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The ‘Platonist’ Objectivist

One of the biggest challenges to applying any set of abstract principles, ideas or any philosophy to your life is this: Most people try to wear ideas as one would wear garments…they tend to wear these ideas on themselves, and believe that they are being rational or are properly following the idea or principle by doing that. The basis of that approach is what Ayn Rand calls being a Platonist, the belief that ideas exists as entities in some other realm, as opposed to being an *Aristotleian.

In the Art of Non-Fiction, Ayn Rand says (Pg 29)…” The purpose of philosopy is to guide a man in the course of his life. Unfortunately, many Objectivists have not fully accepted, concretised, and integrated this principle. For example, in the presence of a given event, work of art, person etc., too many Objectivists ask themselves, “What do I have to feel?” instead of, “What do I feel?” And if they need to judge a situation which I have not discussed before, their approach is, “What should I think?” instead of, “What do I think?” This is the childhood remnant of anyone who to some extent was influenced either by the religion of the culture or, later in college, by Platonism….”

I can think of an example to explain this point and bring out the problems that would follow. Let us suppose that an “Objectivist” knows twenty prospective women whom he could consider to pursue romantically (i am visualising that he is in a party surrounded by all of them…) And let us say, that the twenty of them are at different levels of ability, character, rationality etc…so they would have amongst them women who have no character and are pretty irrational, to ones who are slightly better, to ones who are more rational, to ones who are able and rational to ones who are pretty integrated, intense and developed. Now, how does an Objectivist who is basically a Platonist approach this situation. He will ask himself what is he supposed to do as an Objectivist? 🙂 (The answer is that he is supposed to value someone who is a heroine, who has a lot of character and ability as opposed to someone who is not). Based on this criterion, he tells himself that he “has to feel love and admiration for the heroine” amongst them and properly pursue her. ‘What he feels in the matter’, whether he desires her or would be happy with her would be besides the point for him.

Instead, what he should have asked himself is which out of the twenty would HE be happy with, irrespective of their level of character/ability. The point is that he will be happy only with somone who matches or comes close to his level of self-esteem..if he chooses someone below it, he will get bored of her, if he chooses someone above his level, she would frighten him and not value him as much…so, in any case, it would not work. Let us say that he himself is not very rational and has lot of flaws…so, as a natural response, he would get attracted to someone like him, who also has flaws.

Now here is the classical conflict for the Platonist Objectivists…’Reason’, seems to be telling them to pursue the heroine, but their ’emotions’ tells them to pursue the woman with flaws. Now, the Objectivist who is a Platonist, has also read somewhere that ‘one must never given in to his emotions and always follow reason’ (a statement least understood among “Objectivists”, I would say)…So, he would suppress what he really feels, and orders himself to start valuing (or at least pretending to value) the heroine.

Incidentally, as an aside, when he would approach the heroine, she would instantly sense that he is faking it, that he is artificial, doesn not really value her, but is imposing it on himself…in turn, the Objectivist would come out as dogmatic and find it difficult to mingle with her and make would never work. This also answers the first question as to why many of them find it difficult to make friends. Had he rather sought whom he found attractive, then he would be at ease, be his true self, and had found it very easy to strike to relate with her and strike friendship. Also, many of the Objectivist have a nagging fear that others will disapprove of their choice and judge them as being irrational…(“how can you possibly think of befriending Mary, who is so irrational, and not befriending Jane, who is such an achiever…you can’t be a true Objectivist..phew..”)

An example that comes to my mind from AR’s fiction, which is not the right example, is Peter Keating choosing to marry Dominique over Catherine. Mind you, Keating is not doing it for the above reasons, for him, marrying Dominique is more a practical advantage…but all the same, in the sense of the disastrous results, this example could suffice. Catherine is at Keating’s level of self-esteem, if he had married her, then both would have been happy, at least as happy as they could hope to be, with their internal flaws etc. But Dominique is way, way above Keating’s level of self-esteem, and Keating would never be comfortable or at ease with her, and Dominque would never find Keating exciting or worthy…in short, it would never work…and it doesn’t.

