October 3, 2012

Who was right about human nature: Ayn Rand or Colin Turnbull?

From Slate:
Ayn Rand vs. the Pygmies 
Did human evolution favor individualists or altruists? 
By Eric Michael Johnson 
Black-and-white colobus monkeys scrambled through the branches of Congo’s Ituri Forest in 1957 as a small band of Mbuti hunters wound cautiously through the undergrowth, joined by anthropologist Colin Turnbull. The Mbuti are pygmies, about 4 feet tall, but they are powerful and tough. Any one of them could take down an elephant with only a short-handled spear. Recent genetic evidence suggests that pygmies have lived in this region for about 60,000 years. But this particular hunt reflected a timeless ethical conflict for our species, and one that has special relevance for contemporary American society. 
The Mbuti employed long nets of twined liana bark to catch their prey, sometimes stretching the nets for 300 feet. Once the nets were hung, women and children began shouting, yelling, and beating the ground to frighten animals toward the trap. As Turnbull came to understand, Mbuti hunts were collective efforts in which each hunter’s success belonged to everybody else. But one man, a rugged individualist named Cephu, had other ideas. When no one was looking, Cephu slipped away to set up his own net in front of the others. “In this way he caught the first of the animals fleeing from the beaters,” explained Turnbull in his book The Forest People, “but he had not been able to retreat before he was discovered.” Word spread among camp members that Cephu had been trying to steal meat from the tribe, and a consensus quickly developed that he should answer for this crime. ... 
At an impromptu trial, Cephu defended himself with arguments for individual initiative and personal responsibility. “He felt he deserved a better place in the line of nets,” Turnbull wrote. “After all, was he not an important man, a chief, in fact, of his own band?” But if that were the case, replied a respected member of the camp, Cephu should leave and never return. The Mbuti have no chiefs, they are a society of equals in which redistribution governs everyone’s livelihood. The rest of the camp sat in silent agreement. 
Faced with banishment, a punishment nearly equivalent to a death sentence, Cephu relented. “He apologized profusely,” Turnbull wrote, “and said that in any case he would hand over all the meat.”

Okay, but best-selling anthropologist Colin Turnbull, who is treated as an objective authority in this article, is one of the few writers even wackier than Ayn Rand. Turnbull was a big deal back in the day. For example, the Royal Shakespeare Company, under the direction of his friend Peter Brook, toured with a play based on his second field study.

Turnbull wrote two well-known books on Africa, The Forest People (about his beloved Mbuti pygmies) and The Mountain People (about the Ik, whom he demonized as "the worst people on Earth" and demanded that they be culturally exterminated). 

What motivated such unbalanced books?

Roy Richard Grinker's biography of Turnbull is called In the Arms of Africa. Here's Grinker's summary of Turnbull's view of the Mbuti pygmies in The Forest People:
Turnbull found the Mbuti to have social institutions more humane and more sophisticated than anything that existed in western civilization. As described in The Forest People, Mbuti children are never pitted against one another. People live in harmony not because they are coerced to do so by laws, the threat of violence, or other external impositions, but because of an internal desire for unity, reciprocity, and social equality ... Mbuti teenagers, he wrote, practice sex freely and yet have no unwanted pregnancies ... In addition, for Turnbull, the Mbuti's apparent subordination to the neighboring farmers was only playacting. The Mbuti pretended to be inferior when they were, in fact, far superior in almost every way. 

Turnbull's second bestseller, The Mountain People, is quite a contrast:
He proposed to the Ugandan government that the Ik society should be eliminated, that individuals should be rounded up and dispersed over an area wide enough to make sure they never found each other again. The Ugandan government and the anthropological community were outraged

Why the sudden switch to a Stalinoid approach to some poor tribe? (There's a recent documentary, Ikland, about the Ik, which shows they are a pretty routine people and not the depraved monsters of Turnbull's bestselling imagination.)

The title of the biography of Turnbull is In the Arms of Africa and that is not metaphorical. Turnbull died of AIDS in 1994. 

Turnbull's book about the pygmies was a Big Gay Ecstasy about a tribe that had furnished him with a boy for a bedmate. The first chapter of Grinker's biography of Turnbull, as published in  the New York Times in 1997, is largely gay pedo-porn. Here's the book's opening paragraph:
On most mornings in 1957, the Scottish anthropologist Colin Macmillan Turnbull would wake up in his hut next to his young Mbuti assistant, Kenge, their legs and arms intertwined in the way that Mbuti men like to sleep with each other to stay warm. At four foot eight, Kenge was more than a foot and a half shorter than Colin, so Colin could hold him easily with his long legs, arms, and wide hands, keeping them both warm in the damp forest nights.

And it just gets creepier from there in its loving description of the Jerry Sandusky of leftist anthropology.

