On missing the point

Here’s an idle question, recently posed on LewRockwell.com: Is Secession Anti-American?

Here’s an idle question, recently posed by me: the fuck do you care?

If your plan is to secede from the United States of America, then, seriously, why are you saying anti-American like it’s a bad thing?

The first question is an idle question because there is no point debating whether you are being loyal or disloyal to a political entity that you are supposedly trying to get out from under and get the fuck away from.

The second question is an idle question because I’m pretty sure I already know the answer. However, in spite of being idle, the question is worth asking, because if the answer is made explicit, that may be enough to show how stupid it really is.

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21 replies to On missing the point Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Kelly W. Patterson

    Kinda like asking if getting divorced might piss off your husband.

  2. anonymouse

    Isn’t this one of those “by definition” things? If you want some part to secede from America, clearly you must be against the continued existence of the country in its present form, and there must be some grievance with the policies of its current government that is so severe it can’t be addressed within the framework of constitutional government.

  3. Discussed at www.the-gabe.com

    Wretched and Beautiful : links for 2009-04-20:

    […] Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-04-20 – On missing the point Here’s an idle question, recently posed on LewRockwell.com: Is Secession "Anti-American"? […]

  4. Gabriel

    I agree it’s a somewhat silly question to ask, but the the democratic congressman mentioned in the piece clearly is ignorant if he’s not aware that Texas has already seceded twice since it became a political entity.

  5. Bob Kaercher

    “One would hope that a politician from Texas would have a clue as to how his state, a >former province of Mexico, unilaterally became an independent republic that in turn >joined the American union.”

    Well, I have to wonder just exactly who in Texas actually said they consented to joining this “American union” scheme.

  6. Rad Geek

    Gabriel,

    the democratic congressman mentioned in the piece clearly is ignorant if he’s not aware that Texas has already seceded twice since it became a political entity

    Well, not that Dunnam isn’t an ass, but, to be fair, his remark was that secession from the U.S.A. is anti-American, not that it’s anti-Texan.

    Given what he means by the name America, he’s almost certainly right about that. I just don’t care, because, in that sense of the word, I’m not an American, and I can’t be disloyal to something that I never owed any fealty to in the first place.

  7. Aster

    “If your plan is to secede from the United States of America, then, seriously, why are you saying “anti-American” like it’s a bad thing?”

    If one’s plan is to seek out the best that has been thought and said, learn from it, and to choose that which is most rational and inspiring, then why should one fear being not only ‘anti-American’, but also ‘anti-Californian’, ‘anti-Southern’, ‘anti-Swiss’, ‘anti-Maori’, ‘anti-Appalachian’, or ‘anti-Leichtensteinian’?

    If- of one’s own indepedent judgement- one admires the values, institutions, and practices which are prevalent in one of the above societies, one should certainly adopt them- but not because of some political or ancestral affinity, but because they are of value to you.

    I look at the ‘American Way’ and I see a close mixture of good values (Enlightenment, individualism, industrialism, commercialism, libertarianism, optimism) and bad values (religious fanaticism, provincial ignorance, racism, imperialism, dualism, aggression). I see no crime in being either ‘pro-American’ or ‘anti-American’ as a matter of contingent judgement; I see every irrationality in being ‘pro-American’ or ‘anti-American’ because of the piece of clay upon which one happens to be born.

    May the best of America be enjoyed by the whole world. Let the worst be shunned by the world and abandoned in America. And let us judge by reason, not cultural nationalism.

  8. Nick Manley

    It’s interesting that you mention dualism. When I read Ayn Rand Institute commentary on foreign policy, I tend to think of Arthur’s thesis/conceptual framework for critiquing U.S. imperialism.

    It’s like U.S. = good Western hero (except when it isn’t meeting every threat with a bomb or being too humanitarian with the “savages) vs savage Islam crazed Iraqis/Afghans/Whoever

    And then when I read about the complexities of Afghani society/culture, I see how much ARI’s dualism obscures. There is a book on RAWA that recounts how all of the abused women in a hospital reject their treatment — yet these are the people who dropping aid packages to or securing against the Taliban counts as evil altruism.