To sum up, the example of romantic love is just one example…most people have a similar approach to all aspects of their lives (with disastrous results) and that too, with the different aspects of any philosophy, be it at the level of understanding it, integrating it, or applying it. And when they find that ideas cannot be ‘worn’ like garments, they sooner or later discard the ideas…become cynical and give up attempting to live by any principles, as Shruti points out.
To generalise this point, let me use another example: Let us say that “Z” is the ideal action that one ought to take in a particular context, according to Objectivism. Also, one has to be at the level of ‘E’ in terms of maturity and proper habits, to actually have arrived at, both emotionally and practically to be able to take that action (in other words, one is at the stage where one actually values and desires to do “Z” from within, as opposed to imposing it on himself).

“E” would most likely be the stage at which Ayn Rand herself would have reached, in terms of personal development and integration, when she wrote about doing “Z’…Now, an aspiring Objectivist might be many counts below that level of “E” in terms of maturity, he might be, say, at the level of “A”. Now, what most people would do (and I have gone through this myself) is to impose that choice of “Z”, even if he is nowhere actually valuing it…this is what they think is being loyal to Objectivism is. This is the intrincists in action…”Z” is like a garment to be worn by him…To quote Ayn Rand again from the Art of Non-Fiction….”For example, in the presence of a given event, work of art, person etc., too many Objectivists ask themselves, “What do I have to feel?” instead of, “What do I feel?” ”

But since he is at the level of ‘A” and not at “E”, he will not be able meaningfully value or be happy with ‘Z”…what he should have done instead is accepted himself as he is, at the level of A, and done something appropriate to that level, say “M’ or N. That would be being true to yourself…at least having the courage and honesty to live by what one really is, rather than pretend to be better or bigger than one’s own shoes. At the same time, through an active mind and constant effort, he should have worked himself to evolve gradually from A to B to C to D to E…and when he would have reached the stage of E, he would have found that now, he naturally desires to do Z. Now it actually makes sense for him to do Z as he is happy doing it.

And the truth is, there is no other way….any other means is impractical and self-defeating…the person attempting it will sooner or later conclude that ideas or any philosophy is all meaningless and become cynical.

Notes: *The Aristotleian looks within his own experiences and primarily using his own judgement, forms and validates concepts while a Platonist seeks to find ready-made concepts evolved or floated by others and his primary focus, at best, is to be loyal to these ideas (such as being loyal to ‘Objectivism” or the ideas of X or Y or Z, as opposed to being loyal to his own judgement and grasp of reality…of course, to stand solely on one’s own judgement is a tall and scary task at times. This is not to say that one doesn’t learn anything from others, but that an Aritotelian treats what others have to say as ‘raw material’ to be processed and validated by his own mind, while a Platonist treats what others have to say as a ‘final product’ to be directly applied, consumed or worn by him/her).

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Roark in the quarry…

I have often wondered about the implications of Roark in the quarry…Conventionally, Roark is so far removed from the realm of ‘what other people think’, that he almost comes out as ‘weird’ conventionally. For instance, if we take the conventional hero of the best of the movies ever made (and there have been some real worthy movies made), it is quite plausible that he might end up choosing to be in a quarry or some other similar predicament rather than compromise on his principles, like Roark (conventional heroes are shown at times as choosing death rather than compromise their values). Yet, they would not behave mentally and more importantly, emotionally like Roark.

Roark has no sense of bravado that he is doing a great thing, that he has given up his career for his principles, he also has no sense of grievance with the world ( ne koi gila ya shikwa hai kissise, Ellesworth Toohey se bhi nahin…). He has no sense that some injustice is being done to him, nor is he angry with anyone for not seeing his genius nor does he hate anyone for choosing to be irrational.

If I can imagine a conventional hero in a similar situation, I would at least see him finding a need to talk to his fellow labourers after work and telling them that he is actually an architect, and in fact, knows more than the guy who is giving orders. Roark doesn’t feel any such need. He doesn’t even feel the need to reveal to anyone that he is an architect, not even to Dominicque. Nor does Roark feel frustrated, except for the fact that he cannot give shape to the buildings that he would like to have built. But he fights that self-pity and works to eradicate that.

