First off, love the site. Your articles are like reading new thoughts of my own I hadn't quite developed yet, for the most part. But there is something that nags at me. A few months ago, I probably wouldn't have taken any notice, but I wasn't very happy then and I now think I know why.
Have you ever read any of Ayn Rand's work? I'm still working on the whole of it, but I read Anthem a while ago and it always struck me as an amazing piece with an amazing message. So the fact that you constantly use "we" when really you mean "I" eats at me, but not to an extent that I can't get over it. It makes sense for what you are doing.
Only a few months ago I read The Fountainhead and I can honestly say it changed my life. It made it OK to be myself, to want what I want, to ignore the idiot masses and to listen to myself. For the most part all this agrees with you. But another great point of Rand's philosophy of egotism is only concerning yourself with yourself. And I wonder, how much do you care about others' opinions of you? Being judged by others is inescapable, but giving their concerns any weight is not. Through bits and pieces of your work, I am getting the impression you have changed yourself for the better, partially for yourself, which I totally agree with, but it seems there is also change happening just for the swagger factor, to give the asshole kids a big "fuck you."
Now I'm not saying I'm right. Maybe through Ayn Rand's amazing work of fiction I was able to disillusion myself into thinking that I can exist just as myself, without regard for what others think of me. But the feeling of freedom and genuine acceptance and the happiness that has lead to seem to verify that my thinking is right.
I guess my basic question is, how much do you give a shit about what people think about you?
We’ve been meaning to
clarify our relationship to
First of all, although we don’t love her books from an artistic perspective, we do think it’s inaccurate and unfair that “the whole Ayn Rand thing” has become synonymous with conservatism, seeing as how her signature song seemed to be not accepting bullshit and fully realizing yourself as an individual, whereas contemporary conservatism is basically wholly based on swallowing received bullshit unquestioningly. So there’s definitely a lot of cherry-picking going on where Rand and the Right are concerned, and most Liberals don’t seem even to realize this, since Rand is now so associated with the Right that no Liberals read her. All the Rand-worship sites seem to be run by Conservatives, which explains the hilarious fact that virtually all online lists of “Ayn Rand quotes” include a shitload where she talks shit about the New Deal, but none where she talks shit about religion, even though she talked as much shit about religion as she did about anything.
But the main reason we never
got on board with “the whole
Ayn Rand thing” (aside from the fact that everything valid
says is taken from Nietzsche, so we prefer to just go right to the
source and read Nietzsche) is that, although her fans certainly like to
bandy about words
like logic and reason,
they seem often to be carrying those terms in vain, and
taking them to mean things that they don’t really mean. We’ve made it
clear that we don’t have any
problem with being a dick when the truth is at stake, but we also try
care to point out that “logic” doesn’t
mean simply being a dick for the sake of
being a dick. Simply
doesn’t really have a problem with giving some change to a
homeless guy now and
then—it is simply not that big a deal.
Yes, we will fight with every ounce of our strength
in support of the
fact that evolution is a fact, but it would simply be inaccurate to say
any opinion about whether one should or shouldn’t give change
to a homeless guy
can be a “fact.”
That would be like
saying that a position about whether one should or shouldn’t
like the taste of
pickles can be a “fact.”
In other words,
just because you call your philosophy “Objectivism”
and say the word “reason” a
lot doesn’t prove that you are actually being objective or
anyone with a degree in Philosophy, and
they will tell you that
You talk about the “idiot masses,” and so do we, but we feel like we should make sure we’re all on the same page with that: yes, someone who believes that Noah’s Ark really happened is an idiot—but someone who just thinks it would be nice if they had enough money to feed their kids isn’t one. Economically, we are definitely Liberals: we think the rich should be taxed more heavily than the poor, we think there should be such things as unemployment benefits and a minimum wage you can actually fucking survive on, and we think public-school funding from property taxes should be pooled beyond district lines, and possibly even statewide (especially since the Republicans counteract “natural” population shifts with gerrymandering, to make sure the rich areas stay rich and the shitty areas stay shitty). It is simply not the case that being against these things is more “logical” than being for them, and anyone who says it is just doesn’t know what “logic” means. And the Rand cult has played a big part in logic’s being given a bad name, to the point where nowadays people think it means some kind of Gordon Gecko bullshit instead of simply not making errors when you figure shit out about shit that actually has something to do with “objective truth” one way or the other, which egotism inherently doesn’t. Yes, we have argued that a bit more “egotism” would be pragmatically advantageous to the Left at this point in time, but that’s not the same thing as “proving” that it is objectively right to be a dick for the sake of being a dick in all possible cases.
As for whether we “give a shit what people think about us,” there’s not a one-word answer to that one either. Our first instinct was to say that we care what good people think of us, and don’t care what bad people think of us. But then we realized that the problem was with the word “care,” since it’s pretty vague in that sentence. We thought it meant that if someone we thought was a good person disagreed with something on the site, and explained why, and we thought they had a valid point, we would change our minds—but then we realized that if anyone had a valid point to the effect that we were wrong about something, we would change our minds. So, the issue there is the presence or absence of the “valid point,” not the good/bad person dichotomy. (Maybe we just define good people as the ones most likely to have valid points?) But remember what the point of our project is: there are assholes who are hurting people, and we’re trying to stop them. That is the very essence of “giving a shit.” If we were “looking out for #1,” then we would have just chosen to parlay our skills into making a lot of money writing advertising slogans or something—but we didn’t.
The “whole Ayn Rand thing” is right about the fact that it’s logically flawed to base beliefs on emotion—but only insofar as emotion clouds one’s judgment, which it doesn’t always do (although, in the spirt of Rand, we really should point out that you closed your e-mail by asserting that Objectivism must be true because it makes you happy, which is more than a little logically problematic). Yes, it is a problem that there are people who want Creation to be taught in school, because they want religion to be true because it makes them feel better—but it is also true that it was the logical and right decision to go to war against Hitler, and wasn’t that decision based on feeling sympathy for his victims? Emotion doesn’t always mean you’re making a mistake—when it makes you wrong it does, but the rest of the time it just means you’re human. In short, it is a priori necessary to believe that human existence is valuable and worthy of respect in order to be able to believe that anything is “right” or “wrong,” because otherwise there’s no such thing as ethics.
And this, by the way, is why
you can’t really have such a
thing as “Objectivism,” even if you’re us
(except for cases where actual facts
are concerned, e.g., “hydrogen is lighter than
NOTE: Another piece concerning 1585's relationship to Rand was later added here.