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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 5:57amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Chris.
 
May I offer some stylistic advice?  You open your interesting article with a number of loaded phrases.  For example:  >>... gasp! ... Bushís deplorable political pandering to his right-wing religious conservative base ... Homo Hysteria is quickly infecting every nerve, muscle, and joint of the body politic.<<
 
I understand you are writing to an Objectivist audience and perhaps certain tropes are to be expected.  However, is it really so shocking -- i.e., "gasp!" -- and "deplorable political pandering" and "Homo Hysteria" to support the status quo of our most ancient social institution?  Whatever the merits of legally redefining marriage to include same-sex unions, is it helpful to ascribe ill motives to those who doubt the wisdom of radically altering an institution that has served us so well over the millennia?  It sets up your article as just another liberal political screed detracting from the serious and sober argument you actually make.
 
Regards,
Bill
 
[For the record:  I really don't care if local jurisdications like Massachusetts want to legally redefine marriage to include any and all couplings people can come up with.  Human nature is what it is and a mere change in law will not alter what men and women have desired of each other from time immemorial.  So heterosexual couples will continue to demand the "real thing".  If the law won't provide it, I'm sure religion will.  Thus, the irony of legally revolutionizing marriage may be that it ends up as a province of religion where it belongs.]




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 7:37amSanction this postReply
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Bill, Chris,

May I offer some stylistic advice?  You open your interesting article with a number of loaded phrases.  For example:  >>... gasp! ... Bushís deplorable political pandering to his right-wing religious conservative base ... Homo Hysteria is quickly infecting every nerve, muscle, and joint of the body politic.<<
 
I understand you are writing to an Objectivist audience and perhaps certain tropes are to be expected.  However, is it really so shocking -- i.e., "gasp!" -- and "deplorable political pandering" and "Homo Hysteria" to support ...

 
I think Chris' style, in this case, is appropriate; or, if it is not perfectly appropriate, it is my fault. The central reason for the article is a rebuttle of my book, which uses some of the same kind of rhetoric Chris is using here.

In fact, this style, I think, is unusual for Chris, who in other works I 've read tends to be very careful about avoiding overstatement and emotional rhetoric. I rather enjoyed this article, especially for the style, even if it was me and my book who were the target of his "scathing vituperative." I also am very suspicious about people who seem to have no feelings about their beliefs, and never express any.

Now, there is one thing you said that should raise some eyebrows, no matter on which side of the homosexual marriage issue they fall. (By the way, my book says nothing about that issue.)

You said: ... marriage ... ends up as a province of religion where it belongs.

The first question is, which religion? The second question is, do you think those who do not have that religion, or have no religion at all, should not get married?

Regi




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 9:30amSanction this postReply
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Hello Bill and Regi... yes, well, sometimes I do open up my essays with loaded words.  And sometimes I use words that are decidedly technical.  It all pretty much depends on the audience to which I'm speaking, as I explain here

I should say, however, that I do sincerely believe that this proposed constitutional amendment is political pandering.  Perhaps this sounds cynical or psychologistic with regard to the Bush administration's motives; but I simply do not think the Bush people are so out-of-touch with reality that they seriously believe that such a constitutional amendment would pass the arduous legislative process.  That's what leads me to the conclusion that this position was announced at the beginning of the election season to speak to the administration's political base.

Regi is right, however, that I came out swinging; his monograph was my inspiration, after all. :)

Interesting, though, how in this instance, some might see "another liberal political screed," whereas in other instances, some might see "conservative" ideology.  That's one of the pitfalls of being a political libertarian:  some of our statements or sentiments will sound remarkably liberal, while others will sound typically conservative.  The truth is, of course, that our sensibilities go beyond left and right.

Cheers,
Chris




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 9:50amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Regi.
 
Me: >>... marriage ... ends up as a province of religion where it belongs.<<

You: >>The first question is, which religion? The second question is, do you think those who do not have that religion, or have no religion at all, should not get married?<<

 
I certainly would not deny the joys of marriage to Objectivists, despite some of their misguided notions.  (Indeed, I was the best man of an Objectivist at his wedding to a fine Christian girl.)  I was pondering history when I wrote that loose thought.