The Mountain People, in contrast, is a Big Gay Snit about how much Turnbull loathes the Ik, especially for not providing him with a boy toy. Grinker writes:
Turnbull hated the Ik. The Pygmies, and even Joseph Towles [Turnbull's African-American boyfriend] (who had begun his training as an anthropologist), empowered him. But because he could do little to stop the famine and social behaviors that emerged in that context, the Ik threatened his role as protector or saviour. Because they did not seem to respect him or care for him, the Ik never gave him the sense of self-worth he derived from Joseph and other underdogs. And because the Ik never gave him someone like the Pygmy young boy, Kenge, whom he could love and idolize, he grew angry and lonely.

You might expect from my extracts that Grinker's biography of Turnbull is a devastating takedown, but the bulk of it is pretty much hagiograpy, which goes to illustrate a lot about cultural power. Grinker got his initial draft rejected by his editor on the grounds that a straight man shouldn't be writing a biography of a gay hero. So, he gayed up his manuscript and got it through.

In the intellectual realm, one way power is exercised is in rewriting the past. For example, Francis Galton was, by any objective standard, one of the more creative geniuses in human history, but he is routinely demonized today. In contrast, this Turnbull fellow was a trainwreck, whose influence in the latter half of the 20th Century is of interest mostly from a clinical standpoint of figuring out why so many intellectuals went so far off the tracks. But, that's not a subject of approved interest today.

There are a few general points worth making about anthropological field work. Few anthropologists are as nuts / evil as Turnbull, but still ...

First, it's not that easy to stay wholly sane in the bush. Westerners can turn into their own versions of Mistah Kurtz.

Second, anthropologists get lonely. One anthropologist studying the Yanomamo, Kenneth Good, married a 15-year-old native, had three children with her, and tried to take her back with him to suburban New Jersey. The Amazonian lass didn't make a smooth transition to Jersey Girl.

More seriously, a gay athropologist, Jacques Lizot, introduced sodomy to the boys of the tribe. This is the worst, but least publicized aspect, of the Yanomamo story.

Third, the most influential anthropology professors, the charismatic ones who most impress their personalities on their grad students, the ones whom cults of personality develop around in American academia, can have similar effects on the tribes they study. For example, Napoleon Chagnon, a third anthropologist to study the Yanomamo, author of The Fierce People about the Yanomamo is a fierce person himself, good man to have in your foxhole. If your platoon was cut off behind enemy lines and you had to fight your way out, you'd want Chagnon as your sergeant. 

A fourth anthropologist who was with Chagnon with the Yanomamo told me, "He is a macho," and that the young Yanomamo males looked up to him as a role model. But, that raises a big question about Heisenbergian effects of charismatic researchers on their subjects. I sort of suspect that if Chagnon had decided to do a study of a local Pop Warner football team, he'd quickly wind up the coach, and his team would go undefeated and be renowned for their fierceness.

Now, it's not fair to Chagnon to mention his name in the same posting as Turnbull, but he's still a good example of how a formidable man might influence his research subjects. 

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is not about individualism vs altruism. It's about cooperation vs breaking the rules.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand promoted pseudo-individualism.

Cail Corishev said...

Seems odd that an anthropologist would need to introduce homosexuality to a primitive tribe. Haven't we been assured that all the innocent peoples (and animals) of the world are totally down with the homo, and it's only we benighted moderns who parrot the hate-thoughts with which we've been indoctrinated by our exclusivist religions?

Anonymous said...

What "human nature", kemosabe? Mbuti and Northern Europeans are as different from each other as any populations on earth. The idea that world conquering Europeans with their distinct strain of individual initiative should emulate primitive pygmies rather than the reverse is cultural Marxism in another guise.

This is not to say that "individual initiative" needs to be distorted in the Randian fashion; there are different valid and stable European societies, like the more independent Anglo-Saxon paradigm and the more national-socialist German paradigm. I don't know enough history to know whether Nordic socialism is truly indigenous vs. forced on them in the post-war era, or how they went from Vikings to uber leftists, but that could be yet a third stable European social morph.

In a just world, at least the Anglo-Saxon morph should have room for iconoclasts like Steve Sailer without drumming him out of the tribe for doing something different and defending it with logical arguments.

Cail Corishev said...

On Rand, it depends which part of human nature you're talking about. On romance, she was completely batty. The parts of Atlas where Dagny rationalizes jumping from super-alpha to super-duper-alpha and so on, and especially the way the guys are totally cool with it, are the parts I skip when I reread the book. The good guys are a little too good, even taking into account that it's Romantic literature and they're supposed to be more archetypes than real people.

But her portrayal of the looters is brilliant, and you can easily pick them out today: James Taggart and the other industrialists who talk in code and use the government to squelch competition (anyone who says Atlas is all business-good/government-bad simply didn't read the book; the main bad guys are businessmen). The scientist who thinks science is too important to allow individuals and the open market to be involved in it. The artists and authors who came to Rearden's party and talked about how there is no truth. The people who died on the train going through the tunnel, who all trusted that the people in charge wouldn't let them down, despite all the evidence mounting. The way laws were passed specifically for the purpose of turning people into criminals, instead of keeping them lawful.

You can pick every one of those people out today -- sometimes entire groups of them. On the looter side of human nature, I'd say she nailed it.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqsV3q7rRU

Maybe Iks had a David Blaine amongst them.