And except for this fact, he doesn’t even think there is anything strange or funny in his choosing to work in the quarry…it wouldn’t matter to him if the quarry was next to his college and the dean and other instructors and students who knew him saw him there, he would probably find it strange that they are laughing or finding it funny, just as he finds it strange that Ellesworth Toohey should think that he should have a need to think about him (it would be like ending up selling bananas outside the college you graduated from, and finding it strange that others who knew you find it funny…).

He is shown as someone who would be the same, even if he had to end his life retiring as a common, anonymous labourer. He expects nothing at all from people, neither rationality or integrity or anything…(any virtue/value he sees in another person is like a bonus to him)…he is serene, peaceful and compact even in the quarry.

In comparison, a conventional hero would be very unhappy in his situation. In the least, he would have a sense of bravado and a need to impress upon his fellow-men that he is not just a labourer, that he has what it takes to be a great architect, but has taken a stand for his principles…he would then get their affection/sympathy etc. He would have a sense of injustice done to him, and on some occasions, when drunk, might even voice out his frustation in shrilled tones, abusing the Elesworth Tooheys and spitting on the Peter Keatings and despising the clients who reject his work as an architect. And once in a while, he might say forcefully, “One day, I will show them all, who I am” (mein dikha dunga mein kya hu..)

This is why, Roark may look unreal at times to many readers of the Fountainhead, as most people as have existed, have some expectation or another from people around them…This is also why I find it funny, when I read testimonies of people who say that they were already more or less like Roark before they read the Fountainhead.

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Deriving self-esteem from others

This is what a person who has a need to derive self-esteem from others wants from the others…He firstly has a pretense of his self-worth or superiority, which he keeps asserting either through his mannerism or through recitals of his so-called alleged ‘achievements’, and he wants the other person to help him fake this pretense by his approval or aquiesence. This is what he wants from the other person, an acknowledgement of his fake self-worth, a moral sanction.

In cases where James Taggarts meet Orren Boyles (where both parties are parasites), I think both the person might compliment each other, as both would readily each other fake their self-worth. At the same time, both of them would very well know how wretched the other is.

But in cases where the other person has some self-respect, he would feel very uncomfortable. I guess this is the reason why conventionally, no one likes a show-off. Only conventionally, they have got the semantics wrong…they call a show-off as one having pride (a proud man) —I guess false or fake pride would be a better clarification, and they call the person they like a humble person.

Actually what they like is a person who just sees personal relationships as an end in themselves, as a payment to others for their character and values, rather than a means to gain anything out of them, whether material or spiritual. In this sense, a humble person is not the right word, as it may come with a package-deal of a self-debasing person, which is not desirable. Haven’t found the right word for it though…Aristotle would just call him a person with pride (in the proper sense of the word).

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Relating with people

Personally, I have stopped categorizing or judging people based on their supposedly conscious convictions, what they themselves think they believe in. From experience, I can say that good people and bad people exist in any group of people, whether the grouping is based on their ideas, ie Objectivists, Christians, Hindus, or on economic status, ie rich or poor, or geographically.

I am tempted to say that almost no one, at least I haven’t yet come across anyone, who is fully integrated and can trace the path of all his abstract ideas to reality and vice-versa (except for Ayn Rand, I could say…). Hence, from what I have seen that it is a common prevalence that well-meaning, earnest people often hold ideas which are irrational, as they themselves are not integrated enough, for one reason or another.

Based on their actions and their sense-of-life, we can divide people roughly into two categories, ones who are more on the producer side and ones who are more on the parasitical side. Ones who do not want the unearned, spiritually or materially, and those who use others, either to gain material value or spiritual value. Of course, degrees differ from individual to individual, and so would the intensity of your friendship/aversion towards them.

What I mainly rely is on a sense-of-life or subconscious level affinity…if you can click with a person, it is his actualized values and ideas that matter, what kind of a person he is at his subconscious level.

