Most people (implicitly) understand that the political/religious “beliefs” (and the “practices” associated with such “beliefs”) of any particular individual are fairly easy to predict. In fact, the single most reliable predictor of such things boils down to “Demography”.
For example: if an individual has the misfortune to be “born into” a specific ethnoreligious subculture (say — the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, Hasidic Jewish community, etc.), then it is overwhelmingly likely that — IF the individual is interested in religion at all — the individual in question will engage in the “practices” associated with that ethnoreligious community, and will at least PRETEND to “believe” the particular metaphysics associated therewith.
The same goes for the “political” beliefs and practices of the vast majority of “individuals”, as well: the vast majority of any given population *will* implicitly or explicitly operate solidly within the social/political/economic/philosophical context imposed on them by OTHERS — typically, their “significant” others (relatives, the broader demographic “Community” with whom thier relatives identify, et.c).
For any specific demographic “group”, there is an associated “Overton Window” – a (narrow) range of “permitted” variation, within which individuals will not be viewed as ‘deviant” or “transgressive”.
(This permits and encourages the illusion of “individuality”, in that members of any particular “demographic group” are permitted to “choose” among a few, extremely circumscribed and “pre-scripted” versions of whichever externally-imposed “identity” they’ve been “assigned” as their “social role”.
An example of this is the range of “options” among the “Jewish Community”:
For example: an individual “raised” within a Hasicid community is exceedingly unlikely to abandon the notion of “jewishness”, as such. Most likely — if he or she expresses “doubts” about the strictures/insularity etc. which are endemic to Hasidic populations, he or she will “naturally” gravitate toward the least “liberal” (but non-hasidic) “jewish” subculture which is readily available.
Another example (more personallly familiar to me): the tendency for “Former Amish” to gravitate toward “strict” mennonite.
In most cases, individuals are exceedingly likely that the individual will exhibit a very specific combination of ignorance and arrogance:
- The individual will be (largely) ignorant of the beliefs/practices associated with other (“foreign”) ethnoreligious/political subcultures
- The individual will be arrogant about the (purportedly self-evident) superiority of his/her own ethnoreligious/political subculture.
This vicious combination is reflected in such trite slogans about how you “can’t take the country out of the boy”, or how “demography is destiny”.
The above combination of ignorance and arrogance is often rationalized as mere “conservatism”, or “reverence for tradition”, or suchlike.
The tragic thing about this is: it is exceedingly difficult for the vast majority of individuals to question — let alone repudiate — whatever (externally-imposed) “identity” was perpetrated on them, during childhood.
It ie exceedingly unlikely that any particular individual will expend effort learning about “foreign” ethnoreligious/political subcultures.
The sad truth is: Most persons are, fundamentally, extremely cowardly and psychologically crippled. The tragic thing is: the vast majority of what is euphemistically described as “socialization” consists of destroying the ability for an individual to EVER break out of the psychosocial “box” perpetrated on them during childhood.
The process is (broadly) similar to that used to “train” an Elephant
It starts when they’re babies…
Chaining an elephant isn’t as simple as just putting a chain around its leg – an adult elephant would snap that chain without even noticing the effort.
The way to chain an elephant is to start when it’s a baby. You don’t even need a chain – a strong rope will do.
The baby elephant will struggle, but eventually it will realize that it can’t break the rope, and even worse, continuing to struggle creates a painful burn on its leg. The baby elephant learns not to struggle – it accepts that the limit imposed by the rope or chain is permanent, and there is no use struggling against it.
Sure, the elephant grows up, and becomes the most powerful land mammal on the face of the earth. But the chains in its mind remain, and so the chains on its leg are never broken.
Man cannot survive on the perceptual level of his consciousness; his senses do not provide him with an automatic guidance, they do not give him the knowledge he needs, only the material of knowledge, which his mind has to integrate. Man is the only living species who has to perceive reality—which means: to be conscious—by choice. But he shares with other species the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction. For an animal, the question of survival is primarily physical; for man, primarily epistemological.
Man’s unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself. If a drought strikes them, animals perish—man builds irrigation canals; if a flood strikes them, animals perish—man builds dams; if a carnivorous pack attacks them animals perish—man writes the Constitution of the United States. But one does not obtain food, safety or freedom—by instinct.
