Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Here We Go Again

[This written in 1943.]

“It is generally recognized that mankind has achieved, since its rise from savagery, a miraculous progress in the realm of its material culture – and none whatever in the realm of its ethics. Our homes are superior to the cave of the Neanderthal man, but our morals are no better than his – worse, if anything, for we do not have his excuse for ignorance. There is no act of inhumanity which he perpetrated and which we do not perpetrate, except that he did not possess our exquisite means of perpetrating it and he could never equal our present scale. In a recently published book (The Spirit of Enterprise by Edgard M. Queeny), the author – intent upon a hymn to human progress – spends five pages describing man’s material triumphs. Then he adds: “Our morals have come a long way too. The mere thought of a feast on a loose piece of human flesh, which to the Bushmen brings mouth-watering longing, is to us horrid and nauseating.” This is all he can offers, without equivocation, for ten thousand years of man’s spiritual growth. And even this claim is open to question, because cannibalism occurred in Soviet Russia in the famines of 1921 and 1933, and God only knows or can bear the sight of what is occurring in Europe now.

“Why has man displayed such magnificent capacity for progress in the material realm and yet remained stagnant on the level of savagery in his spiritual stature? This discrepancy has been recognized, decried, deplored denounced by everyone. It has never been explained. Countless explanations of evil and remedies for it have been offered through the centuries. None of them worked. None of them cured or explained anything.

“Yet that which mankind holds as its moral ideal has been known and accepted for centuries. The basic principle of men’s morality has not changed since the beginning of recorded history. Under their superficial differences of symbolism, ritual and metaphysical justification, all great ethical systems from the Orient up, all religions, all human schools of thought have held a single moral axiom; the idea of selflessness. That which proceeds from love of self is evil; that which proceeds from love of others is good. Self-sacrifice, self-denial and self-renunciation have ever been considered the essence of virtue. In no other matter has mankind held to such total unity, so completely and for so long. Altruism is the doctrine which holds that man must live for others and place others above self. Humanity has proclaimed its moral ideal unanimously. It has never been questioned. It has always been the ideal of altruism. [Later in this chapter, AR notes that the cultures of ancient Greece and capitalist America were at least partial exceptions to this rule. ed.]

“This ideal has never been reached. In spite of its statement and restatement, in every land, in every age, in every language, in spite of its professed acceptance by all, mankind’s history has not been a growing record of benevolence, justice and brother-love, but an accelerating progression of horror, cruelty, and shame. Baffled, men have accepted the explanation that man is essentially evil; man is weak and imperfect; he doesn’t want to do good. The noble ideal of altruism is never quite to be achieved, only approximated; man is immoral by nature.

“But look back at mankind’s record. Every major horror of history was perpetrated – not by reason of and in the name of that which men held as evil, that is , selfishness – but through, by, for and in the name of an altruistic purpose. The Inquisition. Religious wars. Civil wars. The French Revolution. The German Revolution. The Russian Revolution. No act of selfishness has ever equaled the carnages perpetrated by disciples of altruism. Nor has any egoist ever roused masses of fanatical followers by enjoining them to go out to fight for his personal gain. Every leader gathered men through the slogans of a selfless purpose, through the plea for this self-sacrifice to a high altruistic goal: the salvation of others’ souls, the spread of enlightenment, the common good of their state.

“It is said that self-seeking hypocrites used these virtuous sentiments to delude their followers and achieve personal ends. Doubtless, there have been such and a great many of them. But they never caused the bloody terrors caused by the purest 'idealists.' The worst butchers were the most sincere. Robespierre asked and wished nothing for himself. Lenin asked and wished nothing for himself. But the record of Attila is that of an amateur compared to theirs. At the apex of every great tragedy of mankind there stands the figure of an incorruptible altruist. Yet, after every disaster men have said: 'The ideal was right, but Robespierre was the wrong man to put it into practice,' (of Torquemada, or Cromwell, or Lenin, or Hitler, or Stalin) and have gone on to try it again. [Watch The Triumph of the Will and notice how sincere Hitler is when he expresses his ideal for all the German people. SCB]

“But what is one to think of creatures who are willing, century after century, to bear every form of agony, every kind of martyrdom, for the sake of that which they consider their moral ideal? Are they creatures devoid of moral instinct? Is not the determination to act according to one’s conception of right, no matter what the price, precisely the attribute of a high moral sense? Men have been robbed, enslaved, tortured, slaughtered in the name of altruism. They have accepted, forgiven, and borne it, because their ideal demanded it of them. The price they have paid in unspeakable suffering should have granted them, at least, a badge of virtue.

“But the nature of their ideal has robbed them even of this earned honor.

“A true premise, once accepted, leads to a greater truth and a clearer knowledge with each subsequent step deduced from it. A false premise leads to a greater falsehood and a blacker evil, until, followed to its ultimate conclusion, it brings total destruction, as it must. The spiritual tragedy of mankind has now reached this last step. The spectacle of horror which the world presents at this moment has never been equaled and cannot be surpassed. This is the end of the blind alley of men’s thinking. And there is no way out – save all the way back, to the beginning, to the first principle which permitted men to be led into this.