Marlowe said...

It reads like a William S. Burroughs story. "There I was up the lesser asshole of the Zambezi."

At least Ayn Rand just engaged in a bit of standard Manhattan adultery while slurping cocktails and chain-smoking furiously.

"You didn't catch that." Mister Obama's traditional African forefather comes through.

Anonymous said...

I have not read the post yet, and don't know who Colin Turnbull is. But I'm confident that the answer to the question is "Anybody not named Ayn Rand".

Baloo said...

Cail Corishev, very perceptive. Never seen Rand nailed so well in so few words.

Steve Sailer said...

But I'm confident that the answer to the question is "Anybody not named Ayn Rand".

No, you haven't heard of Colin Turnbull, have you?

elvisd said...

This is the academic world that Obama (partially) grew up in with Stanley Ann: a world of cultures under microscopes, fantasizing, projection, Great White Hopefulness mixed in with self laceration against White Privilege, sexual perversion, Rousseau-ian dreaminess, the cult of the Other. Anthropology is a bizarre cocktail of the social sciences with a dash of the humanities. The thought of him being "culturally enriched" with his cross-dressing Indonesian nanny while chanting the Koran at Muslim school so his atheist mother will get her rocks off is just too damn much.

Anonymous said...

Turnbull died in 1994, not 1984.

Chicago said...

This underscores the pitfalls of relying upon so-called experts in areas such as cultural anthropology. There appears to be a lot of incompetence and mediocrity in the field as well as being a gathering place for strange people. The military has tried to put some of them to use in their Human Terrain program, basically as spies. They use their smiling faces and friendliness to try to get to know the locals and figure out who amongst them are open to collaboration and who might be against it. The information goes back to their employers and the latter group might end up dead. One wonders about the accuracy of their reports, however, since they are foreigners who don't know the language and are probably at the bottom of their profession.

playrink said...

I wonder if Chagnon's power is charismatic cosmopolitan, Kurtz-esque embodiment/domination of generic "rubes", hence unsettling in inevitably destructive, perhaps revealing, ways. As Truman Capote oft noted in phlegmatic tones: "We're all GUILTY".

denizenofgoo said...

ayn rand's heorines are the best example of hypergamy and roissy's rationalization hamster.

Anonymous said...

The whole argument is specious. Slate is projecting OUR notions of 'collectivism' and 'individualism' on a primitive community that has no such concepts.

It's like a Rorschach Test.
So, Marx looked at primitive societies and saw socialist equality and sharing.
So, Carl Jung looked back to barbaric Germanic societies and saw proto-fascist warriorhood and blood and soil.
So, French aristocrats saw Canadian Indians and saw a society ruled by feather-wearing warrior caste like the feather-hatted aristocracy of Europe.
So, Benjamin Franklin saw American Indians and saw democracy in action.

http://www.co-intelligence.org/CIPol_IndiansOrigDemoc.html

All these people were projecting modern/western ideas on primitive societies. It's a silly game.

Pygmy culture wasn't 'collectivist' in any ideological sense. They just had a TRADITIONAL way of doing things where they hunted together and shared the bounty. And this made logical sense. In certain kinds of hunts, a hunter or small group of hunters kill a prey on his or their own. He or they can lay claim to the prey.
But the way pygmies hunted--with nets and everyone joining in to drive the animals--, it was difficult to say who did what since everyone drove the animals toward the nets. So, even if the animal got caught in 'your' net, others drove the animal into it. So, it made sense for all to share. It's like in a fishing village where everyone works together to pull in the nets, they share the catch cuz everyone pulled on the giant net. This isn't collectivism. It's just 'the way we do things'.

Also, Cephu wasn't talking of individuality or initiative in the modern rugged individualist sense. He was just being greedy, which is not the same thing. He didn't hunt alone but worked with others so that they'd drive the animals into his net, but he was gonna keep the animals to himself. This was NOT rugged individualism. It was just stealing, pure and simple.

Indeed, even the ruggediest individual would not approve of it. What Cephu did was what Omar Thorton did. He stole 'on the job'. He violated the common contract. In any private company--owned by individualists--, people work together and there's a contract between employers and employees and also among employees. Profits are shared among everyone according to certain contracts. And people are not supposed to steal. Whether it's Enron crooks or Omar Thorton, those who steal are not practicing individualism but deception and theft.

Cephu wasn't being 'individualistic' and Pygmies aren't 'altruistic'. They are communal and work together cuz that's the only culture they know. Altruism in the modern sense connotes self-sacrifice for some higher good. Pgymies don't hunt and cooperate in a self-sacrificing spirit. It's not altruism since everyone works together to 'get my share'. Since their system works best for everyone, pgymies stick with it. It's not altruism. Even among rugged pioneers of the American West, there were things the community did together since no one could do it alone. This was true of farmers and ranchers. The men in RED RIVER work together and share the profits. They are individualists who work together. But they are not self-sacrificing altruists, any more than the Pygmies.

Anonymous said...

