Saturday, December 10, 2005

Something for you to Chew on While I'm Studying for Finals

"The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one's eyes shut."

-Ayn Rand, 1946

18 comments:

DearOldDad said...

Although many in our society would claim to espouse Ayn Rand’s Objectivist view; in reality, by not examining the content of ideas and keeping one’s collective eyes shut, we have allowed its antithesis to emerge. I believe that you, as someone still acquiring and polishing up credentials that will propel you through the next 60+ years, possess the resolve to live your beliefs despite our rapidly emerging global economy (read serfdom) – and even work for a greater good, but not only can your eyes not be shut, you can hardly allow yourself to blink these days.

lefty_grrrl said...

I don't like Ayn Rand. She's a blowhard.

magnetbabe said...

Dad-
I agree. Thanks.

lefty-
I totally respect your opinion that she is a "blowhard" but what do you think of the quote? It's 60 years old yet could have been written about today.

Scott said...

Be a little careful here. This seems to communicate that people who believe in a global economy, and let's cut to the marrow here, support the war in Iraq, do so out of ignorance, ie, with eyes wide shut. That may be true in some or many cases, and so is it true that people who oppose the same ideals do so because their friends do, or because oft repeated talking points have become synonymous with truth. I read and research much more than most of my opponents, and still I am accused of being uninformed or suffering from memory loss. There is an intellectual argument for either stance.

lefty_grrrl said...

To be honest, I barely even read it the first time. I saw 'Ayn Rand' and you lost me.

Upon further reading and pondering, I think it could've been written about any point in history.

I think that the government (all gov't, not just Bush II's) is in the business of snowing the people. They don't really want us to be knowledgeable. They don't want us to vote. They don't want us to be active participants. But because there are some people that do pay attention, that thrive on civic duty, that insist on being watchdogs, the gov't makes an effort to at least spin and keep up appearances.

I think the war in Iraq is a clever diversion for all of the legislative changes that Bush II and his non-conservative Republicans have enacted. I think that Bush needs the war to keep people, even smart liberals, from paying attention to the things that are going to have a more lasting effect on our society.

I think people are ignorant, but mostly, it is not by choice, it is through design: design of a mediocre public education for most people (where very little of practical use is taught), design of our American ideals about business and working and work ethic (people are too busy to even begin to think about politics and civic issues), design of American consumerism - the drive to blindly accumulate without regard for where or how we spend our money, without regard for the ties between big business and our government, without regard for the big picture. We are smacked in the face with these messages everyday, all day, and most of us just blindly trudge on, even if we have a problem with all of this, because really, what can one person do?

And before anybody calls me paranoid, prove me wrong.

magnetbabe said...

How can a 60 year old quote communicate an opinion about a current war? True, it caught my eye because of the way I feel about a lot of current society. Scott, I know you are well read and I truly respect you for that. Unfortunately you and I are together in a minority though our opinions differ. I respect someone with an informed opinion who oposes me much more than someone who walks through life blindly supporting our government. I don't believe people who support the war do so out of ignorance. I don't think I ever communicated any such thing. I think the people who don't question anything are ignorant, and again this is in the most literal of terms. Lefty has a very good point. When our society is one in which we can't survive without a 60 hour work week and two incomes, how can we be fully informed in this fast paced world? If one wants to have a loose handle, one watches the local news, or reads the headlines of the local paper, which cannot help but be biased in one direction or another. Being a watchdog for either side of a policy is tough work that most people don't have the time or effort to do, and I can't blame them. However, if we become a collectivist society like the one Rand abhorred it will be because people have no opinions, not because they have the "wrong" opinions. There may be intellectual argument for either stance. There is no intellectual argument for "accept[ing] collectivism by moral default."
Lefty, thanks for coming back with a full opinion. Maybe you're right that it could be about any point in histry. If so, we should never let the statement leave our radar, no matter who is in the White House. And besides the premptive denial of paranoia, I don't think you're paranoid ;)

Scott said...

