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Non Objectivist Friends

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An old problem as reared its head. As a young person, I misunderstood Objectivism and wound up damaging several relationships. Over the past year, partly as a consequence of the dust up on this forum over political speech, I have intensified my study of Objectivism rather than pursue my argument over political speech.

In an informal conversation on Sunday a friend raised the topic of many Republicans' weak response to the Obama Administration and I jocularly stated that they needed to work harder to rid of "that idiot" Obama. A third casual friend immediately became incensed and eventually turned his back and walked away saying he just couldn't stand speaking to me.

Apart from needing to work on my impulsiveness, the event has dogged me for a couple of days. As my allegiance to the tenets of Objectivism strengthens I confront again as a deeply personal matter how one lives in a non-Objectivist world. Does every old friendship have to go? It seems -really,is- necessary to be judgemental in every serious issue people raise. It feels like a lack of integrity to soft pedal or avoid such issues.

Thoughts, insights and advice will be appreciated.

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So much depends on how things are said, rather than what is said. I have never held back unless I thought the other person was beyond all reason. Usually when I become "nice' to people I disagree with, it is because I have given up on them, and in that way an insult to them. Otherwise, I try to insult them with a sense of humour. In the end, I am left with people I enjoy being myself with, and let the others go their own way. All said, one should be aware of the line between voicing your opinion, and lecturing.

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I have been having a sometimes heated discussion on Facebook with a real-life friend who is not only not an Objectivist, but who counts himself a capitalist while espousing strong anti-capitalist political views. In reality he's a leftist, but the political middle has shifted so far leftwards he thinks he's middle of the road.

I, on the other hand, view things as so far gone that I honestly expect the collapse of the U.S. into anarchy and violence (or conquest). I have reached the point where I take any advocacy of statism personally, seeing as it's not some abstract political philosophy but directly affects individuals, of which I am one, more and more each day. His response to one of my comments got me really angry, and I said so in a comment on another Facebook post. He found that comment and took offense at my taking offense. The discussion is ongoing, but I am still offended by his attitude and refuse to give an inch because of the principles involved.

(I'll post that discussion if anyone cares to see it.)

Sometimes offense can't be helped. I don't care any more if someone is offended by my views. I'm tired of people believing that leftists and religionists can say what they want and because their views are mainstream they must be tolerated and I'm wrong for taking offense, but they're perfectly justified in taking offense at my views. F*** that, I will not tolerate it any more. I will say what I think and if others don't like it then too bad for them.

That's not to say I go out of my way to offend (except sometimes it's fun :)), and I don't inject philosophy or politics into every conversation. But I don't pull any punches any more, especially if someone punches me first.

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I , too, take advocacy of statism personally. I didn't make much money over most of my career, but did invest in investment assets and personal property wisely. I retired with investments just into 7 figures and a sports car, modernist house - all the things I wanted. The point of saying that is I have my own concepts of marginal income and marginal expense. Someone with immense money and someone of no ambition, niether one understands how close the margin can be between achieving ones goals and falling short. Their views threaten my well being. A wealthy leftist lawyer, discussing the Bush tax cuts, once sneered at me "Besides, what can you do with $5,000 anyway?"

So "compromises" many people think are livable I know are not and people won't realize until too late what's been lost. After 40 years of "steering small" (a wonderful phrase from a Hornblower book) I get angry quickly with people and confrontational if I'm not paying attention. I guess I'm saying paying scrupulous attention, being fully conscious is part of the solution, aren't I?

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I think one has to keep focus on the good or similarities in others and whether there is enough of either to make the person worthy of one's friendship. If that means that some "old friends" are no longer considered to be friends than so be it. Turning yourself into what the surrounding crowd thinks is correct will never bring you real friendship nor happiness.

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I think one has to keep focus on the good or similarities in others and whether there is enough of either to make the person worthy of one's friendship.

I agree, but there are some very mixed people I find worthy of friendship.

What I do is be very clear about what I value and what I don't value about them and then I use that to decide whether and how I will interact with them. For instance, I have some family members whose main value to me are the good times we shared as children. I enjoy family gatherings with them but, knowing that they are ultra-liberal Democrats beyond persuasion, I never discuss politics. If they say something outrageous, I just smile and say, "We'll have to agree to disagree about that."

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For instance, I have some family members whose main value to me are the good times we shared as children. I enjoy family gatherings with them but, knowing that they are ultra-liberal Democrats beyond persuasion, I never discuss politics. If they say something outrageous, I just smile and say, "We'll have to agree to disagree about that."

But, being in Sweden, it means everyone I know is like this in various degrees. I try to stick to the areas in which we are compatible, but I grow weary of the "shadow world" (where everything is but a pale image of what it could be) of non-Objectivists. I want to deal with people whose differences from me are limited to interests, personality and tastes, rather than character and philosophy.

