"I and You" by Beverly Garside

Richard Smaby
BOOK REVIEW

We act out of self-interest. That is certainly true – sometimes. Ayn Rand took this idea and elevated it to the central motivation for economic, social and political acts. In her graphic novel I and You author Beverly Garside pokes holes in Rand’s ideas. The presentation of Ayn Rand’s philosophy in this book would certainly be considered simplistic and heavy-handed by Randians. On the other hand, Ayn Rand herself initially presented her ideas in novels, which critics found to be simplistic moral philosophy. Indeed, the story in Garside’s graphic novel is a plausible continuation of the fictional history told in Atlas Shrugged – but with a negative valuation of Rand’s ideas.

The story takes place in 2098 with the United States of America split along ideological lines into three geographic regions: the Randian Republic of Atlantis (RRA), the United Socialist States of America (USSA), and the Confederate States of New Jerusalem. Most of the action takes place in the RRA.

The author holds our interest focusing on the development of the central character, Sara Storm. We follow her life from the point that that she graduates from a program run by the military contractor, the Wyatt Corporation, and obtains her dream job with that same military contractor. She worships at the altar of self (an actual personal altar, which every upstanding Randian has). But then she experiences being mistreated by her superiors and abandoned by subordinates because of their total focus on self. The story takes us through family tensions, a love triangle, espionage and war. Even though she recognizes the harm done to her and others by the culture of the RRA, it is hard for her to overcome her indoctrination to hate all things socialist.

The title "I and You" is both a play on the usual convention in English of saying "you and I" to indicate respect for the person spoken to and on "we," which implies a sense of the collective – anathema to the Randians.

To say Ayn Rand’s political and moral views are very much alive today in the real world is to state the obvious. Nevertheless, it is useful to be reminded that self-promotion at the expense of others has a long history. And people continue to cite her views as underlying their own. In 2005 Paul Ryan credited Ayn Rand with being a key factor in his decision to go into politics. He said that he liked to check passages from Atlas Shrugged to make sure that his beliefs and actions follow the principles of individualism. Later he toned down his support for her, when he found out that she was an atheist and that two of the main characters in book had an adulterous relationship.