Individualism, rugged or not, isn't about doing whatever you want. It's not about breaking the law or contracts. Even Ayn Rand knew the importance of rule of law and contracts. Individualism is about having the freedom to think one's own thoughts, develop one's own moral conscience, be free to make one's choices and to accept the consequences of one's choices--and to do it openly and under the rule of law and according to contracts. It doesn't mean secretly pulling a dirty trick, which is what Cephu did. Cephu pretend to be part of the community but he was looking to filch more for himself. He violated the contract.

AS for idiots like Trumbull, what can one say? Only a moron would morally compare savages with civilized folks. I'm not knocking the pygmies. What works for them works for them, and I'm not the one to say they should be made otherwise. But does it make sense to suggest that we should be more like them cuz they are 'better than us'?
Pygmies are traditionalists in the sense that they are comfortable with the way they live(very simply and primtively), and they don't want things to change(cuz they can't imagine any other kind of life). They go for stasism. They just wanna hunt, sing and dance, eat and sleep, and that's that. If that's all a community wants, the pgymy way is okay.

But if you want progress in science, philosophy, math, medicine, technology, arts, etc, etc, then you need free thinkers who break out of the traditional mold and see things in new and bold new ways. You need individualists. Of course, most people will never amount to anything great as individuals. Perhaps only 1% of any community has the great vision or ingenuity to do anything really 'different'. Steve Jobs said 'think different', but how many people can think at all? But because we don't know where great individuals are gonna come from, it helps to have a society where most people have access to freedom. Who would have thought Thomas Edison would have become great? The problem with the old aristocracy was it offered privileges to people only at the top. But aristocrats could have dummy children while there could be geniuses among peasants. Unless there was individual freedom for all, there was no hope of people on the bottom from rising. The problem of communism was the lack of individual freedom. It just made everyone equally poor(though those who ran the state lived like kings)but offered no freedom for individuals to rise above their station.

Individualism in a free society allowed poor people with great smarts/ideas to go from the bottom to the top. That certainly was the case with Jewish immigrants who made Hollywood.
And who would have thought Steve Jobs, a kid abandoned by his parents, would reach such heights? And George Lucas and Spielberg. and Scorsese. (Though we like to focus on rags-to-riches story, COMING APART by Murray warns of the problem of people who are too dumb to rise above rags. Conservatives love to talk about how ANYONE can make it, but biology gets in the way. Masses with low IQ are not gonna make it, and success has little to do with ideology. You can be a liberal socialist with brains and makes lots of money, and you can be a dumb libertarian and make no money. Success and riches in a free society are decided by natural talent and brains, not by ideology. The weird thing about America is leftist Jews are many times richer than pro-capitalist white trash. Leftist Jews are smarter and better at business than dumb conservatives.)

Anonymous said...

Also, it's not an issue of individualism VERSUS altruism. The problem of much of our debate involves VERSUS, as if the world is made up of either/or OR this vs that.
Rather, the issue should be how to mix individualism AND altruism. The key word is AND. Though Marx borrowed from Hegel, Hegelianism is closer to fascism than Marxism. Hegeliamism speaks of thesis, ant-thesis, and synthesis. Marx was not interested in synthesis. He was interested in one class totally smashing another class and exterminating it off the face of the map. For there to be synthesis of seeming opposites, the fascist method is closer to Hegelianism.

Anyway, both individualism and collectivism have value, and the secret is in the mix. Generally, we want great men to have more individual freedom since they got the rare gift of vision and inspiration. As for the rest, we expect more cooperation and group spirit. So, at APPLE, Jobs and the top idea-people had great individual leeway and freedom, but most Apple workers were expected to follow orders and work as a group than think as individuals. This is true of any organization. In government, the leaders have individual freedom to steer policy while most bureaucrats must stick to the books and work as drones.

Anonymous said...

"In the intellectual realm, one way power is exercised is in rewriting the past."

http://blog.jim.com/science/a-tell-revealing-central-authority-over-the-official-line.html

Savonarola's ghost said...

Speaking of crackpot anthropologists, guess what they're advising our military men in Afghanistan to do?

'Ms. McFate stressed her success at getting American soldiers to stop making moral judgments about a local Afghan cultural practice in which older men go off with younger boys on “love Thursdays” and do some “hanky-panky.” “Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming.'

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/27/opinion/27shweder.html

Anonymous said...

Collectivism probably works fine when you're living in a "collective" of like 30 people who know each other really well and food is extremely abundant so you don't have to work all that hard to provide for your basic needs.

Unfortunately most of us aren't Hunter Gatherers, so perhaps the question isn't particularly relevant.

Anonymous said...

"“Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming.'"

and what was her opinion on women's dress codes

sunbeam said...

"More seriously, a gay athropologist, Jacques Lizot, introduced sodomy to the boys of the tribe. This is the worst, but least publicized aspect, of the Yanomamo story."

So, the Yanomamo had no experience with sodomy until a foreign anthropologist turned them onto it in the 20th century I take?

And no Yanomamo male, who I thought were among the most violent individuals on earth did't whack this individual deep in the heart of the jungle where the Yanomamo dwell?