  9. Soviet Onion

    And then when I read about the complexities of Afghani society/culture, I see how much ARI’s dualism obscures. There is a book on RAWA that recounts how all of the abused women in a hospital reject their treatment — yet these are the people who dropping aid packages to or securing against the Taliban counts as evil altruism.>

    How could that be construed as altruism? If we’re all in this war together, not only should allying with them be a simple matter of genuine love and affinity (since presumably you would admire and seek to preserve in others the qualities you value in yourself) but from a strategic perspective doesn’t it help to have friends “behind enemy lines”? That’s fucking basic practical analysis.

    How the fuck are you going to secure victory for liberalism in these societies if not by expanding the spheres of it that already exist? Get tactical, people.

  10. Aster

    The ARI types just equate the West with reason and anything else with unreason; hence, anything horrible that happens in the rest of the world is the fault of the irrational people themselves. Giving the slightest aid to them is a sanction of their irrational culture. Their equation of the United States with good approaches a dogma of infallibility.

    Apparently, rational dissidents in irrational soceities do not exist. Apparently, Christian fundamentalists and neoconservative power-addicts are exemplars of reason. Apparently… oh, why bother? These people live in a middlebrow-elite cloudcockooland. Their version of ‘reality’ includes a copy of Atlas Shrugged bound in brass and ivory, surrounded by singing cherubim. These people have made it in a society which rewards sycophancy while pretending to be rational and they think this proves that they’re John Galt. They’ve watched America pull up just short of the brink of fascism and they have done nothing- and now as the country slides into the Third World all they can do is protest Obama over the suspicion that he might tax the rich.

    Yaron Brook keeps appearing with Glenn Beck on Faux News. I don’t know how he can rationalise stepping right in between Michelle Malkin and Anne Coultier on a might-as-well-be-the-state propaganda network.

    The ARI is totally incapable of conceptual thinking- it’s all just cheerleading for the concrete sides Ayn Rand chose in her life. And they’ve totally forgotten the difference between self-interest and the unhindered exercise of power- possibly because the only form of self-assertion these corporatists have ever experienced is pushing around others in the corporate power game.

    Ayn Rand has influenced me as much as any other writer. Unfortunately the direct result of her life’s work has been to create a cult which fawns on the rich and calls this reason. She should have been taken seriously in her own time. But today I can’t fault most who despise her.

    Of course, Marz and Nietzsche were treated no better by their successors.

  11. Nick Manley

    I actually agree with Paul Craig Roberts that Obama’s statements about no tax raises on anyone below 250,000 dollars a year suggest upper middle class taxation — alongside taxation of the truly rich. In America, a 250,000 a year salary is still not rich in relative terms. For that, you have to turn to Wall Street and million-billion dollar bonuses…

    http://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/obama%E2%80%99s-attack-on-the-middle-class-by-paul-craig-roberts/

    As of now, if they taxed the institutions with bailout money, then it would arguably be restitution of an imperfect sort — the government could simply spend the money for other nefarious purposes. I see it as a power game distant from me — am unlikely to receive a check of Goldman Sach’s tax supported better than expected quarterly profit. It’s sad that people judge whether or not we’re doing great by temporary stock market rises. Of course, the economic indicators on job loss and whatnot completely suck. The only reason the stock market rises on the surface is due to bailout politics.

    As for Yaron Brooks, I have seen him speak in person. His reputation as a hawk preceded him and strongly influenced my view of his character. Adam Reed’s latest post reports that the likes of MM are adopting Rand now. Rush Limbaugh has too.

    It’s really frustrating. I do NOT want to be lumped in with Rush Limbaugh when invoking Rand. The only thing that incoherent statist conservatives take away from Rand is a celebration of businessmen and opposition to welfare statism. They never cite her approval of the decriminalization of prostitution or something else with controversial undertones. The Christianist base would never approve.

  12. Aster

    “Adam Reed’s latest post reports that the likes of MM are adopting Rand now. Rush Limbaugh has too.”

