Cometmaker

Activism and Alternatives

40 posts in this topic

Today, of course, the imposition of subjective "preventive law" is much worse than what Ayn Rand warned of in 1962: There are agencies at all levels of government swarming with bureaucrats with discretionary powers to write and change their own "laws" ("regulations") and interpret them as they go along, demanding "permision" for or prohibiting the most routine private actions on private property in the name of "safety" and "the environment". As these arbitrary powers expand, they increase the corruption, the selective application of power, and the personal controls over anyone for almost anything -- because everyone can be decreed "guilty" of some infraction of ambiguous, conflicting, and sweeping rules available for convenient selective application by the bureaucracy.

Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

See the "Activist Projects" forum and many other topics elsewhere.

As Objectivists go, members of THE FORUM are more active than most when it comes to contributing financially and in action to promoting rational alternatives to bad ideas and policies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

See the "Activist Projects" forum and many other topics elsewhere.

As Objectivists go, members of THE FORUM are more active than most when it comes to contributing financially and in action to promoting rational alternatives to bad ideas and policies.

I am aware of that forum. For a situation that affects me personally and immediately, assume that I am one of those who loves what is mine, and more than that, that I love my love of it. For each hour I spend fighting the good fight, I lose my time for living my life that is beyond the reach of that fight. I lose the time and opportunity to gain a tool which will enable me to live this one precious life on earth as I see fit. I lose time in blessed solitude. I lose time from those I love because even if they are engaged in the same fight at the same time, that fight cannot and never will be the entirety of our lives. I lose energy from everything I want to accomplish and experience, and at the end in many cases, what I gain is only the knowledge of all that I knew ought to have been.

It is important to distinguish the importance of taking on activities to promote Objectivism (whether on a specific issue or for the general merits of the philosophy) and fighting for something that is arbitrarily taken away from me within my lifetime at someone's whim, someone who did not work for it and who probably has no capacity to do so. If, at the end of my life my largest and most significant achievement is "only" the fight to gain what is mine by right because I have earned it, and having suffered through years to participate in that fight, I would consider my life to be a brutal waste.

In the current situation I am personally living in, there is more to the depth and breadth of my life than that fight and I have done what I can to ensure that I can live according to my refusal to acknowledge the applicability of certain non-objective, inappropriate laws on me or to me. That task, in itself, has been integrated into my other goals so that the fight to gain all that is rightfully mine is not an end in itself within the very few years that one has to live. I hope this clarifies my response to ewv's comment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

See the "Activist Projects" forum and many other topics elsewhere.

As Objectivists go, members of THE FORUM are more active than most when it comes to contributing financially and in action to promoting rational alternatives to bad ideas and policies.

I am aware of that forum. For a situation that affects me personally and immediately, assume that I am one of those who loves what is mine, and more than that, that I love my love of it. For each hour I spend fighting the good fight, I lose my time for living my life that is beyond the reach of that fight. I lose the time and opportunity to gain a tool which will enable me to live this one precious life on earth as I see fit. I lose time in blessed solitude. I lose time from those I love because even if they are engaged in the same fight at the same time, that fight cannot and never will be the entirety of our lives. I lose energy from everything I want to accomplish and experience, and at the end in many cases, what I gain is only the knowledge of all that I knew ought to have been.

It is important to distinguish the importance of taking on activities to promote Objectivism (whether on a specific issue or for the general merits of the philosophy) and fighting for something that is arbitrarily taken away from me within my lifetime at someone's whim, someone who did not work for it and who probably has no capacity to do so. If, at the end of my life my largest and most significant achievement is "only" the fight to gain what is mine by right because I have earned it, and having suffered through years to participate in that fight, I would consider my life to be a brutal waste.

In the current situation I am personally living in, there is more to the depth and breadth of my life than that fight and I have done what I can to ensure that I can live according to my refusal to acknowledge the applicability of certain non-objective, inappropriate laws on me or to me. That task, in itself, has been integrated into my other goals so that the fight to gain all that is rightfully mine is not an end in itself within the very few years that one has to live. I hope this clarifies my response to ewv's comment.

