Saturday, March 22, 2008

Quotation of the day

[The American Indians] didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. ... What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.

-- Ayn Rand, 1974

[I do not approve of Rand's sentiments here. I've reproduced this quotation just to demonstrate what kind of an asshole she was.]

[Update: Following links, I lost the original impetus for this post. Happily, Mark has commented, and I can tip my hat to Daylight Atheism]

16 comments:

  1. The Randian version of Social Darwinism.

    If Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is at all accurate, it sheds a bit of light on the question of why the Europeans happened to conquer America, rather than the other way round.

    "...and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using."

    In short, all those Christian folk knew about the Golden Rule, but, like Rand, preferred to live by a double standard.

    If I may re-imagine the scenario:
    An enormous spacecraft hovers into view above the annual meeting of Objectivists. "We too are Objectivists" flashes across the hull of the craft in large letters, and the stadium crowd cheers in response.

    Thousands of circular objects are released from doors in the bottom of the hull, and land on the playing field below, momentarily distracting the crowd from the words now lighting up across the ship: "We exercise our right of civilization, please put on your slave collars."

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  2. Here is the actual quote:

    "Now, I don't care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have againts this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you're a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent coutnry and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights--they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal "cultures"--they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It's wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you're an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a "country" does not protect rights--if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief--why should you respect the "rights" that they don't have or respect? The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too--that is, you can't claim one should respect the "rights" of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages--which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existnece; for their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched--to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did. The racist Indians today--those who condemn America--do not respect individual rights."

    --Ayn Rand

    Here is Ayn Rand's actual philosophy:

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_essentials

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  3. Ayn Rand does not have a philosophy, she has an ideology. There's nothing wrong with ideology per se, but her ideology is pretty fucked up to any person such as myself who gives importance to feelings of empathy and compassion.

    Modern-day neoconservatism is just warmed-over Randianism.

    I don't see that the full context changes the tenor or meaning of Rand's remarks that I quoted in the post. She still means that she has a right to kill someone — or an entire nation, race or culture — if she disapproves of their ideology. Indeed, I linked in the post to the context of the quotation and a discussion of its veracity.

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  4. If you're interested, Larry, there's a discussion about this very issue and about Objectivist ethics in general over on Daylight Atheism.

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  5. I assume you mean Three Objections to Objectivism.

    No, I'm not really interested. I determined almost 30 years ago, when I was a teenager, that Rand was so full of shit she cries brown tears.

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  6. As a descendant of one of the conquered, I think Rand was right.

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  7. The "quote" is not just out of context, it's inaccurate. Disagree with Rand if you like, but at least do it for something she actually said.

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  8. The accuracy of the quotation is disputed; it is not known to be definitely inaccurate.

    It is certainly consistent with her views as expressed in the quotation you yourself supplied.

    I don't think it's particularly productive to debate the precise words that Rand used to express her genocidal racism.

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  9. Modern-day neoconservatism is just warmed-over Randianism.

    ...and Randianism was, in turn, a slightly altered version of Neitzsche-an thought.

    Randians are so amazingly fucking tiresome. They are a group of people who want feudalism, but won't even admit it. So you have to go through the infinitely tedious process to explaining to them that their ideology, if followed in a society, would lead to feudalism with a few ultra-rich people, and millions of dirt poor people. Then and only then can you talk about why feudalism is a horrible idea. And they will fight you every single inch of the way to that point.

    "Libertarians"? Who even knows what they really believe. I've heard so many variations on what "Libertarianism" really means that the concept has no coherent shape to me. All I can say is that every one of these variations is either something that can never exist, or a horrible disaster if it somehow came to be.

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  10. Randianism was, in turn, a slightly altered version of Neitzsche-an thought.

    That's not precisely true. Nietzsche was a very subtle and deep fellow; Rand is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead.

    If you read Nietzsche very shallowly, and you have a bone to pick with the Communists, and you are convinced — as Nietzsche himself was not — that you yourself are the ubermensch, you get Rand.

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  11. If you read Nietzsche very shallowly, and you have a bone to pick with the Communists, and you are convinced — as Nietzsche himself was not — that you yourself are the ubermensch, you get Rand.

    True, I should have said that Rand is like a bad parody of Nietzsche.

    I do think they share some shallow similarities, and they obviously were reading the same books- they just got those books on very different levels.

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  12. Rand is like a bad parody of Nietzsche

    I think that's more accurate.

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  13. I'm sure I'm not the only one who sees that Larry's quotation, and the "in-context" quotation provided us, arrive at the exact same place.

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  14. Frankly I agree with Rand on this. The history of the world is that the stronger conquer the weaker. That's what has always happened in Europe and what happened here in the US and will undoubtedly always happen in the future. Someday, probably in the not-too-distant future it will be us Americans on the receiving end of it.

    Historically, as far as I can tell, the main thing that the US government did wrong aside from slaughtering the natives, was to continually promise land to them and then renege on their promises. Perhaps it's true the government still owes the native Americans some compensation, in which case they should make good. But as far as taking over the country and conquering the indigenous population, fucking get over it. We're not giving it back and if we had it to do over we'd do the exact same thing.

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  15. It's one thing to observe that the strong have in the past oppressed, enslaved and destroyed the weak. It's quite another thing to justify such behavior, and desire that it continue.

    Rand wanted — and her followers continue to want &mdash a world in which people are divided into the strong and the weak, the strong oppress and enslave the weak, and the weak accept their oppression and enslavement as a matter of natural right.

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  16. But as far as taking over the country and conquering the indigenous population, fucking get over it.

    While I would agree that there's a point at which castigating oneself for the sins of generations past is, well, stupid, I don't think "the stupid savages weren't using their rights anyways" serves well as a post facto justification. Rand's statement is little more than warmed-over "white man's burden."

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