Saving The World
All of the articles in this series dealing with individualism are:
—Atlas Shrugged: A Model for Individualist Revolution
—Saving The World
—What Is an Individualist
—Hated—The Individualist In a Collectivist World
—Love and Hate at First Sight
Throughout history there have been endless schemes to, "save the world," and all of them have either done nothing at all or, have resulted in the worst horrors ever visited on the world. As evidence, consider the twentieth century's revolutions and governments
The urge that leads men to believe they can save the world, (though none seem to feel the need to ask the world if it wants to be saved), is unabating. This fact has recently been illustrated in a remarkably ironic way. On a certain blog*, two very different methods of saving the world were represented in tandem posts.
The irony is that these "saviors" of the world consider each other absurd and evil, yet they share many of the same views. To begin with, they both believe the world needs to be saved. It is true they both do not mean the same thing by "the world," but do agree that the problem is people. It is the method by which that problem is to be dealt with that is their difference, but, again, they do agree that they know what the solution is, though one solution is presented by Objectivists and the other by a radical environmentalist.
Changing People to Change the World
The Objectivist method of saving the world is to change people. It might be doubted that Objectivists really mean to "save" the world. But they say they do, though it is sometimes expressed as "creating a new world," or "changing the world," or "creating a new culture."
One of the two blog entries said this:
"I'll support [well known Objectivist Institute] Funnel and benefit from being an early-adopter of philosophical technology that will save the world." [Emphasis mine.] Another Objectivist site says, "We also seek to be a microcosm of the world we want to create." [Emphasis mine.] Another says, "We seek nothing less than to change the world." [Emphasis mine.] Perhaps the most ambitious of all is this claim they will "...spearhead a cultural renaissance" that will "reverse the ... trends in today's culture ... the current political and economic trends in America and throughout the world ...."
All of these organizations intend to achieve these noble aims by promoting Objectivism. Some have very grand schemes for doing this, like the one outlined in the first blog entry I've already alluded to. There is a very interesting thought in that first blog entry however.
To those who "wonder whether there's any hope for humanity," it is suggested, " if you change the culture to be less hostile to the right ideas, then you'll have a chance." But the "right ideas," the culture is hostile to are the ideas in Objectivism, and they are hostile to them, because they threaten what they want.
The problem with the culture is not ignorance, although there is certainly plenty of that, but lack of character. The problem with society is people, but not because they do not know Objectivism, but because of the kind of people they are. They do not want to know Objectivism and never will.
In her article, "The American Spirit," [The Ayn Rand Letter Vol. II, No. 4 November 20, 1972] Ayn Rand wrote: "It was a discussion of the American people's sense of life and its fundamentally independent, individualistic nature. At the end of that discussion, I wrote: 'Is there enough of the American sense of life left in people ...?'" At that time, she said, "It is impossible to tell."
In case you do not know what Rand means by a "fundamentally independent, individualistic nature," she wrote:
"Degrees of ability vary, but the basic principle remains the same: the degree of a man's independence, initiative and personal love for his work determines his talent as a worker and his worth as a man. Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself.... There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence. [For the New Intellectual, excerpt from The Fountainhead, Part Four—18, "The Soul Of An Individualist]
Ayn Rand thought it was impossible to tell if the independent individualistic nature of the American sense of life were hopelessly lost. But we can tell now, it is hopelessly lost. There is no more "American spirit."
The independent individual of which Rand speaks is almost non-existent today. If there is truly an endangered specie, the independent individual, the man of integrity, the true
American, is it.
In the early years of America, the country was populated by independent individuals. The independent individual is self-sufficient, neither wanting or seeking more than he can acquire by his own effort. He is competent to live his life by his own wits and choices, never seeking to avoid the consequences of those choices. He is honest and benevolent in all his dealings with others. He is a man of dignity seeking the highest possible values in every aspect of his life, never settling for less than the best, never compromising his principles. Most importantly he is a man of integrity:
"Integrity—, the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues is a synonym of independence. Integrity is that quality in man which gives him the courage to hold his own convictions against all influences, against the opinions and desires of other men; the courage to remain whole, unbroken, untouched, to remain true to himself. .... The virtue of courage is the strength to face any threat and to fight back. Fight what? Nature, as well as other men when necessary. ... the man of courage is the one who does not surrender." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "Part 3 - Transition Between Novels, 8 - The Moral Basis Of Individualism"]
In the early years of America, life was tough. Many of the early settlers perished. To survive, one had to be independent, there was no one else to depend on; one had to be self-sufficient; there was no one else to mooch or steal from; one had to be competent, the incompetent died. The men who survived and prospered did so because they were independent individuals who learned the value of integrity, decency, honesty, and self-respect. They were the men of the "American spirit." In their creation of wealth they not only prospered themselves, but made the entire country prosperous.