No it doesn't. You began by responding to comments on Ayn Rand's characterization of preventive law -- and how it has become worse since she warned of it -- with a query on how to fight injustices, then in the next post turned to what sounds like a sweeping, dramatic plea to not waste one's time defending values in reality because it takes time away from an ascetic-like life in an imagined realm where injustices do not occur. The fight itself in defense of values is not an "end in itself" and if one goes through life surrendering what he values because he doesn't want to get his hands dirty while others do achieve and defend their values, then he will in fact get to the end of his life bitterly regretting that it was a "brutal waste". A life-time Ragnar Danneskjöld vs. Dominque Francon is a false alternative. One can always take the "drop out" approach of pretending to be "above it all" by withdrawing from the world, safely pursuing only non-material values that no one else seems to want to take away, and "refusing to acknowledge" threatening laws, all in the hope that you will reach the end of your life before they come after you, but don't be surprised when they come much sooner for something you care about. It may seem easier to eschew mundane "activism" for the pure life of an "intellectual" in which success can always be redefined as something in the indefinite, distant, unrealized future, but real people are in fact joining with others and winning battles that make their values possible here on earth now. They are influencing the course of policy, not just endlessly talking about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No it doesn't. You began by responding to comments on Ayn Rand's characterization of preventive law -- and how it has become worse since she warned of it -- with a query on how to fight injustices, then in the next post turned to what sounds like a sweeping, dramatic plea to not waste one's time defending values in reality because it takes time away from an ascetic-like life in an imagined realm where injustices do not occur.

This itself is a very injust characterization of Cometmaker's response. She is not stating that injustices do not occur. I believe she is saying, and the quote's source should be obvious to any Objectivist:

This was her world, she thought, this was the way men were meant to be and to face their existence—and all the rest of it, all the years of ugliness and struggle were only someone's senseless joke. She smiled at him, as at a fellow conspirator, in relief, in deliverance, in radiant mockery of all the things she would never have to consider important again. He smiled in answer, it was the same smile as her own, as if he felt what she felt and knew what she meant.

"We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered.

"No, we never had to."

One can always take the "drop out" approach of pretending to be "above it all" by withdrawing from the world, safely pursuing only non-material values that no one else seems to want to take away, and "refusing to acknowledge" threatening laws, all in the hope that you will reach the end of your life before they come after you, but don't be surprised when they come much sooner for something you care about.

I can only say that if you understood the scope of what Cometmaker has achieved in her young life to date, you would logically be highly embarassed to make the above statement, particularly regarding "non-material values".

It may seem easier to eschew mundane "activism" for the pure life of an "intellectual" in which success can always be redefined as something in the indefinite, distant, unrealized future, but real people are in fact joining with others and winning battles that make their values possible here on earth now. They are influencing the course of policy, not just endlessly talking about it.

I can only repeat my previous comment. And I'll add: one's individual life and goals are more important than trying to educate brainless drones in Washington and their Dewey-educated millions who elect them.

Somebody is giving up here - but it isn't Cometmaker.

It isn't my goal or desire to be condemnatory here - you know that I respect your brilliant mind - but your tone is injust and you should step back and think long and hard about her real point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It isn't my goal or desire to be condemnatory here - you know that I respect your brilliant mind - but your tone is injust and you should step back and think long and hard about her real point.

My comment was on Cometmaker's post as actually written and quoted in full, not anything else, including Ayn Rand's unrelated passage in Atlas Shrugged at the conclusion of a long successful battle fought at great cost to the protagonists in the novel. Cometmaker did in fact start by asking what can be done to fight the injustices

Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

and then followed by what sounds like a plea not to, as if anyone had said that the fight itself is an end in itself:

I am aware of that forum. For a situation that affects me personally and immediately, assume that I am one of those who loves what is mine, and more than that, that I love my love of it. For each hour I spend fighting the good fight, I lose my time for living my life that is beyond the reach of that fight. I lose the time and opportunity to gain a tool which will enable me to live this one precious life on earth as I see fit. I lose time in blessed solitude. I lose time from those I love because even if they are engaged in the same fight at the same time, that fight cannot and never will be the entirety of our lives. I lose energy from everything I want to accomplish and experience, and at the end in many cases, what I gain is only the knowledge of all that I knew ought to have been.