One of the key I have found to easily relate with people is this: Most people get put off by a person who has a need to derive self-esteem out of them, be it an Objectivist or a religious person or any other…that kind of a person is out to get ‘something’ out of others, although it is a spiritual thing (self-esteem in this context). To the degree a person has this need, to that degree he, mostly unknowingly ‘asserts himself’ and irritates others. And most people do this without even realizing this: Consciously they think that they are really not concerned what others think about them, yet in their attitude, tone, mannerism, airs, it comes out —their need to show their superiority or smartness…

Some I have seen flaunt the expensive/fashionable products they possess (which they didn’t create, and never mind how they made the money to buy them), etc….some flaunt the ideas they got by reading some thinkers (ideas which are not theirs) and use that knowledge to derive their self-worth, by putting others down ( specificially those who haven’t read the same thinker) and establishing their superiority. In fact, I have come to believe that most people, including the good ones, in varying degrees and vis-a-vis different issues, suffer from this, including me.

The ideal, I tell myself, would be, if I can reach the stage, where I can be emotionally peacefully, even if the whole world lived and died thinking that I was a fool, or a nut. Imagine Howard Roark in the quarry, peacefully drilling away without concern that the whole world might live and die thinking that he was a worthless labourer, a fool and none better…(the only pain he experiences is from the fact that he cannot do what he loves, ie build, not from the fact about what others may or may not think about him).

If I reached that stage, then I would find it so easy to be the real ‘me’, to be myself in any situation ‘walk amongst kings and beggars, and still be the same (as Kipling says in ‘If’). I wouldn’t find the need to put on an act in any form…

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Thought provoking

I was again randomly flipping through AS, and invariably, any page I open turns out to be a gem…I just read the following paras, and Ayn Rand’s literary and intellectual genius comes out so well, where there is a reason for every word or phrase she uses. Only, there was one particular part which I didn’t understand…maybe somebody out here can pitch in…It’s a dialogue between Fransciso and Dagny, somewhere in the middle of the book, where Franscisco reveals partly to Dagny, the nature of the game that he has been playing, trying to destroy D’Anconia Copper etc. (Pg 586)

… Don’t ask me for help or money. You know my reasons. Now you may hate me — as, from your stand, you should.

(To add a bit of context, in the earlier paras, Dagny has become aware of how much Francisco still values her, and desires to sleep with her)

She raised her head a little, there was no perceptible change in her posture, it was no more than her awareness of her own body, and OF ITS MEANING TO HIM, (caps mine), but for the length of one sentence she stood as a woman, the suggestion of defiance coming only from the faintly stressed spacing of her words: “And what will it do to you?”

He looked at her, in full understanding, but neither admitting nor denying the confession she wanted to tear from him: “That is no one’s concern but mine,” he answered

(Persumably, Franscisco doesn’t want to burden her with his pain or loss of a value…)

It was she who weakened, but realized, while saying it, that this was still more cruel: “ I don’t hate you. I’ve tried to, for years, but I never will, no matter what we do, either one of us.”

Now why is what Dagny ends up saying, still more cruel … what would have been less cruel. I just tried to put my thinking cap on this one:

My Thoughts:

Dagny actually still loves Franscisco, but given the context of her knowledge of Franscisco’s actions, she cannot allow even herself to admit that she still loves him, inspite of his apparently wasted life.

So, instead of saying to Franscisco, that ‘inspite of everything, I haven’t stopped loving you,’ what she does is only tells him half the truth, that she doesn’t hate him. In the process of saying this, she realises that this would hurt Franscisco more, as this implies an indifference — if someone you loved intensely changed his ways, one can in the least, not be neutral about it: either one would start hating/despising that person, or one would be still loving him.

An indifference would imply that ‘you were no big deal for me, you didn’t matter much anyway.’

So in this sense, Dagny ends ups being more cruel while intending to actually soften the impact for Franscisco (though of course, I doubt Franscisco feels the pain just because of this statement, as he would be wise enough to realise that Dagny does have feelings for him and he does mean a lot to her, even if she doesn’t admit it.