    If it weren’t for Adam Reed, the mentality of nearly everyone who invokes Ayn Rand would have led me to conclude that her worldview is wrong entirely. With a few exceptions- Barbara Branden, Jennifer Ianollo, Wendy McElroy- he’s one of few who has taken from Rand not some alienated dogmatism but a way to live life as it might be and ought to be. It’s a shame that there’s so much class in Rand- one cannot help but admire the beauty of Versailles, but I at least can’t forget that it shuts the vast majority outside the gates. And one can’t extend it to everyone without changing its nature.

    I do wonder sometimes if Rand’s whole approach is wrong- especially in these days of ecological twilight, which looks far too much like Act V of the historical cycle which began in the Renaissance. But I watch those who consistently reject the ontological stance behind the reason-individualism-free market paradigm, and they almost always end up preaching some mystical collectivism one could peel off any Evangelical preacher. I think the ultimate issue- as Rand said- is ‘to focus or not to focus’- the real question is whether the proper use of human conscious is to sharpen awareness by the sight of intentional discernment or to open awareness to the alleged light of intrinsic value. The latter sometimes seems easy and comfortable but it leads to nightmares- it promises the transcendant Divine, but actually leads to a worldview which falsely inscribes the themes of our pre-rational social-animal existence onto the universe, in jarring contradiction to what reason shows the universe and the human situation to look like. Religion/tribalism is where we are if we don’t focus, and accords with what our genes need a group of hunter-gatherers to believe in order for the group to survive and reproduce. Focus identifies our actual situation, but at the price of removal from the romantic enchanted world to which our biology biases us. The only way around this dilemma I can see is conscious art- accepting our biological buttons but learning to play them for focused purposes… we need to be neither mystics nor engineers, but violinists. But that is a very, very, tall order- and extremely difficuly to manage without education from early childhood. Most of us are not strong enough for it. Perhaps we should identify and accept the most harmless methods of cheating as the best humanly possible- but doing so means living life in the shadow of our human potential.

    The odd thing is that when I look for people with whom I do feel spiritual affinity, I don’t look primarily to any kind of intellectual but to the ‘ordinary’ New Zealanders around me. They (I look forward to the right to say ‘we’) enjoy life, live for their own happiness, maintain a minimum of supernaturalism, and don’t apologise for it. They work together without spiritual intrusion, leave each other alone, and are much kinder to other people than are Americans, who are drenched in dualistic morality. The average Kiwi spends the weekend going drinking with mates and doesn’t pretend to call it something else. The regrettable thin is that so many New Zealanders feel bad about this and feel like they ought to be more like the ‘ambitious’ Americans or the ‘distinguished’ British. But it’s the Americans and British whose civilisations are failing, whose people are uneducated and miserable, and whose world-picture has lost touch with reality.

    It seems very strange to me that if you look for human self-realisation you should look anywhere else but to intellectuals- i.e., to those who specialise in understanding the broad principles as to how we should live and think and imagine. But I increasingly suspect that intellectuals, especially political intellectuals, have internalised a notion that their role in life is to be crusaders or monks, people whose job it is to be oriented toward values higher than ordinary reality… a good symbol of this is the descent of Western academia from the monasteries. My view is that one ought to be interested in ideas in order to learn how to live in this world, and live well- and not for any ‘higher’ reason. Perhaps this explains why public Objectivists are so mediocre- Rand urged us to live for ourselves, but anyone who spends their life proclaiming the gospel of Objectivism is actually dedicating their life to ‘changing the world’ for reason and egoism, and not living reason and egoism (in the best cases, it is because an oppressive society will not allow them that life). Among leftist intellectuals, the same pattern often manifests as a guilty need to throw one’s privileged life away on the barricades- and here again, both Marx and Victor Hugo were ultimately channeling Christianity.

    You mentioned Paganism. I wish to state that I repudiate much of my former Pagan worldview. There are details I’m unsure of, and I don’t wish to make a final call until I make one last attempt to experience it fully. But I want to dissociate myself from the approach to life for which I used to advocate. The bad parts horrify me (the record of modern Pagan intellectuals is nearly uniformly a history of frauds and fascists), and the good parts, sadly, seem more easily explained by evolutionary biology or neuropsychology than in Paganism’s own terms. I wish it were otherwise- I miss the depth of life, the joy, the love, and kindness which I used to feel when I really thought I experienced a goddess as an immediate presence. I simply must give it one more try. But reality is reality.

