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Strategy for Changing the Culture

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I'd like to discuss what people think is a good, positive strategy in today's society for changing the current direction of society and the culture within America. Are there any specific steps already discussed within the corpus of Objectivist literature that should be explicitly used or need further development? I would like to focus on those elements within American society that are currently active threats to reason and objective values, whether it be from environmentalism or religion (are these the two fundamental threats within current society?) or whatever anyone thinks is a principal force that Objectivists should be countering. In other words, what is the nature of our society, its current direction, and what should we be doing to change directions?

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I'd like to discuss what people think is a good, positive strategy in today's society for changing the current direction of society and the culture within America.

I think there are many, many different positive strategies for improving the culture and I always recommend that a person choose one that he is able, willing, and wants to do.

That "something" can be writing, speaking, or teaching, encouraging or funding good writers, speakers, and teachers, giving copies of Ayn Rand's books to people you know, getting a license plate that says "READ AYN" or sporting a bumper sticker or t-shirt that says "Ayn Rand was Right," creating inspiring works of art, etc., etc. For more ideas, see Ayn Rand's article "What can one do?" (The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 7 January 3, 1972).

The important thing is doing something.

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The important thing is doing something.

I think the important thing is to create a rallying point so that it isn't merely a bunch of individuals doing random different things, but people working together for common cause. There are many reasons why that's crucial, not the least of which is that congress won't pay attention to you if you're just a bunch of disorganized individuals.

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The important thing is doing something.

It beats kvetching.

Bob Kolker

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I think the important thing is to create a rallying point so that it isn't merely a bunch of individuals doing random different things, but people working together for common cause. There are many reasons why that's crucial, not the least of which is that congress won't pay attention to you if you're just a bunch of disorganized individuals.

Working together for a common cause can be a good idea or a bad one. It depends. In this regard, I have plenty of experience to back that up because I've done my share of organizing.

As a professional project manager, I used to organize people toward productive ends for a living. I have also been involved in Republican Party politics, off an on, since 1964. In terms of Objectivist organizing, I founded and ran the Southern California Objectivist Association and grew it to 400+ members in eight years and started and ran the CyberNet e-mail news service that spotlighted "Ayn Rand's Ideas in Action" and included an "Activist Project of the Month" for my 500+ subscribers.

Working together is a good idea if achieving a desired result requires more money, resources, knowledge, and/or expertise than a single person can provide. That would include goals like winning a war, getting millions of high school students to read Ayn Rand, etc.

Sometimes all it takes is one person. Look at what Ayn Rand started all by herself and the influence she has had on millions of individual readers, some of them quite famous and influential, all over the world.

Even with large-scale projects involving millions, it always comes down to a few key people who define and articulate clear, desirable, and achievable goals and all the sub-goals required to achieve those goals, and then monitor the process and keep it on track. Without good leadership, you can have many people working together for common cause and yet still end up with a bunch of individuals doing random different things that accomplish nothing.

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I think the important thing is to create a rallying point so that it isn't merely a bunch of individuals doing random different things, but people working together for common cause. There are many reasons why that's crucial, not the least of which is that congress won't pay attention to you if you're just a bunch of disorganized individuals.

I'm not sure I wholly agree. As Betsy said, there can be many benefits to an organized movement, but I think the number one, most important thing Objectivists can do to help change the culture is just to be Objectivists. What I mean by that is that the most important part of changing the culture is to act as individuals pursuing values rationally. Whether or not that involves organizing with others who share those values is secondary.

My suggestion for number two on the list is to support ARI's efforts in reaching and educating young people, especially OAC and the Free Fountainhead for Teachers project. They're already professionally organized, run by an extremely capable man, and doing a fantastic job of it. Keeping that kind of efficacy in place takes a front seat to new ventures, in my book (but worthwhile new ventures can be valuable too!).

Working together for a common cause can be a good idea or a bad one. It depends. In this regard, I have plenty of experience to back that up because I've done my share of organizing.

What are some of the pitfalls you've come across in the past? One big one that I see is something that goes along with any "subculture." I've been involved in enough "scenes," mostly through my interest in underground music, to know that Objectivism (especially an organized "Objectivist movement"), runs the danger of attracting the kind of people who do what I call "leading a lifestyle," rather than "living a life." And that's not what Objectivism needs to succeed.

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"leading a lifestyle," rather than "living a life."

Just so my labels aren't completely undefined:

"Leading a lifestyle" is acting in attempt to fit oneself to some mold. Where Objectivism is concerned, the basic premise would be: "I want to be a good Objectivist, and X is what a good Objectivist should want, so I'll try and get X (or at least look like I'm trying to get it)."