Consciousness—for those living organisms which possess it—is the basic means of survival. For man, the basic means of survival is reason. Man cannot survive, as animals do, by the guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as “hunger”), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous. He cannot provide for his simplest physical needs without a process of thought. He needs a process of thought to discover how to plant and grow his food or how to make weapons for hunting. His percepts might lead him to a cave, if one is available—but to build the simplest shelter, he needs a process of thought. No percepts and no “instincts” will tell him how to light a fire, how to weave cloth, how to forge tools, how to make a wheel, how to make an airplane, how to perform an appendectomy, how to produce an electric light bulb or an electronic tube or a cyclotron or a box of matches. Yet his life depends on such knowledge—and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide
This leads me to my basic “gripe” with Ayn Rand, and pretty much every self-proclaimed “objectivist” downstream from her: NONE of them follow through consistently.
The “Objectivist” movement has consisted of an unbroken string of failures, and squandered opportunities:
Instead of actually presenting “her” philosophical system (or at least the core essentials of it) in a readily-accessible form, Rand elected to initially present it via a series of “threads” woven through various works of fiction. This has allowed — even encouraged — those who (for whatever reason) want to summarily dismiss “her” ideas without any substantive examination, merely on that basis, and (more often than not) with an extremely tenough grasp of what “her” ideas actually were:
A “textbook” example of this came to my attention back around 2005 or so, when I first began trying to follow up on my initial reading of Anthem, back in High School:
My local Waldenbooks exhibited several glaring problems:
- They never bothered to stock any of Rand’s “nonfiction” (Philosophy: who needs it?, Captalism, the unknown ideal, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology), etc.
- While they did stock Rand’s two most famous novels (Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead), they were pervasively ignorant of what the novels themselves actually contained.
For example: the one clerk who actually seemed to be at least semi-literate enough to actually read at least some of the books sold in that location was hung up on the fact that Ayn Rand had (supposedly) advocated “selfishness” – without any understanding of what Rand had actually meant by that term. Quite frankly, the way Ayn Rand (and subsequent “Objectivists”) use terms like “selfishness” and “altruism” is significantly different from the way Non-Objectivists commonly use those terms.
Inteestingly, ARI’s “faction” tends to simply dismiss this issue out of hand — which is pretty much inevitable, given their explicit tendency to treat Ayn Rand’s published writings as the equivalent of “scripture”. The other major faction (led by david Kelley, and spearheaded by “The Atlas Society”), not only explicitly understand the problem with Rand’s idiosyncratic use of such terms, but — more importantly — they often attempt to bridge the conceptual gap imposed by “Randroid” vocabulary:
For example, in the following two videos, Marsha Enright and Neera Badhwar attempt to confront this issue:
2. The other main problem with Rand is: her stubborn refusal to actually engage in dialog with the Aristotelian/Neo-Aristotelian philosophical tradition — even though she claimed to acknowledge a “philosophical debt” to Aristotle, himself.
Ayn Rand could have explicitly presented “her” philosophy as (in effect) a distinct “school” of Neo-Aristotelianism — BUT SHE DIDN’T.
Ayn Rand could have presented “her” philosophy in an orderly fashion — but she didn’t.
Ayn Rand could have actually thought through the implications (and probably outcome) of her “affair” with Nathaniel Branden — but she didn’t.
Ayn Rand could have realized that designating a “legal and intellectual heir” to serve as the “official spokesman for Objectivism” (IE: an “Objectivist Papacy”) was an exceedingly stupid idea — but she didn’t.
Most importantly, she COULD HAVE presented “her” ideas in a way that didn’t rely on “shock value” and other “gimmicks!” (“Ooh! She’s advocating ‘selfishness’ — that’s SOOOO transgressive and ‘edgy’!”) — but she didn’t.
As a result, the “Objectivist movement” — in both “flavors” — is a (near) total failure:
ARI is little more than a (particularly transparent attempt to sell as many copies of Rand’s books as possible, and in so doing, funnel ever more “rolayties” into Leonard Peikoff’s pockets.
“Atlas Society” are too timid and vacilating to EVER produce anything substantive (like, for example, actually completing “Logical Structure of Objectivism” — which has been in “open beta” for at least 15 years.
“Atlas Society” may consider itself to be a “home for homeless Objectivists”, but, qua organization, it isn’t really that much different from (say) the “Ford Hall Forum”.