I was playing connect-the-dots, from the quote to what I understand of your own beliefs. Ayn Rand is lambasting people who refuse to examine the content of ideas, and such is stance of many war opponents, who think anyone who disagrees with their enlightened ideas is ignorant.

Lefty Girl, no offense intended, exemplifies what I think is wrong with the left/Democratic stance.

I think the war in Iraq is a clever diversion for all of the legislative changes that Bush II and his non-conservative Republicans have enacted. I think that Bush needs the war to keep people, even smart liberals, from paying attention to the things that are going to have a more lasting effect on our society.

This keeps the right in power, in my opinion. When I hear this kind of talk, any thought I ever had of listening to liberal rhetoric is gone. This is nothing but conspiracy theory, without any substantive argument to back it up. Democrats are viciously pursuing any angle that will discredit the administration on pre war intelligence, which is their right, and even responsibility, if there was even a chance it were true. But they will keep hammering at it until the next set of Republicans takes office, then the Democratic leaders will get together and ask each other what went wrong, and when Lieberman tells them what, they'll publically flog him.

It's really too bad, because I would vote Democrat but for the war issue. I'll vote for any Dem that opposes this globalization push, that gets tough on immigration, that has a plan to create jobs here in America. I want the best of both parties.

lefty_grrrl said...

Scott - I don't think most liberals or Democrats are paying attention to anything except the war. That is the problem. Democrats are not talking about the real issues - they're whining about the war. Their attentions have been diverted.

What I have said is no more a conspiracy theory than our government believing that Saddam possessed WMDs. Pre-war intelligence? Even Colin Powell admitted that he f-ed up. And like I said in my previous comment: "Before anyone calls me paranoid, prove me wrong." You have not met this burden.

Scott - I think you misunderstood what I was saying - I was saying that the Democrats are being collectivists. They are not thinking clearly on any front. The only united front is the anti-war effort. I disagree with this - the Dems won't be successful until they unite on more than this front.

BTW, 2 notable Democrats support the war: Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman. Bet that one of those names just made you cringe.

Me calling out the problem in the Democratic Party does not keep the right in power. You may not want to hear what I have to say, but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong or that I don't have a valid point. The right is in power for a multitude of reasons - but don't worry, they are self-destructing as we speak. It is the nature of this game.

Besides, Bush just admitted that 30,000 Iraqis have died. These are mainly civilians. How low-ball do you think that number is? Is our pre-war "intelligence" enough now? Bush didn't want to collect more evidence - he was ready for the sentencing phase before the rest of us had even heard about the evidence. Ridiculous.

And all this talk about the Republican party like it is a higher form of life has got me a little wound up - the Republicans are making the mistakes that LBJ (a DEM) made 35 - 40 years ago! They're just copying the Democrats of yore.

magnetbabe said...

I think the point of the quote and the point my dad made is what really matters: live you beliefs. Believe in something. Be a skeptic; question what is sold as fact. In this administration, being a skeptic means questiong the war, which is not an unpartiotic thing to do, it is a right gauranteed to us by the constitution. In the next administration, be it republican, democratic or independent, don't stop questioning. I don't know that I agree with lefty that the war is a legislative diversion. Frankly I don't know much about the legislative policies (or lack thereof) associated with this administration. If the war is a legislative diversion it is certainly working. What I do believe is that the Iraq war is a diversion from the greater problem that we cannot win a "War on Terrorism". As a (supposedly) secular country, we don't know how to fight a relgious war. We don't know how to fight an intangible idea. It's not a place, it's an attitude that has roots all over the world, something we were not prepared for. I think the governement speculated on the threat that Hussein presented and sold it to us. We know where Iraq is, we know who we have to tear down to win, and we thought we could succeed at it. The pre war intelligence does not need to be discredited, the proper intelligence simply did not exist. And the person who questioned that, well you know what happened to him and his wife.
And while I'm on the subject of packaging an idea and selling it, the ability of the republicans to do it successfully is why they're in power. The average voter knows nothing of the "liberal rhetoric" you are referring to. The democrats just can't package their ideas and sell them to the American people the way the republicans can. They can't win based on the fact that they're "not republican" the way Kerry thought he could. They need to identify themselves with a stand (again, believe in something, stand up for something) in order to win over the public in the next election.

magnetbabe said...

lefty-
I didn't mean to disregard what you wrote. It took me like a half hour to write what I wrote because I hadn't poperly formulated an argument. I agree. Democrats need to unite on more than just one front.

