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A.D.D. Desktopping

Wall 101: Sanction

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Sanction

I had a topic all lined up for today, but I stumbled upon a party across the street that I’ve been missing.    Catch up here:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/juliette-powell/colbert-shrugged-ayn-rand_b_179741.html 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-wellington-ennis/missing-the-point-of-emat_b_185695.html 

If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, or any Rand, or just don’t care, that’s fine.  I’m sure you’re a nice person.  But what bothers me so much is the utter misinterpretation of her work.  Any defense of it does get destroyed by petty arguments of literary merit.  I am an English major, and I KNOW that Atlas Shrugged is full of didactic verse and very structured, idealized characters and imagery.  It is flawed.  It is genius.

I set aside the capitalist overtones of the novel.  The supposed “republican conspiracy.”  I want to focus elsewhere.

The major takeaway for me in Atlas Shrugged is the concept of “The Sanction of the Victim.”  What Rand proves to me is that evil exists because good men allow it to.  Good, productive people allow others to leach off of them.  Consciously, unconsciously, in small increments and big ones.  All are inexcusable.  Heller had it right in Catch – 22. Do you know what the original Catch-22 really is?  “People can do anything they want to that others don’t prevent them from doing.”  I wonder if they knew each other.

Don’t hold others accountable.  That is their job.   Hold yourself accountable.  Ideally, you won’t have to, since you’ll be too busy being competent to notice.  In job interviews, I tell them I never have to worry about holding myself accountable to others expections because mine are definately higher than theirs.  If you learn nothing else from Rand, learn to think for yourself.  Do not rely on others.  You are an end in yourself.

Let’s look at two things:

A synopsis of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Ayn Rand:

“In that story, some charlatans sell nonexistent garments to the Emperor by asserting that the garments’ unusual beauty makes them invisible to those who are morally depraved at heart.  Observe the psychological factors required to make this work: the charlatans rely on the Emperor’s self-doubt; the Emperor does not question their assertion nor their moral authority; he surrenders at once, claiming that he does see the garments- thus denying the evidence of his own eyes and invalidating his own consciousness- rather than face a threat to his precarious self-esteem.  His distance from reality may be gauged by the fact that he prefers to walk naked down the street, displaying his nonexistent garments to the people- rather than risk incurring the moral condemnation of two scoundrels.  The people, prompted by the same psychological panic, try to surpass one another in loud exclamations on the splendor of his clothes- until a child cries out that the Emperor is naked.”   – Rand, Ayn.  The Virtue of Selfishness. “The Argument of Intimidation” 163.    (this ain’t no scholarly citation)

and…

“Many professors use the Argument from Intimidation to stifle independent thinking among the students, to evade questions they cannot answer, to discourage any critical analysis of their arbitrary assumptions or any departure from the intellectual status quo. 

‘Aristotle? My dear fellow-‘ (a weary sigh) ‘ if you had read Professor Spiffkin’s piece in-‘ (reverently) ‘the January 1912 issue of Intellect magazine, which-‘ (contemptuously) ‘you obviously haven’t, you would know-‘ (airily) ‘ that Aristotle has been refuted.’

Such teachers are frequently assisted by the ‘liberal’ goon squad of  the classroom, who burst into laughter at appropriate moments.” (166) 

A lot of people in the comments of those above blogs are the goons Rand mentions.  They create hostile environments that stifle true discussion.  They humiliate and intimidate others into a silent compliance.  They feed off fear and doubt.  Many would rather walk naked than judge 

“Observe that the men who use that Argument are the ones who dread a reasoned moral attack more than any other kind of battle- and when they encounter a morally confident adversary, they are loudest in protesting that “moralizing” should be kept out of intellectual discussions.  But to discuss evil in a manner implying neutrality, is to sanction it” (167) 

When faced with an argument you know is wrong, do you stand your ground?  Do you copy the teacher’s notes off the blackboard, or do you think about the calculation yourself?

Now, I am not implying that anyone defending Rand is then morally right.  People do not know how to formulate rational arguments, and 20 years of forums prove the internet is a haven for irrational thought.  I am a believer in Aquinas’s scholastic method.  Get the facts, formulate your own conclusion.  

Do not for one minute of your day allow a morally bankrupt person hijack your intellect through intimidation.

I cannot speak for Rand and neither can even her estate or descendants or followers.  But if I were to guess she would be too busy doing something of worth to take part in this duel. ( I don’t know exactly where that puts me then!)

A friend says that humans are not rational beings, and I tend to agree, but that does not mean we can all try. And no, I am not John Galt nor do I think I could ever be so perfect.

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Written by brianmz

May 13, 2009 at 11:20 am

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