Government licensing of marriage came about in modern times after Europe's religious wars subsided in the middle seventeenth century.  Before that marriage was strictly a matter for the church to regulate, and the government merely recognized as a fact what the church had blessed.  So, my thought was that if the government is going to redefine marriage into meaningless, human nature will prompt heterosexual couples to seek what the churches had blessed before the government got into defining marriage.
 
Of course, marriage precedes religion (which is the reason why the church "blesses" what is already a fact).  So I probably should have written that marriage, as traditionally understood, will end up back in the private realm where it belongs.  To the extent that public recognition of a marriage is important in society, I'm sure custom and religion and other means will do just as good a job of that as a government license does today.
 
Regards,
Bill




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:46amSanction this postReply
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Hi Chris,

I should have said something about this: I should say, however, that I do sincerely believe that this proposed constitutional amendment is political pandering. 

You're right but you've fallen back into your polite mode. I would call it a lot worse than "political pandering," (which is bad enough). The religious right is making a huge mistake in this and all other issues where they would like the government to force their views down everyone's throats, because the government that has that power is ultimately going to use it against them, as they are now finding out in Canada.

Regi




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:48amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Chris.
 
You wrote: >>I should say, however, that I do sincerely believe that this proposed constitutional amendment is political pandering.  Perhaps this sounds cynical or psychologistic with regard to the Bush administration's motives; but I simply do not think the Bush people are so out-of-touch with reality that they seriously believe that such a constitutional amendment would pass the arduous legislative process.  That's what leads me to the conclusion that this position was announced at the beginning of the election season to speak to the administration's political base.<<
 
I think your political assessment is correct, except that I am persuaded that Bush is sincerely opposed to legally redefining traditional marriage.  So, I would stop well short of labeling this campaign maneuver as "pandering".  A call to action, even if unlikely to succeed, tells us how a candidate will act upon a position he holds -- which is something I, as a voter, want to know.
 
As it happens, I think a constitutional amendment is the wrong action to take, but at least I know what Bush means by his position to defend the status quo.  But it also informs me that Bush is a conventional politician of good intentions.  From my conservative perspective, he may hold many of the right positions, but he lacks a firm set of first principles that properly guides him as the proper means to those ends.  Thus good intentions mean the right ends either are never achieved or a whole lot else get messed in the pursuit of them.
 
In other words, the same ol' boring politics of welfare state America (and a tangent I've taken that is now well off-topic ;).

Regards,
Bill




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 10:57amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Regi.
 
You note: >>The religious right is making a huge mistake in this and all other issues where they would like the government to force their views down everyone's throats, because the government that has that power is ultimately going to use it against them, as they are now finding out in Canada.<<
 
Well, keep in mind, Regi, that the so-called religious right is a backlash against the leftist secular agenda that has been shoved down all of our throats with increasing ferocity since the New Deal.  That said, those voters of the religious right may have taken the lesson you would like them to, because recent polling shows that a majority oppose Bush's constitutional amendment.
 
Regards,
Bill




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Post 7

Friday, May 28, 2004 - 11:20amSanction this postReply
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Many good points made by both of you gents.  I do think Bush sincerely believes in his own ideology; I don't think he's ever been as good as, say, Ronald Reagan, in expressing that ideology, but sincere, yes.  And, yes, the rise of right-wing religious ideology has been, in many ways, the consequence of powerful pendulum effects---as a response to left-wing secularist ideology, expressed in the media, the schools, and many cultural institutions.

As for the current article under discussion, readers might be interested to know that Regi and I "duke it out" in the forthcoming issue of The Free Radical.  Regi's response and my rejoinder will be published in the June-July 2004 edition, and I'm fairly certain that, in time, they will both be posted right here on SOLO HQ.

Cheers,
Chris




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Friday, May 28, 2004 - 7:05pmSanction this postReply
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I heard a stand-up comedian once make an amazing observation about "homophobia":

"There are people with 'arachnophobia'... You don't see them going after spiders, do you?  Hell no.  They run away in terror.  The people going after spiders are not the ones with arachnophobia, but actually the opposite... They have no fear of spiders, but instead think it's a cool thing to squash 'em."

I think the same can be said of "homophobes".  When you sit down and really think about it, "homophobes" don't attack the hulking, giant, bull queers all dressed up in leather.  Hell no.   They attack the skinny guy, the pretty boy, the choir boy... The easy prey... the exact opposite of the other kind of guy, who, if they were actually "phobic", would be much scarier because of his size and stature.  But no; the choir boy is the one whose body is found tangled up in barbed wire, out by a country road somewhere.

