Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Perigo's Law
by Lindsay Perigo

Today I introduce Perigo's Law. It says this: whenever two or more people are gathered together, they will sooner or later fall out. This is especially true when people join together for an ideological cause. There is not a single belief system in history whose adherents have not fought among themselves and divided off into factions. Then the factions have subdivided, the subdivisions have sub-subdivided, etc...

Often the various sects fight each other more ferociously than they fight their common enemies. Christians, Marxists, and Muslims have been especially adept at this. Recently a delicious example was afforded by the New Zealand Alliance Party as it collapsed into internecine Mild Left versus Hard Left warfare, with the latter consigning themselves to the political scrapheap.

So, too, it must be said, have Objectivists been depressingly adept at infighting. It's just as well that Objectivism forbids the initiation of physical force, or the short history of the movement would have been bloody indeed. The invective hurled at each other by both sides of the ARI/TOC divide has often been enough to make a sailor blush, though it must be said that the ARI has generally been ahead in the vituperation stakes.

Now, it's one thing for advocates of mystic, collectivist and other irrational ideas to fight among themselves--but what are we to make of the fact that avowed apostles of reason and individualism seem to be just as quarrelsome? Partly we can put it down to the sad reality that some Objectivists treat their philosophy as an intelligent person's religion--ready-made answers that are sensible, which they can recite by rote, as opposed to ready-made answers that are nonsensical, which would be an embarrassment for an intelligent person to own up to. Such people bring to Objectivism the mental and emotional habits of a die-hard religionist, dogmatising, heresy-hunting and denouncing obsessively and routinely. Obviously such types are going to rub reasonable Objectivists the wrong way, and a parting of the ways is inevitable. But that aside, the internecine warfare that plagues Objectivism is, I suggest, just another instance of Perigo's Law coming into play. Squabbling with their own is simply something people do, Objectivists included.

Whether this Law is a metaphysical truth or something that folk could overcome if they made the effort is way beyond the scope of a short editorial like this (And I am not claiming that I personally have overcome it. Quite the contrary. If I see--or think I see--people on my own side backsliding, my blood boils and my sense of humour deserts me entirely.). No, these reflections are intended solely to give cause for pause--to muse on the fact that every barb directed at one of our own is a barb not directed at the enemy.

But then, what if that one is the enemy dressed up in a friend's clothing?

Ay, there's the rub.

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