanticism which Rand was big on has informed her entrepreneurial pursuits in the fine arts, Ginette offered.
“The function of art is to create and project. According to Aristotle, art is concerned with things as they might be and ought to be. Further, Rand saw art as the portrayal of life as it could be and should be.”
“Romantic realism is art that combines elements of both romanticism [the ideal, emotions, passion, moral and aesthetic values, etc.] and realism[quest for truth, reality, representation of life and societal themes, etc.]…Novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand described herself as a romantic realist…
Rand wrote: “The method of romantic realism is to make life more beautiful and interesting than it actually is, yet give it all the reality, and even a more convincing reality than that of our everyday existence.”” (Wikipedia, 2023).
Ginette says that at present, she is neither satisfied nor fulfilled with contemporary art in general. In her modest opinion, she believes that she has identified a gap in the art market supply for a kind of art that stimulates reflection and that fulfills a basic spiritual need noting….
“My aim is to create narrative and symbolic art of philosophical significance and beauty combined, of the genre contemporary romantic realism.”
Currently, she is vigorously developing her portfolio of original fine art oil paintings for which there is still a stable market despite digitalization and AI. She plans to be open for business online and at art exhibitions in a few years.
“Human heroic subjects will generally be central to the art and set in varying backdrops of natural or man-made scenery. Of course, I am targeting a niche market.”
Ginette offered this concluding thought:
“Primarily, I am concerned with the values of existence. Hopefully, my paintings will stimulate reflection and dialogue, and will inspire my future audience to aim for their full potential and to seek happiness right here on earth. In the end, I aim to convey that rationality and passion can and ought to co-exist within each of us.”
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