Sorry, I'm thinking this wasn't their first rodeo.

Not to my tastes, and I cheerfully support putting people who have sex with children in jail, but this practice hasn't been unknown in history, nor today as our Pashtun antagonists can confirm.

And I don't judge these people by the standards of my own country and time.

I hold it as an article of faith that a Spartan was one of the toughest, bravest, hardest humans ever to walk the face of the planet. My guess is that given a time machine, we would get a team of Navy Seals in total shock if they had to compete in some physical activity with a Spartan. And I am quite certain they would be catatonic if they had to go into hand to hand combat, or with a sharp pointy thing with a one.

And they also LOVED them some little boys. There is some Greek writing by some scholar debating which is better, a buxom young babe, or a boy.

Not much we are going to do about the Pashtun, and I wouldn't even try. That is a job for Satellite TV.

Jeffery said...

I'm tired of people who never read much Rand calling her "wacky" or putting up some caricature of her beliefs. I don't agree with some of her statements on free will, sexuality and issues related to personality development, but she was hardly "wacky" or the bizarre cartoon image her distactors like to put forward.

TGGP said...

I've never bothered to read Rand because she doesn't seem to have known anything worth reading, but the framing of that article is stupid. He even quotes Rand as saying that primitive tribes are characterized by collectivism. Then we're supposed to be surprised that Rand was wrong, primitive tribes are characterized by collectivism! What?

Also, if Rand's adultery was "standard Manhattan", then Manhattan is a far more bizarre place than I thought. She had the spouses agree that it was the objectively rational & correct thing to do, and of course because they were cultists they went along with it! But when Branden shacked up with a third woman, Rand lost it and denounced her #2 (who had built much of the cult infrastructure) for various philosophical errors.

agnostic said...

"Turnbull died of AIDS in 1994."

Tropical Africa gets its revenge.

Nanonymous said...

Kenneth Good's children with Yarima should be adult by now. They stayed in the USA. Anyone has any idea of their fate?

Lizard Reason said...

I notice there is much obvious confusion over the terms 'individualism', 'selfishness', and 'altruism', among so-called thinkers. They all use the same term but mean something different.

Rand's ideas are consistent and make sense for the most part, if you bothered to understand them. The mess in the academy is obvious from the use of terms like 'reciprocal altruism', which is a tit-for-tat mutual payback, which is obviously not ethical altruism at all. That is just one obvious error.

I see people who don't like Rand assume she must mean that by 'selfish' she means eating your kids for breakfast if they look tasty. Don't you people have any intellectual curiosity? It's as if you can't imagine anything more ethically sophisticated than what your Kindergarten teacher or priest taught you.

Anonymous said...

And they also LOVED them some little boys. There is some Greek writing by some scholar debating which is better, a buxom young babe, or a boy.

Not much we are going to do about the Pashtun, and I wouldn't even try.


Homosexuality correlates with civilization, likely because pathogens more generally flourish with civilization.

The Spartans were and the Pashtuns are much more civilized relative to the Yanomamo.

It's reasonable to believe that homosexuality had been unknown among the Yanomamo until it was introduced by a civilized man.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand ripped off Garet Garett's books.

From pg. 199 of Reclaiming the American Right by Justin Raimondo:

" “There is a second, and deper, level on which the assertion of Rand’s utter uniqueness is a lie. … The Randian claim to have given birth to a philosophy without antecedents, which amounts to an Objectivist version of the Virgin Birth, is proved false by the fact that Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, bears such a strong resemblance to Garet Garrett’s 1922 novel The Driver, that there arises a real question as to whether Rand passed the boundaries of acceptable behavior in “borrowing” a little too much.”"

"“From the overwhelming mas of evidence it is clear that Rand was influenced by Garrett. The similarities between the Driver and Atlast Shrugged are too numerous and too detailed to be coincidence. This is not a question of plagiarism. What is really at issue is the authenticity of Rand’s claim to stand not at the end but at the beginning of a tradition. The Driver proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is untrue. The only question is whether this was a conscious lie on Rand’s part.”

“My own theory is that Ayn Rand knew perfectly well what she was doing, and did not regard it as appropriating anything. … I believe Rand never acknowledged Garrett as a source for two reasons. … she probably considered him to be a minor writer whom she certainly did not intend to imitate or plagiarize, but only to improve on. … while not plagiarism in the legal sense, the unacknowledged and–in my view–conscious use of Garrett’s work as a starting point for her own does, in this case, constitute intellectual fraud.”

Rand’s silence on this subject amounted to a deliberate deception. … this is not a case of word-for-word plagiarism.”"

*A "Henry Galt" is the railroad businessman protaganist in Garrett's The Driver who is attacked by people and the government envious of his business success. The question “Who is Henry Galt?" is a stylistic device in the novel that is obviously similar to Atlas‘s repeated line, “Who is John Galt?”

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of people who never read much Rand calling her "wacky" or putting up some caricature of her beliefs.


I'm tired of Rand's followers being a bunch of complete idiots.

Antioco Dascalon said...