It is important to distinguish the importance of taking on activities to promote Objectivism (whether on a specific issue or for the general merits of the philosophy) and fighting for something that is arbitrarily taken away from me within my lifetime at someone's whim, someone who did not work for it and who probably has no capacity to do so. If, at the end of my life my largest and most significant achievement is "only" the fight to gain what is mine by right because I have earned it, and having suffered through years to participate in that fight, I would consider my life to be a brutal waste.

In the current situation I am personally living in, there is more to the depth and breadth of my life than that fight and I have done what I can to ensure that I can live according to my refusal to acknowledge the applicability of certain non-objective, inappropriate laws on me or to me. That task, in itself, has been integrated into my other goals so that the fight to gain all that is rightfully mine is not an end in itself within the very few years that one has to live. I hope this clarifies my response to ewv's comment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cometmaker did in fact start by asking what can be done to fight the injustices[...]

You started by misinterpreting what she actually said:

Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

She is abundantly capable of speaking for herself, but the intent of her question was clear to me, if you read it literally, and is consistent with what she wrote later.

There may be some positive improvement in some areas from small scale activism but when the root problems are philosophical - and they are - it's like trying to contain a thousand gallons of jello with a fishing net. The more values one has created, the more he's been attacked, and as you know, including some irreplaceable values. A valid question is how one is going to handle such incidences psychologically. One is unlikely to be able to directly control external circumstances such as the hordes of environmentalists trying to shut down civilization, the hordes of government bureaucrats who want to parasitize values, and the two working in combination. However, one's own actions and mental state are far more in one's own control even given such injustices. For example, if a scientist were told he can't work on stem cells, he can choose to suffer for years over it, or he can make a tactical decision to move to a jurisdiction that *does* allow such work. To suffer for years over it is to have permitted others to control your life in a profound way, both psychologically and existentially.

Ayn Rand did not write carelessly. Note the last two sentences of the Atlas quote:

"We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered.

"No, we never had to."

Not that there wasn't an existential battle to be fought - primarily by convincing the biggest creators to shrug for a time - but the strikers, even in the outside world, did not permit the insanity (and insane actions) of others to be psychologically important to them, and used their intelligence to fight a battle on their own terms, not the enemy's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Activism is a value, and it’s a pursuit many find rewarding. However if other values are more important to you than writing letters to elected representatives and participating in protests, then your time should be prioritized according to that hierarchy. In pursuing any rational value, you fight for reason and reality. It would be a contradiction to defend your highest values by sacrificing them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cometmaker did in fact start by asking what can be done to fight the injustices[...]

You started by misinterpreting what she actually said:

Knowledge of what they are doing is great. It is the first step. But other than writing letters to editors, what strategy are you, or anyone on the Forum, taking to stop suffering?

She is abundantly capable of speaking for herself, but the intent of her question was clear to me, if you read it literally, and is consistent with what she wrote later.

Only if you drop the context, as she may have done herself. Her first post was in response to a comment on the rise of bureaucratic power in the context of the nature of preventive law and Ayn Rand's political opposition to it (in the original thread this was moved from). Most people concerned with relief of unjust government-imposed suffering also think in terms of opposing it in order to change the policies. Cometmaker herself referred to "in addition to writing letters to the editor", a form of activism. It never would have occurred to me to think that anyone here on the Forum would, in the name of "stop the suffering", blame the victims who are defending their values for fighting back as "an end in itself", as if defending personal values were a waste of time in contrast to arguing abstract philosophy, and as if failure were predetermined. We are not stoics or ivory tower Platonists. Apparently such a meaning didn't occur to Betsy either, because she responded "As Objectivists go, members of THE FORUM are more active than most when it comes to contributing financially and in action to promoting rational alternatives to bad ideas and policies."

There may be some positive improvement in some areas from small scale activism but when the root problems are philosophical - and they are - it's like trying to contain a thousand gallons of jello with a fishing net.

Some may be willing to imagine waiting a hundred years or so beyond one's own life time for a philosophical revolution to somehow by unspecified means save the world in pure form, but people act for or against important personal values every day. Ideas do not act as ghosts; change occurs when people think of how to apply them and then act in reality to actually do something about it. There are a small number of people who have in fact made an enormous difference in stopping government policies that would be much worse than what we have now, which unlike "jello in fishing nets" does in fact matter for all our lives. Most Americans are oblivious to much of what the governement is doing to people, let alone what it wants to do and has tried to do that someone else stopped for them. One need not become a full-time Ragnar Danneskjöld to at least try to assist, let alone acknowledge and provide moral support to, a small number of very dedicated and talented individuals, some of whom I know personally, who know what to do and who are making a difference, instead of trashing them as wasting time.

