|In post #62, John Newman wrote:|
> The implication that Lindsay Perigo's praise of people, and later disappointment and condemnation
> of their BEHAVIOR, is somehow, by any tiniest strand, similar to events during the cultural
> revolution is not only ludicrous, it is an exercise in intellectual perversion.
John, I have to disagree with you. I think Hong's and Robert's observations (Posts 59 & 60) are exactly on target. The point they are making is that the swing from a totally positive to totally negative view of others, particularly when this occurs with respect to those who are close associates or friends, is indicative of an emotional and/or psychological disorder indicating a disassociation from reality.
Robert singles out Hong's identification that this type of behavior is tantamount to treating people as "abstract concepts" rather than actual human beings. I think this is absolutely correct and I want to thank both of them for identifying and raising this as an issue. This explains not only Lindsay's behavior on the Solo list, but a great deal of what occurs across the entire Objectivist movement and I think we should take a long hard look at the implications and consequences.
One criticism that has been raised against Objectivism is that, as a philosophy, it was first and foremost presented dramatically through novels rather than formulated in the hard cold light of academic non-fictional treatise. I agree with Rand's approach, and think that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are marvels of integration and efficiency that delineate the philosophical principles while at the same time demonstrate those principles put into action. I, myself, have never had a problem with this, probably because I have little difficulty separating out the ideas from their form of presentation.
However, the very essence of a novel is the act of abstraction, and that is especially true of Rand's characters. Roark, Wynand, Dominique, Toohey, Galt, Dagny, Francisco, Ragnar, Eddie, etc. are supremely abstract and none of them is like any actual human being that I have ever known. Each one has been crafted, through their personality traits and the actions they are given, to highlight one or more important aspects of human nature. This is done brilliantly by Rand and is supremely effective in driving home the point she intended to make. I stand in awe of this artistic achievement. However, a problem may occur if you attempt to apply the lessons from the printed page to the actions and character of real human beings without also making the transition from the context of the novel to the context of real life. I contend that there is a failure to make this transition that plagues much of the objectivist movement, and the problem started with Rand herself.
Most of us have the capacity to fantasize. Has anyone not spent some time dreaming about what it would be like to live in Galt's Gulch, a community of highly intelligent individuals where there were absolutely "no conflicts of interest" among the totally rational inhabitants? In order to create these novels, Rand had to have this ability to an extreme degree. In the case of Nathaniel Branden, regardless of what other factors may have been involved, it seems totally non-controversial to me that Rand projected abstract Galt-like qualities, with a corresponding set of expectations, onto Nathaniel in lieu of accepting and dealing with him in a more realistic manner (n.b., the dedication in Atlas Shrugged), and this was one [Yes, just one of many! Let's not go there girlfriend!] contributing factor that led to their subsequent problems.
As with this example citing Rand, I observe that almost all of the conflicts between Objectivists rest on similar errors of failing to accept that one is living in the real world with real people rather than in some "Matrix"-like construct of the mind. Rather than seeing them as flesh-and-blood people - sometimes having to make decision within the the context of a complex world, often with imperfect information - they judge the actions of others using unrealistic standards and constantly find them coming up short. As others have pointed out elsewhere, either Rand was a complete idiot who surrounded herself with a huge group of charlatans, or she was unrealistic in he acceptance of the human nature of basically good people and unnecessarily drove them all away, one by one. The same either/or can be applied to Peikoff, Lindsay and now, Diana. I believe that the answer is the same in all four cases.
In the real world, some of us may possess Roark or Galt-like characteristics, but I don't know anyone who is a perfect embodiment of these abstract characters. Everyone I know, on the journey of life, has produced errors of logic, made mistakes in their judgements and/or had moral lapses of one kind or another at some point. I find it much more useful to evaluate my association with people based upon how they handle themselves in correcting and learning from their errors than I do by judging them against some absolute standard of perfection which no one can meet. Make of that what you will, but I've tried the other approach and found that it did not work well in achieving my goals. It is my opinion that, as a strategy, it also has not worked well for the Objectivist movement as a whole.
If you wish to deal with people in a more contextual manner, one technique that is critical is to leave room for others to reflect upon and correct their mistakes. As Nathaniel Branden has pointed out on numerous occasions, launching into moral condemnation and attempting to disgrace a person through a verbal public stoning is not effective in modifying behavior, and I don't really think anyone actually believes that it is. Then why are so many "Objectivists" committed to it?
A psychologically healthy and emotionally mature individual has no need to taunt, belittle or disgrace another person. If they discover that they are being taken advantage of by others, the healthy person extracts themselves from the situation and refuses to deal with those people in the future. If a healthy person cannot reason with another, they simply stop wasting time and effort trying. Case closed. When you see someone expend an enormous amount of energy engaging in abusive or destructive behavior towards someone else, you can usually infer that they do so as a diversion from having to face their own personal psychological or emotional problems. Ask yourself what you think they are actually trying to achieve thought their efforts? Ask the question again when the person being taunted, belittle or disgrace was previously a close friend or associate.
Can anything positive come from this sort of behavior? What possible benefit could Diana have in expending the time and effort to write and defend a lengthy diatribe against Chris Sciabarra? What does Lindsay gain by calling MSK's web site "Objectivist Lying", calling Chris "His Royal Whoreness" or labeling anyone who disagrees with him about the war in Iraq as a "Sadamite"? What does Peikoff achieve by disassociating himself and the ARI organization from Kelley, putatively over disagreement about giving a speech to a Libertarian group? Are these people so petty that they must extract their "pound of flesh" by attempting to hurt another human being? I'm far more inclined to believe that the harm they do is a by-product of other factors and if they saw people as more real and less abstract, they would not engage in this behavior any more than they would sit around pulling the wings off flys.
Somewhere along the way, many Objectivists became confused about the difference between the need to maintain one's intellectual integrity as opposed to the proper methods of how to conduct oneself when dealing with other people. There are two completely separate things. While I agree with Rand's edict to "judge, and be prepared to be judged", I think this idea has been totally abused. Judging is an intellectual activity that we must do constantly in order to be able to evaluate and act properly in the world. But judging does not necessarily imply condemning. Let's repeat that. Judging does not NECESSARILY imply condemning. Sometimes you can judge and then move on. Other times, you can judge, voice a simple agreement or disagreement which may be sufficient and then move on. The situations where it is appropriate to judge and then follow up with condemnation should be pretty rare in one's life, or to paraphrase Bullwinkle, "I need to get a new life!"
John is upset because Hong dares compare Lindsay's behavior to one specific type of behavior of the leaders of the Chinese cultural revolution. Well, it is true that unlike the Chinese leaders, we don't have to fear of any sort of torture, terror or other physical form of retribution from Lindsay. But it is not an "intellectual perversion" to see a psychological connection here. When I reflect on Peikoff's past excommunications, the emotional undertone of Diana's diatribe or on many of the past rants by Lindsay in the old SoloHQ days, these seem like actions more appropriate to the Christian Crusades than to the philosophy of reason and a benevolent universe. Like the Islamic Fundamentalists, it's time for many Objectivists to grow up.
I'm not holding my breath.
(Edited by C. Jeffery Small
on 5/07, 2:21am)