So, nah, I'm no longer buying that jive about "homophobia".  These people are not phobic; they're actually sadistic and bored, and, well... cowardly, because of the prey that they choose, over the would-be prey that scares them too much to go after.

And yeah, I know that this is all looking at the dark side, but hey... I've developed a knack for it.

Comments? 




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Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 5:40amSanction this postReply
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Orion, it's very difficult to say.  Hatred and anger of whatever sort is rooted usually in fear of some kind.  Fear of The Other.  Fear that somebody might think you're one of them, just because you associated with them (which translates, again, into Fear of The Other---only, in this instance, it is fear of Other People's Opinions).  Or there can be an internal fear that you might actually be one of them; beating up The Other, in this instance, becomes an extension of your own self-hatred, directed toward the perceived gay person who embodies those characteristics that you disown and despise in yourself.  You can call this psychobabble---but I think there are more than a few documented instances of such behavioral and motivational patterns.

As to your example:   Let's say Jim is a "straight" guy and a gay-basher.  Jim bashes a perceived "gay" guy, but sure as hell doesn't want to pick on a guy who might actually beat the crap out of him.  If "proof" of his warped conception of masculinity is derived by how well he kicks the crap out of the other guy, who is perceived as being "less-than-a-real-man," it would be a real blow to that warped conception of masculinity if the other guy turns the tables on Jim. 

So I don't think it's a mystery that the puny or the skinny "faggot" is picked on; it feeds into the stereotype and might confirm, to the gay-basher, the "superiority" of his own self-conception. 

But I don't wish to reduce this particular example to a simple equation.  There are enormous psychological complexities on display in any instance of gay-bashing.  I think it is very wrong to make sweeping generalizations about the motivations behind such gay-bashing.  And you are right:  some people are just sadistic and there are also some people who do all sorts of stupid things from peer pressure, because they want to belong to the "right" group.  In nearly all instances, however, I think that what lies beneath such violent actions are all the wrong sorts of impulses, whether they be manifestations of tribalism, collectivism, prejudice, fear, anger, hatred, pseudo-self-esteem, social metaphysics, irrationalism, or the lack of a moral compass.   Any single one of these impulses, or combinations thereof, is liable to motivate violence.  In the end, of course, what matters politically is not the motivation of the crime, but the fact of the crime, the fact that one human being has initiated force against another.  That's why I oppose hate crimes legislation.

Like I say in the essay, homophobia as such "does not apply to everyone who opposes homosexuality, but it is not an insignificant factor in the cultural debate."

(Edited by sciabarra on 5/29, 5:42am)




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Post 10

Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 5:17pmSanction this postReply
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If Rand and Firehammer argue same-sex eroticism is "immoral" then they're wrong. If they argue it's "disgusting" than that's their opinion -- and they're wrong again.
 
For them to not understand that in some very deep senses homosexuality is natural, normal, inborn, instinctive, hormonal, etc. is to not understand a great deal. Sexual orientation is only very minimally volitional -- unless you're talking about major surgery and/or massive chemical injections and/or truly overwhelming brain-washing and/or radical environmental degradation.
 
Preferring same-sex to opposite-sex is like preferring "the missionary position" to "the reverse cowgirl;" or to being a "butt man" rather than a "breast man." This, in turn, is like favoring oranges over apples, or chocolate ice cream over strawberry. Liking one over the other is all a matter of opinion and personal preferences -- not of factuality or morality -- and thus has nothing to do with philosophy or serious, important, intellectual truth-seeking. Such intensely-private tastes -- about which there is no arguing -- are philosophically moot or irrelevant.
 
Assuming Sciabarra is rendering Firehammer's points fairly and accurately, at some point you have to wonder why Sciabarra even bothered to refute the foolish, almost transparently false claims of Firehammer's book. Everyone knows -- or everyone should know -- that the minor opinions and tastes of Rand are very different from the philosophy of Rand. They're mostly unrelated, even. Still...Firehammer does think and write fairly well and seriously. (Great name too -- I'm thinking of changing mine to "Flamethrower" or "Hachetman" or "Great Atomic Wonderboy!" ;-) )
 
Moreover Sciabarra is right in general to go after the slight but pervasive homophobia which seems to characterize the Objectivist movement -- beginning with Rand. Sciabarra doesn't mention the Ayn Rand Institute once in his article, but they seem to be the real villains here -- as in most issues. The ARI cult and cabal -- which seems like a real group of faggots to me! -- is very dishonest and cowardly on this issue. In Objectivist terms, they are a real group of "evaders." 
 
