craiganthonywells said:

Do you think that Ayn Rand/Objectivism is elitist?


Consider this passage from In Defense of Elitism, by William A. Henry III:

We have foolishly embraced the unexamined notions that everyone is pretty much alike (and worse, should be), that self-fulfillment is more important that objective achievement [this bit I take issue with, as the two are mutually inclusive], that the common man is always right, that a good and just society should be far more concerned succoring its losers than with honoring and encouraging its winners to achieve more and thereby benefit everyone. … The list of what people are said to be “entitled” to has exploded exponentially as we have redefined our economy, in defiance of everyday reality, as a collective possession—a myth of communal splendor rather than simultaneous individual achievements.


In pursuit of egalitarianism, an ideal wrenched far beyond what the founding fathers took it to mean, we have willfully blinded ourselves to the home truths those solons well understood, not least the simple fact that some people are better than others—smarter, harder working, more learned, more productive, harder to replace. Some ideas are better than others, some values more enduring, some works of art more universal. Some cultures, though we dare not say it, are more accomplished than others ad therefore more worthy of study. Every corner of the human race may have something to contribute. That does not mean all contributions are equal.

Henry is openly a liberal Democrat, and it shows in his writing, but he raises some good points about the nature of equality. Moral and legal equality, which all persons are and should have from birth, do not carry over into the economic, social, and intellectual realms.

Holding those thoughts in mind, let’s look at a passage from Atlas Shrugged:

In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.

I’ve emphasized a section of this passage, which summarized what is known as the Pyramid of Ability. I recommend everyone read the linked article, but here’s the critical excerpt: 

[I]t is important to realize that one’s place on the pyramid of ability does not represent one’s basic moral worth. The pyramid reflects one’s social worth and one’s social position. One’s moral worth is not unrelated, but it isn’t equivalent.

Ayn Rand’s characters are so focused on producing wealth (and are so good at it) that a great many readers mistakenly think being good at producing wealth—or worse, simply possessing a large quantity—are Objectivist virtues. Yet that flies in the face of the cardinal Objectivist virtue, rationality, because obviously individuals differ in their skillsets and overall ability to produce wealth. It also contradicts egoism, because the monetary value of certain skills is determined by their value to other people.

One’s moral value is determined—in part—by the degree to which they use their potential. In the economic sphere of action, this refers to maximizing the amount of value created, usually measured in monetary terms. (I should not have to explain this, but many individuals choose to focus their energies in other spheres. Ideally, this will also bring monetary gains, but our world is not an ideal case.)

There are undisputedly individuals who are better than others. Objectivism accepts that this will be true in any sphere involving skill, but all persons are capable of being equal. This clearly is not true, however, the Objectivist philosophy is an admirable attempt at guiding people down the right path.

Lastly, I’d like to consider Ayn Rand herself. On this matter, I’d like to refer to what Ludwig von Mises said to her after the publication of Atlas Shrugged:

You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you. If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, it is still the truth that had to said in the age of the Welfare State.

Both Ayn Rand and her philosophy accept that individuals are not equal, but not necessarily so. In the material and intellectual realms, inequality is inevitable (and, I think, desirable), but the moral sphere individuals come into this world the same, and differential themselves only by conscious action. Thus, Objectivism can be thought of as morally egalitarian, and elitist in most other areas.

[Further Reading]

Frankly put. I am a FAKE GEEK GUY. I admit it. I like geek stuff, but I don’t love geek stuff. Not the way most geeks do. I’m an interloper on the geek scene. I’ve seen the movies, but I don’t know the canon. I am not a true fan.

All those things about not really loving the source material and “just watching the movies” or only reading the one book that everyone has read. That—all of that—applies to me.