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The ideal relationship personified…

Incidentally, I was just skimming through Atlas Shrugged, and I came across this passage. It will take me years to arrive at fully understanding and thereafter, living by what is being meant. What I have seen in Ayn Rand’s writings again and again is that her characters do not say things for mere effect or to be dramatic, but literally live by what they say, with full understanding of its implication. This, of course, is the height which Ayn Rand herself had reached, and for one to fully appreciate most of her works, one has to evolve and mature, to somewhere near where she was.

Here are the lines from Atlas Shrugged, which I thought I had understood when I read Atlas Shrugged long back…but in the true sense, I can only begin to start glimpsing the meaning of it now … Dagny says this to Hank Rearden ( Pg 239)

I want you, Hank. I’m much more of an animal than you think. I wanted you from the first moment I saw you – and the only thing I’m ashamed of it that I did not know it. That is all I want, Hank. I want you in my bed – and you are free of me for all the rest of your time. There’s nothing you’ll have to pretend – don’t think of me, don’t feel; don’t care — I do not want your mind, your will, your being or your soul, so long as to it’s to me that you will come for that lowest one of your desires …

This is pure hero-worship and of course, she would only feel this way for a hero, none less. Still, this is an attitude that is so alien to the way most of us are.

On the lighter side, and to still make my point, I said to myself, “ Wow..! Wish I can find a girl who can tell me —don’t think of me, don’t feel for me, don’t care about me, I don’t want anything from you, neither your mind or will or soul, just choose me to sleep with, and that will be my highest reward!” J

Before anyone starts retorting back, yes, I do say that one has to be like Hank Rearden, before he can expect to find a Dagny. But humour aside, this is the ideal relationship personified, where there is no expectation, no need to posess the other person or make him yours or her yours…you are just rewarding him/her for his/her past actions and virtues, with no expectations.

Conversely, it would be like being able to say to a girl you are in a relationship, “ I don’t give a damn about you, don’t think or care about you, all I am concerned deep down is my happiness (and not yours),” and the girl still loving you intensely.

Intellectually, many of us might think that we are matured enough to understand this principle and live by it … but I say, take a look at your day to day life as you live it, your college/office friends, acquaintances, your love etc., and then imagine any of your real life friends or lover telling you this and you being able to accept it without any doubt or being disturbed emotionally.

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We can never have ‘complete’ knowledge

Knowledge is not a ‘thing’ or ‘entity’, that exists in nature, just as there are trees, rocks, animals and other millions of objects. Hence, it goes without saying that knowledge cannot be limited to a defined quantity.

What we call as the building bricks of our knowledge, that is the meaning or essence of entities, doesn’t exist within the thing (i.e. is not intrinsic to the object). In simpler words, this is what it means: We usually assume that each entity that exist such as an apple, a tree, a dog or man has an immutable distinguishing characteristic which differentiates it from other entities. And it is this immutable distinguishing characteristic that is the essence of a thing or object, on which we base our definition or meaning of the symbolic word that we use to denote the entity. But there is a problem in this line of reasoning. It is true that we use a distinguishing characteristic to differentiate an entity from its larger group, but that distinguishing characteristic is not immutable and a fixed essence of the entity, it would be appropriate only in context to our present level of knowledge, and as our knowledge expands, so would our definitions undergo a change.

For example, in our present context of knowledge, we define man as a rational animal. It is true that man’s rational faculty would serve as the basic source of differentiation, as no other animal possesses it, and it is also a fundamental aspect of itself, on the basis of which many of his other characteristics and actions can be explained. But let us suppose that tomorrow, we come to know that there is another animal in this universe on some other planet, which also has a rational faculty similar to ours. Then this definition of ours would not be valid. Our rational faculty would cease to be our ‘immutable’, distinguishing characteristic, and we would have to further qualify our definition of man by differentiating us from this alien species. Let us say, this species walks on four legs while we walk on two legs. Then our definition of man would be: “Man is a rational animal that walks on two legs.”

