28 September 2009

A collection of rants, being the Second of several

More ire and fire, this time dated to the day and month.

* * *

To be authentic is to steadfastly hold on to one’s rational values regardless of their popularity or lack thereof. The intelligent person of integrity will not compromise his morality – that is, a code of ethics derived from objective reality through the use of his reason – for the crude purpose of obtaining approval or validation, even from those whom he holds in esteem and affection.

Indeed this kind of authenticity requires great moral and intellectual courage, and can at times reinforce the sense of loneliness often felt by the independent thinker.


* * *

Civilization’s progress is retarded, even arrested, once anti-intellectual attitudes are given the stamp of validity. This decline occurs when stupidity, irrationality, vulgarity and Tolkienian orcishness are tacitly accepted as equals – though admittedly unsavoury ones – at the table of human values, where we squeamishly tolerate their presence in the spirit of political correctness instead of outrightly, and rightfully, refusing them a place as any intelligent, rational, decent person should.

We suffer fools, parasites, thugs, brutes and incompetents in the political, commercial, cultural, ethical, scientific and personal arenas of human discourse, yet we have the temerity to throw up our hands in horror and complain how things have gone to the dogs, when this is precisely because fools are permitted, even encouraged, to exercise their foolishness to the detriment of not only themselves (which in any case is defensible on the principle that even idiots have the right to screw up their own lives if they so choose to) but innocents as well (now this is unconscionable as it violates the right of the innocent to their lives).

Intellectuals, lovers of reason, the intelligent, the rational, and simple decent folk should be deservedly proud of their values rather than apologise for the ‘crime’ of refusing to abdicate their personal responsibility for their convictions and actions; for refusing to submit blindly to a ‘higher’ authority or to irrational whims and desires. It is about time that we apply a blunt ‘call a spade a spade’ approach to the prevalence of anti-intellectualism and simply yet firmly call stupid stupid, even at the risk of causing offense or alienating those who hold irrational beliefs or who reject reason and intelligence as virtues.

To refrain from moral judgment – judgment founded on objective truths acquired through the rigorous use of reason – when it is called for is an act of moral and intellectual cowardice, of submission to the irrational whims and poorly processed thoughts of the intellectually lazy or incompetent. This signifies one’s condonance – if not approval – of and complicity in promoting unreason. Since reason is humanity’s unique tool for survival, to support its invalidation is to support death.


* * *

How easily Romanticism
creeps up on you
Bearing silently
on its lacey train
Established mindsets
Preconceived ideas
Stereotypes, archetypes
and hallowed icons
The whole panoply
of appropriate settings
Expected decorations
Predictable moods
Right lighting
Scripted conversation
All glazed over
with sweet Comfort
and topped
with a cherry
the colour of Nostalgia


* * *

Ask yourself this: what exactly am I sanctioning, condoning, validating when I allow others their irrationalities, their disregard – even contempt – for reason and intelligence? Is such ‘generosity’ on my part really a laudable virtue, something that I hold as a moral standard by which others should live? ‘Live and let live’ perhaps? Or would intellectual honesty compel me to admit that it is more a case of convenient evasion, so that I would not have to consider the wider implications of my tolerance of unreason?

Are religious ‘moderates’ justified in their sanctimonious criticism of the violence perpetrated by the ‘extremists’ or ‘fundamentalists’ of their shared superstitions? Should moderates be allowed their self-made moral high ground that they feel worthy to occupy? Should their indignant protests, which in real terms amounts to “it’s not my fault that extremists and fundamentalists misinterpret the myths and delusions that we commonly subscribe to”, be accepted as a valid defense of their beliefs? Should unreason be given legitimacy on the spurious grounds that some forms of unreason are more unreasonable than – and thus apparently unconnected to – others? And these believers dare to claim that they do not inhabit a bubble, sealed off from reality.

“His God isn’t my God,” the peaceful, moderate religionist declares vehemently, unaware of the supreme irony of his declaration – that that is exactly what the belligerent believer also claims of the moderate.


* * *

With all the various spheres of human activity, be it design, communication, industry, trade, science, government and so forth, it is philosophy that constitutes the foundation, the base upon which all these spheres rest. The three philosophic axioms (as identified by Ayn Rand) of Existence, Consciousness and Identity are by necessity the starting point of any human endeavour. Anything must first be (existence) for it to be perceived by a mind (consciousness) and its nature or character discovered (identity).

That this sequence is necessary in order for us to build any structure of human activity is self-evident. It therefore follows that to avoid or correct any errors in any field of activity, one must examine the philosophy that underpins that field. There is no such thing as a ‘superficial’ philosophy. Any philosophy – rational or irrational, sound or unsound, true or false – inevitably shapes the character and outcomes of any particular field of human activity. No area, whether the personal or social, political or commercial, can escape the influence of the philosophy (or philosophies) that informs the choices made by the human participants. Even the person who scoffs at philosophy, believing it to be irrelevant, is demonstrating a personal philosophy – a destructive one that negates his mind and everything that he is capable of achieving with it.

To avoid examining the philosophic fundamentals that support any field when problems occur in it and instead focus on elements that are themselves derived from the philosophic fundamentals, is like trying to fix a leaning skyscraper by focusing on any of its numerous floors instead of its foundations. Only an irrational, illogical person would express surprise when the skyscraper remains leaning despite attempts to ‘correct’ the problem by neglecting the foundations. Only an irrational, illogical, anti-mind person would express indignation should the skyscraper come crashing down.


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