"And they also LOVED them some little boys. There is some Greek writing by some scholar debating which is better, a buxom young babe, or a boy."

You should not conflate Spartans with Greeks in general. Even in their time, they were seen as very distinct from the other Greeks, especially the Athenians. in fact, the fact that Athens approved of pederasty is reason to believe that Sparta disapproved. Of course, more reason is that Xenophon and other contemporary sources denied that pederasty was approved of in Sparta.
You would have been far better to have used the Sacred Band of Thebes as an example, as they were famous for fighting in pairs of lovers (although recent scholarship calls this tradition into question).

Jeffery said...

The book 'The Driver' is not Atlas Shrugged or a forerunner of it. There is, after all, a reason Atlas is so widely known and The Driver isn't. It's silly to act like there is "plagiarism" at work. Again, if you guys took time off from crap like No Country for Old Men and actually read Atlas, you would know that.

As for Rand fans being annoying, there is no doubt that can be true. Has nothing to do with the value of her work. But I am not so much concerned with her work, as I am the know-nothing response of those who characterize it WITHOUT EVER READING IT.

If you read it, you'd know the comparisons are silly. You'd also know it isn't "wacky". That was the standard Leftwing response to avoid talking about it. No reason for HBDers to take that tactic up.

And just read some of the smaller non-fiction. It may be less intimidating for you guys. Or start with Anthem.

David said...

I don't have the intellectual curiosity to study L. Ron Hubbard. Does that make me a bad guy?

I was in Objectivism for years, am a wizard at it. And I can tell you it's 100% bollocks.

"Human nature" for O. meant Cyrus - the comic book character that Alyssa grokked in childhood. Her philosophy grew out of thinking about what would make this fictional character possible in real life. All well and good for a child's first stirrings, but everything later was guided by this and when reality didn't fit, it was discarded with utmost fury. For instance, anything HBD would be trashed by Rand as morally evil a priori. Cyrus's will is free. Businessmen are heroes, including Michael Milken and junk bonds (in O., it's always "junk" bonds). America never did or does wrong. The free market never errs - do you wish to put Cyrus in a cage, you abysmal bastards? The real problem with this stirring bunk is that it's a comic book being substituted for adult knowledge. It's a religion you have to view the world through. Anyone with a brain quickly gets tired of looking at life through a tube. Particularly a puerile tube.

She could write page-turning fiction - as could Edgar Rice Burroughs - and her theory of concept-formation (measurements omitted!) is good (original?). But it's time to leave her alone.

Anonymous said...

"Garet Garett"

interesting guy,
Who Is Garet Garrett?

from wiki:

"Under editor George Horace Lorimer at the Saturday Evening Post, in the 1920s, Garrett attacked proposals for American forgiveness of the war debts of European states and for the bailout of American farmers. After the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he became one of the most vocal opponents of Roosevelt's centralization of political and economic power in the federal government. He attacked the New Deal in articles in the Saturday Evening Post between 1933 and 1940."


Rand's plagiarism sounds tenuous(mark howard's comment is funny*), though Foseti thinks that it's no coincidence.

http://foseti.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/review-of-the-driver-by-garet-garrett/


*Though there is another book that Rand was "inspired" from:

Kurt Vonnegut said that in writing Player Piano (1952) he "cheerfully ripped off the plot of Brave New World, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeny Zamyatin's We."

and a blog that notices the similarities and differences in his and rand's work.

http://garetgarrett.blogspot.com/

JohnB said...

I've read both Colin Trunbull books and other ethnographies.

Turnbull did indeed dislike the Ik, but he gives you the data to make it clear what had happened to make them as unlikable as they were: the government of Kenya had moved them off their land to make a national park.

They had been hunters; the government gave them hoes and seed grain and put them on some dry hillsides and told them to be farmers.

Not surprisingly, most of them starved to death. The book is full of descriptions of death. I remember a picture of some man roofing a hut; the caption mentions that he died a few days later.

The level of starvation was very high and called forth a different strategy than one usually sees; it's that strategy that horrified Turnbull. He cites such scenes as a man eating a meal next to the man's father, who is starving--and the man doesn't share. Infants were left to die. People didn't share with family members, whether spouses, children or parents.

In short periods of food stress, the winning strategy (biologically) is to share and support the young (who will grow up) and the old (who have knowledge). In long periods or under severe stress, the winning strategy is to preserve the young fertile women and the young men for later re-growth.

Turnbull was horrified, but he doesn't propagandize or conceal the facts. It's not what the reviewer said at all.

Anonymous said...

In addition to We, Zamyatin also wrote a number of short stories, in fairy tale form, that constituted satirical criticism of Communist ideology.

In one story, the mayor of a city decides that to make everyone happy he must make everyone equal. The mayors then forces everyone, himself included, to live in a big barrack, then to shave their heads to be equal to the bald, and then to become mentally disabled to equate intelligence downward.

This plot is very similar to that of The New Utopia (1891) by Jerome K. Jerome whose collected works were published three times in Russia before 1917.[8] In its turn, Kurt Vonnegut's short story "Harrison Bergeron" (1961) bears distinct resemblances to Zamyatin's tale.

