America's Descent Into Savagery
Perhaps nothing more clearly illustrates American decadence than the fact those who claim to be followers of that philosophy which most clearly enunciates the principles America was founded on, have become advocates of so many things that philosophy rightly condemns. That philosophy is Objectivism, and the philosopher who named it is Ayn Rand.
"It is an ancient conflict. Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." [Emphasis mine.]
[For the New Intellectual, The fountainhead, "The Soul of An Individualist"]
If "civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy," then everything in our culture today says our society is descending into savagery, and at an ever accelerating rate.
On a certain site, recently, a doctor of philosophy and self-proclaimed Objectivist wrote:
"Personally, I've definitely noticed a shift in my own 'privacy settings' in the past few months. I've abandoned any and all sense of my own personal privacy, ... my decision to blog on what I eat over the past two years, then to report on the nitty-gritty details of my [disease] ..." [Emphasis mine.]
[I've quoted the above as an example, not as a criticism of the writer. I'm interested only in the phenomenon, not the personality.]
The Subtle Loss of Cultural Values
I am not an Objectivist, but am a student of Objectivism, and though I cannot agree with everything Rand wrote, her philosophy is the only sound one since Locke, and the only modern antidote to the mind-destroying nihilism-producing "philosophies" being taught in Universities today, and which are destroying all of this country's values.
In her lecture, "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation," from the book, The Voice of Reason, Rand describes the result of a culture that has lost its values.
"Where—in today's culture—can a man find any values or any meaningful pleasure? If a man holds a rational, or even semi-rational, view of life, where can he find any confirmation of it, any inspiring or encouraging phenomena?"
"A peculiarity of certain types of asphyxiation—such as death from carbon monoxide—is that the victims do not notice it: the fumes leave them no awareness of their need of fresh air. The specific symptom of value-deprivation is a gradual lowering of one's expectations. We have already absorbed so much of our cultural fumes that we take the constant pressure of irrationality, injustice, corruption and hooligan tactics for granted, as if nothing better could be expected of life."
There is a radio station I've listened to for a long time, which, except for very brief and infrequent news and weather reports, plays classical music continuously, with very little talk except for some details about the pieces being played. It was very enjoyable, and the perfect background for an evening of well-earned rest and relaxation with a good book. Sometime over the last year, a new group took over that radio station. There is now more talk, and the kind of music played has slowly degenerated. There is much more so-called "modern" classical music, of the atonal and cacophonous kind, disturbing and annoying, and not at all pleasant. There is still some genuine classical music played, but it's interspersed with that mind-numbing junk, which spoils the entire experience. I do not listen anymore.
That is exactly what Rand was talking about when she asked, "Where—in today's culture—can a man find any values or any meaningful pleasure?" I suspect that most people are not even aware of the subtle perversion that is going on and do not understand why they are not enjoying music, or much of anything else, as they once did.
The corruption of every aspect of our culture is slow and subtle. The confession of the "Objectivist" I quoted, "I've abandoned any and all sense of my own personal privacy," is a display of cultural asphyxiation of which the suffocating individual is totally unaware.
Privacy Verses Collectivism
The Objectivist blogger referred to an article "Why no one cares about privacy anymore". It has mostly to do with that obscene psychological exhibitionism found on the Internet today, which fits my description of a blog: "that disgusting Internet phenomenon where totally uninteresting people indulge in revealing every detail of their squalid lives and insipid minds, wallowing in the delusion the world is waiting with bated breath to learn whether or not they have lately changed their underwear."
The real reason for this growing phenomenon is revealed in the article.
"'As a social good,' says Richard Posner, the federal judge and iconoclastic conservative, 'I think privacy is greatly overrated because privacy basically means concealment. People conceal things in order to fool other people about them.'"
This is the view of what is nowadays called a, "conservative." If this is what Judge Posner thinks is the motivation behind people's desire for privacy, if "fooling other people" is how he sees it, he must be totally ignorant of the very real threats of identity theft and and other invasions of privacy on the Internet today and obviously knows nothing of the virtues of integrity, human dignity, or individualism.
It is, in fact, individualism all this hostility toward the desire for privacy is aimed.
"The truth about privacy is counter-intuitive: less of it can lead to a more virtuous society. Markets function more efficiently when it's cheap to identify and deliver the right product to the right person at the right time. Behavioral targeting allows you to see relevant, interesting Web ads instead of irrelevant, annoying ones. The ability to identify customers unlikely to pay their bills lets stores offer better deals to those people who will."