Some other philosophers like Plato suggested that the essence of a thing, meaning of the entity, resided in some other realm, which is not open to perception through our senses. This is out right mysticism, and suffers on various obvious counts, besides the problem charted above.

Knowledge, in simple words, is only our means of understanding reality, our internal representation of reality, which as Ayn Rand rightly points out, is not arbitrary, but is based on the properties and different aspects of the entities which exist, and not a fig of our imagination (of course, to be termed as knowledge, our internal representations must correspond to reality, hence the need for logic and other methods of verifying the validity of one’s conclusions).

We basically understand new things on the basis of what we have already integrated as knowledge —-( As an aside, hence the golden rule of communication, that for effective communication, one must explain something by bringing it to the level of the target audience’s understanding and knowledge. An example here is that you wouldn’t use the same words to explain to a child what the moon is, which a scientist would use to explain his astronomy class. The child can only understand something new, on the basis of what he already knows, and if one can break it down for him and explain at his level, it would be far easier for him to grasp and relate).

We expand our knowledge by forming newer relationships between things we already know, in terms of the interplay of their aspects, circumstances, properties, including temporal, spatial, causal and the many other factors. Nothing limits us from forming these new relationships, except that they do have a base in reality, nothing stops you from identifying a similarity between how some fish moves deep in the ocean to the movement of a bike rider or any such other billions and billions of other identifications. In this sense, the scope for expanding our knowledge is inexhaustible, not only is knowledge not a finite quantity that exists in nature, but the concept itself of reaching the stage of having complete knowledge is an invalid one. In this sense, even after millions of years of progress, we can never know everything; never have complete knowledge.

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The folly of forcing values on an individual

Does this sound familiar? A child doesn’t take interest in studies and keeps playing in his free time. His parent routinely beats him up, forcibly takes away his games, and orders him to study. The child obeys his parent out of fear, crams himself under a book, yet learns little; later on, he doesn’t develop a longing or interest for knowledge, nor does well academically. Instead, the child grows up to be either blindly rebellious, hardly listening to his parents, or becomes passively obedient, lacks confidence and remains underdeveloped in many areas. In some instances, in later years, the parent comes to realise that persuasion, through discussion and reasoning, rather than force, would have been the ideal method

Throughout history, this is a drama that has unfolded in many households, and yet many of our intellectual and political leaders fail or refuse to learn any lessons from it. In fact, all proponents of the patronising moral state, who believe in the efficacy of changing its citizen’s undesirable behaviour to a desirable behaviour through legislation are blind to a proper understanding of human behaviour and motivation.

An apt concretisation of this brand of thinking was the move by the Maharashtra government to ban dance bars. (For people outside India, a dance bar is a place where ladies wearing skimpy clothes and dance to Indian tunes in a restaurant where liquour is served. The Maharashtra government has banned them, saying that they corrupted the youth and affected the moral fabric of the society). Today, few of them would advocate that to make an excessively playful child study, one must ban all games. Yet, the same self-proclaimed guardians of our culture and society said that to make an irresponsible man, who regularly frequents dances bars, take care of his wife and family properly, one must ban all dance bars. Once that is done, I suppose, the man will automatically undergo a miraculous change in character and values, and will become a loving husband and caring father. Is that really so?

In fact, in order to meaningfully understand human behaviour, one must understand the nature of values — the prime motivator of human actions. A value, simply put, is the reason behind our voluntarily action, the thing that which we seek to achieve through our actions. For instance, if one is exercising regularly, then physical fitness is the value one seeks to gain from the exercise. Or if one works hard to please another, then approval or respect from the other person is the value one is seeking.

The concept of a value necessarily implies a valuer, i.e. an individual, who through his uncoerced judgement is convinced deep down that the value he seeks to achieve is either right or good for him and will also make him happy. The person can, of course, make an error in his judgement, and mistakenly think that a particular value will be good for him and bring him happiness.

Psychologically, a value is that with which one associates one’s happiness; existentially, a value is that with which one associates one’s well-being.