So it's ultimately good that Sciabarra should forcibly "out" this issue, as well as the quiet morons and lowlifes which cause Objectivism to lean in the direction of sex-orientation bigotry. These braindead clowns and embarrassing epigones are -- to use their own cult terminology -- "second-handers" and "collectivists" who follow religiously in Rand's train like intellectual slaves.




Post 11

Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 8:01pmSanction this postReply
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Andre,

I do not agree with you, but I appreciate your views and very much like the way you express them. (I do not like evaders either.) 

You said, Assuming Sciabarra is rendering Firehammer's points fairly and accurately ...
 
He does, and does it very well, and he did it because he felt the points I raised were worth addressing, and he does that very well too. Chris and I disagree only on the issue of whether or not homosexuality is, "normal," and consistent with the requirements of human nature. He, like you, sees nothing inconsistent about homosexuality with human identity, so he, like you, believes it is an issue that lies outside the purview of philosophy and morality. That is perfectly consistent with both your views.

Of course, holding the opposite view, I think it is both a philosophical and moral issue, but, I hasten to add, a private and personal moral issue.

The one thing Chris and I both agree on is that homosexual, or any other sexual practices, are entirely a matter of individual choice and essentially nobody else's business. I have stated everywhere, I will defend the right of every individual to live their life as they choose, as well as their right to promote their views, no matter how much I disagree with them. Of course, I reserve the right to promote my views as well.

Now I have an enigma for you. If homosexuality is only a matter of taste, why would a philosophical movement have to be used to promote that taste. What difference would it make, philosophically, if most of those who were Objectivists hated pistachio ice cream and thought there was something a bit odd about anyone who would actually prefer pistachio? I do not know about you, but I happen to like pistachio and I wouldn't care if the whole damn world called me queer (or anything else) for loving it.

My point is, if philosophy cannot be used to repudiate a matter of personal taste, it certainly cannot be used to promote it. Of course that assumes how people use their bodies is only a matter of personal taste. Do you really think it is?

Regi






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Post 12

Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 8:45amSanction this postReply
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On this issue of ARI:  Yes, it is true that I don't mention the Ayn Rand Institute once in this most recent article.  It is also true, however, that ARI is mentioned in my monograph on homosexuality, and that many, many ARI members and contributors were among the 100+ people I interviewed for that monograph.  Over 90% of the people I interviewed, of whatever affiliation or no affiliation, chose to remain anonymous.  I don't have to speculate about all of their motives.  In many instances, people simply said they didn't wish to be identified.  But in some instances, interviewees were more explicit.  Some told me that they wished to retain anonymity because of (a) the subject matter or (b) the need to feel free to say whatever they felt without having their privacy violated.  In some instances, ARI-affiliated survey participants were especially concerned that their names not be publicly associated with the work of Chris Matthew Sciabarra, who is, as one ARIan put it, "persona non grata" among the ARI subculture.  I didn't take any of these exceptions personally; I was interested only in getting the substantive input of as broad a representative sample of the "Objectivist" subculture as my sociological survey would allow.  And make no mistake about it:  My monograph is, for better or worse, primarily a sociological survey and a political tract, not a philosophical defense of homosexuality per se.

As for coming down hard on ARI... Andre, that debate has been raging for a very long time.  My most recent contributions to that well-worn, divisive subject can be found here and here, where I give as good as I get.  Suffice it to say, not all ARIans think that Sciabarra is a "crackpot," as one of them put it.  But some rather vocal ARIan representatives do.  What separates Reginald Firehammer essentially from these vocal ARIans is the fact that he remains civil and respectful in expressing his profound disagreements with me on the topic of homosexuality.  As I have said on many occasions, it is never about disagreement.  Like any good dialectician, I practically live for the give-and-take.  But that give-and-take is only as good as the mutual respect that  people show in expressing their differences.

While many people on my side of this topic would dismiss Firehammer's book on the face of it, I thought it was worth discussing primarily because it raised many important questions about the "open" or "closed" nature of Objectivism, the meaning of the philosophy, and the ways in which one can legitimately "hijack" and apply its essentials to new questions and applications.  And that, after all, is the title of Firehammer's book:  The Hijacking of a Philosophy.  So it is on that question, rather than the question of homosexuality as such, that I had the most to say.