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of kindergarten teachers and priests (really?) teaching us such simple ethical systems.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm tired of Rand's followers being a bunch of complete idiots."

Here, here. Life is short. There are many books to read; and I don't have time to waste reading poorly written novels by a weird, faux-profound personality cultist. I no more care to waste my time reading Ayn Rand than I care to waste my time reading the prodigous - and worthless - output of that authoritarian blowhard drug-addict, L. Ron Hubbard.

Dutch Boy said...

The Royal Musketeers figured out the correct social philosophy with no help from intellectuals: "One for all and all for one!"

Anonymous said...

No, you haven't heard of Colin Turnbull, have you?


He sounds pretty batty all right.

But I'm not sure you realize just how crazy Ayn Rand really was.

Anonymous said...

I doubt seriously that a bunch of Spartans would have been all that as compared to modern Navy SEALs or indeed any really elite modern military force. The Spartans didn't eat all that well, their exercise regimes weren't scientific, and the superlatives expressed of them were in comparison to the wormy lot humans in general were two thousand years ago. I'm guessing that a time traveler who brought back a hundred Spartan warriors would find they would have less than half make it through BUD/S, and that most would have a tough time coping with modern life in general.

Until time travel is invented, though, it's strictly a gedanken experiment.

Anonymous said...

Ayn Rand copied several other writers, most notably a woman whose name escapes me now. She was not original, so far as I know, in any way. Which does not take away from the fact that she was perhaps the finest classical Russian novelist working in the English language,or, more accurately, finest novelist working in the classical Russian style in the English language. On that level Atlas Shrugged is quite good, as is The Fountainhead.

Jeffery said...

David, I don't know what Hubbard has to do with it. Again, all you guys do is a type of name calling. This is annoying, because I have serious disagreements with Rand on some issues, but what you are doing is the standard technique used by the Left to dismiss anyone they don't want to deal with.

Read something she wrote on Aristotle or Kant, it is nothing like Hubbard, be serious. Hell, even the Left now acknowledges she was brilliant, they just hate her for being pro-capitalist.

Go back and watch Private Ryan and tell yourselves stories about how "realistic" and grizzled you are, while you sell your own children out.

Anonymous said...

The book 'The Driver' is not Atlas Shrugged or a forerunner of it. There is, after all, a reason Atlas is so widely known and The Driver isn't. It's silly to act like there is "plagiarism" at work. Again, if you guys took time off from crap like No Country for Old Men and actually read Atlas, you would know that.

It was clearly ripped off.

The arguments against it being ripped off by socially clueless libertarians are really bad. They all just claim it was all just a bunch of coincidences. These socially clueless libertarian types are naive and have trouble understanding that people do this sort of thing and aren't all boy scouts.

Anonymous said...

The book 'The Driver' is not Atlas Shrugged or a forerunner of it. There is, after all, a reason Atlas is so widely known and The Driver isn't.

People steal or hog credit all the time. And marketing and promotion make a big difference in what gets known by a wider audience. The fact that nobody has heard of Garrett and his book while Rand and her books are well-known doesn't mean that he wasn't ripped off.

Anonymous said...

Henry Galt in “The Driver” (1922) and John Galt in “The Strike” (changed to “Atlas Shrugged”) in 1957. Poor Garet Garrett died in 1954, which I guess emboldened Ayn Rand to slightly change a few names, knowing that the dead Garrett couldn’t point out the fraud of this “moocher” (one of Rand’s favorite terms of opprobrium) not just stealing his plot, but having so little original imagination as to be unable to come up even with an original name for a hero! Yikes. Moocher city.

Cail Corishev said...

Jeffrey, I know what you mean. As someone who enjoyed Rand's books but had issues with some of her theories (as I mentioned above) I've found that it's nearly impossible to have a rational conversation about her books. You end up talking to someone who thinks she was a prophet whose every word was brilliant, or someone who calls her names and accuses you of being a cultist. Neither group ever shows much sign of having read her books and paid attention during the process.

She was pretty clearly nutty in her personal relationships, and the adoration of her followers (who really were a bit of a cult at the time) couldn't have helped that. But what that has to do with the value of her work, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

"You should not conflate Spartans with Greeks in general. Even in their time, they were seen as very distinct from the other Greeks, especially the Athenians. in fact, the fact that Athens approved of pederasty is reason to believe that Sparta disapproved. Of course, more reason is that Xenophon and other contemporary sources denied that pederasty was approved of in Sparta."

This site is overrun by Cliff Clavins, people who spin out vaguely plausible-sounding statements on history or biology but have literally no idea what they're talking about.

Where the hell did you get your history from? Watching 300? The Spartans, who had their wives shave their heads and dress like boys on their wedding night, disapproved of pederasty? LOL.

And taking Athenians writing about Sparta at face value is just stupid. Athenian conservative writers used Sparta as an idealized contrast to what they saw as the decadence of democracy. Even Spartan martial prowess tends to be overstated.

Anonymous said...