Well of course, if it will lead to a more virtuous society lets sacrifice all individual privacy. Once you have people convinced their privacy does not matter, perhaps even that a desire for it is anti-social, it is much easier to treat them as heard animals where their entire life is shared and viewed by anyone and everyone, just like any tribe of savages.
Integrity and Privacy
Privacy is at the very heart of human nature, that is, the nature of the human mind.
[All the quotes in this section are from The Journals of Ayn Rand, "Part 3 - Transition Between Novels, 8 - The Moral Basis Of Individualism."]
"A man's mind is an attribute of his self, of that entity within him which is his consciousness. That entity can be called spirit. It can be called soul. It remains—no matter what its origin—a man's self. His 'I.' His ego."
The consciousness, or mind, of every individual is totally private. One's conscious experience and one's thoughts cannot be known by anyone, even if we choose to share them, no one else can ever know what your private conscious experience really is.
"The independence of man's mind means precisely the placing of his ego above any and all other men on earth. It means acting upon the authority of his ego above any other authority. It means keeping his ego untouched, uninfluenced, uncorrupted, unsacrificed," (and I add, unsullied). [Emphasis mine.]
Why must an individual hold his own ego, his own mind, above the minds of all other men? Because an individual's mind and consciousness are private, unknowable to any other individual. Not only can no one else know another's mind, they cannot in any way influence that mind because it is not accessible to them. We can learn from others, but we must use our own minds to grasp and understand what someone else teaches. Another might provide information, but it is useless unless we use our own minds to comprehend and evaluate that information.
The most important aspect of the privacy of our minds, however, is that we must make our own choices. No one can choose for us. Even if we accept someone else as an authority, we must, in the privacy of our own consciousness, choose to accept that authority. How does one ever choose to accept any authority over the authority of his own mind?
To what authority are you willing to turn over any aspect of your mind? How do you know that what any authority says is true? He might be sincere, but mistaken. He might be lying. He might be correct. It is still your mind that must decide whether to take that authority's word for it, whatever it is.
Your mind is you. Whatever you would allow to be over your own mind, you have placed yourself in subordination to. To surrender your mind to any authority is to surrender yourself into the power of others. Such a surrender is not only self-imposed slavery, it is the ultimate immorality.
"Man's virtues are the qualities required for the preservation of his independence. They are personal qualities, unsocial by their nature and antisocial in any conflict of man against man. They are unsocial, because man cannot derive them from other men, cannot receive them as a gift from an outside source, but must generate them from within his own ego. They are profoundly selfish virtues, for they proceed from his ego, pertain to his ego and cannot be sacrificed to any consideration whatsoever.
"Without these virtues man cannot survive nor remain man.
Integrity—the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues—is a synonym of independence. Integrity is that quality in man which gives him the courage to hold his own convictions against all influences, against the opinions and desires of other men; the courage to remain whole, unbroken, untouched, to remain true to himself. It is generally recognized that a man who is true to himself is a man to be admired. But the sloppy confusion of human thinking has prevented men from understanding their own words or hearing what they are actually saying. "True to himself,"—what does that mean—True to his own ego. True to the duty of holding his ego apart from all other men—above them and against them when necessary. A man of integrity cannot place others above self."
Independence Is Morality
Let me repeat Rand's words, "Integrity—the first, greatest and noblest of all virtues—is a synonym of independence.
Now consider that in light of another Rand quote:
"Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [For the New Intellectual, The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]
The integrity and dignity of man is a matter of self-esteem and pride, and "the courage to remain whole, unbroken, untouched."
"Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man's values, it has to be earned—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character—that your character, your actions, your desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind—that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul—that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself." [Atlas Shrugged, Part Three / Chapter VII, "This Is John Galt Speaking"]
In the November 22-December 6, 1971 issues of The Ayn Rand Letter, in a discussion of the American people's sense of life and its fundamentally independent, individualistic nature, Rand asked at the end, "Is there enough of the American sense of life left in people—under the constant pressure of the cultural-political efforts to obliterate it? It is impossible to tell."
What We've Lost
I think we can tell now, and sadly, there is no more of that sense of life. The characteristics of dignity, integrity, pride, and sense of personal privacy that people with that sense of independent individualism exhibit are rarely seen today.