"Living a life" is acting to pursue one's values, without regard to how that fits into any mold other than reality. The basic premise here is: "I want X, and Objectivism is a great set of guidlines to help me get X, so I'll follow Objectivism until and unless it impedes me from getting X." That last clause, of course, assumes X is a rational value.

Perfect examples of each should be apparent to anyone with a working knowledge of the history of Objectivism, especially those who've read The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. The Brandens were "leading a lifestyle." Ayn Rand was "living a life."

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giving copies of Ayn Rand's books to people you know,

I've "converted" two people in the last year by doing exactly that. :(

or sporting a bumper sticker or t-shirt that says "Ayn Rand was Right,"

It's funny you say that. In an online game I play, you can enter in a comment that other players see when they examine you. Mine says exactly that: "Ayn Rand was Right." :lol:

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Working together for a common cause can be a good idea or a bad one. It depends. In this regard, I have plenty of experience to back that up because I've done my share of organizing.

What are some of the pitfalls you've come across in the past? One big one that I see is something that goes along with any "subculture." I've been involved in enough "scenes," mostly through my interest in underground music, to know that Objectivism (especially an organized "Objectivist movement"), runs the danger of attracting the kind of people who do what I call "leading a lifestyle," rather than "living a life." And that's not what Objectivism needs to succeed.

I don't care if what I am involved in, Objectivism or otherwise, attracts the wrong kind of people as long as it also attracts the right kind of people. The limiting factor is always the number of good people who can do what needs to be done. The real challenge for a leader is finding and encouraging the kind of person he can count on. They are a rare, precious, and necessary asset to any undertaking.

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I have also been involved in Republican Party politics, off an on, since 1964.

Just as we thought, a theocrat. :lol:

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What are some of the pitfalls you've come across in the past? One big one that I see is something that goes along with any "subculture." I've been involved in enough "scenes," mostly through my interest in underground music, to know that Objectivism (especially an organized "Objectivist movement"), runs the danger of attracting the kind of people who do what I call "leading a lifestyle," rather than "living a life." And that's not what Objectivism needs to succeed.

I may comment more later when I have more time, but just to be clear, I am absolutely not saying that Objectivists should organize qua Objectivists; I'm saying that those who value individual rights should organize qua men and for delimited, specific, purely political purposes, just as the Founders did not organize around their religions and philosophies, but organized around specific political agendas, to secure their rights and future against oppressors. It is a huge mistake to think that it's a good goal to try to convert the culture to Objectivism.

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It is a huge mistake to think that it's a good goal to try to convert the culture to Objectivism.

That is certainly not my goal. I know that very few people would be open to Objectivism and make good Objectivists.

Since that's the case, I have my "Rearden Strategy." I target people I regard as Good Objectivist Material ™ and then, using their own values and curiosity as bait, introduce them to Ayn Rand.

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Even with large-scale projects involving millions, it always comes down to a few key people who define and articulate clear, desirable, and achievable goals and all the sub-goals required to achieve those goals, and then monitor the process and keep it on track. Without good leadership, you can have many people working together for common cause and yet still end up with a bunch of individuals doing random different things that accomplish nothing.

Unfortunately it is the Power-Trippers and the Power-Lusters tend to have the best organizational skills. Free folk who have no desire to supervise the doings of others (other than in matters of public health and safety) tend to pursue their private affairs. Good fences make good neighbors and the best people, by and large, mind their own business. As long as it don't scare the horses, let it be. Good people tend not to see the evil motives of evil folk. As the man is, so doth he see. That is a weakness.

This is good news and bad news. In a decent society, people know how to behave and they can afford to mind their own business. In a not so decent society, public things tend to be -ordered-, -organized- and -run-. The best of all societies would be one where the only public things are the roads and the water supply. Everything else would be quite private. Alas! This is not the society we are living in.

I wish you good luck in organizing for the Good, Betsy, but I give 8 to 5 odds against. The Good folks of the world give an unearned advantage to evil which is why evil persists.

Bob Kolker - the older I get the more pessimistic I become.

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Betsy, just out of curiosity, why exactly do you call it the "Rearden" strategy?

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The best of all societies would be one where the only public things are the roads and the water supply. Everything else would be quite private.

There is no reason that these particular services could not be private. Most things which currently operate either wholly or partially by government-force should be entirely private, e.g. health care, postal delivery, parks, education, water, roads, and more.

In a proper, rights-respecting society, the only services which must be public are those which determine and enforce objective law, i.e. politicians, police, and court and military employees. The essence of the government is force, which should be strictly delimited for use in defense of the individual rights of citizens.