    Oddly, I think there is some evidence for some ‘paranormal phenomena’- but I very much disapprove of the casual enthusiasm for the subject which I’ve shown in the past. Accepting and trying to work with an occult premise is like trying to work with a set of equations where the conclusions work out to contradict the premises- you end up chasing around your mind in circles, and nothing starts making sense. Dive into it completely an you end up with the deranged inhumanity of a Blavatsky, a Besant, or an Evola. If there is something of value here, it’s as hard to understand as quantum physics- and as with quantum physics it’s probably wise to give credence to rational and realist explanations unless shown good reason to do otherwise. I find some occult writers fascinating, and quite a number of brilliant poets have certainly given voice to a fascinating and alluring worldview which I would call Pagan. But if Paganism promises the possibility of having both worldly ethics and transcendant experience, it’s serious pursuit seems to always lead to the same tired mindscape of mystic altruism. And attempting to integrate mystical experience with the rest of human knowledge is less safe then experimenting with heroin or glancing at the face of Cthulhu. Walk through the last gate and you will beg to be eaten first.

  13. Nick Manley

    I don’t really think ecological issues need be so difficult for Randians or classical liberals or whatever. I’ve recently read Gus Dizerga’s work on liberal democracies as self-organizing systems — not states. He has some creative proposals for turning forests into non-coercive tax funded multi-managed cooperatives. I have to say he rather successfully trashed that Atlas article I posted — although, I don’t quite agree with his Pagan spirituality.

    Furthermore, it’s blatantly obvious that pollution crosses personal boundaries. My point about the difference between the handgun issue and environmental ones was that the enviromental issues deal with plausible rights violations — requiring careful philosophizing and scientific analysis.

    I also agree with Rand that the issue of guns in society is a complex one for the philosophy of law e.g. what happens when a person points a gun at someone’s head in the middle of the street during an argument. In other words: when are we talking about the crime of blackmail, extortion, and so on. Rand comments on this in the recently released collection of her Q & A. The realistic hypothetical is my own — any Afghani or Iraqi will testify to what Ak-47 toting religious groups can accomplish in “persuading” you to accept their worldview.

    On Charle’s tank response:

    A real world example of a country with de facto legalized tanks would probably be Afghanistan during the chaos of the post-Soviet civil war — Afghanistan has plenty of corrupt private armies. That obviously didn’t work out so well for liberty. I am theoritcally in tune with Charle’s response. Nonetheless, I can’t say I’d feel safe with some folks amongst me running around with tanks — street gangs, abortion clinic bombers, the minutemen, and so on. If we’re in a minarchist framework, then the government or citizen arrest folks would have to have the ability to suppress a criminal with a tank or two. That sounds like a recipe for domestic military battles in a civilian neighborhood — at the minimum, we might want to stockpile up on RPGS to make it easier.

    Well, yes, our real situations are frequently not romantic. Anyone who hashad to deal with health insurance issues in the U.S. will testify to that — how the fuck is it helpful for a government to charge 200 dollars a month for welfare insurance?

    Nonetheless, I don’t see what’s wrong with being super concerned with ideas more abstract then ordinary reality — if the ideas are good, then they have a relation to it. My whole lifestyle would collapse without respect for scholarship. My head is a pretty exciting/stimulating place to be — despite my impoverished material state.

    Although, it’s difficult to justify my taking certain classes on the grounds of how to live in this world e.g. what does art history have to do with that?

  14. Laura J.

    Nick,

    Although, it’s difficult to justify my taking certain classes >on the grounds of how to live in this world e.g. what does >art history have to do with that?

    Well, depends partly on whether or not you have any particular idea in mind of what you can use the knowledge so acquired for. Art history is a bit far from my usual specialties, but an East Asian Art History class I’ve been taking this semester has been extremely helpful to me in supplementing my knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art and material culture, which is directly useful to my literary studies in how it’s deepened my understanding of Buddhist and Daoist symbolism on one hand, and will also make it easier for me to create good and informative arts & crafts tutorials and other cultural activities to teach to young ‘uns at the Japanese immersion program I teach at. I’m sure other art history courses could similarly benefit people working in a variety of fields in different ways particular to each field, not to mention aspiring artists themselves looking to the past for inspiration. It’s really all a matter of finding the right course with the right teacher; if you can’t find a course offering in the field that inspires you, it’s probably better to look for courses in some other field.