DearOldDad said...

I don’t agree that criticizing the country’s domestic agenda when grouped under the same umbrella as its foreign policy constitutes a conspiracy theory. As long as the nation’s coffers continue to feel the pain of a war that costs $1 billion+ per week, it should be scrutinized. Continued funding of many government programs are weighed against this enormous expense, with justification for its very existence yet to be proven. BTW – when has this country ever gone to war and then enacted tax cuts? Unfortunately, as a direct result of ignoring the need to raise revenue in the face of war, the dollars necessary to perpetuate it have primarily been borrowed from YOUR generation. Here’s another good one – after realigning the FBI, CIA, FEMA, CBP and federalizing airport security (via the TSA) – all under the DHS big tent, the 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card to the administration, which concluded that as a nation, we are far more vulnerable now than we were 3 years ago. Taken from NYT 12/6/05: There were 17 F's or D's -- including an F to Congress for its failure to allocate the domestic antiterrorism budget on the basis of risk and a D for the government's effort to track down and secure nuclear material that could be used by terrorists. There was only one A -- and it was an A minus -- awarded for the government's efforts to stem the financing of terrorist networks. Of course, whether funds for this behemoth are being intentionally misused or misdirected due to gross incompetence (heckva job, Brownie!) is another story entirely. For an administration that is absolutely relentless in reminding us that we were attacked by terrorists – and it could happen again at any time - they have no intention of providing a meaningful increase in budget for first responders. As a direct result of lack of funding I can name two fire stations on my end of town that now function as a quaint bagel shop and a bookstore, respectively – and the 5th precinct police station is now a two level chef driven restaurant - bistro on the bottom and fine dining upstairs!!!
In my opinion, the diversions have come packaged as hot button issues that get paraded before the public at opportune times. Now that we all recognize that tort reform and the reformed bankruptcy laws are in place to help us, can you imagine how much more prosperous and safe we will all be once there are constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage and flag burning. Did I mention the War on Christmas?…

Scott said...

Ok, I just saw all the replies. I'll give them attention tonight or tommorow. I love it!

gabrielle said...

Who would’ve thought that a seemingly innocuous quote could inspire such an impassioned dialogue!!!!? No idle acceptance here! One would be hard pressed to dispute the content of the quote…that people should critically examine the world around them. I think it’s because the quote cannot in good conscience be separated from the author that there has been such a firestorm of response. Ayn Rand was a staunch proponent of individualism and laissez faire capitalism. It is an ideal that she posited. If each person pursued her own happiness, then we should all be able to live rich and fulfilling lives. People would rationally live by objective principles, respecting the rights of others, thus avoiding conflicts of interest. There would be no need for government regulation or compensatory mechanisms to correct inequities. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing today is the logical culmination of this theory let loose in the real world.
The gap between the wealthiest and the poorest Americans is the widest it has ever been historically, giving us the distinction of being the most class stratified of all industrialized countries. The income of the executives of the largest U.S. corporation is currently 475 times that of its workers. The U.S. economy experienced unprecedented growth during the 1990’s but most Americans did not benefit. The top 1% of the population now own 40% of the wealth; the top 10% claim 99% of the spoils. One in five children in the U.S. goes to bed hungry. 25% of kids under 6 officially live in poverty. The Bush administration has squandered our national surplus on war and tax cuts for the wealthy. The resulting 8 trillion dollar national debt now justifies the dismantling of popular social programs.
Steeped as we are in the ethos of rugged individualism, collectivism naturally gets a bad rap. It is associated with group think and totalitarian regimes. All it means is that the collective (we the people) is primary over the individual. Democracy is a form of collectivism, since majority wishes supersede individual rights. We agree that major issues facing individuals are ones which we share in common, that solutions are more effective when pursued together. Unfortunately, we have been misled into seeking private solutions. Just take a look at the dismal state of trade unions, the post mortems of any kind of single payer health care reform, the recent Medicare debacle. We’re told that competition is good for the consumer. Yet the U.S. ranks 36th in infant mortality on par with Croatia and Slovakia. 43 million Americans lack health insurance. Meanwhile the pharmaceuticals and HMO’s are laughing all the way to the bank.

gabrielle said...