Since the uncoerced judgement of the person in question is involved in forming the value, no person or agency besides the person himself can change the value in question. No one, be it his relative, the police or the state, can enter a person’s mind, and change his deep-down judgment on a particular value held by him.

For example, if a man holds going to dance bars as a value and doesn’t value his wife, for whatever reason (it doesn’t matter here whether going to a dance bar is a rational or irrational value), then, no one can force him to start valuing his wife, and stop valuing going to dance bars. You can chain the person, throw him in prison, or beat him up, but each one of us remains untouchable in the temple of our minds.

Change can occur only through the voluntary participation of the individual himself. The individual will have to initiate a process of thought, analyse why he chooses to value dance bars and not his wife, come to realise the contradiction and mistakes in his thinking, and change his earlier conclusions.

Without this introspection, analysis and personal rejection of his wrong values, no change can be possible.

In the above process, the only way another person or an outside agency can assist is through persuasion and critical dialogue, enlightening the misguided individual with sound reasoning and knowledge. Using force against him, at a family or state level, can only worsen things. In the example given at the beginning of this article, if the parent uses force against the child and stops him from playing, instead of valuing studies, he is more likely to feel violated and wronged, and will then feel a strong disliking for whoever it is who is initiating force against him. A child then, as a means to protest against this violation, may purposely, on principle, not take studies seriously, just to protest and hurt his parents sensibilities. Child psychologists generally advise that it is far better to treat a child as a friend or individual and explain him what’s good for him or not, rather than using force against him.

As for the child, so for the adult. Let us say that the man’s wife manages to force her man to stop going to dance bars, or lobbies the state into doing this. The most likely scenario would be that the man will then develop a deep resentment towards her, for snatching from him something he enjoyed doing, and would treat her more unkindly.

A prime example of the negative consequences of using force to control values and morality is the complete isolation and veiling of women in some of the Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran, erstwhile Afghanistan and also parts of Pakistan. By banning the public interaction of members of the opposite sex, other than one’s spouse or immediate family members, and forcing the women to almost completely cover their bodies, including their hair, the authorities have not been able to change the attitude and values of the majority of their countrymen towards women and sex.

In fact, one can safely say that the percentage of men who view women as mere instruments of their pleasure, rather than individuals with thoughts, feelings and rights, is far larger in these repressive countries than in more liberal societies. The situation in these countries is a living proof that using force can never change an individual’s values, and only lead to more problems.

In conclusion, if the proponents of the ban on dancing bars in Maharashtra are truly interested in promoting the values which they consider as right, then they should not use the coercive power of the government. They should rather pick up their pens to write and try to persuade other men through reason to adopt their values. If their values are indeed right, then they have nothing to fear: Truth will prevail in the long run.

Notes: A person can of course, for various reasons, suppress his values and act against them, as one who forces himself to study before an examination, or even repress his values, as a man who denies to himself any feelings he actually feels for a woman. But in the realm of values, using force, even by the person upon himself, is never a meaningful and practical solution. It is like trying to treat the symptom without addressing the cause. The reason is that the human mind, simply cannot work creatively under compulsion —a person may memorise lessons to pass an exam by forcing himself to study, but he will not be able to write creatively, let’s say, an original poem by this method. Similarly, a person would be able to imitate and carry out routine tasks through applying pressure on himself, but won’t be able to discover or invent something new on a fundamental level. To be an inventor or discoverer in any meaningful human field, one must love what one does, or, in other words, one must associate his happiness with his chosen activity, or, still, one must value his work, be it writing, or experimenting in the laboratory.

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Feeling responsible for another’s happiness, cause of untold misery

The confusion between what a person can change and what he must accept serenely is one factor which is a source of misery for most people, as wisely pointed by AR in her writings. In the context of relationships, be they romantic or any other personal relationship, the practice of a mistaken belief on a fact of nature we cannot change, causes untold misery to people’s lives, especially the good, honest folks. This mistaken belief is that one is or should be responsible for the happiness of the person he/she loves/cherishes.

