Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Quote: Ayn Rand on Nationalism

From, Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A, ed. Robert Mayhew. p. 102.
from Lecture, "The Wreckage of the Consensus" (Boston, Ford Hall Forum, 1967)

Nationalism as a primary—that is, the attitude of, "my country, right or wrong," without any judgment—is chauvinism: a blind, collectivist, racist feeling for your own country, merely because you were born there. In that sense, nationalism is very wrong. But nationalism properly understood—as a man's devotion to his country because of an approval of its basic premises, principles, and social system, as well as its culture—is the common bond among men of that nation. It is a commonly understood culture, and an affection for it, that permits a society of men to live together peacefully. But a country must earn this approval. It must be worthy of that kind of devotion.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Various Thoughts Great and Small

1. My son was born a month ago, a few weeks earlier than expected. As did the birth of my daughter, so my son's birth humbled me. I can't yet articulate the depth of this change, but I feel purified by fatherhood. Seeing the innocence of my children in their infancy and the manner in which my daughter readily imitates me, I have never so acutely felt the imperative to be and do good. While I can't envision myself without my philosophical endeavors, I think fatherhood has ushered me toward virtue more rapidly in two years than philosophy has in over ten.

2. In hospitals there are too many cooks and their interests conflict. The board of directors cares about winning the competition for patients, so the staff falls obsequiously over you with hotel-like service. On the other hand you can see the hands of the lawyers—phobic of liability—in the way which you are more or less imprisoned until they are satisfied that whatever happens to you after you walk out the door cannot be reasonably deemed their fault. Doctors seem present often just for their assessments and not for carrying out procedures. Finally you see represented in the bill those interests of politicians, insurance companies, and the many fools who endorse subsidies and price-controls.

3. My whole family is home together every day right now, and it's a blast. The recent extraordinary weeks, however, rest on months and years of fiscal preparation, emotional maturation, and, in general, discipline.

4. Discipline is hard and constant work. I often say that it's a full time job just being me because pulling my quirks, vices, and bugaboos into line is such a task.

5. Maybe marriage and fatherhood has left me a bit of a pragmatist, but I'm more skeptical of intellectuals than ever, and of people who are all or mostly talk. As is often said that writing is not some mystical craft but a process involving, chiefly, sitting down and writing, so so being and doing good is a matter of just that. So it seems to me not only that the good requires often little to no thought, but that thought is often inimical to the good. I seem to think myself into trouble far more often than I think myself out of it.

6. I don't follow a great deal of news right now, but people who do look positively loopy. It's worthy of note, though, that news enthusiasts seem often to equate, quite unconsciously, information with knowledge. They also often attach a moral purpose to "being informed," such that their habits of television, internet, and social media consumption are in fact virtuous.

The most extreme version of this behavior is visible among people arguing on social media. It's hard to swallow the fact that people antagonizing strangers on social media think they're on some moral crusade when they're just exhibiting, among other things, that which they lack in their non-digital lives. I see this just as often on the right as on the left.

7. I don't know what to make of this apparent revitalization of traditionalism, especially as it appears on Twitter. Am I supposed to take seriously the traditionalism of someone who sits on Twitter tweeting about traditionalism all day?

8. Similarly, I've rather had it with the anti-capitalism of many traditionalists. You don't have to be an enthusiastic Capitalist Pig, but at least be a reluctant free-marketer. The soft-socialist traditionalists are often, it seems to me, stymied by a common contradiction in conservative characters: a desire for large traditional families and a lack of creativity to support those families. The resulting ideology is a predictable one of victimhood.

Some of them condemn capitalism out of their inability to compete for goods and status in society, which they usually say stems from a distaste for competition. They seem to think that competition is somehow vaguely un-Christian, thus an alternative is necessary.

9. Similarly again, I think a lot of Catholics are simply insecure about the declining role of religion in the West and, absent the ability to analyze such a complex problem and reluctant to blame the Catholic Church, they blame society. Now blame society, please, but my sense is that these, let us call them monarchist Catholics, are less worried about the souls of others than they are in need of a little reassurance about their own piety. Call me cynical.

10. I caved and bought a powered lawnmower because I just can't get out often enough to keep the lawn in reasonable condition with my manual reel mower. My new mower is electric so it is fairly quiet and doesn't fume, but I feel somewhat defeated. I cannot right now, though, afford to be stubbornly ideological about lawn-mowing. I also, admittedly, derive no small amount of pleasure from making some noise of my own, now and again.