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Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 2:03pmSanction this postReply
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Although nothing excuses bigotry, dogmatism, or irrationalism, Sciabarra's review may end up providing more fuel to the ARIans.  The very title "In Praise of Hijacking" feeds their paranoia and self-righteous anger.  If someone announced his intent to hijack my philosophy for his own purposes, I would be disinclined to engage in any sort of reasoned dialectial give-and-take with him.  So no one should be surprised that Sciabarra gets denounced.

I can never figure out Sciabarra's intended relationship to Objectivism, because he waffles and obfuscates.  He writes elsewhere of trying to "reclaim Rand's radical legacy" and often (if not always) tries to present his views as being consistent with Objectivistm.  In this review he praises "heretical, hermeneutical innovations" ("hijacking"?) in philosophy.  Then he unleashes this:

Iím not "hijacking" Objectivism at all. Iím adhering to the old Spanish proverb that says: "Take what you want, and pay for it." Iím taking what I want from Randís legacy, and paying for itóby assuming responsibility for my own interpretations and applications. Call me a Randian or a post-Randian or a neo-Objectivist or an advocate of Objectivism 2.0, or even the founder of Sciabarra-ism. But donít call me an Objectivist.
I don't know, and he himself doesn't seem willing to state clearly and directly, whether he's an anti-Objectivist, an uncommitted advocate of Objectivism, a friend of Objectivism, a post-Objectivist, a post-neo-hermenutical-Objecto-dialectician, or a scholar of Objectivism who thinks deconstructing Rand is a useful academic exercise.  Around and around and around he goes...what he stands for we don't know.

I don't really care about labels, but the ideas behind them.  I don't know what "Scibarraism" is.  So I ask, simply and directly: Can you state your philosophy standing on one foot?

As for homosexuality... I don't necessarily disagree with the substance of Sciabarra's views on homosexuALITY, though certainly the unhealthy and irrational behaviors and attitudes that are common among homosexuALS today deserve separate attention and should be regarded as immoral.  Of course there are many respectable and moral homosexuals, but if they are the exception rather than the rule, the underlying reasons should be probed, and those who undertake the task should not be presumed to be bigoted or suffering from a phobia.

So while homosexuality as such is neither moral nor immoral (just a fact of life for many people), and while homosexuals are just as capable as heteros of being moral individuals, it is also valid to generalize about the self-destructive proclivities that are exhibited disproportionately by homosexuals (leading, ultimately and often tragically, to premature deaths for most gay men).  Anti-gay bigotry, while a problem that unfortunately still exists, only rarely results in anyone's death.  Unhealthy sex practices, which individuals choose to engage in, kill millions.  If gay activist groups acknowledged the nature of this problem and encouraged a culture of personal responsibility and self-respect (instead of blame and self-destructive self-indulgent emotionalism) to correct it, they would be waging a noble battle.  Unfortunately, the "gay movement" such as it is is hard to defend on any grounds, and its nature need not (and should not) go unacknowledged by those of us who champion the moral and legal equality of homosexuals. 

-Logan




Post 14

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 3:53pmSanction this postReply
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Hi, Logan.
 
Scratching your head, you put it to Chris: >>I don't really care about labels, but the ideas behind them.  I don't know what "Scibarraism" is.  So I ask, simply and directly: Can you state your philosophy standing on one foot?<<
 
Now I'm scratching my head.  Aren't you asking for what you just said you don't care about -- a label?
 
Regards,
Bill




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Post 15

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 6:07pmSanction this postReply
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Logan, I honestly and truly and sincerely do not care one whit if my review provides "more fuel to the ARIans." In the end, I donít get denounced because I "obfuscate." I get denounced because Iíve dared to suggest that Rand learned something from her teachers, that Randís approach can be fruitfully characterized as "dialectical," and so forth. In the end, whether I co-edit a feminist anthology or author a monograph on homosexuality or defend Randís radical critique of US foreign policy, everything I do feeds into "their paranoia and self-righteous anger." Who cares!