Ayn Rand once use a comparison between our minds and our bodies to illustrate how men abuse their minds, that is, their souls, in ways they would not dream of abusing their bodies.
"... men abuse, subvert and starve their consciousness in a manner they would not dream of applying to their hair, toenails or stomachs. They know that these things have a specific identity and specific requirements, and, if one wishes to preserve them, one must comb one's hair, trim one's toenails and refrain from swallowing rat poison. But one's mind? Aw, it needs nothing and can swallow anything. Or so most people believe. And they go on believing it while they toss in agony on a psychologist's couch, screaming that their mind keeps them in a state of chronic terror for no reason whatever." [Ayn Rand, "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation," The Objectivist, April 1966.]
Rand used that illustration to point out how men starve and misuse their minds, but there is another way men abuse their minds.
A woman who would never surrender her body to be gawked at and pawed by just anyone, has no qualms about surrendering her soul to any passing stranger for the same kind of abuse. On Blogs and so-called "social media," both men and women lay bare to the world every detail of the minds and souls, every feeling, every desire, every squalid pleasure, and every private practice.
Men who would never dream of performing their most private bodily functions in public, will, on any online public forum, perform their most private mental functions for the whole world to observe revealing their every problem and every intimate thought for the pleasure of every intellectual voyeur.
When some fool says, "privacy basically means concealment. People conceal things in order to fool other people about them," ask them why they wear clothes. (There is a real possibility, in this day and age, they may not, but most people have managed, thus far, to hold on to enough personal dignity to remain clothed in public.)
The desire for privacy of the mind is exactly the same as the desire for privacy of the body; it is a desire to maintain the integrity of one's self, only sharing the most intimate and personal aspect of one's self, both soul and body, with those worthy of that intimacy.
The Value Of The Soul
A lack of a sense of privacy is a lack of a sense of self-worth. One does not expose to the entire world one's most precious treasures. Our minds, our souls, ought to be our most precious treasures, like jewels, to be carefully tended and protected.
Our minds, our bodies, our persons, rightly valued are sacred possessions, to be cherished and reverenced above all things. Those whose sense of personal value does not move them to protect the sacredness of their person, who do not regard their own souls important enough to be kept private, or their own bodies sacred enough to be kept covered, are unlikely to be able to value anything very highly.
"Most people lack [the capacity for] reverence and 'taking things seriously.' They do not hold anything to be very serious or profound. There is nothing that is sacred or immensely important to them. There is nothing—no idea, object, work, or person—that can inspire them with a profound, intense, and all-absorbing passion that reaches to the roots of their souls. They do not know how to value or desire. They cannot give themselves entirely to anything. There is nothing absolute about them. They take all things lightly, easily, pleasantly—almost indifferently, in that they can have it or not, they do not claim it as their absolute necessity. Anything strong and intense, passionate and absolute, anything that can't be taken with a snickering little "sense of humor"—is too big, too hard, too uncomfortable for them. They are too small and weak to feel with all their soul—and they disapprove of such feelings. They are too small and low for a loyal, profound reverence—and they disapprove of all such reverence. They are too small and profane themselves to know what sacredness is—and they disapprove of anything being too sacred."
[Journals - Part 1: Early Projects, "The Hollywood Years," circa February 1928, ... her first attempt in English to plan a novel. The working title was, The Little Street.]
Though written in 1928, it describes perfectly the shallowness of today's society and it's complete lack of any profound values. It has been the intention of those who desire to see the destruction of Western Civilization to create just such a society, and it is the trivialization of values, like privacy, that is the method.
"Don't set out to raze all shrines—you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are razed. Then there's another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It's simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor is an unlimited virtue. Don't let anything remain sacred in a man's soul—and his soul won't be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man. One doesn't reverence with a giggle. He'll obey and he'll set no limits to his obedience—anything goes—nothing is too serious...."
[FTNI - The Fountainhead "The Soul Of A Collectivist"]
It has worked. Mention to almost anyone today that you regard you personal privacy as sacred and inviolable and you will be laughed at. "What makes you so special—ha ha?"
"Don't let anything remain sacred in a man's soul—and his soul won't be sacred to him." That is the exact picture of most individuals in today's society.