Lefty girl, I agree with most of what you have to say. But I take exception to the statement that the war in Iraq is a distraction. The war is a calculated attempt to deplete the national coffers, to appropriate critical resources (i.e. oil) and to line contractors’ pockets. Fear is the weapon of mass distraction utilized to control and manipulate. Remember the red alerts, the Washington sniper and the conspicuous timing of these events? Rampant consumerism is another WMD. Do you recall Bush’s exhortations to perform our patriotic duty by descending on the malls? Each one of these events conspicuously coincided with a major election, scandal or calamity. Yes, the dems are focusing on the war now that it’s safe to do so. Where were they 3 years ago when hundreds of thousands of us took to the streets around the world warning that this was a bad idea? Democrats don’t talk about real issues (with a few notable exceptions such as Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer) because they are knee deep in the muck of K Street just like their friends across the isle. I agree that it is difficult to remain well informed for all of the reasons you cite….because it takes effort (time and energy) and access (money and education) to search beyond the tabloids and Fox news. It is doubly difficult because the media is now controlled by 5 companies (R. Murdoch et al). So to stay alert entails reading foreign press on the internet, spending lunch hours listening to Amy Goodman on public radio and subscribing to publications that challenge the status quo and our ideas about it. So let’s continue to keep our eyes wide open!

lefty_grrrl said...

I didn't mean that the war in Iraq was a calculated diversion - only that other things are going unnoticed because of the war in Iraq. We are made to feel guilty when we raise questions about the war, about Medicare, about the rampant cronyism that exists in this administration and the tearing down and rebuilding of Iraq.

This is a proxy war of a different kind - the Bush II administration is actually fighting a war against the American people by tearing down social structures and democratic ideals in the name of patriotism and the almighty buck.

Scott said...

I would be more apt to take opinions more seriously that the war is just a distraction while Lord Palpatine, er, I mean Pope Bush II, er, I mean George Bush builds a clone army to ostensibly fight the terrorist Lord Greivous--if it didn't sound so damn familiar, like a bad sequel. I don't feel compelled to prove anyone wrong because it's like proving there is no Santa Claus. We were attacked by terrorists, and we are fighting back--unless of course you would like to tell me about how we knew about it, or even engineered the attacks. Iraq is a strategic location in the heart of the middle east from which a working democracy can send shock waves from a focused epicenter, and the ripples have been felt already. And, oh yeah, Sadaam was a bad man. Not the only bad man, but a bad man nonetheless. All considerations taken into account, Iraq was central to the effort of dismantelling terrorism.

In my humble opinion of course.

There does seem to be consensus that Democrats, or Republicans, aren't concentrating on the important issues, and we are coming apart. Like I said, the Dems have an opportunity to be leaders, but they are squandering it with these pointless attacks on the administration, who they accuse of misleading when congress had access to the same intelligence. They are showing their own incompetence by claiming to have taken the word of the executive branch when it was their job to independently research and come up with their own conclusions.

Man, there is just too much to reply to, and I gotta get back to work.

Thanks all for not taking my comments personally.

lefty_grrrl said...

I think this was the most kick-ass and respectful political discussion that I have ever had. Thank you all for being so considerate and willing to at least hear my thoughts, even if you disagree.

I wish more discourse like this happened. It's so important to our daily lives, and sometimes, it's hard to remember that. Not preaching - just feeling good about my fellow citizens right now. So, thanks guys and gals. I appreciate your candor.

magnetbabe said...

I'm with you, lefty. I was nervious with the way things were going, but I shouldn't have been. It's so easy for these things to turn nasty, but I really do have fantastic, respectful readers.