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If both of you are willing to accept the fact that you'll have to agree to disagree on philosophical or political issues, then the friendship can work. I have a friend whose ideas are pretty much the opposite of Objectivism in every area: she's both a Christian and a socialist. We sometimes discuss philosophy with each other, knowing that we are ideological enemies, but still manage to maintain a completely civil tone. Most of the time we don't discuss philosophy, though, and get along pretty well.

The key is the ability to remain civil even though you know you are on opposite sides on some issues. If both of you are willing to accept this, then a friendship is possible; otherwise, it is not. The person clearly won't be your best friend, but you can still maintain a friendship at some level.

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If both of you are willing to accept the fact that you'll have to agree to disagree on philosophical or political issues, then the friendship can work. I have a friend whose ideas are pretty much the opposite of Objectivism in every area: she's both a Christian and a socialist.

That is why it is most important to be clear in one's own mind as to what values another person has. I would not be interested in the average Christian socialist, but if it were someone like Victor Hugo with whom I share a sense of life, he could be a dear and valuable friend.

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You did not clarify the context in which your sample discussion took place, which is important. Rand pointed out that you have no obligation to make your views known in a context in which it could cost you your job or other important values and in which speaking your mind serves no significantly useful function, as, for example, at work, in the usual case in which your work has nothing to do with national or international politics. If you are a Congressman, you better damned well make your honest views known and behave in accordance with your rational philosophy. If you are Barak Obama, on the other hand, you should act in accordance with someone else's philosophy, talking point flash cards available at this office, inquiries welcome.

I stay away from political discussions at work as much as possible. I'm an IT contractor and, currently, I'm working for The Man, i.e. The Federal Gov't, in an ultra-Left city, although, at least the organization actually provides a product and a service (power generation and distribution) along with their "Green Initiatives" and "Anybody Who's Not Caucasian or Asian, Male, Capitalist, Well-Adjusted, Sane, and Rational Month". It makes no sense here to expound carelessly about what exactly I think about the President and/or the jerks in Congress who are all working to destroy the United States and my freedom with it. However, ironically, I have met one Libertarian who I convinced to read Atlas Shrugged and who has become an enthusiastic Objectivist Sympathizer, if not an outright Objectivist. It's over 60% contractors here, I believe, due to the fact that they do actually have to get work done and, once hired, working is just one option among many for full-time union member employees.

So, as Rand suggested, you have no obligation to make your views known, but, if it serves a value, it's certainly one way to separate friends from non-friend material. And I would think that, as with those of us in hostile environments, other rational people might be more numerous than you think, provided there are good reasons for such people to be there. I live in a Leftist city right now and call another even-more-leftist city home, but, in both, there are Objectivists and potential Objectivists. As long as there is productive activity where you are, some people there may understand where that comes from and not feel obligated to apologize for it.

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It was a casual social situation and I impulsively chimed in on a subject raised by another person. Being more aware would have been the best medicine here.

I was in public finance for 30 years and learned to be carefull early in that context. There are many respectable, sincere people of integrity and productivity in government, especially local governments, and besides protecting myself, I learned to take care of the sensibilities of the good people.

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Well I think it's possible you're just being too hard on yourself. If you were beating them with your copy of AS I might have something to say about that. But what good is a friend who turns his back to you for casually insulting a career politician? Good grief.

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I'll go one better on this topic: I'm dating a non-Objectivist and it's going swimmingly. I spent a lot of time assessing his character and sussing out what I valued and what could be a source of conflict. Six months into it, what I'm seeing emerge in him - based on his positive response to my blog and the discussions we've had - is a desire to learn more about my views and how I came to accept them. It helps that I ask him lots of questions and I am genuinely interested in what he has to say. He knows that I have a strong intellectual grounding and is constantly curious.

I haven't even mentioned Ayn Rand with him yet and I doubt as an Australian he's heard much about her. What I do notice is he values reason above all other things. He loves to figure things out for himself. He also holds a benevolent view of the world around him, which is extremely rare in a 25-year-old these days, much less a man of 45.

I do not consider myself a cynic by any means with regard to people I meet. Most aren't Objectivists and most never will be, but just as Betsy has talked about seeking out valuers, I have done the same. It pays dividends. Some people may end up being better friends if one gives them time. Those who are not open to reason aren't worth my time, so instead of fretting over them, I let them go.

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Well I think it's possible you're just being too hard on yourself. If you were beating them with your copy of AS I might have something to say about that. But what good is a friend who turns his back to you for casually insulting a career politician? Good grief.

Agreed. What kind of friendship was lost? Is he that sensitive? Is he that devoted to Obama or socialism that an off-the-cuff remark makes him turn away? Could be several reasons for his response, none of them good. If he doesn't appreciate you that much, then why value his friendship to a greater extent?