Read the "obfuscating" passages that you cite very carefully. For example, I say that I am not hijacking Randís philosophy, if we define that philosophy in terms of essentials. Thatís why I spend some time in the article distinguishing between what I believe is essential and what I believe is nonessential to our definition of Objectivism.  The only point at which I seem to reverse course is when I say, that if one accepts Firehammerís understanding of what constitutes Objectivism, then, indeed, "On this basis," [you left out that modifying clause in your quotation from my essay] one canít help but "hijack" the philosophy.

Randís "standing on one foot" version of Objectivism is essential; her views of Vermeer, Beethoven, rough sex, and facial hair are not. I accept the essence of Objectivism, its emphasis on the primacy of existence, reason as the means to human knowledge, egoism, individualism, and capitalism. I wholeheartedly accept Randís defense of the integrated human being, her revolt against the mind-body dichotomy, and her repudiation of all of its implied dualisms: fact versus value, reason versus emotion, morality versus prudence, thought versus action, and so forth.

Iíve called my approach "dialectical libertarianism" only because I define dialectics as the art of context-keeping, and I believe that a defense of the free society requires an understanding of the full context of philosophical and cultural factors that make freedom possible. All of this is laid out in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy," which began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, continued with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and culminated with Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. I believe my own approach is completely consistent with Objectivism, but I refuse to act as if my own interpretation of Randís philosophy came out of Randís mouth. It came out of my mouth, my mind, and I take full responsibility for it. And, in the end, Iíve learned much not only from Rand, but from Aristotle, Menger, Spencer, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and others... and I celebrate this diverse intellectual heritage.

Nonetheless, there are many reasons I no longer use the label "Objectivism" to describe my approach. Itís because that label has been so thoroughly abused by its alleged "defenders" that I am simply tired of expending the intellectual capital to distinguish myself from them. When outsiders ask me if Iím one of those "dogmatic Objectivist cultists," I have to spend time defending Objectivism against the charge of cultism. When insiders ask me if Iím an "Objectivist," I am compelled to get into an endless debate over the question: "Who is the Ďtrueí Objectivist?" That question has about the same prospect for resolution as the debate over who is the "true" Christian (Protestant??, Catholic??, Eastern Orthodox??), or who is the "true" Muslim, and so forth. These fundamentally religious debates no longer interest me. Thatís why I prefer Randian or post-Randian (which is more general and all-encompassing) to "Objectivist." And apart from my ideological commitment, I am a Rand scholar.

Finally, on the issue of homosexuality: Yes, there are many unhealthy and irrational behaviors manifested by homosexuals (as there are by bisexuals and heterosexuals and so forth). It is always the case that the vocal minority makes more noise than the silent majority, however (just look at the "Objectivist" universe, and youíll understand what I mean...). I do believe, however, that there are many reasons for self-destructive proclivities among those who internalize the teachings of a culture that sees them as sinful, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional. And the "gay movement," as such, is no different in its dysfunctional character from any other product of a welfare-state mixed economy, which promotes victimization, pressure group warfare, and an orgy of privilege-seeking.

All the more reason to celebrate the teachings of an individualist philosophy that celebrates the authentic self, a lesson that should be appreciated by all people, regardless of sexual orientation.




Post 16

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 10:35pmSanction this postReply
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Logan wrote: "So while homosexuality as such is neither moral nor immoral (just a fact of life for many people), and while homosexuals are just as capable as heteros of being moral individuals, it is also valid to generalize about the self-destructive proclivities that are exhibited disproportionately by homosexuals (leading, ultimately and often tragically, to premature deaths for most gay men)."

Care to be more specific about which practices you believe are self-destructive?

"Anti-gay bigotry, while a problem that unfortunately still exists, only rarely results in anyone's death.  Unhealthy sex practices, which individuals choose to engage in, kill millions."

I can only assume that you're talking about unprotected anal sex, which can spread HIV. Given the safe-sex knowledge out there (which in my experience I've found many gay people to be far better educated about than many straights) and the change in sexual practices as a result since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, one cannot generalise to make a claim that gays are engaging significantly in this potentially self-destructive practice (i.e. anal sex without a condom). Your claim that bigotry "rarely results in anyone's death" is unbelievable. How many young men and women have killed themselves because of that bigotry? How much carnage has it left in its wake, not just in terms of suicides but in people stricken by depression stemming from the self-hatred they have been *taught* to feel. Given my recent posts on this subject, I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall.




