Marcus

Objectivists should come off as charming and charismatic

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(Disclaimer: I am a student of Objectivism, not a critic, and these are simply my observations and opinions)

The classic "dichotomy" between the popular, charismatic social climber and the lone, goal-driven, productive genius is the central theme of the Fountainhead, arguably one of Ayn Rands most fascinating works. Yet, it doesn't need to be a dichotomy. In fact, it's a false dichotomy. The issue need not be an "either or" proposition.

There is no fundamental reason, from a rational standpoint, why Objectivism shouldn't endorse and support the cultivation of social skills and charm.This aspect of the human experience has been largely and needlessly neglected within Objectivism - and I believe, the key iusses within it, are still unidentified. The selfish, survival benefits are obvious, as are the psychological benefits of a successful, healthy social orientation and friendly disposition. "Social disposition" does not mean the disposition of a beggar or exploiter. As with all human values and relations, the issue here is trade. But social values are a trade that does not involve money.

If Objectivism represents the cultivation of the best within humanity, it stands to reason that Objectivists should be the primary exemplars within our (Western) society, yet this is not what I observe. If asked to "point out" an Objectivist on the street randomly, most people wouldn't be able to distinguish a practicing "Objectivist" from a "regular person". Worse, most people could probably pick out Mormons, Muslims or even evangelical Christians out of a crowd pretty easily. Hell, I could probably pick out practicing Epicureans or Hedonists sooner than I could followers of Objectivist philosophy.

The result is a serious lack of public acknowledgement and a failure to properly present and communicate Objectivist ideas in theory AND in practice. The result is a society that takes hardcore, fundamentalist religions more seriously than secular, rational philosophies. By showing others "by example" (i.e. living ones life in the highest possible way), gaining visibility and successfully relating to others, outside of proselytization of your personal beliefs you are effectively showing people the superiority of your philosophy in action. Objectivism is effectively defaulting on its own accord in the public sphere.

There was, however, a time when Objectivists were often the most prominent, visible and accomplished (in their respective fields) in our society. Members of Ayn Rands inner circle such as Alan Greenspan or Nathaniel Branden come to mind, besides Rand herself. Alan Greenspan served as chairman of the Federal Reserve for many years one of the highest offices in the land. Her books were selling by the hundreds of thousands every year, and she was getting regular radio and TV interviews. Rand herself was described as "charming" even a "cult leader" at one point. Where are our comtemporary examples of charming, personable, Objectivist leaders in their fields?

Why does the average Objectivist come off as dull, moralistic and dry as opposed to charming, persuasive and interesting? Does it really *need* to be this way? I don't think it does.

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Where are our comtemporary examples of charming, personable, Objectivist leaders in their fields?

They've been driven from the "movement," or discouraged from joining in the first place, by the dull, moralistic and dry. The dull, moralistic, and dry, despite lacking charm and persuasiveness, nevertheless wish to be in charge, and therefore must rely on their only talents, which are smearing their betters in the movement and seeking to destroy them.

Why does the average Objectivist come off as dull, moralistic and dry as opposed to charming, persuasive and interesting?

Because the average Objectivist IS dull, moralistic and dry, and totally lacking in charm, persuasiveness and appeal.

Does it really *need* to be this way? I don't think it does.

Unfortunately, it will probably always be this way. It's long ago reached a critical mass. An accomplished professional in any field would be foolish to publicly associate himself or herself with the pettiness and destructiveness which have been characteristic of the movement for decades now.

J

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Is this premise of this post flawed?

Why should an Objectivist "come off" one way or another? Shouldn't our hypothetical Objectivist more or less simply "be"?

Worrying about how one comes off seems like sort of a Peter Keating-like thing to do.

Now, if you are asking why so many self-proclaimed Objectivists "come off" as douche-bags, then that is an entirely separate question, and one that, unfortunately, involves the fact that many of them are trying to "come off" like a character in a novel, written at least 50 years ago, by a lady from Russia.

This too is, ironically, a Peter Keating-like thing to do as well.

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This too is, ironically, a Peter Keating-like thing to do as well.

The saddest part is that it was really obvious in a majority of the faces that I saw in the large audiences that Nathanial and she were drawing.

Ah well, beau geste..a gallant deed NBI was.

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There was, however, a time when Objectivists were often the most prominent, visible and accomplished (in their respective fields) in our society. Members of Ayn Rands inner circle such as Alan Greenspan or Nathaniel Branden come to mind, besides Rand herself. Alan Greenspan served as chairman of the Federal Reserve for many years one of the highest offices in the land. Her books were selling by the hundreds of thousands every year, and she was getting regular radio and TV interviews. Rand herself was described as "charming" even a "cult leader" at one point. Where are our comtemporary examples of charming, personable, Objectivist leaders in their fields?