In time, life in America was no longer tough, in fact, it became easy, but the American Spirit lived on until America became the most free prosperous nation in the history of the world. But it was not to last. There are endless reasons for the decline of America, but one is almost always neglected, as well as the reason for it—the loss of the independent individualists.
In all of America today, probably less than twenty percent of the population could survive, much less prosper, if their survival and prosperity depended solely on their own competence, ability, and ambition. Almost everyone in this country enjoys a level of prosperity that would be impossible to them if it depended on their own ability to produce the wealth they enjoy.
Everything in the American society is directed toward supporting those who are the exact opposite of the independent individualist. All its programs and policies favor those who cannot support themselves, the incompetent, the irresponsible, the dishonest, the vicious, the undignified, and unscrupulous.
Ayn Rand saw it coming. "Isn't the unnamed principle clear? Developing yourself into a productive, ambitious, independent person, is not regarded as a value to the United States." [Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, "21. The Wreckage Of The Consensus."] So no one does!
A Method that Won't Work
In my article, "Individualism——Not Objectivism," I explained why promoting Objectivism does not produce what is really needed—a return to individualism. Even if it were possible for someone to become an independent individualist by embracing and following Objectivism, the promotion of that philosophy is not going to change the growing collectivist, statist, hedonist destruction of Western culture and society.
The populations of all European countries (for a long time) and America (Canada, US, and Mexico) more recently are dominated by second-handers who have no interest in being responsible for their own lives, who believe they have a "right" to an education, health care, food, housing, and a good job, and the politicians and bureaucrats whose own bread-and-butter comes from pandering to these parasites.
Promoting Objectivism is a good thing, but its appeal is going to be to those who are already independent individualists. The vast majority, who believe they deserve to be "recognized" and "valued" merely because they exist, because "everyone is equal, and they are just as good as the next fellow," are not going to be interested in a philosophy that tells them they do not have a right to anything they have not earned and that they must be responsible for their own lives.
Another Method Might Work
The most ironic aspect of the strange juxtaposition of methods for, "saving the world," is that the one despised by the Objectivists just might work. To be fair, the blog post suggests killing 90% of humans is being proposed as a solution, but it is, in fact, only a kind of fantasy or wish on the part of Dr. Eric R. Pianka, who believes a disease or other natural disaster just might do it. He does not propose the intentional extermination of men. While no benevolent human being could wish this on mankind, even from natural causes, the possibility and its consequences must not be ignored.
The possibility of world-wide pandemic is always a fact, but something much more likely to bring the kind of world-wide devastation envisioned by Dr. Pianka is the continuation of the way things are already going; in fact, just the kind of oppression of industry and individual liberty that Dr. Pianka would wish imposed to save the environment. If the accelerating collectivist-welfare-statism in this country, and the near demise of European welfare states is not halted (and there is no reason to suppose it will be), the economic and social collapse of Western civilization is inevitable.
The world-wide catastrophe such a collapse would bring is impossible to fully comprehend. Not only would the economies of every country in the world collapse, world-wide famine would be inevitable, crime and violence would prevail as the last resort of the parasites who have been living on the productive efforts of others, plague and epidemics would wipe out huge numbers of people as sanitation, medical care, and drugs became non-existent.
The survivors of such a catastrophe would be the independent individualists, the competent and self-sufficient, the only kind of men to whom the kind of society the Objectivists envision is possible and the only kind of men who deserve it. As Any Rand herself so eloquently describes it:
"Only free, independent men can cooperate and feel benevolence toward one another. But they can do it only because (and only so long as) they know that cooperation will involve no pain or injury to them——that is, no demand for self-sacrifice. ... Individualism doesn't mean isolation, aloofness or escaping to a desert island. In fact, only true Individualists are fit to associate with other men. But they do it only on the basis of the recognition of each man's essential independence: each man lives primarily for, by and through himself and recognizes the same right in others; all relations among men are secondary; men are ... morally free to associate together or not, on any particular occasion, as their personal interests dictate. There is the pattern of a free, moral society, of human cooperation, and of benevolence among men." [The Letters of Ayn Rand, We the Living to The Fountainhead (1931-1943), To Rose Wilder Lane, November 3, 1946]
The world, that is, human society, in its present state, is probably not worth saving, and neither the Objectivist's or Dr. Pianka's method can save it. Dr. Pianka's method, which very well may occur, does have one advantage—while it cannot save the world, it would eliminate all that is not worth saving, leaving it for the independent individualists to rebuild.
[Note: It might be of interest to some that
Ayn Rand once made the "save the world" mistake, and tried very hard to do it, but could not. It is interesting to note how foolish these second-hand "Objectivists" are to think they are going to succeed in a project in which she failed.]
—the disgusting Internet phenomenon where totally uninteresting people indulge in revealing every detail of their squalid lives and insipid minds, wallowing in the delusion the world is waiting with bated breath to learn whether or not they have lately changed their underwear.
—Reginald Firehammer (03/27/06)