Post 17

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 10:37pmSanction this postReply
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Heya, Chris.  I've a question.

I do believe, however, that there are many reasons for self-destructive proclivities among those who internalize the teachings of a culture that sees them as sinful, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional.
 
and

And the "gay movement," as such, is no different in its dysfunctional character from any other product of a welfare-state mixed economy, which promotes victimization...
 
From the "internalize the teachings of a culture" and "welfare-state economy which promotes victimization" portions, do you believe the responsibility for change or improvement lies with the "culture that sees them as sinful, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional", or with the "victims" of that culture?  Of course it would be nice to have a culture that simply ignored whatever it is people do in their bedrooms, but is it the culture's responsibility to promote healthy views and opinions of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, etc?  If this happened, do you believe the immoral behavior of some homosexuals would be curtailed, or for that matter, the immoral behavior of any "segment[s]" of society?  I'm of the view that it's more of a "bottom-up" thing, meaning it should begin with responsible people living lives in accordance with "the teachings of an individualist philosophy that celebrates the authentic self" that will eventually affect change on the culture itself.  Is this a "product of their environment" issue, in your view?

(I think your answer will but a "No, with qualification, however..." because of your admirable obsession with context-keeping : P, but it's that very thing which prompts my question.  I need more context!)


 





Post 18

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 10:54pmSanction this postReply
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Heya Cameron,

We seemed to have crossed paths while posting, which is great because I'm glad I was here to read your post. 
You asked Logan: Care to be more specific about which practices you believe are self-destructive?
 
I am definitely not speaking for Logan--because I value my life : P--but I would say an evident self-destructive practice among homosexual men is no different than a self-destructive practice among straight men: promiscuity.  Except that in any homosexual male situation, there is no responsible, cautious female to interfere with the hanky-panky.  Let's face it: guys like to get their rocks off.  It's no secret that two gay men are still men, with testosterone.  (I'll start to stutter with confusion and a loss for words if hormone replacement therapy and hermaphroditism comes into the discussion, so don't go there thank you!)  I wouldn't say any specific acts in the homosexual world are more likely to cause the spread of slow, internal death, but I would say the gender of the practitioner--male--is a notorious lothario of one shade or another.  That's the way it is. 

I'll happily accept corrections to this second-hand theory.

(Edited by Jeremy Johnson on 6/01, 10:58pm)




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Post 19

Wednesday, June 2, 2004 - 6:43amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy, you're right:  If we confine our discussion to gay men (not to lesbian couples, mind you, whose relationships seem to be more stable and longer-lasting than even heterosexual couples), there are powerful forces that seem to militate toward promiscuity.  Some of these are biological, some of these are cultural, but it is by no means monolithic as a gay male behavioral trait.   And I can tell you anecdotally:  Most of the gay men I know are in stable, long-term relationships.

Are there gay men who are engaged in having anal sex without a condom?  Is there a drug subculture among gay men?  Are gay men still susceptible to HIV?  Yes.  But as Cameron has pointed out in another thread, the fact of homosexuality does not make one susceptible to HIV.  This is not a disease that has been around for eons, wiping out the gay male population.  It is a relatively recent phenomenon.  And it is simply a fact that HIV entered the gay male sub-culture first in this country, which is why it is still circulating among gay males (even though the highest rates of new infection are among black women, apparently).  That's because gay men are still having sex predominantly with other gay men.  And some of these men are having unsafe sex.  In Africa, the situation is very different---because the disease did not manifest itself first in a relatively closed gay subculture.  It has been carried throughout Africa by heterosexual prostitution and other means.

Now onto the broader questions you raise.  Anticipating a qualification-laden "context-keeping" response from me, you state: 

From the "internalize the teachings of a culture" and "welfare-state economy which promotes victimization" portions, do you believe the responsibility for change or improvement lies with the "culture that sees them as sinful, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional", or with the "victims" of that culture?  Of course it would be nice to have a culture that simply ignored whatever it is people do in their bedrooms, but is it the culture's responsibility to promote healthy views and opinions of homosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, etc?  If this happened, do you believe the immoral behavior of some homosexuals would be curtailed, or for that matter, the immoral behavior of any "segment[s]" of society?  I'm of the view that it's more of a "bottom-up" thing, meaning it should begin with responsible people living lives in accordance with "the teachings of an individualist philosophy that celebrates the authentic self" that will eventually affect change on the culture itself.  Is this a "product of their environment" issue, in your view?