  15. Rad Geek

    Nick:

    Although, it’s difficult to justify my taking certain classes on the grounds of how to live in this world e.g. what does art history have to do with that?

    Some activities are worth pursuing because they produce rewards external to themselves. Other activities are worth pursuing because the activity is its own reward.

    Whether or not something is important for life in this world depends on the sort of life that you want to lead. If it’s hard to see how the study of beauty or art, for its own sake, fits into the sort of life you are leading, I think that’s probably a problem with your life, not with the study of art or beauty.

    A real world example of a country with de facto legalized tanks would probably be Afghanistan during the chaos of the post-Soviet civil war

    I don’t know what you’re talking about here. The heavy artillery used during the Afghan civil war was not supplied by free-market tank vendors. It was supplied by governments, specifically the two most powerful imperial governments in the history of the world. You may as well cite Blackwater or DynCorp as examples of a free market in defense services.

    Of course, when there are weapons going around, there is a chance that someone evil might use them, and that they might form up little armed factions to put those weapons to the purpose of tyrannizing innocent people. But the question is what to do about that; you could put all the weapons in the hands of one massive armed faction, and have them pre-emptively squash all the little armed factions, even those that have not actually used their weapons for any invasive purpose yet, in the hopes that the massive armed faction will protect you. But if what you’re afraid of is the potential for armed factions to abuse their power, then why would the creation of a massive armed faction with effectively unchecked destructive power seem like a good solution to the problem? What happens if the big armed faction decides — as absolutely every big armed faction in the history of the world has decided, when put in the same position — that it will begin to tyrannize the now-disarmed people who have no realistic hope of resisting them? It’s easy to fear that if ordinary people are armed, they will do things — possibly awful things — that are out of your control. Sure; but what makes you think that a governent is, or ever will be, under your control, or that they will hold back from doing awful things?

    Alternatively, you could try to disperse the defense, so that if any one of the little armed factions becomes repressive, there is some hope that there will be a swarm of other little armed factions (or unarmed but effectively resistant factions) who can block their efforts. Of course, if it comes to that, that sucks — there is no good solution to the question of how to defend yourself from aggressive violence; only least-worst solutions. But it’s hard for me to see how state monopolization of the means of self-defense is supposed to solve that problem. In point of fact it has always and everywhere made it worse.

    If we’re in a minarchist framework, then the government or citizen arrest folks would have to have the ability to suppress a criminal with a tank or two.

    But we’re not in a minarchist framework. And I don’t want to be in a minarchist framework; I’m an anarchist, not a minrachist. And I don’t think that it’s particularly more likely for a minarchist framework to arise than for anarchy to arise. So why should I worry about how things would have to be in minarchy?

  16. Nick Manley

    I spoke too fast on the art history thing — was focused on the external rewards aspect. I do appreciate the study of beauty. It enriches my existence. In fact, the tension between instrumental pressures related to gatekeeper economic-social structures, and rewarding study as an end unto itself can cause problems — although, not necessarily. When I responded to Aster, I was thinking in instrumental mode — not having chosen a major yet means I haven’t quite decided what kind of collegiate life I want to live.

    Charles,

    You’re right. Nonetheless, isn’t it still a historical example of a society where such things existed in private hands? The Afghan warlords arguably constitute warring private feudal esque states or organizations attempting to establish such dominance. It’s true that it didn’t arise in a pure market framework. The institutions that monopolize these weapons irresponsibly provided them to vicious thugs – so score one for your point about the danger of granting one institution lots of weapons.

    I Googled tanks+Afghan warlords. There are tanks in their hands: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?txttnews[ttnews]=4861&txttnews[backPid]=167&nocache=1

    http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2003/10/10/story36477227.asp

    I am just curious to find historical references.

    Laura,

    Have you ever read The Woman Warrior?

    http://books.google.com/books?id=9jNyfxW4a6QC&dq=Maxine+Hong+Kingston&source=an&hl=en&ei=IXLwSdWbM4zGM6Wg-LoP&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&pgis=1

    My dive into Chinese culture through literature.