But here are some things that have never happened to me. I have never been quizzed about who Data’s evil brother is to prove I like Star Trek. I have never had to justify my place in a midnight line to see Spider-man II by knowing who took up the mantle of Spider-man after Peter Parker’s death. (Peter Parker dies? Really? That’s so sad!) I have never had to explain who Nightwing is in order to participate in a conversation about Batman. (Nightwing is like….Robin on steroids, right?) I have never been asked how battle meditation works in order to voice my opinion that Enterprise shields would probably make a fight with Star Wars technology one sided. (Battle meditation is something that was in that Jedi role playing game, wasn’t it?) I have never had to beat everybody in the room (twice) at Mario Kart to prove I liked video games. I have never had my gender “honorarily” changed by having enough geek interests to be accepted (“you’re one of the guys now”). No one has ever insisted I tell them the difference between a tank and DPS in an MMORPG before allowing me to discuss raiding Molten Core. I have never been dismissed as a faker at a prequel screening because I didn’t know which admiral came out of light speed too close to the planet’s surface in The Empire Strikes Back. I have never been quizzed about Armor Class in order to get past someone who was blocking my path to the back of a game store where my friends were waiting at the tables. I have never been told I’m not a real fan. I have never been shamed for coming to a convention despite my lack of esoteric knowledge. And I have never, ever, EVER been invited to leave a fandom because I didn’t like [whatever it was] enough.

Every one of the things I have listed, I have personally witnessed happen. To women.

That’s not elitism. That’s sexism.

"The Boy Who Isn’t Really All That Special"

Danny walks down the hallway, into the living room
Everyone is fast asleep, but Danny is filled with doom and gloom
He may not ever realize, but his subconscious already knows
That’s he’s just really not that special, and it obviously shows.

Even though he’s only seven, it’s still abundantly clear
That he ain’t curing any disease, or winning Boy of the Year.
No society changing inventions will come from his average mind,
And his thoughts and/or opinions will never alter the course of humankind.

He doesn’t know that yet, and he’ll always be told a lie
That he’s a unique snowflake, and a special lil’ guy.
He’ll belabour under this myth for a lifetime’s worth of years,
Living an average life filled with average happiness and tears.

But does it really matter if Danny isn’t the special-est guy on Earth?
And the world won’t feel any impact from his death or birth?
Because if EVERYONE is special, then no one really is
Each person has their role to play, and being Un-Special is his.

Posted 2/16/2013

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Listen, I know what it’s like to struggle with money. My dad only makes $500,000 a year. Don’t tell me that I don’t understand what it’s like for black people to be poor in the U.S.
—  Unknown major.

I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating this, but I’m literally not. This is genuinely what he said, I’m not joking.

eruditefag said:

I'm just wondering, what are your academic credentials? I've been perusing your tumblr for some time and as a scholar-in-training of Classics and ancient Mediterranean archaeology I must say that some of things that you have posted concerning the ancient Mediterranean were either misleading or entirely erroneous.

Wow, how rude are you?

I get this exact question at least once a week, usually more, and honestly, it doesn’t make me defensive, it makes me wish I was even LESS qualified than I am. I sure as hell wish I had my f*cking good credit and financial status back instead of being slowly soulcrushed under a mountain of debt.

Almost everything I write about I either knew before college, or learned through my OWN research, because as I’ve said time after time after TIME, THIS IS THE STUFF YOU DON’T. LEARN. IN. CLASSES. IF YOU WANT THE STUFF YOU LEARN IN CLASS, GO TO CLASS. AREN’T YOU LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT AND GET YOUR APPROVED TRUTHS IN THE APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT.

You some in my inbox with your knickers in a twist asking for my frigging papers and C.V. with your “This isn’t like what I learned in class AT ALL” like THAT SHOULD BE A SURPRISE TO ANYONE. If you don’t like me challenging it, GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.

If it makes you feel good to cast me as some kind of insidious peddler of lies to the gullible, then have at it. I honestly do not care. If you’d rather not take a look in the mirror and ask yourself why you are so committed to the idea that unless you spent thousands of dollars sitting in a classroom and getting a piece of paper that says you were there, you should not be “allowed” to talk about certain things (spoiler: it’s because that’s what you’re doing, and I’d say that makes you pretty invested in the institution of education).

If this had been a message on “You said this thing and why did you say that” or “I think you are wrong about [blank] and here is a thing I read that says otherwise” we could have ACTUALLY HAD A CONVERSATION that people can learn from.

But no, instead you decided to make it about who I am and whether or not you think I’m “qualified”. I mean, come on. Let’s be frank. What you’re saying is really about whether or not someone is “rising above their station” by having this blog. Because if I was a flight attendant, or a migrant worker, or a middle school custodian, or a restaurant server, or someone else “unqualified”, you get to feel superior and fart all over the place about how nothing here really “counts” as anything TRULY academic, right?