The more values one has created, the more he's been attacked, and as you know, including some irreplaceable values. A valid question is how one is going to handle such incidences psychologically. One is unlikely to be able to directly control external circumstances such as the hordes of environmentalists trying to shut down civilization, the hordes of government bureaucrats who want to parasitize values, and the two working in combination. However, one's own actions and mental state are far more in one's own control even given such injustices. For example, if a scientist were told he can't work on stem cells, he can choose to suffer for years over it, or he can make a tactical decision to move to a jurisdiction that *does* allow such work. To suffer for years over it is to have permitted others to control your life in a profound way, both psychologically and existentially.

Or, he could continue with his work, defending his right to do so, knowing that others are in fact doing just that, as for example what is being done at Harvard and elsewhere with private funding. What is possible to do and whether or not it is feasible to go to another "jurisdiction" depends on a variety of factors. How to deal with injustices psychologically and how one regards its perpetrators is not irrelevant, but neither is it an alternative to thought and action in defense of personal values. As Ayn Rand put it, Americans "do not like to be pushed around". That sense of life is all that has prevented masses of docile people from being displaced by any political thug who wants what they have. It's the intellectuals who have failed to defend them as a matter of justice, and Objectivist intellectuals are supposed to know better. Cometmaker at least does recognize that real people are suffering as a result of government policies most Americans are unaware of because intellectuals, starting with journalists, don't want to talk about it.

Ayn Rand did not write carelessly. Note the last two sentences of the Atlas quote:

"We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered.

"No, we never had to."

Not that there wasn't an existential battle to be fought - primarily by convincing the biggest creators to shrug for a time - but the strikers, even in the outside world, did not permit the insanity (and insane actions) of others to be psychologically important to them, and used their intelligence to fight a battle on their own terms, not the enemy's.

Ayn Rand wrote uncarelessly about a different topic. In the context of the plot, not the theme, the protagonists did in fact fight the bureauracrats (At one extreme, Nat Taggert had killed a state legislator and Dagny killed a guard). Those who eventually joined the strike after years of struggle did in fact give up a lot for the strike, not knowing if or when if would be over in their lifetimes. Of course they took it seriously. That is all in fact part of the plot. To say that because of the nature of their psychology in their estimates of the likes of James Taggert that they didn't take seriously what they were themselves doing in the action of the plot makes no sense.

Ayn Rand also explained that the strike in Atlas Shrugged was a literary device to make the point of who provides the values of civilization, not advocacy of a strike or a withdrawal from the world of today, which she stated would be ineffective and only sacrifice the pursuit of values that are attainable in one's life. The extent to which one can fight on "one's own terms" in a battle caused by someone else who has the monopoly on force is not always open to one's choice. The means presented as open to the characters in Atlas Shrugged were a fictionalized device accelerated and used to make a different point. The villains wielding force here in this world are not all stupid, comical cowards unable to impose their way, and cannot be neutered with dramatic philosophical pronouncements disarming them while hiding out behind a "ray screen". It is in fact possible to fight them, but not by whispering "we never had to take them seriously", which does not stop armed thugs once they have the power they want. Those who want to act to curtail that power had better take the means appropriate to what is still possible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If somebody gets satisfaction from a particular political/ideological battle against irrational laws, more power to them, especially if that's literally their job. And then there are the rest of us who actually want to live our lives doing, to the maximum extent possible, pursuing our own deeply held values.

You are making the somewhat insulting assumptions that simply because I, or Cometmaker, or most Objectivists, would rather not spend that kind of time on such battles that they 1) are not already directly affected by the irrationality, 2) do not already know that fact in excruciating detail and awareness, 3) that such battles are worthy of one's limited time on earth (at least as a general statement applied to every rational individual), 4) that unless one spends a lot of time on such battles that one is a stoic and Platonist, and the list goes on.