Quite frankly, the only demographic being actively served by either ARI or Atlas Society are: the demographic most readily able to attend their various lectures and conferences. (Hint: that is definitely not the demographics most in need of whatever “Objectivism” has to offer.
For one thing, the audiences are overwhelmingly “White”, and tend to be the sort of people who can actually afford the admission). Sure, both Atlas Society and ARI have taken to uploading videos of their conference presentations to Youtube (and most likely selling copies on DVD, as well) — but that’s pretty much useless to (say) someone “raised” in an extremely insular, poorly-educated, rural, “Bible Belt”-type community in “Appalachia”, somewhere — the sort of person most likely to become ideological cannon-fodder for the would-be Theocrats Peikoff was panicking about in his book about the DIM hypothesis.
“Billy Bob” is never going to even find out about ARI or Atlas Society. Given the average level of “literacy’ here in the U.S. (only 15% of the population are actually “proficient” readers0, and the increasingly dismal outcome of what passes for the “Public School” system, etc. — he’s infinitely more likely to uncritically “buy into” whatever bigoted idiocy is contained in the various “tracts” relentlessly pressed on him (as a matter of religious duty), by “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, and suchlike.
(The truly horrifying thing is: Fundies tend to “free ride” on the scientific/technological/medical accomplishments of the “Secular” West — while doing everything in their power to degrade and destroy it. (The “creation” museum, for example, has one — and only one — purpose: TO INDOCTRINATE THE IGNORANT AND GULLIBLE INTO “YOUNG EARTH’ BULLSHIT, and — in so doing — PREVENT those victims from EVER becoming paleontologists/biologists, etc.
Or, let’s think about the (predominately non-White) populations trapped in what is euphemistically called “the ‘hood” (IE: the decaying urban hell-scape that remains once “White Flight” and “outsourcing” have gutted an area). In many ways, they’re worse off than the hypothetical “Billy Bob” mentioned above:
Quite simply, perennial hopelessness and squalor (with no opportunities to even envision a better alternative) neccesarily result in the sort of horror-scenario Barbara Branden mentions in her “Rage and Objectivism” essay:
An individual raised in “the ‘hood”, surrounded by hopelessness, ignorance and poverty, who seens the fact that “Gangstas” gain power and wealth (albeit, at considerable risk to themselves, and “collateral damage” to bystanders), is understandably drawn toward that lifestyle, and the organizations attendant to it.
Most likely, the vast majority of those denigrated as “drug dealers” seel nothing morally wrong with that specific sort of production and trade, even though it happens to (currently) be “illegal” — and NOT merely because “black markets” are inherently lucrative:
Did the passage of alcohol “Prohibition” here in the U.S. magically make drinking alcohol “intrinsically” wrong merely because of a particular sort of “Nanny Statism”?
(Hint: the vast majority of Non-jews have no moral qualms whatsoever about eating pork products/shelfish/cheeseburgers, etc. — or cutting the hair at the “corners of the head”, for that matter:
My point is: in many cases the “gangs” are a sort of “law and order” of their own, specifically addressed to “service” Demographic “communities” which are either neglected — or marginalized — both by “mainstream” (White) Middle-class culture, and by the sort of “geeks”/quasi-Yuppies typically drawn to the “Objectivist” movement.
(HInt: the only thing that keeps “Objectivism” from being an overwhelmingly “White” movement is the presence of a smattering of Indian/pakistani folks: Onkhar and Debi Ghate, Neera Badhwar, the — idiosyncratically — named “jerry Johnson”, etc.).
Jerry Johnson’s efforts at “cross-cultural outreach” are actually pretty interesting:
I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this article, except to say that Ayn Rand (and something like 99% of her subsequent “followers”) have more or less squandered the last 50 years or so: Instead of linking the “Objectivist movement” back into the (broader) Aristotelian/neo-aristotelian ‘tradition” — and targeting “outreach” toward the demographics most sorely in need of the sort of “Path fo Eudaimonia” which Objectivism CLAIMS (pretends?) to offer — most of them have squandered the last 50 years trying desperately to “polish the turd” that is Ayn Rand, herself.
Ayn Rand was a slutty, chainsmoking, petty, narrow-minded hack “novelist”, with a penchant for pseudo-intellecttuality and a flare for the dramatic. Barring the involvement of Nathaniel and barbara Branden, “Objectivism” would not exist as anything other than the Galt Speech — a (rather pretentious) “plot-device” in one of her novels.