Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical
War for Men's Minds

Seminal Centenary
by Lindsay Perigo

[Editor's note - this is the editorial from "The Free Radical," Issue 62, June/July, 2004. Two or three more articles from that issue will be posted here, but as always, the vast bulk of the contents will be available only to hard-copy subscribers. To join this exalted band of the unimpeachably discerning, simply hit the "Subscribe" bar at the end of this article.]

A local libertarian recently sent me a copy of a contribution to a NZ politics Internet group that he belongs to. It went as follows:

"I still have all of the early copies of the Free Rad, but did not renew my subscription after I became bored with Perigo's preoccupation with Objectivism. The interminable debates, page after page of dialogue, were the last straw."

The person who wrote those words is someone I’ve never met but whom I well remember for his militant anti-intellectualism, short attention span & bumptious bombast on-line. He wanted Socialism to be overthrown in five minutes & believed that "Rod Hide" — as he insisted on calling Rodney — was the man for the job. Not to take anything away from Rodney, but what this fellow didn’t want to hear was that enduring political change can come about only on the back of fundamental *cultural* change, & that’s what my "preoccupation with Objectivism" was all about.

I have pointed out in the past, in relation to New Zealand’s "free market revolution" of the Douglas/Richardson era, "If there’s been a revolution, it hasn’t been inside people’s heads." I first said that at The Objectivist Centre’s 1997 Summer Seminar in Virginia, USA. I predicted that the following election would see the return to power of overtly left-wing parties who would undo much of what had been done in the Rogernomics era. Sure enough, Labour & the Alliance formed a coalition government after the 1999 election. The rest, as they say, is history. Next month, I shall be speaking again to a TOC Summer Seminar, this time in Vancouver, Canada. I shall be tracing the undoing, of course, but more importantly reiterating the lesson that political change wrought by stealth & deceit, in the absence of cultural change, is forever doomed to be undone. [In the event, I rejected this topic as too depressing, & presented instead my SOLOC 3 talk, "The Elixir of Youth." - Linz]

The only intellectual force in the world today that can effect that change is Objectivism. It is the only philosophy that identifies the essential, malignant unity of mysticism, collectivism, and the ethic of self-sacrifice that together, in one permutation or another, suffuse political tyranny & near-tyranny around the world. Ayn Rand was the only philosopher to recognise that to preach freedom coherently, one had to dump all of the above — and that to preach freedom while repairing to any one or all of them was to subvert it. Hers was the intellectual & moral revolution that alone can bring lasting freedom to the world. That is why I’m "preoccupied" with it. I know it will not come about in five minutes, but if & when it does, it will last for millennia.

And so it is that Objectivism is present, explicitly or tacitly, throughout this issue. Peter Cresswell's timely article on the Resource Management Act reminds us, as Ayn Rand often did, that the difference between communism & fascism — & all their variants — is one of *form* rather than *substance*: under communism the state owns all property & citizens outright; under fascism, the state "merely" *controls* them (RMA). The existential effects are identical.

The politics of Objectivism is libertarian. A purely libertarian approach to marriage would probably remove the state from romantic relationships altogether, aside from enforcing partners’ contracts when required. Tim Barnett's Civil Unions Bill will create a state-sanctioned, formalised union similar to marriage for those — gay couples in particular — for whom marriage is currently not an option. Objectivists & libertarians will argue whether this is a step forward or backward, just as they did over Tim's Prostitution Law Reform Bill. I thank Tim for his contribution to the debate in this issue.

Cameron Pritchard deals with something much more clear-cut — the right of someone to seek an assisted death when the excruciating pain of a terminal illness has made life unbearable. The question at the heart of this issue is, whose life is it anyway? Objectivism states unequivocally that one's life is one's own; the state, in New Zealand, in the matter of voluntary euthanasia, asserts that one's life belongs to *it*. A more vile embodiment of this pernicious view than the judge’s comments in the Lesley Martin case is difficult to imagine.

Like all philosophies, Objectivism harbours traps for young players — or, in the case of Reginald Firehammer, old players. The most insidious & seductive of these traps in Objectivism’s case is *rationalism* (not to be confused with rationality). Rationalists eagerly embrace Objectivism’s stress on reason & logic but overlook its equal stress on facts — boring, dull, everyday, concrete facts. These facts, Objectivism says, are the raw material on which reason & logic must go to work. Rationalists, by contrast, ignore facts — or significant numbers of them — & apply the *forms* of logic to arbitrary constructs of their own making, creating abstractions cut off from reality. Yes, it is a fact, as Regi points out in his denunciation of homosexuality, that the genitals of man & woman are the tools of procreation. To argue from there that this is their *only* legitimate use, overlooking the fact that some men are by *their* nature sexually aroused by other men rather than by women (& some women by women rather than men), is as egregious an example of rationalism as you’ll find outside the Catholic Church (who, unsurprisingly, have the same view of homosexuality - & presumably, masturbation & *any* non-procreative sex - as Regi). Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of Chris Sciabarra’s rejoinder. My own essay on "Objectivism, Of Fundamentals & Fidelity," is, I would hope, a useful antidote to rationalism also.

The jaunty lads & lasses of SOLO-UK teamed up recently & availed themselves of some of the best things human life has to offer. Sense-of-Life Objectivist Marcus Bachler provides a titillating pictorial & verbal memento of the occasion in "SOLO-UK: A Night at the Opera."

And so on, through the rest of this issue, capturing the spirit of life as it might be, ought to be — & often is.

Next year is the centenary of Ayn Rand's birth. The bumptious anti-intellectual with the short attention span had better watch out. At that time, I shall not only be "preoccupied" with Objectivism ... I shall be veritably obsessed with it!


See, I’m just warming up.

[PS, July 26: Regi, I esteem you very highy, really. Really I do!! :-)]

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