Well, let me know when localized activism succeeds in eliminating the income tax, property tax, FDA regulations, and about a million other things that directly and negatively affect me every day. In the meantime, I am going to focus on achieving my values despite such irrationalities, because 1) *other people* are not worth that kind of mental distraction from my either my short term or especially my long term goals, 2) such activism *may* be satisfying to some but that does not change the fact that it fails a lot more often than it succeeds (how's anyone doing with the state of Maine lately?), and the successes are always subject to assault on the whim of the next irrationalist in line (of which they are many), 3) the only kind of activism guaranteed to have long term success, philosophic activism, is also possible to do without any self-sacrifice (and something I've spent time on, e.g. making Ayn Rand's ideas accessible in digital form at a time when very few others gave a damn about that.)

A lot of Americans manifestly *do* like to be pushed around now, and they elect creeps like Spitzer to do it. I am not going to spend the core of my life dealing with them or those that they elect more than absolutely necessary, and if the country becomes so badly off that I'm forced to spend too much time dealing with them, then I'll move and let it continue to go to hell without me - just as people around the world are now dropping the once venerated dollar despite the sputtering disbelief of Washington. That's the justice of reality taking its toll.

The bottom line, in my view, remains: there are personal and sacred values that *will* be sacrificed to a *far greater extent* by expending one's limited years on a losing battle, than to either work around such irrationalities or move away from them and let them consume other victims - just as, within America, companies and individuals have moved out of New York/New York City to freer states, or from America to other places where they can pursue their values more freely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ayn Rand also explained that the strike in Atlas Shrugged was a literary device to make the point of who provides the values of civilization, not advocacy of a strike or a withdrawal from the world of today, which she stated would be ineffective and only sacrifice the pursuit of values that are attainable in one's life. The extent to which one can fight on "one's own terms" in a battle caused by someone else who has the monopoly on force is not always open to one's choice. The means presented as open to the characters in Atlas Shrugged were a fictionalized device accelerated and used to make a different point. The villains wielding force here in this world are not all stupid, comical cowards unable to impose their way, and cannot be neutered with dramatic philosophical pronouncements disarming them while hiding out behind a "ray screen". It is in fact possible to fight them, but not by whispering "we never had to take them seriously", which does not stop armed thugs once they have the power they want. Those who want to act to curtail that power had better take the means appropriate to what is still possible.

Do you mean to imply that Objectivists have some moral obligation to engage in political activism?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Only if you drop the context, as she may have done herself. Her first post was in response to a comment on the rise of bureaucratic power in the context of the nature of preventive law and Ayn Rand's political opposition to it (in the original thread this was moved from).[...]

You also wrote in your previous March 12th post:

"You began by responding to comments on Ayn Rand's characterization of preventive law -- and how it has become worse since she warned of it -- with a query on how to fight injustices..."

May I refer you back to what those specific comments about what is happening to each of us today and every day, and to which I responded. I did not ask how to fight injustices. I asked what your, or anyone's, plan is to stop suffering given that you are rightfully fighting injustices in an environment where there are "personal controls over anyone for almost anything -- because everyone can be decreed "guilty" of some infraction of ambiguous, conflicting, and sweeping rules available for convenient selective application by the bureaucracy.". If you read the rest of what you have repeatedly now quoted of what I did write, "...having suffered through years to participate in that fight..." there is no contemplation of how to fight or whether one should fight for specific values (as opposed to all the ones that are being attacked).

[...]Cometmaker herself referred to "in addition to writing letters to the editor", a form of activism. It never would have occurred to me to think that anyone here on the Forum would, in the name of "stop the suffering", blame the victims who are defending their values for fighting back as "an end in itself", as if defending personal values were a waste of time in contrast to arguing abstract philosophy, and as if failure were predetermined. We are not stoics or ivory tower Platonists.

It would never have occurred to me that my words could be used by someone who is fighting injustices as I am in this manner. I am not blaming you or anyone who fights against injustices for anything, except granting evil a greater portion of your life and valuable time than it deserves. Considering that "...everyone can be decreed "guilty" of some infraction..." my meaning is that one suffers not only through the specific fight(s) for values one chooses, but also in nearly every aspect of life that is not specifically tailored and chosen by oneself. The invasion of bureaucracy into nearly every aspect of life is all the more reason not to allow the fight for values to encompass one's entire life by creating circumstances in which you are more protected than not (from the pervasive controls) outside of the fight(s) that one has chosen. My initial question asked how and what circumstances you plan to create or are creating. My follow-up post encompassed this in response to Betsy's misunderstanding of my initial question.