Personal Property and Privacy
If people can be convinced their sense of personal privacy is in some way anti-social, an expression of psychological hang-ups, a kind of hubris, or even snobbery; if a society accepts the view that personal privacy is unimportant, just a left-over social convention that we are, nowadays, to mature to let determine our behavior, what has really happened is the value of individuals as persons is trivialized. That is the whole aim of course.
Our first possession, the possession that makes all others possible is ourselves, both body and mind, and because it is ours, it is our property. The phrase, laissez-faire means "hands off," usually used in a political context, it is also the essence of what property is. Your property is yours to handle or use in any way you choose, to all others it is "hands off."
All of an individual's property is actually an extension of an individual's person, because all property is created by the productive effort of the individual. In the same way a person's hair and nails are produced by the bodily functions of an individual, and are therefore his property, wealth, in any form, is produced by the use of one's mind and body to create the products or perform services from which that wealth is derived and is therefore his property.
The concept of privacy is an extension of the concept of property, that is, "hands off." What is an individual's property is both the product and means to his life, and it is his to use or dispose of in any way he chooses, but no other individual my touch it in any way, except by the permission of the individual whose property it is. That is the whole meaning of private property.
If the privacy of an individual's very person is really not important, if a person's own body and own mind are not worth keeping private, why should that which is an extension of an individual's person be kept private? If that which makes an individual a person is not valuable enough to be kept private, why should something which is only a mere possession of an individual be kept private? If it is no longer "hands off" in regard to an individual's mind and body, why should it be "hands off" with regard to anything else?
The loss of a sense of privacy that dominates society today is only a symptom of a much more serious social decay, which is the loss of a sense of individual independence, of personal integrity, and human dignity which are the characteristics of the kind of people that comprise civilized societies. The complete lack of personal privacy in society is only one of all social values that, missing from a society, signal the loss of civilization itself.
There is no way to instill a sense of privacy in those who have lost it, or have never acquired it. There is no way to "give" people that sense of self-worth and self-esteem that must be earned, not bestowed as some politically correct gift, and which is a prerequisite for a sense of privacy.
A broken society cannot be fixed, and all efforts in that direction, which means more government intrusion into all aspects of society, will only hasten the total collapse of it.
Though no one else deserves the advantages of society more, or perhaps at all, except individualists, and no one is more capable, of enjoying social relationships with others, than an individualist, the individualist does not need society, does not need a single other individual in the world. It is precisely because he does not need them, that he is a value to others and to any civilized society. People who need people are parasites.
Today's society is not a civilized one. There are independent individualist in it, there are some who are themselves civilized and worthy of a civilized society, but they are the exception, and today's societies are dominated by the uncivilized, by those without any true values or personal integrity, living for immediate gratification and willing to sacrifice anything, their freedom, their privacy, their futures for the sake of some promised security or meaningless pleasures.
The independent individualist will necessarily feel alienated in today's society, like a foreigner, perhaps like a member of a different race of beings. He has nothing in common with the average person today; he does not share their pleasures; he has no interested in the trivialities that interest them; they have nothing to offer him, nothing of value or importance to even gain his attention. Concerning most of the people in a society like today's, the independent individualist is totally indifferent.
But the members of society will not be indifferent toward the individualist, even though that individualist asks nothing of them, nor is a danger to them in any way. They will hate and despise him, and most will not even know why.
"Notice how they'll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once .... There's a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. They forgive criminals. They admire dictators. Crime and violence are a tie. A form of mutual dependence. They need ties. They've got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them—because they don't exist within him and that's the only form of existence they know. Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man."
[Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, The Fountainhead, "The Nature Of The Second-Hander"]
Though privacy is always valued by the independent individualist, in an uncivilized society, the independent individualist will jealously guard his privacy even more, keeping even his highest virtues from public display, because he knows they will not be appreciated, but despised. I end with this final quote from Rand, from The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, "Global Balkanization:"
"As to pride, dignity, self-confidence, self-esteem—these are characteristics that mark a man for martyrdom in a tribal society," or in any other uncivilized one, such as ours, today.
It does not matter what society does, it only matters what you do as an individual, and all you have to do as an individual, is to guard your own privacy, your own soul and your own mind, against every assault. It is your life, you own it, and no one in this world has a right to any part of it, and only a collectivist would surrender the privacy of their mind and soul to anyone.
[Note: The very heavy use of Rand quotes in this article are meant to illustrate the contradiction between the words and acts of those who claim to be Objectivists, and what Objectivism actually teaches.]