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There is no reason that these particular services could not be private. Most things which currently operate either wholly or partially by government-force should be entirely private, e.g. health care, postal delivery, parks, education, water, roads, and more.

In a proper, rights-respecting society, the only services which must be public are those which determine and enforce objective law, i.e. politicians, police, and court and military employees. The essence of the government is force, which should be strictly delimited for use in defense of the individual rights of citizens.

Even if water impounds and roads were privately owned their safety and health conditions would still be a public matter. Disease pathogens that grow in water do not pay attention to whether the water is in a privately owned supply or not. Likewise privately owned roads, bridges and culverts would still be subject to publicly enforced safety standards. So, ownership aside, water and roads are a public matter insofar as safety and health are concerned.

Bob Kolker

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Unfortunately it is the Power-Trippers and the Power-Lusters tend to have the best organizational skills.

The Founders got organized against the power lusters. The problem isn't lack of skills, it's lack of vision, motivation, and leadership.

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Betsy, just out of curiosity, why exactly do you call it the "Rearden" strategy?

Galt and Francisco went after and targeted the Reardens in the world and didn't waste time trying to win over the Jim Taggarts.

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Even if water impounds and roads were privately owned their safety and health conditions would still be a public matter. Disease pathogens that grow in water do not pay attention to whether the water is in a privately owned supply or not. Likewise privately owned roads, bridges and culverts would still be subject to publicly enforced safety standards. So, ownership aside, water and roads are a public matter insofar as safety and health are concerned.

But public doesn't mean "collective" - in your examples, it just means "lots of customers". The same objections you make apply to thousands of other cases, including particularly food production and distribution, as well as drugs, etc. I do *not* feel safer because the U.S. government inspects food or water or drugs (see the lame response to melamine contamination from the Chinese); the best guarantee is a private company eager to make profits for years to come, and able to be sued for civil damages for negligence if they unreasonably screw up. I just read recently about one town that accidentally put too much lye into the town water supply, causing some burns and who knows what else. Ever tried to sue a government? These days it would be easy to have realtime electronic sensor monitoring of final water output, signalling an alarm and shutting off the water if toxic conditions were detected. I can see government bureaucrats clamoring to introduce new technology. (Not)

Also, I and millions of other people have a private well. I've personally seen to the installation of some relatively advanced technology to improve the water quality, and that's for my own family.

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Unfortunately it is the Power-Trippers and the Power-Lusters tend to have the best organizational skills.

It may seem so because there are some well-known power-lusters with big organizations, but observe that the world is full of millions of frustrated, failed, power-lusters too.

Free folk who have no desire to supervise the doings of others (other than in matters of public health and safety) tend to pursue their private affairs.

Sometimes those private, productive affairs lead to to large-scale organizations requiring demonstrable organizational skills such as Rearden Steel or, in real life, Microsoft, General Electric, or the Ayn Rand Institute.

Good people tend not to see the evil motives of evil folk.

They can learn. Look what happened when Rearden discovered the Sanction of the Victim.

I wish you good luck in organizing for the Good, Betsy, but I give 8 to 5 odds against. The Good folks of the world give an unearned advantage to evil which is why evil persists.

We just need to reach the Good people and explain why they should not sanction evil and why they should be proud of their virtues and fight for them. That is task #1. With that done, we can enjoy the natural advantage we have that reality is on our side and the enemy of our enemies.

Bob Kolker - the older I get the more pessimistic I become.

I'm just the opposite. :lol:

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[T]he older I get the more pessimistic I become.

I'm just the opposite. :lol:

By the way, the biggest threat to Objectivism isn't our opponents.

It is the pessimism and passivity within our own ranks that prevents us from doing what needs to be done to win.

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Also, I and millions of other people have a private well. I've personally seen to the installation of some relatively advanced technology to improve the water quality, and that's for my own family.

Indeed. And you do not distribute the contents of your private well to the world about you either. You have the full burden of seeing that the water in your well is drinkable. That means you have test it periodically and make sure the pipes are tight. Nothing wrong with that. If you are careless then you and your family suffer and that is all. Whereas a person in the business of selling water to Many can cause untold damage and woe if he is careless. And that is why even a privately owned water impound must be subject to public (not necessarily governmental) scrutiny. Scope and consequence count for something.

Bob Kolker

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Scope and consequence count for something.

The final quality of my private water is objectively superior to the "public" water around here. That was part of my point that I should have emphasized.

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By the way, the biggest threat to Objectivism isn't our opponents.

It is the pessimism and passivity within our own ranks that prevents us from doing what needs to be done to win.

Exactly.

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