"...One can always take the "drop out" approach of pretending to be "above it all" by withdrawing from the world, safely pursuing only non-material values that no one else seems to want to take away, and "refusing to acknowledge" threatening laws, all in the hope that you will reach the end of your life before they come after you, but don't be surprised when they come much sooner for something you care about. It may seem easier to eschew mundane "activism" for the pure life of the "intellectual"...not just endlessly talking about it."

Looters already have tried and are taking some parts of everything I care about, and I have taken steps to defend my property through some means I have referred to on the Forum. I have successfully helped to fight against legislation that would limit my ability to earn money in my chosen fields such as polo horse cloning and prevent the advance of industry by way of injurious patent laws, if they had been passed. I cannot access the exact figures I hae spent fighting injustices to date at this moment (but I do not think a disclosure of the dollar figures I have spent are directly on point) which would be useful to justifiably ask you not to imply that I have eschewed "activism" or that I care only for "non-material values", which is a self-contradictory term.

Some may be willing to imagine waiting a hundred years or so beyond one's own life time for a philosophical revolution to somehow by unspecified means save the world in pure form, but people act for or against important personal values every day. [...]instead of trashing them as wasting time.

I have not attempted to trash you or anyone for "wasting time", considering that I devote considerable time and resources to protect everything I have from non-objective laws and their mongers. I wrote that "...I have done what I can to ensure that I can live according to my refusal to acknowledge the applicability of certain non-objective, inappropriate laws on me or to me." I did not suggest in my responses that you, or anyone, do as I do and break some American laws, or move assets abroad as I do, while those few who are fighting to help protect themselves (and by extension, me) are working on changing laws during their lifetimes. There are many on the Forum who are over the age of 40. Whether it's me personally or those over age 40, there aren't too many decades left to live one's life outside of the specific battles one is fighting, especially when nearly every aspect of life is under attack. My response to Betsy addresses why the fight cannot be one's entire life, because it was clear it was not understood that I was referring to suffering in life during and outside of one's battles for values. Ayn Rand certainly did not suggest breaking laws, and this is not a Libertarian or anarchic-collectivist forum. The lack of elaboration on precisely how I choose to break some American laws does not, however, lend itself to your interpretation of my words.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ayn Rand also explained that the strike in Atlas Shrugged was a literary device to make the point of who provides the values of civilization, not advocacy of a strike or a withdrawal from the world of today, which she stated would be ineffective and only sacrifice the pursuit of values that are attainable in one's life. The extent to which one can fight on "one's own terms" in a battle caused by someone else who has the monopoly on force is not always open to one's choice. The means presented as open to the characters in Atlas Shrugged were a fictionalized device accelerated and used to make a different point. The villains wielding force here in this world are not all stupid, comical cowards unable to impose their way, and cannot be neutered with dramatic philosophical pronouncements disarming them while hiding out behind a "ray screen". It is in fact possible to fight them, but not by whispering "we never had to take them seriously", which does not stop armed thugs once they have the power they want. Those who want to act to curtail that power had better take the means appropriate to what is still possible.

Do you mean to imply that Objectivists have some moral obligation to engage in political activism?

It depends on what you want to accomplish and how effective you want to be. There are many different kinds of political activism, ranging from defending your own values when they are attacked, to lending occasional help or moral support to others doing most of the work in some realm, to engagement in more organized activities like elections or political parties. The actual activities can range from research and analysis to personal contacts with different kinds of people in different roles. Many Objectivists are terribly naive about how the political process works and how to effectively influence it in realms for which that is possible, thinking of themselves as fighting for freedom while in fact accomplishing nothing with armchair philosophizing (or pronouncements) or giving up because they don't how to do it or what is possible. My comments above on Atlas Shrugged were made in a specific context, and contrasted the purpose of the fictional devices in the plot with what is realistic for goals and means in contemporary society. Ayn Rand was not advocating a strike.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Many Objectivists are terribly naive about how the political process works and how to effectively influence it in realms for which that is possible, thinking of themselves as fighting for freedom while in fact accomplishing nothing with armchair philosophizing (or pronouncements) or giving up because they don't how to do it or what is possible.