News Flash: if you need an excuse to ignore medievalpoc,  you are already free to do that anytime. STOP MAKING THAT MY PROBLEM.

To the future rebloggers with “notice medievalpoc DIDN’T answer the question”, nope! And I’m not going to, either. Enjoy your debunkery. I’d rather people think I’m somehow “unqualified” than continue to legitimize a system of elitism, gatekeeping, and other unsavory practices I fundamentally disagree with.

Tell me if you can spot what is similar about each of these hero-vs.-villain match-ups:
  • Superman vs. Lex Luthor
  • Batman vs. The Joker
  • Batman vs. Bane
  • Tony Stark vs. Obadiah Stane
  • Tony Stark vs. Whiplash

In each of those instances, the match-up is between a person who inherited his wealth and/or abilities and a self-made man who came up from nothing. And each time, we’re rooting for the former.

"What?" you say, "You want us to root for the Joker, you sick bastard?"

No. I’m saying the movie made it so that that was your only other choice.

—David Wong, from "The 5 Ugly Lessons Hiding in Every Superhero Movie"

Of course, there is nothing inherently elitist about reason or the scientific method. Critical thinking involves applying a few simple rules that are accessible to everyone, at least in theory. And indeed, a lot of people become skeptics for the best of intentions: to spread the word of reason and critical thinking, to arm the masses rather than shoot them down. In highlighting bunk and deception wherever it occurs, their aim is to protect the vulnerable against the hucksters, charlatans, politicians and priests who exploit them.

But such is the character of skepticism that good intentions quickly get swamped by bad ones. Look past the crocodile tears on any online debunking forum, and you’ll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They’re there to laugh at idiots. I’m not going to plead innocence here: I’ve often joined in with the laughter, at least vicariously; laughing at idiots can be fun. But in the context of skeptic sites, the laughter takes on a bullying and unhealthy tone. It’s never pleasant to watch a group of university graduates ganging up to sneer at people denied their advantages in life, especially when for some of them it’s a full-time hobby. It’s an unfair fight between unequal resources, and far too few skeptics care about this inequality or want to do anything about it.

I am not a lonely person.
I don’t want to be embraced, cajoled,
told jokes to, I don’t want to share
opinions or talk about the
weather and/or etc. and

I have never met a lively, original
interesting soul by accident and
I don’t expect to.

all I have ever met are a herd of
dullards who have wanted to project
their petty frustrations upon me.

—  Charles Bukowski

You’re not a real Shiny Hunter if you use the Masuda Method.

You’re not a real Shiny Hunter if you use the Poke Radar.

You’re not a real Shiny Hunter if you use the Shiny Charm.

You’re not a real Shiny Hunter if you use Double Grass.

You’re not a real Shiny Hunter if you use 6th Gen. Period.

It’s good to know that gamer elitism is alive and well, in fucking Pokemon of all places.

Online forums, whatever their subject, can be forbidding places for the newcomer; over time, most of them tend to become dominated by small groups of snotty know-it-alls who stamp their personalities over the proceedings. But skeptic forums are uniquely meant for such people. A skeptic forum valorises (and in some cases, fetishises) competitive geekery, gratuitous cleverness, macho displays of erudition. It’s a gathering of rationality’s hard men, thumping their chests, showing off their muscular logic, glancing sideways to compare their skeptical endowment with the next guy, sniffing the air for signs of weakness. Together, they create an oppressive, sweaty, locker-room atmosphere that helps keep uncomfortable demographics away.

Why I Am No Longer A Skeptic

All too familiar with the point being brought up here, you can see this attitude all over the science community of tumblr. Our dysfunctionality and lack of friendship among each other despite our shared interest in the sciences is precisely because of that attitude. They don’t welcome new members with open arms, and anyone who chooses to take a different route because of the demographic society has put them in is met with ridicule or constant derailment. It’s sad to see really, because you watch as people go from dedicating themselves to science and reason, to being snotty assholes shortening their groups of friendship by the day or dedicating themselves to prove a personal point completely unrelated to their supposed love of science and its progression.