I have many dance friends who are very left-wing, if not outright socialist, cheering Obama and ObamaCare. We've settled into friendships based on what we have in common, but I doubt our friendships will grow closer. Yet for the most part, I can enjoy occassional, short, civil disagreements, and that's fine.

There's plenty of people in the world with whom to be friends, and all sorts of types and degrees of friendship. Don't lose sleep over an incident like this, where you did nothing wrong. Consider the alternative: that you constantly feel on edge, censoring yourself to consider whether someone might get offended by such innocuous remarks. To hell with that! You ought to be free to speak your mind (some degree of tact and manners kept in mind, of course) without fear of losing friends. If you can't do that, then they aren't your friends, or worthy of your respect.

My two cents

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But what good is a friend who turns his back to you for casually insulting a career politician? Good grief.

Right. The Christian socialist friend I mentioned is (of course) an Obama supporter and I have mocked Obama in front of her and we are still friends. Part of respecting the other's point of view is accepting that he is going to make remarks reflecting his point of view.

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But what good is a friend who turns his back to you for casually insulting a career politician? Good grief.

Right. The Christian socialist friend I mentioned is (of course) an Obama supporter and I have mocked Obama in front of her and we are still friends. Part of respecting the other's point of view is accepting that he is going to make remarks reflecting his point of view.

It is true, though, from my personal experience, that you will find more misunderstandings occur when your values differ, and proportionally to the degree of those value differences. I broke recently with what I thought was a good friend of over 20 years when he attacked me publicly on Facebook, for my dismay over the passage of Obamacare. I didn't even counterattack the irrationality of the verbal barrage of ad hominem, because that's exactly what it was -- all noise, no substance. After determining that we couldn't just agree to disagree, the the vituperation would continue and ratchet up ad ifinitum, I had to break off. We had a common respect and a love of vocal music, professionally and personally, and other things were set aside, but one thing about an intergalactic forum like Facebook is that you can't always segregate your philosophical and political views from the other areas of your life. And, over time, I have become less and less willing to. Especially when, as it is now, with Obama/(Pelosi)/Reid, it is life or death.

I was very sorry to lose that friendship, but, on reflection, I realized that it had become more and more strained and limited over the years, and one more straw would break its back. C'est la vie.

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alann, I would be very surprised if such occurrences (i.e. splits between friends who don't share philosophy) were uncommon. After all, that would mean philosophy is as arcane and inapplicable to reality as most people think it is. Sorry for your loss, though. Undoubtedly there's quite a bond after 20 years of knowing each other.

As for me, I'm having a very hard time imagining being friends with outright leftists, as some people here seem to be. Maybe their sense of life tends to be different in the US, but here I can't imagine having such a person as a friend, unless it's just about online gaming or such. But spending time with them regularly in real life...I can't imagine their philosophy not bleeding through to areas such as behavior, privacy, class, tactfulness, respect etc., even given shared hobbies.

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...As for me, I'm having a very hard time imagining being friends with outright leftists, as some people here seem to be. Maybe their sense of life tends to be different in the US, but here I can't imagine having such a person as a friend, unless it's just about online gaming or such. But spending time with them regularly in real life...I can't imagine their philosophy not bleeding through to areas such as behavior, privacy, class, tactfulness, respect etc., even given shared hobbies.
I agree with that. This was a friend I met at a music academy in Austria, dealing almost exclusively with vocal music, as we were both singers and students of the history of vocalism. After that, we mostly kept in touch with an occasional visit. If you have something non-political and essentially non-philosophical in common with someone, those things may never or rarely come up. I have other friends who I see rarely, with whom I have other things in common, and we can share those values and not discuss differences. It is much harder with those with whom you are regularly in contact; I've broken with more than a few under those circumstances. As my philosophy has become more explicitly integrated with my life and as politics in the past several years has become more life-and-death, I have become less willing to tolerate irrational ideas that threaten my own life, and I have far less patience for those who brightly profess admiration for Obama or espouse really stupid ideas like Anthropogenic Global Warming, or The Evils of Capitalism, or try to foist religion on me. I don't have the time in my life for that baloney and it leaves me with less than enough respect for the individual to justify a conversation.

There are people who just don't know anything but what they grew up with and experienced in school, but, if they can think and question and grow, then they may still be salvageable. If they are comfortable in their ignorance, or emotionalistically combative in defending it, forget it. Or, as in the case of the person above, sometimes, for complex reasons, people you've known a long time may slowly mutate, their philosophies degrading to something you no longer recognize as the same person, when you stand back and examine who they are now.