And then there are those who understand that without better philosophic ideas, the same morass of irrationality that acts politically will keep coming back on a daily basis, and with each new generation. Has the state of Maine been beaten back lately? Has your political activism been notably successful, especially in regards to your own life?

Ayn Rand was not advocating a strike.

Not a general strike, no (at least, not in 1957). Nor was I. The quote I offered shows a *personal*, *non-social* issue contrasting what is really important with such social activities/political battles, and is not dependent on the particular fictional context of the strike. Ayn Rand certainly approved of brain drains, e.g. better men choosing to pick up and leave jurisdictions that parasitize and hobble them, and she certainly approved of living a happy life, here on earth.

If there are "armchair philosophers", there are also "armchair activists", those who equate motion with action and not even systematically recording resources expended vs. gains made, who equate temporary gains with permanent ratcheting; and exhausting and emotionally draining battles with undaunted bureaucrats with unlimited resources who couldn't care less, as a noble fight worthy of emulation.

My point is simple: if such a fight, which beyond a certain point cannot really make permanent gains without changing the culture driving and enabling those bureaucrats, results in years of unhappiness in one's life, then the fight is a sacrifice, not a net gain. The concept of "cutting your losses", not throwing good money/time after lost money/time, is perfectly valid and rational. When Ayn Rand left Russia, Einstein left Germany, colonists left England in the 1600s (and doctors in the 20th century), companies left New York City, they left behind certain values for the sake of the actual possibility of achieving greater values and happiness in the rest of their lives. Staying to fight would have been a senseless waste of their lives, because there is a point when a problem is systemic and cultural and, as a matter of actual facts of reality vs. wishful thinking, cannot be fixed by activism that erroneously assumes that his "fellow citizens" can still think logically or have an actual desire for independence. One might be able to non-sacrificially get, say, property taxes lowered; to get them repealed entirely is an altogether different fight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It depends on what you want to accomplish and how effective you want to be. There are many different kinds of political activism, ranging from defending your own values when they are attacked, to lending occasional help or moral support to others doing most of the work in some realm, to engagement in more organized activities like elections or political parties.

Ok.

thinking of themselves as fighting for freedom while in fact accomplishing nothing with armchair philosophizing (or pronouncements)

Could you define "armchair philosophizing"? What specific activities are you arguing are ineffective?

or giving up because they don't how to do it or what is possible. My comments above on Atlas Shrugged were made in a specific context, and contrasted the purpose of the fictional devices in the plot with what is realistic for goals and means in contemporary society. Ayn Rand was not advocating a strike.

I don't think anyone here has advocated a strike. At most, Cometmaker referred to moving assets outside the reach of government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It depends on what you want to accomplish and how effective you want to be. There are many different kinds of political activism, ranging from defending your own values when they are attacked, to lending occasional help or moral support to others doing most of the work in some realm, to engagement in more organized activities like elections or political parties.

Ok.

thinking of themselves as fighting for freedom while in fact accomplishing nothing with armchair philosophizing (or pronouncements)

Could you define "armchair philosophizing"? What specific activities are you arguing are ineffective?

I am referring to people who do essentially nothing ("armchair activists"), in the name of "philosophy", because they have been told that philosophy is important, while ineffectively pontificating generalities either to people who already agree with them or to a public that doesn't understand the relevance of what they are talking about -- which doesn't even qualify as intellectual activism, let alone political activity. Someone who wants to make a difference politically, even in the realm of, say, a letter to the editor, should learn enough about the issues to be able to explain some important aspect framed in a way that explains a possible alternative actually available in the context of the present. (Libertarians are especially notorious for not operating in the real world of politics, advocating -- even when they are right -- actions which are not going to happen any time in the forseeable future and which are more controversial than what they are trying to oppose -- while remaining apart from where decisions are actually being made.) Applying specific knowledge to expose what some government agency or pressure group, for example, is actually doing and why is especially important on issues in which there is a lot of ignorant or dishonest media spin. But even that is no substitute for a closer involvement with people or campaigns that are actually making a difference in the present. Turning one's nose up at that in the name of "philosophy" does not help.

or giving up because they don't how to do it or what is possible. My comments above on Atlas Shrugged were made in a specific context, and contrasted the purpose of the fictional devices in the plot with what is realistic for goals and means in contemporary society. Ayn Rand was not advocating a strike.

