He is an unlikely Objectivist — yet for this Mexican American, Ayn Rand was a lifesaver. Her fiction and philosophy of self-reliance, self-actualization, achievement and reason became a guiding light that he now volunteers his time to share with others.
His name is Xavier Chavarin. Or X, as he’s known to those who know.
X was born in San Jose, California. When he was three, his mother took him and his one year old brother – left her husband, left the country, and brought the little boys to Mexico.
There, she abandoned them. His grandmother raised him for five years. Then his mother changed her mind, came back, took the boys, and returned to the US. Naturally gregarious, he made friends everywhere he went. His people skills helped him rise to become a manager of Radio Shack in Malibu, where he became the go to guy for celebrities needing tech help.
Then one day he got a call. It was the police. His little brother, whom he had helped to shelter during the years of uprooting and challenge, had been found dead. Xavier was heartbroken. But he pulled himself together, pulled his family together and tried to be strong.
What helped was Atlas Shrugged. Xavier had been my friend for years — helped me on life’s little challenges (wifi issues, phone snafus, etc) and large ones (losing my grandmother, my job, etc). Ayn Rand had helped me gain clarity, focus, and a ruthless embrace of reality during times when I felt tempted to slip into denial, to blame, to self-pity.
I hoped her literature, in particular Atlas Shrugged, might be an inspiration to him — or at least distract him from his grief.
Little did I know it would literally change his life.
He recounts our exchange: “At a Dia de los Muertos party you’d hosted you had copies of Atlas Shrugged lining your book case in all different languages — including Spanish. When you handed me a copy that looked like a brick, I thought you were crazy. But I didn’t want to be rude, and God knows I was in a dark place at that moment, so I thought, why not.”
“I gave the first chapter a try and I was hooked,” says Xavier. He spent next three weeks devouring the book on the beaches of Malibu.
“It transported me to a different world — a world of heroic thinkers and doers and creators. I’d spent my life trying to help others — literally always putting others before myself. And you know, it wasn’t really working for me. Ayn Rand opened my eyes to a different way of seeing my relationship to others. Self interest is a good thing — thinking about yourself, what you want, and now always what others want. I derive tremendous pleasure in helping others — but it’s something I want to do, not because it’s expected, not because it’s owed, not because it’s forced by government, but because it makes me feel my unique strengths.”
As a result of this Rand-inspired soul-searching, Xavier left his job, and decided he wanted to help others, particularly in the Hispanic community, discover the philosophy that had helped him in his darkest hour.
“Ayn Rand was a cabrona,” he said, using a slang phrase that might politely be translated as a tough broad. “She wasn’t trying to constantly please others – a trap I sometimes find myself falling into. And similar to my story, her childhood in another country made her appreciate American values all the more.”
How does this relate to the Hispanic community at this point in time? “I was raised to believe that the family is all important — and while there’s a lot of good in that, it can also hinder people from doing what they want and discovering their own identity. Also, I want to be valued and judged for who I am — what I can do — not because I’m a member of this race, or that group. I think identity politics is a trap, particularly when it’s peddling an ideology of victimization. That’s not empowerment. I’ve had some bad sh*t go down in my life — but I’m nobody’s victim. I make my own way.”
On the flip side, Xavier has experienced racism and profiling. He is not immune to some of the xenophobia and nativism that is currently in the air. Rand elevated logic over prejudice. He cites one of his favorite Rand quotes.
“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.”
“The answer to racism, to prejudice isn’t political correctness and intellectual conformity. It’s valuing individuals as individuals. That’s why Rand’s philosophy that elevates individualism and reason is needed now — more than ever.”
Jennifer Anju Grossman is the CEO of the Atlas Society.