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I know this may offend some but - Objectivisim can be like a religion in that it causes us to to eagerly express our beliefs in mixed company or even to friends when they don't want to hear it. Religious zealots I've known will try to work their beliefs into the shortest, most casual conversations. Such a tact throws people off no matter what you're saying. I hope that makes sense.

In my case, I found clarity in Atlas Shrugged. I regularly demonstrate that clarity (show them, don't tell them). In office conversations the topic is often current affairs and/or politics. I am a very non-partisan person but have a clear view of the actions and outcomes of our elected officials. This draws people in. I don't directly bash Obama by saying things like we need to get rid of him. I have said things like "My kids cannot afford the $850B bailout that Bush signed." Those kind of statements, coming from a conservative cracker-looking guy like me, makes people take note. I think any politician is fair game. I don't say things that could be misinterpreted as violent about our president (perhaps having a good friend in the Secret Service has influenced me) but will openly say that I think Obama's "in over his head". This doesn't cause people to turn and walk away, but often to ask me to explain. Draw them in for the exchange of thoughts, don't start off swinging a bat at their guy.

I've come to realize that political partisanship is very destructive. I stay above it in conversations using clarity. In my economic reading I've grown to understand valuable terms like "socialized losses" and "moral hazard" and really enjoy educating friends on how these work. When they learn that, I don't have to tell them that Obama sucks. Deduction, my friend. Deduction.

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I know this may offend some but - Objectivisim can be like a religion in that it causes us to to eagerly express our beliefs in mixed company or even to friends when they don't want to hear it. Religious zealots I've known will try to work their beliefs into the shortest, most casual conversations. Such a tact throws people off no matter what you're saying. I hope that makes sense.

I agree with all of this except for the "us". SOME people who are into Objectivism and treat it like a religion -- see the "True Believer" type (link) -- eagerly express their opinions in mixed company in a way that totally drops the context of where they are and to whom they are speaking.

While arguing for the necessity of always passing moral judgements, Ayn Rand also warned against being a moralistic twit.

The policy of always pronouncing moral judgment does not mean that one must regard oneself as a missionary charged with the responsibility of "saving everyone's soul"—nor that one must give unsolicited moral appraisals to all those one meets. It means: (a) that one must know clearly, in full, verbally identified form, one's own moral evaluation of every person, issue and event with which one deals, and act accordingly; (b ) that one must make one's moral evaluation known to others, when it is rationally appropriate to do so.

This last means that one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil. When one deals with irrational persons, where argument is futile, a mere "I don't agree with you" is sufficient to negate any implication of moral sanction. When one deals with better people, a full statement of one's views may be morally required. [Emphasis mine.]

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"one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil. When one deals with irrational persons, where argument is futile, a mere "I don't agree with you" is sufficient to negate any implication of moral sanction."

And if this is potentially dangerous?

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"one need not launch into unprovoked moral denunciations or debates, but that one must speak up in situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement with or sanction of evil. When one deals with irrational persons, where argument is futile, a mere "I don't agree with you" is sufficient to negate any implication of moral sanction."

And if this is potentially dangerous?

It depends on what you mean by "dangerous." If you mean a situation where there is a threat of force involved, I don't think that would qualify as one of the "situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement." If someone is threatening force, say anything you have to!

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The question for me is how to evaluate current relationships in view of a new, more mature understanding of Objectivism and by extension those beliefs which I have appeared to tolerate. I found myself looking at this friend and thinking I knew he was an impulsive, emotional leftist all along. I have other, more important relationships to evaluate. I appreciate the thoughtful responses here.

I often have said to others "you can't save anyone from their own values". I think that's true and it is a hard fact.

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The question for me is how to evaluate current relationships in view of a new, more mature understanding of Objectivism and by extension those beliefs which I have appeared to tolerate. I found myself looking at this friend and thinking I knew he was an impulsive, emotional leftist all along. I have other, more important relationships to evaluate. I appreciate the thoughtful responses here.

I often have said to others "you can't save anyone from their own values". I think that's true and it is a hard fact.

It's important to consider your own development as well. I remember when I first found Objectivism I had a real "convert's fanaticism." I stuck my opinion into everything with everybody. I know now that (1) iit's a sign of maturity in understanding not to do that and (2) my understanding of the philosophy want all that great so I probably said a lot of mistaken things. I'm much better at both now.

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It depends on what you mean by "dangerous." If you mean a situation where there is a threat of force involved, I don't think that would qualify as one of the "situations where silence can objectively be taken to mean agreement." If someone is threatening force, say anything you have to!

It's not the overt threat of a knife, but I know that if I need to shut up in order to keep a job so I can eventually move out of Sweden, that's what I'll do even when (not if) I hear irrational arguments and statements. I can see nothing but risk in trying to debate from an Objectivist perspective here. I'll stick to you guys for that.

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