“The ideal of altruism has now taken its ultimate toll. We are the witnesses of its climax. We see mankind destroying itself before our eyes. We see the price it is paying. We glance back at its history and we see the prince it has paid. But we look on and say: 'This noble ideal is beyond human nature, because men are imperfect and evil.'

“Isn’t it time to stop and to question that noble ideal instead?”

[This was written by Ayn Rand, September 4, 1943, in the middle of WWII. The source for this excerpt is Journals of Ayn Rand. This writing was never published in this form during her lifetime. It became the basis of Atlas Shrugged and the final form of her philosophy. After the publishing of Atlas Shrugged, she worked to present her philosophy in non-fiction form and published many books and articles to that effect. Fifty two years after Atlas Shrugged published in 1957, people are looking for a new philosophical basis for human action and the organization of society. Many can see that the United States is now poised to be the last great country to topple into this same abyss.

Ayn Rand's ideas are no less true today. We are in the grip of a major call to this same destructive ideal carried out by his dictatorship in the form of Barack Obama. Socialism and dictatorship fail wherever tried. But it is not socialism per se that has his words live for people. It is this horrible, stinking moral ideal which has been spread through every institution and church. The attempt to achieve it will not achieve it.

But I don't think that Obama cares to achieve it. His actions belie his rhetoric. He does care to use what you erroneously consider the best within you to mold you to his power. This is how he keeps his motives invisible to the unquestioning masses.

It is the moral ideal that is false as an ideal. People are not inherently evil. They possess free will and choose whether to be right or wrong, good or evil.

A person who is called to make a difference for other people as his primary motivation for living in the world is called by this error. It is not the proper call to goodness. No.

You do that which you want your life to be comprised of, present the results of your work, and when someone wants what you have to offer, he will buy it and accept it – of his own free will. He doesn't have to accept YOU. You've done that already if your moral base is correct. But this motivation depends on what Rand later calls the Virtue of Selfishness.

America has a fairly strong grasp of rational self-interest, rational egoism. Dont' let that go.

To hell, I say, with the sonorous siren song of Barack Obama. SCB]


Robert said...

With the selection of a clown, Al Franken, as Senator from Minnesota, who could possibly think of a more fitting symbol for our age, the age of altruism.

Now, with an unstoppable advantage in government, the altruists have won. It is their time. The future is on their shoulders. They must either put up or shut up. They must now show that their philosophy is superior and that they can create a better world...since capitalism has been defeated, they must create their better world without free enterprise.

EllenL said...

Ethics has come farther than that. But the thing pushing it has been technology. I suppose even altruism is better than open use of force as in might makes right that is the rule through much of history.

The real change came from finding a power source other than human muscle that began as animal power and took off in the 1800's as steam power became available. The gas engine would have ended slavery not long after the American Civil War when it made slavery unnecessary.

When infant mortality is high and the average life expectancy is low, life is cheap. Life of the individual becomes more valuable when it flourishes.

One of the great dangers of today's politics is that it threatens to reduce that flouishing so that we value individual freedom and happiness less because it seems impossible and misery more wide spread.

The two issues that are coming to crisis are the energy bill and health care. These two threaten our lives and freedoms by making life cheaper as they decrease the use of technology making our lives better.

principlex said...

Altruism is false and unable to be consistently practiced. Thus when you say that you suppose altruism is better than "might makes right," you are committing an error. He will be necessitated to institute it by force. Obama's altruism has already translated into might which he says in only right. This will become increasingly vivid over time.

The crux will come if he gets scared. Did you see the "Last King of Scotland?" The point of that movie was that Idi Amin was a likable, seemingly decent guy in the beginning. When murders of people around him began happening, he got paranoid and began murdering people he thought were behind them. This grew.

Right now, Obama's force is accepted because a lot of people think "those bastards" (dehumanized people) on Wall Street and CEOs need taking down a notch. In other words his use of force plays into grudges that people have and place on some abstraction which people call businessmen or capitalists. He oils all of this with his smooth talk of fairness and the like.

Whatever he is, he is not altruistic. He uses the bankrupt ideal of altruism as his cover. When in the future he imprisons people and or has his thugs kill people, it will ostensibly be for this reason. Right now he likes stripping them of their wealth and position.

But as I say, I think Obama knows socialism doesn't work and his reasons are not so noble as he pretends. He intends to have the power and spread it as widely as he can. He intends to destroy the capitalist system of the United States. Alinksy coached his followers to use a people's morality against them for one reason: power. Power for what? In today's world where socialism is known to fail, it has but one meaning: to destroy.


Amen, brutha Principlex. And a great comment, Robert.

Hey, come on over and check out The Black Sphere (www.theblacksphere.net). We would welcome you there.