The short answer is:  Yes, it's more of a "bottom-up" thing. 

The longer, more qualified, answer raises more interesting questions, however.

In looking at any social problem, I have learned much from Ayn Rand.  It is from Rand's framework that I developed a "tri-level model" of social relations.  That model appears here:

http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/images/model.gif

The tri-level model suggests that social change can and must take place on three levels in order to generate a revolution of sorts:  Level 1 (The Personal, which includes psychological, psycho-epistemological, and ethical practices and institutions); Level 2 (The Cultural, which includes ideological, pedagogical, linguistic, and aesthetic practices and institutions); and Level 3 (The Structural, which includes economic and political practices & institutions).  All three levels constitute relations between individuals, as individuals, or as constituted in groups and organizations.

So, you're right, Jeremy, to suggest that most fundamental change occurs from the "bottom-up."  It has to take place on Level 1, in terms of personal psychology, psycho-epistemology, and ethics, and also on Level 2, in terms of cultural ideas, before it can affect Level 3.  (That's why, btw, I am so critical of "democratic nation-building" in Iraq and the Middle East:  because it attempts to create change to the whole, while focusing on Level 3, with little understanding of the personal and cultural forces necessary to sustain and nourish that kind of institutional change.)

This does not mean that a change on Level 3 can't have effects on the other levels; in fact, there is such a thing as a "political culture" and a "civic culture"---and sometimes, if you create changes to those cultures, you can affect the other levels.  For example, in NYC, the Giuliani administration warred on crime in the early 90s by demanding that police pinpoint so-called "quality of life" offenses:  public urination, subway fare-beating, graffiti, etc.  They found that people committing low-level offenses, invariably, were also committing high-level offenses.  By enforcing against low-level offenses in targeted communities with high crime rates, they were able to drive the crime rate down.  This city---excepting September 11th---is now the safest large city in America.  Its crime rate continues to fall, while other cities experience spikes.   The Giuliani administration, for all its other faults, also targeted the welfare bureaucracy, insisting that able-bodied welfare recipients work for their welfare checks.  The impulse was to create a political culture of responsibility.

I think that these policies and a change in public rhetoric had the effect of "drawing a line in the sand."  It was a way of saying:  "We will no longer tolerate a lack of civility or respect for people or property. And we will encourage behaviors that promote individual responsibility."  And I think this has had a trickle-down effect on civic culture; New Yorkers have always had spirit and strength.  But I do think that after a nearly decade-long drop in crime, and an increase in the quality of life, New Yorkers were even better suited to dealing with the effects of September 11th.  If that horrific event had taken place in 1991, when crime was rampant, there is a good possibility that we would have had mass looting in other parts of this city.  I can't prove it---it's just a hunch.  But I do think civic culture has changed immeasurably in the past decade and that it has had a good effect on the habits of New Yorkers, who once thought that crime and welfare dependency were intractable, unresolvable problems.

Why this long tangential point? Because I do believe that one can and should act on other levels---politically and culturally---to nourish such ideals as personal responsibility and independence, individual authenticity and mutual respect.  Changes on each level of this tri-level model will then reciprocally reinforce each other.

Rand was not oblivious to how cultural (Level 2) and political change (Level 1) could nourish personal changes.  Note, for example, how she targeted educational institutions and pedagogical practices for their deleterious effects on human psychology, even on the human capacity to integrate and systematize knowledge.  Her essay, "The Comprachicos," is a full-scale attack on how education and pedagogy destroy human cognitive functioning.  Note too her arguments in essays such as "Global Balkanization" that the political triumph of the mixed economy gave the impetus to the growth of ethnic tribalism and collectivism in the modern world.  In both "The Comprachicos" and "Global Balkanization," we see Rand's attention on the need to change Levels 2 and 3 in order to affect a change on Level 1.

So, yes:  A bottom-up revolution in thinking must take place in the gay community.  I suspect that this change is already underway.  As the first part of my monograph suggests, many gay and lesbian readers have been turned onto Rand and her individualist message; it inspires them against the forces of social conformity, Other-defined happiness, institutional religious oppression, and outright bias, which, like all forms of prejudice, is collectivistic in its origins.   And these lessons can be spread to our cultural and political institutions, just as these institutions can be used to reinforce the personal changes.



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