  17. Marja Erwin

    Aster

    If romanticism is superstition, its opposite is also superstition. The one world view praises romantic and passionate experiences as transcending our animal nature; the other condemns them as merely our animal nature. I’ve been there.

    I think we agree on some of the terms – playing our animal natures like violins – but I do not think you should entirely reject romanticism. Either find a happy medium or a synthesis.

    Sorry; I may have misread you in my hurry.

  18. Laura J.

    Nick,

    Nope, not familiar with that particular book. Do you recommend it?

  19. Aster

    Marja-

    I’m not trying to dispense with romanticism. My difficulty is with the kind of romanticism which:

    1) Treats emotion as a means of percieving a mystical reality.

    2) Morally enjoins that one find things are better, or otherwise other, than they are.

    3) Encourages us to live in a fantasy world inside our heads as an escape from reality.

    Furthermore, I think it is dangerously unhealthy to romanticise values in contradiction to the values which actually allow us to survive and thrive on Earth. Imagination is valuable and we should certainly use it to explore the experience and meaning of all possible moral and spiritual perspectives. But I think a great deal of romanticism teaches us to worship things not good for us- two examples would be the romanticism of suffering and the romanticism of violence.

    In specific regards to human animal nature, this approach suggests that we should pay attention to actual human emotions and responses and the things in the world which really do make humans happy. I think a great number of romantics- especially religious romantics- are committed to pretending away human desires such as wealth, property, pleasure, sexuality, respect, recognition, and efficacy.

    These romantics want an ethos which doesn’t value these things and try to pretend that we don’t enjoy them. This leads to fire-and-brimstone condemnations of those who don’t pretend otherwise. Moralist romantics demand of themselves and of others that life be lived by counterfactual rules. It’s a formula for faking reality and wasting a life in guilt or self-doubt; politically, and it’s a primary tool of manipulation for patriarchy, religion, and the state.

    I think that a healthy romanticism needs to make use of our ability to paint our ideas and experience upon a model of real human happiness, rather than trying to make attractive things which do not actually attract us. I think appreciating stories and poetry is a very important part of this. But we need to be faithful to the Earth, in Nietzsche’s sense. Offering someone an ideal which by nature can’t be happily realised is not beautiful but a deception which can inflict a lifetime of senseless self-torture. Unfortunately, such ideals are extremely popular in a world where most people are suffering.

    We need poetry and romance (keeping in mind that it is romance) We do not need a Heaven which will eternally evade our grasp. And those who tell us that some higher plane awaits us if we set our values against worldly values are, as a rule, unhappy people in denial of their actual state. The sustainable path to experiencing the world as sacred is not to intuit an otherworldly love but to place our fierce passion in everything humanly best in the world around us.

    What we value is not, in authenticity, infinitely malleable (Sartre was wrong). Nor is it a simple epiphenomenon of our convictions (Rand was wrong). Actually, I think Plato of all people got it right in this case: some of what we value is set biologically; some of it is alterable by human consciousness. But I think we would be wiser to adjust the alterable to the inalterable than the reverse. It may be better to be Quixote with a dream than Quixote without a dream, but I prefer dreaming with reality instead of against it.

    We have to be smart and aware to thrive in this world. Emotionalist romanticism is too often the product of people who are not facing life- often because they are privileged enough that they can get away with operating inefficiently, or because they are so underprivilged that living in the world is or seems impossible. I can’t afford afford any longer to make these errors. I can’t survive on a diet of roses. And the morality which says that one should accept roses at the expense of bread is among other things interested rhetoric. We are not living in a kingdom of ends.

    from Rand:

    “What do you dream of?” “Nothing. Of what account are dreams?” “Of what account is life?” “None. But who made it so?” “Those who cannot dream.” “No. Those who can only dream”

    Note: every mistake I’m criticising here is one I’ve made myself.

    Nick-

    Please, it is very much not my intention to discourage anyone’s exploration of the arts. I can think of few more rewarding ways of spending one’s life, and the kind of society I wish is precisely one in which the humanities are universally available and respected. My objection to the motivation of the moral crusader is not that it isn’t material or practical enough, but that it is usually self-sacrificing- it’s not based on a pursuit of what gives one the most passion but on one what one ‘ought’ to do. Or to more precise, I think that some worldviews tend to emotionally decorate activities in ways which encourage us to feel passion for things which are not truly spiritually rewarding.

    I think that if you wish to improve society as a part of a larger project of creating something that means a great deal to do- say, with teaching, then this’s a wonderful pursuit. But when you make changing the world a primary motive you place your psychic investments in the contents of other people’s minds– and that’s the most difficult thing of all to affect, and it encourages secondhandedness. And I think that the real way you change peoples’ mind is by creating something- such an an idea or a story- which is first of value to the creator, and which is therefore of value to other perceivers.

    I think a great number of people with a creative spirit get wrongly pushed into politics- because they can see so easily how stupidly wrong society is, or because activism’s where interesting people are supposed to be, or because they feel they can’t live in the world as it is and tragically the million-to-one shot of cultural change is their only hope for a human life. But all of these paths lead away from the integrity and spiritual solitude which creativity needs- everything starts to be about influence and about other people’s minds instead of yours. Politics is an inherently painful activity for individualists because it makes one’s project not about appreciation the valuable but about how others value things. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s irrational to be concerned with what other people think (especially if they might otherwise be thinking about oppressing you)- but I agree with Rand that this shouldn’t be the object or focus of attention, abstracted from what one directly cares about (the exception is exception-making, and that’s by definition rare).

    This, at any rate, is my best guess as to why I feel so much better around ‘ordinary’ people than among political intellectuals of nearly any persuasion.

  20. Nick Manley

    Count me among the “coddled” inefficent college student. I am a procrastinaor who always manages to pull out with something good — did a paper a day before or of and got 90 something on it ( :

    Can’t say that’s true of this semester, but I’ve got time in life.

    Life is pretty comfortable, but the dependence sucks — my dad talks to Jimmey Hoffa’s son! I am doing pretty well in the “social game” of connections. I haven’t been able to convince my dad to become a Libertarian or anarchist though. I did get him to read Marx, Hayek, and Utopia with note taking — having an intellectual father is fun. I did convince him that regulation is not necessarily anti-business power. Nonetheless, he’s probably still in social democratic camp — universial healthcare, state enforced right to collectively bargin, environmental controls, progressive taxation, and bailouts for current embattled mortage holding victims of the finance crisis.

    I have to admit though; when you live with two labor lawyers: the conventional vulgar Libertarian view of unions or labor-management relations falls apart pretty quickly. I have heard stories of rather disturbing exploitation — my dad tells me employers will call the INS when suspected illicit migrants are trying to organize. They use the threat of deportation to control and demand things of the working folk.

    Basically: it’s legal to fire someone in the U.S. for having red hair or some other inane thing — unless you have a union contract stipulating otherwise. On the other hand: the supreme court ruled somebody couldn’t be fired for speaking out about sexual harrassment- http://blog.aclu.org/2009/01/27/another-victory-in-the-fight-against-sexual-harassment/

    Protected classes are legal exceptions, but there are a lot of other dumb reasons to fire people. I suppose I should go easy on those well intentioned establishment labor lawyers — my dad’s politics are not establishment, but he’s always worked for organizations to the right of him. Alas, he wouldn’t have been able to send me to college or help me move out on a bohemian’s salary lol.

  21. Nick Manley

    Actually, my parents would trade state coddling/support of labor unions in exchange for the repeal of Taft-Hartley controls. You could say that makes them left-libertarianish. Charles has posted about many examples of successful non-state unionism anyhow.

    Aster,

    I don’t mind studying the arts, but there are a lot of confusing specialized-foreign sounding architectual terms. I am more interested in the culture-history surrounding it then geometric descriptions.

    I have many “ordinary” friends. I find them to be less ideological but also pretty defiant too.

    Laura,

    http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Warrior-Memoirs-Girlhood-Ghosts/dp/0679721886

    It’s based on the life of the author. She’s a Chinese-American. It details her growing up in a tradiitional immigrant family. I can’t remember much more detail right now. I read it in a women’s literature class.