I don't think anyone here has advocated a strike. At most, Cometmaker referred to moving assets outside the reach of government.

Not explicitly a "strike", but the plot in Atlas Shrugged has been misused to advocate a withdrawal in the face of adversity, which wasn't Ayn Rand's point either. (And some people do misunderstand the use of the strike as a fictional device, e.g., Arthur Robinson in a recent issue of Access to Energy.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ewv, the decision to withdraw or fight belongs in the spirit of each person who has to decide it. It's not a moral duty, and many people have chosen withdrawal from the world long prior to Atlas Shrugged, and many people will (hopefully) still choose to fight after it's been published.

I do agree with a point of yours, that most people don't put in the effort to influence the world above and beyond their normal course of life. Acting on rational values is defending them, but only in a very vague and roundabout way. Defending rational values by persuasively and powerfully fighting for them, is really what's meant by defending them. It's not Cometmaker's duty to fight and make an exertion when she believes she's not capable of it; but for others that choice is still open, and not enough people are making it. It's not enough to be an 'average person' with good values. You need to lead the country in a certain way, learn to write exceptionally, understand the political process exceptionally, have substantial money which you can use and spend on important causes, understand history and underlying causes exceptionally, in short be an exceptional person generally. A titan of an industry, a captain of publishing, some person of great energy and influence. Too many people have taken the 'average road' even right when Atlas was published; I seem to remember reading how unhappy AR was that no great men approached her or came about as a result of her work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Which by the way wasn't meant to impugn Cometmaker's capacity or ability in any way. Whether we recede or actively engage in the world depends on intensely personal and precious reasons; and has nothing to do with the efficacy we'd display were we to actively participate in the world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[...]It's not Cometmaker's duty to fight and make an exertion when she believes she's not capable of it; but for others that choice is still open, and not enough people are making it.

Reading the context of your posts, I see it is necessary to once again state that this was not at all what I stated, and that is not my position. In fact and especially after my elaboration, it is not possible to make this statement truthfully, indicating that not only am I not fighting, but that I am "not capable of it".

Perhaps when you have done even a quarter of what I have to: 1. fight irrational laws which would limit the creativity and productivity of Americans 2. work with International Baccalaureate (diploma programme) schools to maintain fiction and non-fiction works of Ayn Rand in flagship school libraries, which will eventually mean standardization in maintaining Miss Rand's works in every school where the IB Diploma Programme is available.

If you're not going to make factual references to the "intensely personal and precious reasons" I did state in favour of fighting and inquiring how others fighting are averting psychological distortion, then at least please let us know at such time when you can make the claim in relative terms that "I" am "not capable of [fighting]". (Emphasis mine.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ewv, the decision to withdraw or fight belongs in the spirit of each person who has to decide it. It's not a moral duty, and many people have chosen withdrawal from the world long prior to Atlas Shrugged, and many people will (hopefully) still choose to fight after it's been published.

No one said there is a "duty" to do anything. See Ayn Rand's "Causality Versus Duty" in Philosophy: Who Needs It.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Too many people have taken the 'average road' even right when Atlas was published; I seem to remember reading how unhappy AR was that no great men approached her or came about as a result of her work.
Are you literally stating that Objectivism had produced no great men?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are you literally stating that Objectivism had produced no great men?

I meant 'has', not 'had'. I'm mixing up imperfect and past.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Too many people have taken the 'average road' even right when Atlas was published; I seem to remember reading how unhappy AR was that no great men approached her or came about as a result of her work.
Are you literally stating that Objectivism had produced no great men?

I suspect that the reference is 'men of influence' who would put her ideas to work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Too many people have taken the 'average road' even right when Atlas was published; I seem to remember reading how unhappy AR was that no great men approached her or came about as a result of her work.
Are you literally stating that Objectivism had produced no great men?

I suspect that the reference is 'men of influence' who would put her ideas to work.

I would rather that he state directly what it means.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No one said there is a "duty" to do anything. See Ayn Rand's "Causality Versus Duty" in Philosophy: Who Needs It.

I don't think that it was FC's purpose to say that you proposed a duty. He was merely pointing out a fact. Why would he need to read something with which he agrees?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites