June 21, 2009
The movie is about a fascist society which arises after some catestrophic world wars in which people have decided that the source of strife and suffering is human emotion. As a result, they suppress emotions -- often through the use of chemicals -- and prosecute anyone who is guilty of "sense crimes," which amount to inspiring an emotional response, usually through the collection of art.
I'm not done watching it, so I can't really say if it's an overall good or bad movie, although from the start it bears some similarities to other dystopian movies.
But it made me wonder: is it even possible for people to operate without emotions? I think not.
Your subconscious mind is a vast collection of all the integrations you've made. It's the sum of your ideas and judgments. It has to be subconscious because your conscious mind is busy handling the specifics of your life, like driving to work, doing math, sorting the laundry, etc. But your conscious mind can only hold so many things at once, so your subconscious mind feeds it your basic evaluations of things so that you can direct your actions according to those evaluations. This direction is given in the form of emotions.
Although you may not feel ecstatic joy about washing dishes, you feel a pleasant satisfaction at having completed the task (assuming you're a sensible adult who is running their life like a civilized human being) and revulsion at the idea of having a kitchen strewn with fetid scraps of food and dingy flatware.
"Positive" feelings like joy, happiness, love, satisfaction are signs from your subconscious that you are achieving or maintaining your values, things that matter to you. "Negative" feelings like outrage, anger, anxiety, fear are signs that you're losing something that matters to you or that it's in danger.
Without emotions, you would lack the basic building blocks of motivation for doing anything at all. You would not feel revulsion at the idea of spending your life in bed or joy at having accomplished your goals.
What goals could you possibly have? You might randomly choose some goal or another, but it wouldn't mean anything to you to not pursue it or to achieve it. But I'm not certain that even if a goal were set before you that you'd be able to effectively pursue it, even as a sort of automaton. People's brains just don't work that way.
In order to get ready for work without emotions, you'd have to constantly check back in with your basic premises, all the way up through your most distant abstractions in order to logically justify having a career and being presentable for your work every day. Even if we suppose that you're magically able to retain some memory of that long chain of reasoning, you couldn't possibly keep all of it in the forefront of your brain in order to achieve any goal more distant than perhaps checking the mail, but it would depend on how far the mailbox is away from your sofa.
Emotions just seem to me to be essential to even basic, everyday operations as a human being. So, I think these movies and characters, like Mr. Spock, which operate under the premise that emotions can be avoided, suppressed, or stopped are somewhat absurd, much like stories about ghosts or zombies.
Update: The movie is approaching the end and now I have another idea: even if you managed to somehow operate your life without emotions, that doesn't really prescribe the content of your brain. You could still behave irrationally. You could still act like a maniac -- just not passionately. You could choose to either be an agent of the fascist overlords who are telling everyone to suppress their emotions, or you could be an agent of the overlord's destruction.
May 10, 2009
Of course, there is a humorous take on the story where Maggie is "Maggie Roark" and she attends "Mediocri-Tots" where Toohey tries to crush her creative spirit. She stands up to him and maintains her independence.
All in all, apart from Lisa's dig against Rand as the source of material for right-wingers, it's a pretty positive take.
April 09, 2009
You can't value your life and decide to live with others of your species and say, "They're nothing to me, I don't care if they live or die." That's self-contradiction.In the scenario described, the person calling for help really doesn't lose anything except perhaps cell phone minutes.
Diana's own comments on these emergency scenarios are also interesting:
Rather, as can be seen from Dr. Peikoff's remarks, the problem with "lifeboat ethics" is that the proposed scenarios are concocted so as to produce irresolvable conflicts between people. By various artificial constraints, they make life in society impossible. They preclude any rational solutions to the problem at hand. Is it then any wonder that the results are unseemly? Of course not.This is akin to a point I am going to make in the second part of my own post on this matter.
The general premise behind Objectivist ethics does not change -- that one must make decisions that support life. The problem is that the requirements for life are radically different than they are in every day life. People try to come up with these crazy shipwreck scenarios to get you to choose between dying and stealing or something. Obviously, just because you would steal when it's life-or-death does not mean you would steal when you left your purse in the car.
These crazy situations simply illustrate that context is relevant to ethics. Unlike Kant, no rational person would assert that some particular action is categorically wrong in every situation. (I am of the opinion that Kant must have been an inveterate liar because of how hung up he was on saying that lying is always wrong.)
April 07, 2009
Regarding Huemer, the stuff he's talking about... I don't know where it comes from, but it pervades my teaching at University. My lecturers constantly talk about how things "clash with our intuitions".My remarks at our last meeting last night might be used to formulate a fun and persuasive defense.
And I don't mean, "This might indicate something we should think about more". Oh no, I mean as in, "But this theory can't be quite so true if it clashes so strongly with our intuitions".
They say this with a dead straight face. Sadly, they don't do a course on "Intuitionism", so I can't understand exactly what they mean (so as to defeat it). It's more embedded in everything we do.
I said to the group, "When people talk about intuition as the foundation for ethics and things like that, I feel like a sociopath."
So, what you might ask or say to someone who is arguing from intuition is, "What guidance might you give to a sociopath or someone without this intuitive moral compass?"
One practical problem with "intuitionism" is that it is deliberately vague and does not offer the same guidance to everyone in every situation. In business school, many of my classmates concluded that bribing a public official would be acceptable if that were the common practice in order to do business. (The specific context was a discussion around doing business in India, which has a long-standing and widespread problem with corruption in public officials.) I, however, could not get to the same conclusion as my classmates without significant misgivings.
I think an effective and proper system of ethics would allow someone who is equipped with reason only to come to the correct conclusion about how they should proceed and help them avoid moral conflicts with others.
The strength of this type of argument is that it is another version of the same argument Huemer used. If there is a case in which the principle in question does not work, regardless of how rare that situation is, then the principle must be abandonded. And if you lack this moral compass -- as some people do -- then you cannot rely on intuition.
This was going to be a quick post because I'm late getting ready for work, but one last note:
Intuition is also a form a question begging because it asks us to refer to that which we already believe to defend our beliefs.
A: Why is X the morally proper action?
B: Because our intuition says so.
A: Why does our intuition say so?
At this point, they blank out even though words may continue to come out of their mouths.
B: Because that's what nearly everyone around us believes.
A: Why does nearly everyone around us believe that?
B: Because that's what everyone around them...
And so on.
April 06, 2009
For instance, it is not at all clear to me how a man who is supposed to be committed to reason can actually pose an argument for 'innate ethical knowledge' or 'ethics from common sense' with a straight face. I am attempting to be cautious, however, about rejecting his arguments outright because the reality is that many people use these very same arguments in real life and it is up to us Objectivists to confront these ideas in a persuasive way.
Getting to the Point
Anyway, one portion of the discussion focused on some very strange scenarios that I'm sure you've heard before, scenarios involving dead babies and murders. In general, I'm calling these "emergency" scenarios, really just for the sake of a succinct title, but to describe unusual situations.
Huemer makes a good point that I'll attempt to paraphrase. If we identify a principle and there is one situation in which that principle does not apply, then the principle must be rejected regardless of how rare that situation may be.
Usually, when it comes to emergencies, Objectivists will just disregard them out of hand because they don't apply to everyday life, but Ayn Rand provided the proper guidance for these situations.
It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.So, I'd like to discuss two classes of rare situations and the principles that apply:
“The Ethics of Emergencies,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 47
- Sacrificial Situations
- Exploitive Situations
Exploitive Situations are those cases in which the egoist would be tempted to take advantage of another for the sake of his own interests.
I'll start with Sacrificial Situations.
Before I get into this, it's important that we grant the broadest amount of benefit to these unlikely scenarios. Yes, I know we probably won't encounter these things, but what if we did? What's the moral thing to do?
The principle that we're testing with these unlikely cases is regarding the proper standard for morality. According to Objectivism, we use values to guide our decisions, values which ultimately serve to maintain and promote our lives. Since each individual must hold values for himselfin order to guide his actions, a proper morality is inherently egoistic.
I am going to assume that everyone is rational in these discussions and so I will not say "rational egoism" or "rational egoist" unless it's necessary.
Peter Singer's Drowning Baby
I didn't know this crazy drowning baby scenario was coined by that ethical lunatic, Peter Singer, but Huemer attributes it to him. The situation goes something like this.
Say you're walking along in a lonely place and you encounter a pond in which a child is drowning. If you, the egoist, save the child you will be late for an appointment and sully your clothes. Do you save this child?
Although the egoist's life is not in danger, we acknowledge that this is an emergency situation. The egoist realizes that this is a case in which something he values -- human life -- is in danger. If he does not act, it will be lost. He will have been a party to the destruction of something that, although abstracted from his immediate concerns, represents a benefit to him. Clothes can be washed and appointments can be rescheduled, but reincarnation is just wishful thinking.
The capacity for abstraction is essential to human survival. It's why injustice to another properly outrages us or why the site of a happy couple warms our hearts.
It's also important to note that the rational egoist has a hierarchy of values. Some things are just more important than others. Human life is more important than clean clothes.
Are there situations where you would not save a drowning child? Sure. If you could not swim and you do not know that child, then leaping headlong into the pond would be idiotic and immoral. You might try to save him by some other method, but two dead people only increases the tragedy here.
Are there situations where you would risk your life -- like if you could not swim -- to save a drowning child? Sure. Extraordinary values at risk demand taking extraordinary chances. If it were your own child drowning in that pond, I would wager that any loving parent would risk his own life on the off chance that even in drowning he could give his child the help he needs to live. This is a case where life without the existence of another is unimaginable.
Conclusion: Objectivism is Awesome
The particular context of the situation is essential to making a determination about what would be morally right or wrong, but the principle itself holds.
Next, I'll discuss why Objectivists don't go around killing people for a dollar or just stealing dollars. It's a bit more complicated than drowning babies.
One thing I want to call out is this bit:
One last thing: don’t confuse the criticism of Rand with a left-wing rant. Just as Rand had a problem with manyOn this count he has a point: Objectivism has its detractors on both the right and the left, but I am certain that we should not accept an argument from the mob on this or any other topic.
American conservatives, including Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, many conservatives also reject Rand. Not only did her virulent atheism alienate some conservatives, but her entire body of her work was often rejected by them. Consider the late William F. Buckley, the founder of the conservative National Review wrote: “Ayn Rand is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it fact it was still born.”
Also, "if some rent-seeking, paper-shuffling, value-destroying people try to join you in Galt’s Gulch" then they would have to take the oath and they would have to suffer the consequences of thier incompetence and surely Mr. Chandler isn't arguing for anything else for these people.
March 17, 2009
Happily Gay Me
This is the post I've really wanted to write in this series because I'm gay. And because I'm gay, most of the energy I've directed toward thinking about masculinity and femininity is from within that context. Nevertheless, as I've been pondering this topic of late, I've had lots of little personal insights that have been very exciting to me.
But before I get going on this I do want to make a few items clear.
First of all, I do subscribe to the "nurture" side of the nature v. nurture argument. I do not think one chooses to be gay, but I don't believe that biology plays a role in developing a person's sexuality in any meaningful way. I think that as a person's identity comes together from infancy as one integrates concepts and values and sexual identity is part of that.
I do not think there is or ever will be an effective means of changing an adult person from gay to straight or gay while also retaining their whole identity as an individual. Can you imagine your life if your own sense of gender and sex were removed or altered in some significant way? I can't. Sexual identity is just one manifestation of an individual's consciousness in a particular regard or context.
I am going to disclose a lot about my personal sense of my sexual identity with this post. This is not an invitation to speculate about my sexual proclivities. If you are interested in finding out about that sort of thing you are invited to submit an application to find out about such things first hand.
I am happy with who I am and I am gay. Certain people seem to leap to the conclusion that my ideas about masculinity and femininity make me miserable with myself.
There's a hint of sexism in the conclusion that simply because I think homosexual men aren't "properly masculine" (You'll see.) that I'm self-loathing. I wonder if those people think women just cry themselves to sleep every night for not being men. That would require me evaluating my life as if I were someone else and I'm not and I don't want to be.
One final note: I am going to focus on masculinity and gay men because I'm a gay man and I don't feel like constantly writing "gay and lesbian" and constantly making references to both men and women, but the general principles here can be said to apply to lesbians as well.
Homosexual is Not Normal
"Normal" is such a loaded term and people often assume that it includes an evaluation. Here, I am not suggesting that it is either morally right or wrong. I only mean to say that it is a minority disposition and it is at odds with the concept of masculinity/femininity as derived from the physical reality of men and woman.
See? Doesn't it feel better when I just drop the bomb right at the front?
Picture the characteristics, both physical and psychological, that allow us to form the concepts of masculinity and femininity.
I know they're hard to identify consistently -- particularly in the case of the psychological traits -- because people often think that if a woman is seen with one of those masculine traits then either it's not a masculine trait or she's not feminine. While I think that's a valid question to ask when testing out the concept, I think people make an emotional decision about it because they're unwilling to tell a woman that they're unfeminine in some way.
These sets of characteristics also represent sexual values. They are what one seeks sexually. If the psychological characteristics of masculinity are developed based on the the physical characteristics of what is male and together these traits allow us to build the concept of masculinity (allowing the same sort of logic for the formation of femininity), and because in humans the only options sexually are male and female, then in order to be "properly" one or the other, one must also sexually value the opposite.
It should be noted that there are otherwise masculine gay men and effeminate straight men in the world. There are also effeminate lesbians and butch straight women out there. And people of any sexual orientation may value any combination of masculine and feminine traits in a partner and still be perfectly moral, admirable people.
Nevertheless, deviation from the norm where the properly masculine man is attracted to the properly feminine woman, necessarily means there is some compromise somewhere in those values. This causes many people a lot of conflict and turmoil.
Evaluating Masculinity and Femininity
You can't just change your mind about what you like in a sexual partner. It incredibly hard to identify all of the factors and aspects that go into choices like that, so I don't even know that I would bother trying to change if, for some reason, you think you'd like to like something else.
When I was coming to terms with my homosexuality, I had a big problem reconciling being gay with how I saw myself as a man and what I wanted from life as a man. It was difficult for me to imagine being taken to dinner. Hell, it was initially difficult for me to imagine having any feelings for another man other than sex. Interestingly, though, in many ways I think I've actually become more masculine as I've embraced my homosexuality and stopped treating it as something separate from who I am.
Although there is an element of the is-ought in sexual identity (one is male, therefore one ought to be sexually attracted to females) changing is simply not an option if you're gay and there is no point at all in fretting over whether or not you should be gay. You ARE gay, therefore you ought to be sexually attracted to virtuous gays.
Similarly, one might be tempted to think, "Well, if I am to be a masculine man, then I ought to be attracted to feminine women, but I am sad because I often like when a woman is assertive and that makes me think I am less of a man." Listen. Nothing can make you less of a man or less of a woman. And in terms of moral values one should seek in romance, a particular style of genitalia isn't even on the map.
I believe this element of is-ought is the source of Rand's uglier remarks about homosexuality as when she stated that she believed that it "involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises." Errors, perhaps, but it's impossible for me to view my identity -- least of all my sexual identity -- as corrupt or unfortunate. You should be so lucky to be like me!
You can be moral, happy, healthy regardless of whether or not you're gay, straight, masculine, or feminine. But you might have to work harder at it than if you had grown up more in line with the sexual identity and sexuality that is the norm for your own genitals.
I, personally, am attracted to more masculine men. I find body hair, broad shoulders, and large hands attractive. I like men who are comfortable and unpretentious in their personal space, frank and direct in their interactions, but I dislike masculine pretentions and posturing because they strike me as actually un-masculine and unauthentic.
In considering all of this over the past few weeks, I've come to realize that I am rather feminine. I wouldn't say I'm especially flamboyant unless I'm being silly, but my relationship toward other men in romance tends to be more submissive.
On the other hand, I've long thought that in order to attract the particular type of gay man that I want, I need to be as much like the type of gay man I want as I can be. I think that's very true in terms of moral values, but in terms of sexual values it can actually be a bit of a challenge.
For instance, I have both a desire to have a man court me and a discomfort with constantly accepting those attempts from another. Sometimes I like to make the reservations and pick up the check. I definitely think the desire to "bring home the kill" is a rather masculine trait and I certainly feel a strong desire to impress my mate with my ability to provide for him.
It's common for gay people to simply balance their roles in the relationship, rather than one person constantly being "the man" and the other being "the woman." I'm sure there are people out there who do try to adopt typically straight gender roles in a romantic relationship, but every gay guy I've ever met would not be comfortable in their relationship if things were done that way.
So, there is a tension in gay relationships that has to be moderated by both parties carefully. I think the two men or women have to work together to make sure that neither feels oppressed in the relationship. That is surely the emotional experience one would have if one consistently deferred the expression of one's sexual identity in a relationship.
Obviously, I don't believe this tension is insurmountable, but it can be trouble, just like some heterosexual couples have a little trouble when roles reverse in some way, like if the wife finds herself supporting the family. But when you realize that having small hands doesn't make you an effeminate man, specific issues like the size of hands or income become somewhat inconsequential. After all there was some time when Dominique made more money than Roark and he didn't mind.
Ok, so did you catch all that?
Masculinity and femininity are concepts associated with sexual identity, derived from the the physical differences from men and women and the way in which one experiences those differences in the formation of one's individual psychology as a man or woman.
These differences in psychology affect the optional values that men and women pursue in their lives both in romance and in other areas such as their choice of career.
These concepts translate into values for sex and keeping that direct line to the concrete reality of men and women, we have to conclude that deviations from the essentials of these paradigms create a certain amount of tension in relationships (platonic as well as romantic) for those individuals. This tension may or may not inhibit any particular relationship. A particularly masculine man may not even be comfortable being friends with an effeminate man even if they're both heterosexual, for example.
But I think it is only in relationships where deviations from these archetypes really matter at all and even within relationships such deviations can be overcome and balanced so that one can lead a perfectly moral and happy existence.
So, if you're gay, be gay and use reason as your guide to thrive, prosper and build a happy life for you and your husband or wife. And the same is true for heterosexual couples as well no matter how masculine or feminine they may be.
March 03, 2009
I've been thinking about this so much for so long that I feel like I'm just saying the same things over and over again! But I really do have somewhere I'm trying to go with this.
Before I proceed on to the question of sexual identity in everyday contexts, I'd like to look back at the question of sexual assertiveness. When one thinks of women in sex as portrayed by Ayn Rand, people usually leap to the "rape" of Dominique Francon or Hank and Dagny's rough sex in which she is pinned and bruised during the sex act. In the majority of these cases, the man is the initiator of sex. But she does give a fair amount of time to Dominique and Howard's affair.
We can be sure that Dominique does initiate sex at times and was sometimes the "one one top" but in these descriptions we see that due to their sexual identities, Dominique remains the feminine partner.
[Dominique] tried to demonstrate her power over [Roark]. She stayed away from his house; she waited for him to come to her. He spoiled it by coming too soon; by refusing her the satisfaction of knowing he had waited and struggled against his desire; by surrendering at once. She would say: "Kiss my hand, Roark." He would kneel and kiss her ankle. He defeated her by admitting her power; she could not have the gratification of enforcing it. He would lie at her feet, he would say: "Of course I need you. I go insane when I see you. You can do almost anything you wish with me. Is that what you want to hear? Almost, Dominique. And things you couldn't make me do -- you could put me through hell if you demanded them and I had to refuse you, as I would. Through utter hell, Dominique. Does that please you? Why do you want to know whether you own me? It's so simple. Of course you do. All of me that can be owned. You'll never demand anything else. But you want to know if you could make me suffer. You could. What of it?" The words did not sound like surrender, because they were not torn out of him, but admitted simply and willingly. She felt no thrill of conquest; she felt herself owned more than ever, by a man who could say these things, know them to be true, and still remain controlled and controlling -- as she wanted him to remainI hope that my posts help to elucidate some of what she meant here.
Back Tracking a Bit
At the NY Objectivists meeting yesterday evening, several comments were made that I found useful and illuminating.
One comment that was made was the description of how one forms one's sexual identity primarily without thought to sex -- the fundamental relationship between males and females -- but with an eye to the basic physical reality of one's own existence. This means that boys and girls grow into men and women first through their direct experiences with their own bodies and reality (including the people in reality) with it.
Sex comes later, but by the time it does, how one relates to others of the same and opposite sex have already been colored by those experiences. I think this actually reinforces the argument that masculinity and femininity does also manifest in non-sexual contexts
A masculine sexual identity being defined by a desire to pursue (and the more consistently rational his values, the more valuable and heroic the object of his pursuit) is augmented and reinforced by his biologically fueled aggression, physical strength, spacial reckoning skills, etc.
Similarly, the desire to worship and submit to a man sexually comes to a woman by way of her evolved characteristics which allow her to accept his seed, carry, and nurture his child.
And in sex, the masculine valuer admires the feminine and the feminine valuer values the masculine. But masculinity does not appeal to the masculine because as a pursuer, a fighter, hunter this leads to competition. I'll talk about this tension in gay relationships in the next post.
Of course, we are a special sort of animal and with our rational capacity we develop our concepts and abstractions and our values. It is these values which form the foundation of romance.
It is false to suggest that men and women who love one another do not deeply treasure and admire one another. They certainly do. They hold each other in such high esteem that they would do nearly anything including die for one another.
So, the question here isn't whether or not a properly masculine man may "worship" a properly feminine woman. He can and does in a sense. It also doesn't mean that he cannot submit to her sexually in some specific instance or another. As we've seen in the quotation from The Fountainhead even Ayn Rand thought that he may.
The question is what the feminine values in the masculine and what the masculine values in the feminine. The feminine manifests her female appreciation for masculinity, his strength and "maleness" with worship and submission. The masculine demonstrates his male desire for her woman-ness, her femininity by taking her.
Sex as the Omnipresent Elephant in the Room
Regardless of whether or not you begin with the integration step (seeing how your body is like that of others of your same gender) or the differentiation step (seeing how your body is different from people of the opposite sex) you still end up developing a sense of sex, sexuality, and sexual identity that is different for the masculine man and the feminine woman. Even as one's attitude toward life is colored by one's gender and we call this a man's masculinity or a woman's femininity, it is also colors how one relates to other people.
In responding to the question about a woman president, Rand remarked:
This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men.This makes a lot of sense to me because even though one might not think about sex directly every moment of the day, one does have a sense of one's sexual identity as it relates to everyone else one meets, particularly when the ones one meets are of the sex one desires.
But even without thinking about sex, you still have this subconscious stance that you've developed as you grew and experienced your body as a man or woman.
And based on your experience, you know what male is and therefore masculinity, female and therefore femininity. And as you are aware of your own sexual identity, you know how you relate to those concepts of masculine and feminine.
I have to add in the same qualification that Rand did when she points this out.
This doesn't mean that every time you meet someone of the sex you prefer you think about having sex with them or even that there's a chance that you'll have sex with them. It just means that your subconscious mind assesses them according to the standard of your own sexual identity. If you have a feminine sexual identity and you encounter someone with a masculine sexual identity your sexual-emotional response to them will be one of submission to some degree.
This sexual-emotional response to others will manifest itself in varying degrees, primarily as a "stance" or attitude that you adopt with them. I like how Rand describes it as a "color" because it isn't right that a feminine woman just submits to all men or that a masculine man pursues all women.
Emotions come from one evaluating reality in light of one's values.
Those values might be very simple or optional things, but the most
important values one has are broad-level abstractions, like justice and
independence. Sexually, masculinity and femininity are this sort of
When one encounters another who embodies one's most deeply held values, one experiences emotions of admiration, respect, benevolence, and even a certain type of love. When that same person also embodies one's sexual values that emotion can turn into romantic love.
You can't simply stop valuing even part of what you hold dear. The idea of not valuing something as wonderful as sex, even for a moment, is just so alien and wrong. It's antithetical to the notion of living a life oriented toward happiness and a person's well-being.
So, it's in this way that sex is constantly a part of one's consciousness in every context in which one operates.
How does this emotion manifest itself in attitude and action? Well, consider how other emotions manifest themselves in life, particularly those emotions related to one's general disposition toward life. People who believe the universe is a malevolent place behave differently than people who see existence as a boon. People who are honest with themselves behave differently than those who repress and evade.
During our discussion this evening, we gave lots of examples of men and women behaving differently toward one another. I pointed out that one of the ways I identify other gay men is just by seeing how they relate to other men. Straight men, "properly masculine" men seem to be largely oblivious to other men. Women seem to pay attention to everyone. Men generally like playing and watching sports. Women spend a lot of time on interpersonal relationships.
These are generalities, of course, and there are ready individual exceptions to these things, but when we use expressions like "properly masculine" we're referring not to specific behaviors but how an individual incorporates the essential aspect of his or her sexual identity into his behavior, that being men as hunter and women as "high priestess."
On a Woman President
Ayn Rand held a deep and abiding love for her adopted country. The United States was (is?) the freest country in the world and she saw the presidency as the highest office in the land. The occupant of that office would stand as the leader of the greatest country in the history of human civilization.
I believe that in Ayn Rand's eyes a woman could be morally and intellectually capable of holding the office of president. The challenge for any woman in that role would be that it would stand dissonant with her sexual identity.
During our discussion last Monday, one objection posed to this is that the President isn't actually the boss of everyone in the US. Barak Obama cannot legally walk up to a private citizen and compel him to do his bidding. Nonetheless, the office of the President is the highest political office the political organization to which all US citizens belong: the United States of America. And even though he can't boss us around, he's still our leader.
In discussing Ayn Rand's remarks about a woman president, I believe too many
people get preoccupied with the rather inessential and specific
question of that particular position. This is not about the United States in particular or even politics in particular. It's about projecting a woman's identity qua woman into a position where she would have to behave toward men as if she were a man.
I think Ayn Rand would have had similar concerns for a woman CEO or Board Chairman in business. It would, of course, be up to that particular woman to make that determination for herself, whereas we as citizens vote for the president of our country, which is why Ayn Rand was asked to comment at all.
The determining factor in making the decision about pursuing such positions of power, requires that a woman consider how her sexual identity would mesh with her public identity. How will she maintain her integrity as a woman knowing that she has no peers; knowing that she does, in fact, wield power over all other men even if in that limited range and context?
And, really, the same question is posed to any woman who would take a position of leadership over men. Can she relate to the men she encounters as a woman? Could she fulfill her duties in the position, be fulfilled in her career, and also find sexual satisfaction in her relationship?
So, given our acknowledgment of the fact of there being differences between men and women, physically, psychologically, sexually and everything in between to varying degrees, I think these are legitimate questions. I don't know that I agree with Rand on the specific question of the presidency, but I do agree with the general idea behind her argument here.
Men and Women in Other Contexts
Ayn Rand listed some other roles that she found inappropriate for women in their relationship with men. "It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother." The common theme between these relationships is that they also seek to contradict her sexual values.
It's also important to not here that these are generalizations and individuals have to assess their relationships for themselves just as we discussed above in the specific question of leadership roles. I have many lady-friends whom I would consider properly feminine, but I would not say that I am "properly masculine" so there's one ready exception. Other cases may also exist.
Similarly, properly masculine men would not seek to relate to women as friend, brother, or father, either.
I think platonic relationships such as those listed above between heterosexual men and women are problematic. The closer the friendship the more likely that it will bridge into romance. I have the same issue with male friendships where one or both of the men are gay. (I have mostly female friends. I enjoy the company of men, but the deeper my admiration for a man the more troubled I become about being "not allowed" to begin moving the relationship into romance.)
OK! I've already started talking about gay people and how they monkey with the masculine and feminine paradigms, so I am going to just close this long post down.
Next up: Gays! WOOWOOOOO!
February 26, 2009
Ayn Rand referred to men as the "Prime Mover" in sex, referring to his size, strength, and the necessity of his arousal for sex to occur, as well as the way in which these facts lead to the man being the dominant partner in sex. She also referred to the principle of femininity being "hero-worship."
I'm not quite sure what to make of this "hero-worship" comment, so let's explore that.
Heroes are people of high virtue and of course rational men and women admire other people of high virtue. Virtue is one of those human qua human things, so we can safely say that worship is the more critical portion of the expression with regard to sexual relationships.
But what does it mean for a woman to worship a man? Rand again
It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments.What kind is it? Because obviously men have an intense kind of admiration for virtuous women of strong character and independent value-judgments. So, how are they different?
The answer to these questions has really already been addressed briefly.
For women, it is the admiration of his masculinity in addition to those generally human virtues. It is the admiration for his strength and male physical efficacy, which turns quickly to a desire to be the object of his desire, to be possessed by him. I think there is a clear indication here that "worship" does include a certain amount of sexual submission which stems from the fact that the woman must accept him into her in sex even if she is the initiator of the sex act.
For men, the admiration is the reverse. He loves her female-ness, her femininity, her position as that which he will physically penetrate during the sex act. His desire to to have her and claim her as the most precious value in his life. I think it safe to say here that we could state the principle behind masculinity has "the pursuit of a heroine."
In either case, people should strive rigorously for human virtues. The perspective that separates men and woman here is their physical relationship in sex: him penetrating her.
Initiation and Assertiveness
There was significant resistance in our discussion to the suggestion that women are somehow passive in this process, that they cannot "take charge" in either romance or in sex.
I think women certainly can and should take charge of their romantic and sexual lives. I also think they can seek out a hero in an assertive, but still feminine way. She might make sure that she can sit next to him in a class or she might give him a come hither look from across a crowded room. Even striking up a conversation may be in order.
During our discussion, one of the gentlemen in the group related a story in which a woman approached him and actually gave him her phone number. Although this is fairly assertive, I don't consider this un-feminine or brash. All she has really done is made it clear that she wants him to call her.
I know that some men find their masculinity challenged when a woman is forward in this and other ways, but I think this is silly. What man of virtue wants a woman who allows her life to be ruled by accident and caprice? It is one thing to want a man to take charge in the boudoir, but it is quite another to rely on him to be omniscient.
For instance, I think I am quite a great catch and, although in exploring these ideas of masculinity and femininity I've realized that my own sexual identity does lean toward the feminine, I am willing to court a man if I know that he's receptive. But how am I to know every time some guy is interested in me? Sometimes guys are just thick-headed and unobservant and you have to give clear, unambivalent signals that you're interested.
So, ladies, feel free to be clear about your own intentions as well. And, gentlemen, it is your job to respond to these signals in a masculine way as well. Call the lady. Ask her for a date. Bring her something thoughtful.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this topic, but I think now is a good time to talk about men and women in courtship.
The masculine role is that of the pursuer and the feminine role is that of the pursued.
Those taking the masculine part should apply their energy toward demonstrating their prowess as an achiever of values, a conqueror in his domain, and his desire to have her. This is why it makes sense to me that it is traditionally masculine to bring flowers, candy, or some bauble to a date and why men are so eager to get flashy cars and provide outward demonstrations of their efficacy.
I explained during our discussion on Monday that as a man, I have a very strong desire to provide for my mate. I want to bring him things, nice things. I want to show off for him. "I want to bring home the kill," I said. As far as it relates to the sexual relationship between men an woman, this is the masculine role in romance.
The feminine role means directing effort to being that which the man will desire to have. Wearing pretty clothes that accentuate her distinctly female characteristics, for instance. (I haven't given much thought to the other concrete ways a woman might demonstrate her feminine desirability to a man beyond fashion, frankly.)
I think the process of courtship can be seen somewhat like a game of one-upmanship. He does things to make himself desirable to her as a man and she does things to make herself desirable to him as a woman. Ultimately, as human beings, the hero and heroine are compliments to one another as human beings both in virtue and in their sexual relationship.
Next: Sex as the Omnipresent Elephant in the room
February 25, 2009
More Differences Between Men and Women
We should also observe that there are other general differences between men and women. Men are usually larger and stronger. Women are usually curvier and have a bit less hair on their bodies. These characteristics and others are also "givens" with regard to men and women and it is by these traits -- and numerous man-made differences that we will also look at later -- that we identify men and women at a distance or with limited information, after all, you can't really check for yourself like Crocodile Dundee when you go out and about.
Don't let's forget one key fact about sex: arousal for the man is a minimum for sex. That is to say, he needs to get an erection, while she may not be aroused at all by the act. Without his erection, reproductive sex doesn't happen. (I need not point out the ethical necessity for consent between both parties in sex between rational people.)
These traits are the facts that connect the concepts of "masculine" and "feminine" to reality.
I want to remind again that the differences between men and women do not imply superiority or inferiority on either part. If you look back at Rand's remarks, she is also careful to point this out. So, although men are stronger than women, we do not say that this implies any evaluation in the broader "human qua human" sense.
So, let's look back at what the concepts of masculinity and femininity are for. Ayn Rand gives us a ready clue in the quotation provided at the start of this discussion. "For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is..." Femininity is the quality of being a woman while masculinity refers to the quality of being a man. Femaleness and Maleness. And it goes back to sex. Masculinity and femininity are useful concepts in that they refer to and describe one's sexual identity.
Let's say that again because we did not uncover this aspect of the terminology during our discussion Monday night.
Masculinity and femininity refer to and describe one's sexual identity.
Beyond sexual identity, in other contexts, calling attention to one's sexual identity can read as a non sequitur and even be inappropriate.
Consider the most negative associations you probably have with machismo. Very macho men are often seen as absurd because they call attention to their sexual identity in contexts and situations in which it really just isn't relevant. These are guys who give leering looks at women in the office and things like that. (I accept the notion that being a homosexual male does imply a compromise in one's masculinity.)
The female counterpart to the Macho Man is also not far from our grasp at this point. She's that weak, prissy woman who abdicates her responsibility to deal with reality for the sake of having a man doing things that she should very well be able to do for herself. Things like thinking.
Males and Females in Sex
Before we get carried away with how properly masculine men and properly feminine women act while not in sexual situations and what the guiding principle is behind those behaviors, let's get back to the much more fun basics of this discussion.
The physical differences between men and women are not only present during sex (I'm going to stop saying "reproductive sex" and just assume you know that's what I'm referring to and not other types of sex acts.) but because they are metaphysically given, they become the essence of sexual identity as well as its expression.
Our discussion Monday focused primarily on the female sexual identity, but I am primarily interested in male and so you will have to tolerate that. But if you're a lady, perhaps you can relate to my appreciation for the male sexual identity.
In expressing his sexual identity in sex, the masculine man acts with the physical strength and presence of a man. As a person who appreciates masculinity (this is by no means universal among gay men. More on this later), I will say that the most thrilling aspect of having sex with a man is his relatively large, solid body and strength. Those are the concretes, but even a man who is smaller than his partner or not as strong or fit can still project masculinity in the sexual context through even just his disposition and approach toward sex. Because of those physical traits and the psychological manifestation of those traits, one simply can't avoid the associating the act of taking with the male sexual identity.
Meanwhile, a woman qua woman presents herself as the object of his desire, the thing that he should take. Her physical softness and smaller stature do also have corresponding mental stances just as they do for masculine men. Even as she might seduce a man, she emphasizes her desire to be taken, to receive him.
So, what we see here is that the physical differences between men and women manifest themselves in a psychological disposition or attitude within individuals regardless of that individual's particular characteristics because of the concept of "male" and "female" that we form based on those concrete generalities. This attitude reflects how closely that individual has linked his own individual sexual identity with the concepts of "masculine" and "feminine."
Next up: Hero worship and Initiation
February 24, 2009
Unsurprisingly, I was one of the more vocal participants in the discussion because I have some rather strong ideas about masculinity, in particular to the role it plays within male homosexual relationships, but I still find myself somewhat at a loss when it comes to completely articulating these ideas. I hope to clear up some of my thinking on the topic with this and following posts.
Yes, I predict that this will be a series of posts.
What Started It
The discussion was sparked off comments that Ayn Rand made to McCall's magazine way back in the late 60's regarding a woman president. Miss Rand said that not only would she not vote for a woman president, but that she could not imagine a properly feminine, healthy woman even wanting to be president. She expounded on this a bit in The Objectivist and I think there are few other comments of hers that have so rankled modern, liberal minds as these.
For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value-judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.For anyone who grew up during or after the 1960's, the sexual revolution, and the feminist revolution, on their face these ideas are more than a little controversial. Although Ayn Rand is clear to say that she "does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority" it's difficult to take these comments in any other way.
This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader.
The Objectivist, December, 1968.
Let me start by saying insofar as I understand what is meant here, I actually agree in large part with Ayn Rand although I remain unclear and undecided on the specific issue of the presidency. We'll look at that later.
A Note on Objectivist Terminology
Ayn Rand and Objectivists often use the expression "man qua man" to refer to things that apply to human beings at large both male and female. For instance, we might say, "Living your life man qua man is the foundation of virtue" and that applies to both men and women as human beings. For the sake of this discussion, if I need to refer to things like that, I'll try to remember to say "human qua human" and use the expression "man qua man" to refer to things that are specific to men as males.
I don't know that I will need that, but I just want to state it up front in case it comes up later.
Requirements and Method
In order for masculinity and feminity to be valid concepts, we need to be able to "reverse engineer" them back to facts of reality.
Last night, I was willing to allow a woman to do something "masculine," such as making the first move, but still maintain her femininity. After mulling this over with the group, I sense a contradiction in my understanding of the terms here that I hope to clear up during this discussion.
Whatever we come up with to define these terms, we need something that will allow a fully rational man or woman to be consistently masculine or feminine while also actively, even aggressively, pursuing their values within the context of their lives qua humans.
At the beginning of this discussion, I will be referring to heterosexual unions. This is because homosexual unions are 1) the extreme minority of human sexual relationships and 2) I think they present some special considerations when it comes to masculinity and femininity, which will have to be addressed on their own.
As you'll soon see, I would like to begin with the most basic, fundamental concretes and slowly step to greater and greater abstractions and more complex relationships. The reason for this approach is because I believe these concepts are, in fact, linked to the concrete reality of human beings as a dioecious species, but our rational faculties introduce additional considerations as our relationships become more complex.
SEX ~or~ Our Favorite Parts
It is a well-known fact among doctors and scientists who study such things that men and women are physically different in some rather dramatic and tittilating ways.
I have heard the basic difference stated thusly, "Boys have a penis and girls have a vagina."
When humans meet in sexual congress, the woman's vagina receives the man's penis. I'm stating it this way because much hay was made over whether or not this fact of simple logistics implies anything about the concepts of masculinity and femininity in itself. (I think it does, but in conjunction with other facts about the differences between men and women as we shall shortly discuss.) We could also state the reverse, though: when humans meet in sexual congress, the man's penis penetrates a woman's vagina. That this is the fact of the human reproductive act is the concrete foundation for the concepts of masculine and feminine.
I am not saying that rational, masculine men and rational, feminine women only ever have vaginal intercourse. There are a great number of sexual activities that rational, healthy men and women qua their respective genders may engage in with one another or alone, but that at a basic level vaginal intercourse is the biological pre-requisite for human reproduction via sex.
There are other means of reproduction that do not require that a man and woman actually have sex with one another. These, however, are man-made processes like in vitro fertilization or cloning, while the process of reproducing by vaginal intercourse is metaphysically given and this is where we begin to understand what "masculine" and "feminine" means.
Next time: Other differences between men and women and what it means for sex.
February 10, 2009
December 02, 2008
Under proper governance, I think the state could legitimately force a child to receive insulin, for example, if her life depended on it but her parents for sake of their personal stupidity denied it to her.
There are some other issues, like nutrition, where I think this question becomes a bit tricky and I'm not prepared to address it at present.
But let's do look at the realm of ideas for a minute.
Religion, faith is a fundamentally destructive mental behavior. Teaching a child to stop conceptualizing, stop identifying, stop focusing on reality is a hideous, evil thing to do as a parent.
It's the kind of thing that makes me extremely angry with all the people who are legally protected as parents, adopted or otherwise, by actions of the state.
But the truth is that they are properly politically, even if not ethically, permitted to teach their children all sorts of horrible ideas.
I hate it, but ultimately it is up to children to shrug off the ideas taught to them by their parents. Our freedom as human beings to focus on reality and "reset" our minds so that we learn good mental habits.
It is a particularly liberal mindset, I think, that thinks that someone should step in to protect children from the bad ideas of their parents.
The difference between the medical and philosophical needs of children lies in the difference between the existential and the man-made, the actual and the potential.
No one is denying the strong correlation between idiot parents and idiot children, but in our strenuous focus on reality, we rush to point out that probability is not certainty.
This is why we don't pass laws against teaching children about religion. This is why we don't kick in doors to demand that certain home schooler parents teach evolution or even a round earth. This is why we aren't slap parents in the face for telling their children that shaving will make hair grow back faster and thicker, that Santa Claus is bringing presents later this month, that magnetic fields caused by electricity in wires causes cancer, that drinking milk from plastic bottles will turn little boys into little girls -- or turn them gay!
You are and should be permitted to teach your children any sort of nonsense you like, but you cannot prevent them from finding out different.
Some yahoo on YouTube recently said to me:
What I do care about is my children being exposed to homosexuality as a 'normal' way of life.But not only is it not my or anyone's job to keep your children ignorant, it is our right to spray whatever ideas we want them to know out into the ether for them to soak up when you're not covering their eyes and ears.
It doesn't matter if I or anyone else is right or wrong in what we say because if you hadn't completely abdicated your proper role as parent, your child would be able to tell the difference. But nooooo... you wanted to teach your child to stop thinking, to stop differentiating, to stop focusing on reality and so they learned to "go with the flow" and "seize the day" and "tap into the collective unconscious" and "sense the movement of the holy spirit" and all that. You're right to worry that they'll go along with whatever passes their way because that's the kind of person you taught them to be.
I really hate that so many people are well within their rights as parents to teach their children stupid ideas like Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Communism, or any other thing like that. The list of wrong and stupid ideas is, by definition, infinite. It pisses me off that not only can adults who should know better teach this stuff to children, but that they actually do.
As people with the right ideas, we have our work cut out for us. We not only have to present reality as the truth, but we have to cut through all the mess of horrible ideas that have been presented as the truth prior to these former children. Fortunately, reality is fairly unavoidable at some level.
November 25, 2008
It's easy to get confused and muddled over the particulars and exigencies of one situation or another, but it's so nice and clarifying to review principles.
November 10, 2008
November 19, 2008, 3:30 PM
Griffith Theatre, at the Bryan Center, Duke University (Directions)
As the world struggles with the current financial crisis, we should listen to the executives of successful financial institutions. BB&T is such an institution.
Mr. Allison will outline the causes of today's financial chaos, including the errors that led to the crisis. He will discuss the broader implications for the economy, including the effects on the housing and mortgage industries, and offer economic and political suggestions for both short-term and long-term cures.
John A. Allison became CEO of BB&T on July 7, 1989. At the end of 1989, BB&T was ranked 96th largest bank in the nation with $4.8 billion in assets. After 60 bank and thrift acquisitions, and the implementation of innovative training and measurement programs, the former eastern North Carolina farm bank has grown to become the nation's 14th largest financial holding company. Assets have increased from $4.8 billion, when Allison began his tenure as CEO, to $137 billion today.
Sponsor: The Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace, Duke University
Contact: John Lewis, john.d.lewis (at) duke.edu
October 18, 2008
Well, on last night's show he had Martin Short, Ben Affleck, and Bernie Sanders.
Martin Short is a Canadian Comedian.
Ben Affleck is an Actor.
Bernie Sanders is a member of Congress.
To compose a trio of people more out of touch with reality, they'd have to shoot Martin Short and replace him with Fred Phelps.
I kid. Only a little.
Martin Short is silly enough, but he thinks that the Canadian Health Care System was successful and good. In his astonishingly profound ignorance he actually said that he doesn't "understand why socialism is so bad."
Moving more into the darkness, Ben Affleck is explicitly anti-capitalist. He's passionate about his socialism although I didn't hear him call himself socialist. He's probably just a very energetic and stupid Democrat.
Bernie Sanders is evil. He looks like Elsworth Toohey and he calls himself a Democratic Socialist. As the senator from Vermont, he advocates some of the most wildly destructive legislation and tyranny ever concieved. In a brief outline of things he'd like to see here in America he says, "In Norway, parents get a paid year to care for infants. Finland and Sweden have national health care, free college, affordable housing and a higher standard of living."
In having him on the show, Maher is all but endorsing this vile evil.
Now, I know people, even Maher, would argue that having someone as a guest does not imply his agreement with their positions or political ideology. In fact, he often has Republicans on his show and we know he doesn't agree with them.
The problem is that although he may not agree, he does think their point of view has some intellectual merit. He thinks that there is something to be gained from giving them a forum to communicate, argue, and defend their respective ideas and ideology. He thinks that their ideas contribute to furthering and enriching the political discussion.
That might be true if such people like Bernie Sanders were rational, if he weren't hell bent on using the force of the mob to deny everyone their right to their person, property, and even life.
It's one thing to have a few mistaken premises here and there and to be pursuing the truth through the act of noncontradictory identification. But it's quite another to have stopped reasoning and fully embraced an ideology of tyranny, violence, and intellectual mysticism. There is nothing to be gained by engaging those people in discussion and only harm can come of giving them a pulpit from which to preach their hateful ideology.
But Bill Maher didn't just give Bernie Sanders a pulpit. He sat there listening intently, even smiling approvingly as Sanders went on about how wonderful Norway is and Ben Affleck railed against the accumulation of wealth. He doesn't hold his tongue that way for Republicans or religionists. For those people he engages in the Fox News style of debate wherein one interupts and talks over one's opponent. But for socialists, he lets them go on at length.
The entire display was so disgusting that I had to turn it off.
September 19, 2008
Anyway, before the performance, we walked past the theater for All My Sons, which is notable not only for being a revival of an Arthur Miller play, but for being Katie Holmes' broadway debut. What we saw was even covered in UK papers.
Telegraph: Katie Holmes' Broadway show picketed by Scientology protesters
The actress starred in the first preview performance of All My Sons with husband Tom Cruise looking proudly on.Tigerkitten was given a couple of fliers by members of this group, Anonymous.
Outside, around 30 demonstrators lined the pavement by the Schoenfeld Theatre in New York, loudly protesting against the controversial Church of Scientology.
They shouted "Scientology kills!" and held up posters attacking the religion, which counts Cruise and Holmes as its most high-profile members.
One placard read: "Free Katie - Keep Tom" while another said: "Run, Katie, Run!"
The group called themselves Anonymous and many wore masks. One said: "We are not boycotting Katie, we are not boycotting the play, we are protesting against Scientology." Their placards echoed the message of the 'Free Katie' website set up when the former Dawson's Creek star began dating Cruise in 2005.
This group represents a collective of individuals who perfectly fit the nihilistic, malicious, people I described in my other post.
If I had thought more about it in my last post, I would have remembered this article in the New York Times that I read a while back.
The New York Times: The Trolls Among Us
One afternoon in the spring of 2006, for reasons unknown to those who knew him, Mitchell Henderson, a seventh grader from Rochester, Minn., took a .22-caliber rifle down from a shelf in his parents’ bedroom closet and shot himself in the head. The next morning, Mitchell’s school assembled in the gym to begin mourning. His classmates created a virtual memorial on MySpace and garlanded it with remembrances. One wrote that Mitchell was “an hero to take that shot, to leave us all behind. God do we wish we could take it back. . . . ” Someone e-mailed a clipping of Mitchell’s newspaper obituary to MyDeathSpace.com, a Web site that links to the MySpace pages of the dead. From MyDeathSpace, Mitchell’s page came to the attention of an Internet message board known as /b/ and the “trolls,” as they have come to be called, who dwell there.That Times article is as fascinating as it is terrifying.
/b/ is the designated “random” board of 4chan.org, a group of message boards that draws more than 200 million page views a month. A post consists of an image and a few lines of text. Almost everyone posts as “anonymous.” In effect, this makes /b/ a panopticon in reverse — nobody can see anybody, and everybody can claim to speak from the center. The anonymous denizens of 4chan’s other boards — devoted to travel, fitness and several genres of pornography — refer to the /b/-dwellers as “/b/tards.”
Measured in terms of depravity, insularity and traffic-driven turnover, the culture of /b/ has little precedent. /b/ reads like the inside of a high-school bathroom stall, or an obscene telephone party line, or a blog with no posts and all comments filled with slang that you are too old to understand.
From the handout from "Anonymous:"
Who is Anonymous?The flier goes on at some length in this way. It's a morass of juvenile pseudo-philosophical sneering (and bad grammar) and apparently their only point is that they just like to hurt people.
"We are the face of chaos and the harbingers of judgment. We'll laugh in the face of tragedy. We'll mock those who are in pain. We ruin the lives of other people simply because we can. Hungregs die in a plancrash. We lauch. The nation mourns over a school shooting, we laugh. We're the embodiment of humanity with no remorese, no caring, no love, or no sense of morality."
What does Anonymous represent?
"Anonymous broadly represents the concept of any and all people as an unnamed collective. Anonymous is devoid of humanity, morality, puty, and mercy.
Anonymous works as one, because none of us are as cruel as all of us. Anonymous has no weakness or flaw. Anonymous exploits weaknesses and flaws. Anonymous doesn't have a family or friends."
"'We ruin the lives of other people simply because we can.' It is not needed to know or understand anything about the raid target, 'It is for the lulz.' "
It is shocking and terrifying, which is exactly the point.
I think The Church of Scientology makes a good, challenging target in their eyes because of that organization's reputation for being so rabid about suppressing opposition. I want to emphasize here that their opposition is not ideological at all. Even though their posters appeal to the alleged criminal and oppressive behavior by that group, they say that their objectives in opposing the Church of Scientolog are:
"Bringing the scientology sites down. Tie up phone lines, black faxes. We harass the lawyer and his/her lawfirm. We call them, fax them Goatse [porn] and so on, and complain to his/her boss that she/he is a crack whore/rapist/n---er."In all of these quotations, I've tried to type the spelling and punctuation exactly as it appears in the flier.
This group is scary.
Terrorists don't scare me very much just because I know that they have an ideology that they're trying to stay true to. They're trying to accomplish something. They may pick bad methods, but when someone is going for something, you can at least make a few predictions about what they will and won't do.
This group has no allegiance to integrity or consistency. They don't want anything except to cause misery, suffering, and fear. Any tactic that does that will satisfy them. And any tactic that doesn't do that is fine, too.
I could go on at some length about the contradictions in this flier or about how this makes no sense, but in reality, there is a certain explicitness about it that I like. Even though their words contradict one another, they do strike me as actually being more consistent than most.
So, anyway, there you have it. Those people do exist.
September 13, 2008
I understand people doing things to gain something for themselves or someone they like. I can even understand people doing something and being indifferent toward everyone else.
I imagine a person pushing their way through a crowd and jostling people because they're late for work or need to get to the hospital because someone they love is hurt. I think even terrorists don't blow themselves up on you because they dislike you. They do it because they think either they will help you discover their imaginary friend or that their imaginary friend will benefit from their actions.
I'm not saying that terrorists with "good" intentions aren't evil. Objectively, speaking they are almost the worst people ever. But they mean well.
The road to hell, you know.
But in my general optimism about people, I think they can be persuaded to desist in their wrongness because they actually want to be and do good. They just have to see what is objectively good and then that's what they'll choose to do.
I tend to attribute their wrongness to mostly ignorance.
Of course, when I'm in a bad mood, I am very quick to remember that it is their responsibility to resolve their ignorance. Immediately. And to also stand out of my way.
But even when I'm in a bad mood, it's hard to imagine a person whose conscious philosophic bent is self-destruction. Unlike a terrorist who blows up people in the subway to spread terror and promote their political, religious, or whatever agenda, the true misanthrope seeks to accomplish nothing more than the misery of everyone around them. Ultimately, such an anti-egoism does result in self-destruction.
Can you imagine it?
I was mulling this over with a friend the other night who said he'd known people like this in real life.
There's just no way someone could be very consistent with that disposition. They'd probably starve to death or something. But just being that way a little bit would be crazy obnoxious.
This is like a mean second-hander. I think of second-handers as people who generally try to please other people. But if you're this kind of misanthrope, you derive value from other people's displeasure. I guess it's technically a form of altruism.
I think those people must be very ill and EXTREMELY unpleasant.
Has anyone heard of this? Does this exist?
August 12, 2008
I'm reading a book right now where the people use the phrase "value attribution" instead of "evaluation." They also use the term "commitment" to refer to some people's tendency to adhere blindly to the theories and ideas that they've adopted.
I also hate when people use the term "rational" to describe decisions people would make if they were omniscient or lack any values or context apart from the one assumed by the people describing the decision.
July 22, 2008
Well, Sunday was the last time I intend to hang out with them because the conversation turned to politics and could not be avoided.
One guy advocated seizing a person's property when they die on the basis of the idea that people have no rights when they die. He said that my claim that "rights" was merely an abstraction that he doesn't recognize and that there is no obligation to honor anyone's wishes with regard to their property once they're dead and that no one has a right to property they didn't earn it themselves. The idea behind this was to "level the playing field."
Another girl made the claim that Wal-Mart, specifically, destroys communities in spite of the fact that it does not and I offered to call my mother for her. My mother had a business that was driven out of business when Wal-Mart came to their town. Now, my mother is able to buy more for less and their community is wealthier overall with Wal-Mart representing a crucial part of the economic environment there.
It seems the ignoring basic moral concepts and proven economic principles are activities that come easily to these people.
I thwarted every hypothetical situation they put in front of me even though they were all absolutely ridiculous. In one case, they asked me what a group of people is supposed to do if they live in the middle of some huge tract of non-arable land and Wal-Mart is the only business and they refuse to employ or serve this group. Wal-Mart has never done this and no such place exists, but when I suggested that those people start their own businesses or start walking, they protested saying it costs money to start businesses and to walk.
At one point, they posited a future where houses, computers, food, and everything is produced automatically and perpetually by nanobots. And even though the idea of any such thing happening within our lifetimes is preposterous (And is literally preposterous because it is based on a premise that natural resources are unlimited, which they are not.) they felt that this warrants re-examination of capitalism.
When I pointed out the obvious violation of property rights involved in all of their schemes and the blatant Marxism behind their justification by need, they asked things like "Who owns education?" The idea of education being a service was beyond their comprehension. The idea of it being their right to do or not do as they please with their person was abhorent.
I was actually shocked at how they rejected basic concepts.
Ultimately, I discovered that these people don't even believe that reality is objective. They do not claim certainty about anything. There is absolutely no activity imaginable -- slavery, pederasty, torture, murder -- about which they think their moral protests may be mistaken. Morality is something determined by popular opinion.
I cut off the conversation after this. These were not rational people. They were not interested in figuring out the truth. Evasion and denial of reality is their bread and butter.
So, anyway, I won't spend time with them in the future. They seemed to shrug off our disagreement as unimportant and even invited me to go with them to see movies in the park tomorrow.
It's really tragic that ideas aren't at all important to these people. They will (and already seem to) suffer for it.
May 11, 2008
Comments on the piece demonstrate even more profound ignorance of Objectivism.
Some people insist that Ayn Rand is not a philosopher:
She is in NO way a philosopher.This ignores the body of Rand's nonfiction work which presents her ideas largely in essay form. And they usually go on to say things about how no serious philosopher would even consider her, teach her, read her, think about her, or anything. Of course the existence of Objectivist philosophers and the growing body of academic work on Objectivism bears little or no weight against their prejudices.Another favorite genre of comment are the ones that say that Objectivism leads to Hitler.
She batted ideas around in NOVELS, but is in no way a philosopher either in discoursive form or in her rigor of thought. One could say that she adopted a different form for framing philosophical questions, but the problem is that she is either ignorant or ignores all other philosophical treatments of these questions and her form adds absolutely NOTHING.
But this view breaks down when various individuals' rights come into conflict with each other. Then the person with the greatest power ends up with the greatest rights. The logical extension of this thought is Hitler. His might makes right.Isn't there some kind of colloquial rule in internet debate that the first person to invoke Hitler loses?
Her worldview is so weak because there is no guarantee that the monsters will not win.
And before I talk about the relationship of Ayn Rand to Hitler, I'd like to point out that there is no system of ideas that guarantees that monsters won't "win." Dictators do take control, kill people, and steal a lot of things and impoverish millions. Has anyone seen the headlines from Africa in the last decade or so? All the more reason to fight the ideas that allow those horrible people to come to power at all.Does ethical egoism lead to dictatorships? Would Ayn Rand's ideas have empowered Hitler? The answer is an unequivocal no. I'm not even sure how people come to this conclusion after Rand's extensive writing against things like socialism, totalitarianism, and even Hitler.
This isn't to say that just because Ayn Rand acknowledged the obvious evil that was Hitler that her arguments against it are successful. It is certainly possible for someone to oppose Hitler but argue for the very ideas that lead to his rise.
So, what were Hitler's ideas? He argued that individuals should sacrifice their individual good for the good of the master race. He also subscribed to some crazy form of German mysticism. Ayn Rand argued against racism, mysticism, sacrifice, or any form of the "greater good" beyond an individual's ultimate happiness. This isn't the place to present the complete body of Hitler's nor Ayn Rand's ideas, but I think it sufficient at this point to say that they are exact opposites and it is a stretch to argue that in supporting Hitler's ideas (altruism, for instance) one is somehow also preventing its spread and that arguing for its exact opposite is going to create Hitlers all over the place.
Another form of commentary that is ever so cliche is the banal philosophizing that always ends with accusing Objectivists of being members of a cult or calling Objectivism another religion.
Who said that rationality was even possible? Isn't there a large body of research documenting that we are irrational even when we pretend to be rational?It almost causes me physical pain to see or hear someone trying to use reason to show that reason is invalid or that people are incapable of reason.
I realized that Rand's philosophy was another religion, one whose prophet was Ayne Rand, its gospels were Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, it St. Paul was Leonard Peikoff, its Judas was Nathaniel Branden, etc.
More colorful critics like to compare Ayn Rand to L. Ron Hubbard.
Many of Rand's disciples tend to be much like her. Frustrated, mediocre hacks who also can't hold up their own so-called standards. She's just the Libertarian L Ron Hubbard. How fitting this show debuted on the 58th anniversary of Dianetics appearing.Although, I am amused by the comments that are so blatantly false that one questions the sanity of those making them.
Ayn Rand's "philosophy" may be all right with the selfish, egotistical and ruthless individuals in our midst, but it is not a beneficial doctrine for society as a whole. For several years, nay, decades, this country had been misgoverned and badly administered by people who obviously share Rand's values. Enron, the Katrina disaster and Countrywide are just three examples.I guess what's obvious to some isn't obvious to everyone, particularly when some have gone off their meds. Or this one:
Just like the Shakers the real disciples of Ayn Rand's brand of complete selfishness as godhead are dead or will be soon. Teaching and selfishness are opposites, of course.Just wow.
I wish I could say such remarks are atypical of Rand's critics, but they aren't. Every where you go, when Ayn Rand is brought up, the conversation descends into this sort of crazy. I suppose we could applaud NPR for attracting so many different species of git.
It's just so very tedious.
I rarely comment in threads like that. I try to avoid them. There doesn't seem to be any point in trying to engage those threads.
But in spite of the frustrating amount of garbage in these internet discussions, I am very pleased to see Objectivism taking different approaches to activism and slowly changing minds and disseminating good ideas.
May 08, 2008
Yaron Brook's R's fascinate me. They're not like British R's like James and the Giant Peach --
Look, Mommy! A Rhino, Mommy! It's a Rhino!
-- But they're similar.
His L's are funny, too, but his R's are the most notable to my ear and try as I may, I can't quite imitate it. It's like a French R, but not as far back in his mouth. I think his tongue must be doing something funny and pushing the sound to the front of his mouth.
Is this an Israeli thing or is it a Yaron Brook thing?
Anyway, it's a good video. You should listen to it twice. Once for the message and once for his R's.
April 28, 2008
Since people have dredged up that stupid lapel pin fiasco again, I want to dredge up my own old new item.
Remember when Kofi Anan said that the freedom of speech is not freedom to offend when it totally is exactly that? Don't you just hate that guy?
April 15, 2008
Lots of curse words in that video, so be careful if you're watching at work.
Who knew that Scientology might not be true? I'd like to hear from Katie Holmes...
Thanks to Buddhista for sending this to me!
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