Many good people assume this responsibility as their means of upholding the person they value — little do they realise that there is no way to ensure that another person becomes or remains happy in his/her life. Because of this confusion, they needlessly suffer — get worried, tensed and face unnecessary guilt, despair and hopelessness.

Of course, it would be easier for a person not to be affected at the suffering of someone whom he has no feelings for, or doesn’t value. But things get a little complicated when one’s loved one suffers and things get much, much harder if the person one loves does not deserve to suffer — let’s say, one’s loved one is dying of cancer or is being mistreated by his/her spouse or children. It would indeed be an achievement for a human being to serenely accept this fact, especially if he was passionately in love with that person.

No matter what the circumstance, feeling responsible in such a situation is really self-defeating to its purpose. It only makes matters worse for both the persons —the mistaken person, instead of doing what he could do to improve things for the other, needlessly spends time worrying about things not in his/her hands and is of little help to the person he values.

I have personally experienced this in quite a few situations; here one example should suffice.

A far cousin of mine, being the only son with an unemployed father, came from the village to work in Bombay, having the burden of his family on his young shoulders. Initially, he fared all right, but gradually, started worrying and despairing himself, feeling responsible for his mother’s happiness. A year or two down the road, he developed diabetes, which worsened, and the end result was that he lost his job and became a burden on his already troubled family. Hence, instead of doing what he could, he messed it up for everyone.

I have read somewhere this point being made in a nice way: One should be responsible to a person and not for a person – no matter how much you value the person. Incidentally, the Ellesworth Toohey’s and parasites in general have know that living for others, even for your loved one’s sake is neither practical nor can it ever benefit your loved one. They, of course, have never been concerned with the good of others, no matter how much they claim to the contrary. What they have only wanted is that that the individual should not live for himself. It’s not love for humanity, but hatred for man which motivates them, as AR rightly says.

In the above example, what my cousin should have instead done is forgotten about his family’s unsolvable problems and pursued his happiness as selfishly as he could — once he would have made a success of himself and his career, the results would have then reflected positively on his family, and they would have been thankful to him for that.

Let me reiterate: There are certain things we cannot change — we can aid, help, guide a person to be happy, but we cannot replace his mind with ours, think and act on his behalf and ensure that he is happy. That is the sole prerogative of the individual himself.

To delve a little more deeper, we as Objectivists know that happiness for a human being primarily lies in the pursuit and application of knowledge to further our lives —i.e. in upholding reason, purpose and self-esteem as our fundamental values. A person who does not choose to value these, at some level at least, can hardly hope to be happy. And no one can think or act for another person or thus, ensure his happiness.

The roots of this mistaken belief

Of all the untold misery and suffering that altruism causes in decent people’s lives, it is in this area that it perhaps rears its ugliest head. Most of us have been hammered with the belief throughout our childhood that the purpose of our lives is to live for the happiness of others. This belief is so well indoctrinated, that even if we as Objectivists consciously come to reject this belief, I can say from personal experience, we may still unknowingly continue to accept it at a deep, subconscious level and be affected by it.

To solely live for one’s own happiness, is held by most people as an unquestionable evil; in fact, the mere thought of challenging it triggers the image of a brute on a murdering and looting rampage, as AR correctly pointed out. But until this premise is questioned and rejected at the subconscious level, the person will never achieve the serenity to accept the things he cannot change and will continue to feel unnecessary guilt and despair over something he has no control over. In the process, the relationship with his/her cherished one —be they his lover, wife/husband, father/mother, or friend will also suffer.

The day a person can proudly and with full meaning say it to everyone, including his love, that he lives only for his own sake and for no one else’s, not even hers, will he be truly and complete free of this evil premise, and also of the above issue, besides being ready to enter the world of Atlantis, as illustrated in Atlas Shrugged.

Notes: The above is not to say that one should be completely emotionally unaffected on seeing one’s cherished one suffering — the pain one experiences is different from the guilt and hopelessness one experiences, when one feels responsible, without any reason, for the other person’s misery. Nor is the above to say that one shouldn’t help the person he loves/cherishes pursue his/her happiness —failure to do so would be a lack of integrity on the person’s part.

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