She was pretty clearly nutty in her personal relationships, and the adoration of her followers (who really were a bit of a cult at the time) couldn't have helped that. But what that has to do with the value of her work, I don't know.


What do you think the value of her work was? What did she say that had not been already said (and often said better) before her?

I think her value was this - that she introduced some classical liberal ideas into Jewish circles where the prevailing ideology at the time was straight Marxism-Leninism.

(Jews are a lot more willing to listen to an idea if they can persuade themselves it's a Jewish idea)

Anonymous said...

"There is, after all, a reason Atlas is so widely known and The Driver isn't."

and Fifty Shades of Grey to rule them all!

"It's silly to act like there is "plagiarism" at work. Again, if you guys took time off from crap like No Country for Old Men and actually read Atlas, you would know that."

Well I wouldn't wish the torture on my worst enemy. And yes I read the book, and read Fountainhead twice. time machine where art thou?

"She could write page-turning fiction"

more like a page-yawner.

That Randian cult article, yikes!

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard23.html

"The ardent belief in Rand’s supreme originality was of course reinforced by the disciples’ not having read (or been able to read) anyone whom they might have discovered had said the same things long before. "

""Her books," said one member of the congregation, "are so good that most people should not be allowed to read them. I used to want to lock up nine-tenths of the world in a cage, and after reading her books, I want to lock them all up." Later on, this same chap – a self-employed "investment counselor" of 22 – got a lash of his idol’s logic full in the face. Submitting a question from the floor – a privilege open to paying students only – the budding Baruch revealed himself as a mere visitor. Miss Rand – a lady whose glare would wilt a cactus – bawled him out from the platform as a "cheap fraud." "

Nanonymous said...

Answering my own question. One of Ken Good's children, David, seems to be okay. He graduated with BS in biology from some obscure university.
http://www.viewsofgreatness.com/perceptions/2012/4/10/esu-student-to-talk-about-his-two-lives.html

David said...

>Go back and watch Private Ryan and tell yourselves stories about how "realistic" and grizzled you are, while you sell your own children out.<

This is the same kind of person who ridicules others for believing professional wrestling is real.

Objectivism is a religion. As with all religions, the more you know about anything else, the less plausible it is.

Consider, for example, Peikoff's latest book. (Yes, I know it's not strictly in the canon.) Vast theorizing is built upon facts that he got wrong, or that are very dubious. Rand, too, spun from a mistaken (and jejune) understanding of nearly everything a vast fictional edifice that bears little resemblance to reality. Is Lloyd Blankfein Hank Rearden? Was Carnegie?

I would say her books are decent "training wheels" for young intellects to get started with, except that they aren't; they are cultish (your soul is bad if you disagree with them). As with any cult, it's at its most convincing if all you read is the works of the master and nobody else. (And if all you do is watch movies and read.)

Bob Wallace said...

"Rand's ideas are consistent and make sense for the most part, if you bothered to understand them:

Rand, whose real name was Alice Rosenbaum, was mentally ill and diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Paranoid Personality Disorder.

Anonymous said...

Used book dealers (which my mother is, her parents were, and in which business I grew up) always have a Rand Shelf and a Hubbard Shelf, because these books sell to and only to acolytes of the author in question. No one else much buys Rand or Hubbard.

There were substantial differences between the two, but they were both cult leaders generally disdained by outsiders except that every once in a while there would be a minor trend by alt-hipsters or other splinter groups to read them. It would then die out and those books came in to the used bookstore.

Besides Reader's Digest Condensed Books, Bibles and hymnals, there were no more common books we burned at the house for heat than "Dianetics" and "The Fountainhead". We had 200 plus copies of it at one time bought in book lots. Except for first editions, leather bound editions and autographed copies with provenance, they had nil value. Except caloric.

FWIW we also burned a lot of Amway books. NO one wanted those.

Sword said...

Nanonymous said...
Kenneth Good's children with Yarima should be adult by now. They stayed in the USA. Anyone has any idea of their fate?

I found this on google:
http://m.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120409/FEATURES/204090304/-1/NEWS&template=wapart

Anonymous said...

Zizek on Rand

"It is well known that a thwarted (disavowed) homosexual libidinal economy forms the basis of military community—it is for that very reason that the Army opposes so adamantly the admission of gays in its ranks. Mutatis mutandis, Rand’s ridiculously exaggerated adoration of strong male figures betrays the underlying disavowed lesbian economy, i.e. the fact that Dominique and Roark, or Dagny and Galt, are effectively lesbian couples."

hmmm...interesting

Anonymous said...

Interestingly Zizek calls Rand a feminine version of Otto Weininger, who proclaimed that Woman was nothing.

short bio

Anonymous said...

"The thought of him being "culturally enriched" with his cross-dressing Indonesian nanny while chanting the Koran at Muslim school so his atheist mother will get her rocks off is just too damn much."

I was certain you were kidding about the nanny.

Anonymous said...

Another link about David Good.

(I was wondering: what is ESU? So I went to its homepage and this was the headline. The answer to my question: a far-flung branch of Penn State.)