Ayn Rand/Objectivism Sightings
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Benefactors versus Malefactors
Sadly, many students of Objectivism see Ayn Rand's philosophy as simply a tool to bludgeon all comers rather than as a methodology for producing positive values for themselves and others. Instead of aiming to elevate themselves with their own honest efforts, these pseudo-Objectivists target all those around them for destruction via endless argumentation, sophistry and outright inanities. Ironically, Ayn Rand illustrated these types of persons in The Fountainhead when describing the play No Skin Off Your Nose:
There was an air about the ponderous inanities spoken ... in their smirking faces, in the slyness of their voices; in their untidy gestures. It was an air of inanities uttered as revelations and insolently demanding acceptance as such; an air, not of innocent presumption, but of conscious effrontery. ... It was a pedestal from which a god had been torn, and in his place there stood, not Satan with a sword, but a corner lout sipping a bottle of Coca-Cola.Online Objectivist discussion forums as well as live gatherings invariably attract their share of "corner louts" who "insolently demand acceptance" by engaging in "conscious effrontery." Some posters who posture themselves as Objectivists eventually demonstrate their alignment with what SOLO Founder and Principal Lindsay Perigo calls "clever-dick smart-ass word-play wankers posturing as philosophers who never state their own actual position on anything but simply try to tear apart the stated positions of others." The better forums such as those here at SOLO send well-grounded moderators on "search and destroy" missions for damage control of such louts.
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
Ayn Rand noted in her work on epistemology that the human mind must break sensory input into manageable "chunks" in order to process it effectively. Her theory of knowledge employs a novel idea called the conceptual common denominator as the central tool the mind uses to cluster concrete percepts into abstract concepts. The mind then forms these concepts into wider abstractions called propositions which a person can test using the correspondence principle, i.e., "Does this principle correspond to what I observe in reality?"
Dealing with others who claim to admire Ayn Rand in either virtual or authentic reality requires a level of skill in character judgment not widely discussed. It demands distilling the observed character traits of persons in Objectivist forums, virtual or live, to a single essential common denominator. This distillation greatly helps moderators and discussion leaders in their attempts to maintain quality discussions that benefit all participants.
A properly conceived and executed philosophy will provide its adherents with useful intellectual tools to live a flourishing life. Such a philosophy serves a life-enhancing and thus benevolent purpose. Those who misuse philosophy will, by contrast, aim it at a life-diminishing and thus malevolent purpose.
The common denominator of benevolence and its negative, malevolence, offers the unifying and central characteristic by which to judge others as worthy or unworthy of interaction.
Master salesman Zig Ziglar has noted, "People don't care what you know until they know that you care." Tragically, many Objectivist forum participants preoccupy themselves with parading what they know, inflating their egos at the expense of sucking all benevolence from the atmosphere. They flaunt their knowledge, whether valid or invalid, as a form of public intellectual masturbation rather than as a means of productive creation. They short-circuit the relationship between rationality and pride by bypassing the central virtue of productiveness. In the end, they bring emotional harm not only to the others whom they publicly denigrate, but to themselves as well.
Concretizing Benevolence in Discussion Forums
A moderator or discussion leader needs concrete examples of benevolence and malevolence in order to internalize recognition of these concepts. The following illustrations of behavior patterns aim to do that. While these examples address online forums, you can easily extend them to live events.
A benefactor who aims his rationality at productive achievement so he can experience authentic pride will exude the following attitudes in discussion:
In his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, Nathaniel Branden outlines six virtues that he argues one needs to master to experience a continuing sense of genuine self-worth:
If you seek to live a worthwhile life, you must learn these key distinctions between benefactors and malefactors regardless of the labels they wear. I know some Christians who come closer to the Objectivist ideal than do some self-styled "Objectivists." Labels mean nothing. Results mean everything.
A Final Warning about Malefactors
Your life stands on this Earth as an end in itself, finite and precious. By virtue of your nature as a human being, you have the right to assert your own value to yourself. Because of the ultimate value of your own life, you have the right to terminate relationships with malefactors regardless of their "rightness."
Because they like to make "clever-dick smart-ass word-play [arguments that] try to tear apart the stated positions of others," malefactors will attempt to retain you in relationships that drain you. They will argue that you "need" them because they "reason" so well. Granted, reality may eventually prove them "right." But the emotional toll of their heavy-handed, condescending attitudes toward you will far outweigh any conceivable benefit you might gain from continuing to relate to them. You would do yourself an honor to risk mistakes of which the malefactor may warn you than to continue to ingest his psychological poison.
Assessing the character trait of benevolence in others provides the fastest way to size up those others as worthy of your time and effort in building productive relationships. This holds true regardless of how they may identify themselves. Other qualities, such as their capacity to reason effectively, certainly deserve attention. However, developing a large pool of benevolent network contacts with whom to form more concrete and productive relationships will best serve your life. Relationships with malefactors deserve swift terminations regardless of their sophisticated objections.
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