Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Seven Deadly Sins
by Lindsay Perigo

Someone whose name I probably ought to remember once said that the road to freedom is replete with annoying bastards. I’ve had my fill of annoying bastards recently—and rather than let some perfectly good exasperation go to waste, I’ve decided to set down for the record precisely what it was that annoyed me, for the edification of lovers of reason and freedom everywhere. Consider the sub-title of this article to be, if I may be so presumptuous, "How to Be a Better Objectivist"—or, if I may be even more presumptuous, and if it’s of any moment to you, "How Not To Piss Linz Off"!

Any or all of the following Seven Deadly Sins that have exasperated me recently qualify their practitioners for the abyss:

1) Gratuitous and premature umbrage-taking. I have often said we live in The Age of Umbrage, where a strong word or raised voice will send the recipient scurrying off into therapy, wailing about hurt feelings and clamouring for Valium. This, of course, is peculiarly prevalent among Americans—and most notably Californian Americans—who have degenerated from the rugged individualism of their Founding Fathers into a gaggle of what Governor Schwarzenegger would so rightly label "girlies," who can’t cross the road without a trauma counsellor oozing psychobabble. Were I to give examples that might be familiar to SOLOists, I would prompt an immediate outbreak of umbrage by the sapheads involved, and, devoutly though the evolutionary demise of such losers is to be hoped for, it is not my purpose here to effect that. This sin really boils down to an inability to cope with being disagreed with. It betrays lack of self-esteem when a simple dissenting opinion can so shatter one’s world and send one into a tailspin. It is tantamount to claiming a right never to have one’s feelings hurt. The colloquial exhortations, "Get a life!" and "Get over it!" can be quite useful antidotes. Umbrage-sinners should reflect on the cruel indifference of nature and the abiding inhumanity of many of their fellow-men, and realise that some bracing tough love from the like-minded might be more helpful for them in the business of living than their evasive sulking, pouting cowering and whimpering.

2) Dilettantism. This is especially maddening, and common among the potentially best of Nem. These are folk who have a ton of talent they could employ in the furthering of freedom, but don’t. Remonstrated with, they indignantly assert that it’s their life to live as they choose, their talent to use or not use as they wish, and no one has the right to dictate to them. They claim to promote freedom by living it. Of course, this cannot be disputed—but it stops well short of taking full context into account. The full context is a world in which freedom—which is in the dilettante's short- and long-range interest as much as anyone else's—is in the balance and is daily sustaining body blows, in the real world out there and in the ivory towers of academia. In such a context, the dilettante’s approach of doing nothing, or emerging just occasionally and fleetingly to offer up intimations of what he is capable of, is a disgraceful cop-out. Dilettantes are spiritual freeloaders on those who do care and do make the effort.

3) Solipsism. Philosophically, this is the belief that the only thing one can be certain of is one’s own existence. Behaviourally, it is acting as though one’s own existence indeed were the only existence … or more accurately, the only worthwhile existence! Solipsism is the flip side of the altruist coin. An altruist treats others as though only they exist, to his own detriment; a solipsist treats others as though they exist at best peripherally, as sounding boards for his soliloquies and towels for his solitary ejaculations—again, if he but realised it, to his own detriment.

Solipsism is especially insidious in that it can superficially seem similar to rational egoism of the kind espoused by Objectivism. It is attractive to pompous boors who can practise solipsism and justify it as egoism, thus giving the latter a bad name. Symptoms of solipsism include not listening when supposedly engaged in a conversation, talking over the other participants, dragging every conversation back to oneself, chronic attention-seeking (paradoxically), and generally behaving as though the world would stop spinning if one ceased existing. There is literally a world of difference between treating your own existence as the most important thing to you and believing that you are the only important existent in the universe. The former generates a sunny self-confidence; the latter, an obnoxious and groundless conceit.

4) Cowardice. This time-dishonoured vice can take two forms, among others: failure to speak out for your values, including your friends, when they are attacked; and speaking behind a cloak of anonymity, under a pseudonym. On SOLOHQ I make it a point not to deal with such cowards, even if—especially if—they say something I agree with. Pseudonymity, just as much as silence, equals not having the courage of one’s convictions. It is a conscious refusal to stand up and be counted. Like dilettantism, it evades the context of a world in which freedom is in a parlous state.

5) The misuse of humour. This is a device employed by shallow people to take the heat out of a situation that ought to remain heated because of the urgency of the issues involved—a situation that ought to be allowed to run its course, not deflected and deflated by a silly pun or some such. As my previous writings ought to show, there is no bigger fan of the belly-laugh—and that which can provoke it–than I; equally, I detest the notion that nothing ought ever to be treated totally seriously for long enough to have issues surrounding it resolved.

6) Attention Deficit Disorder. This, of course, is chronic among the young, the MTV headbanging caterwauling generation who need constant stimulus—nay, constantly changing stimuli—to fill the intellectual void between their ears. Unlike psychologists and other purveyors of hocus-pocus, I don’t believe this is an inborn, clinical condition, else why would there have been an epidemic of it only among the current generation of youngsters and their parents? Rather, it has been culturally induced, mainly in the classrooms of the state, in which children are imprisoned for half their waking hours. The self-same state has then resorted to force-feeding drugs to the ADD hyperactives, whereby they become mumbling zombies whose ambition shrinks to the size of their nose-rings. Clearly, practitioners of this sin are absolved from condemnation to the extent that their freakish intellectual deformity is not self-chosen, but created by modern-day Comprachicos; however!— there comes a point where even zombies can divine that that is what they are, and make the effort to liberate themselves from their artificial imbecility. It is to them that I am trying to sound a wake-up call.

7) Hypocrisy. Speaking with forked tongue. The most egregious form this takes is the tailoring of one’s comments to the company one is in, for the sake of being respectable in all circles. The most glowing example of someone who was never a hypocrite was Ayn Rand. Her views were the same no matter whom she was with, and she expressed them equally forcefully at all times. Politicians, of course, are past masters at saying different, and flatly contradictory, things to different constituencies. The multi-speak of John Kerry during the recent presidential election campaign was a prize example. What was gratifying was that it didn’t work. But in our personal lives, too, it behoves us to eschew the disgusting vice of trying to be all things to all people, instead being the same thing to all people—that same thing being our consciously-created selves.

Well, Seven Deadly Sins ought to be enough to be going on with. As will be readily apparent, they are overlapping and mutually reinforcing, an organic unity, as Dr. Sciabarra would doubtless point out. There are other Deadly Sins, to be sure, such as veganism, abstention from alcohol and the pursuit of MBA degrees—those I've discussed here just happen to be the ones I’ve encountered myself of late. I hope that in getting my exasperation with them off my chest, I have written something of value to the reader in his quest for Nem-status and eudaimonia. It can be summed up as follows:

This above all, thine own self create, and to it forever be true …
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