Why does the average Objectivist come off as dull, moralistic and dry as opposed to charming, persuasive and interesting? Does it really *need* to be this way? I don't think it does.

You do understand, I hope, that the higher Greenspan rose in government, the more he distanced himself from the laissez-faire views he expressed in the 1960's?

As for being " charming, persuasive and interesting"--those are not the words that leap to mind when I think of Greenspan. Even in his Objectivist days Rand referred to him as "the undertaker."

However, I think your central point is sound. Ideas are important, but a leader with good looks, a way with words and the ability to connect with crowds is essential for a popular movement.

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As for being " charming, persuasive and interesting"--those are not the words that leap to mind when I think of Greenspan. Even in his Objectivist days Rand referred to him as "the undertaker."

Actually, Greenspan is known as being very charming, persuasive and interesting. One doesn't have a career like his without being a master of persuasion.

J

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Is this premise of this post flawed?

Why should an Objectivist "come off" one way or another? Shouldn't our hypothetical Objectivist more or less simply "be"?

Worrying about how one comes off seems like sort of a Peter Keating-like thing to do.

Now, if you are asking why so many self-proclaimed Objectivists "come off" as douche-bags, then that is an entirely separate question, and one that, unfortunately, involves the fact that many of them are trying to "come off" like a character in a novel, written at least 50 years ago, by a lady from Russia.

This too is, ironically, a Peter Keating-like thing to do as well.

I just graduated from charisma school (and have $523,173.47 in student debt). Now what can I do with all this charisma?

--Brant

nuts!--now I have to go to second-hander school (or do I?)!

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As for being " charming, persuasive and interesting"--those are not the words that leap to mind when I think of Greenspan. Even in his Objectivist days Rand referred to him as "the undertaker."

Actually, Greenspan is known as being very charming, persuasive and interesting. One doesn't have a career like his without being a master of persuasion.

J

I met someone nearly 25 years ago who shared a hospital room with my father. His son was high up in the NY Fed--he may have even headed it. He said his son said Greenspan was "a cold fish."

--Brant

he just kept the money flowing and now we get to deal with his disaster for Ben is just another Alan or out of control Keynesian

political greasers

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However, I think your central point is sound. Ideas are important, but a leader with good looks, a way with words and the ability to connect with crowds is essential for a popular movement.

How do you know these are "essential"? I'm including "leader" in my question.

--Brant

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Nyah. I've been turning this over, and nix to what Objectivists "should" depict, for acceptance from the greater community. Though Marcus makes a few good points, we're after all talking about personality. If one is gregarious and charming, then be it; if generally quiet and reticent, the same. I agree that it can happen that O'ists can sometimes be liable to imprint a fiction-based persona on themselves, albeit mostly when young. That's not much different from the dishonesty of forcing a crowd-pleasing charm -so something of a false alternative.

Honest, independent, visible (in Branden's gist), benevolent, principled and taking pride in it - are closer to what O'ists "should" portray. As long as it's truthful for him or her.

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Is this premise of this post flawed?

Why should an Objectivist "come off" one way or another? Shouldn't our hypothetical Objectivist more or less simply "be"?

Worrying about how one comes off seems like sort of a Peter Keating-like thing to do.

Now, if you are asking why so many self-proclaimed Objectivists "come off" as douche-bags, then that is an entirely separate question, and one that, unfortunately, involves the fact that many of them are trying to "come off" like a character in a novel, written at least 50 years ago, by a lady from Russia.

This too is, ironically, a Peter Keating-like thing to do as well.

I just graduated from charisma school (and have $523,173.47 in student debt). Now what can I do with all this charisma?

--Brant

nuts!--now I have to go to second-hander school (or do I?)!

Ha!

if you already graduated from charisma school, no need for you to also attend second-hander school, as only second-handers would go to charisma school in the first place.

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As for being " charming, persuasive and interesting"--those are not the words that leap to mind when I think of Greenspan. Even in his Objectivist days Rand referred to him as "the undertaker."

Actually, Greenspan is known as being very charming, persuasive and interesting. One doesn't have a career like his without being a master of persuasion.

J

For me, at least, he has never come across that way on a TV screen--and I'm not speaking of his appearances before Congress.

However, I think your central point is sound. Ideas are important, but a leader with good looks, a way with words and the ability to connect with crowds is essential for a popular movement.

How do you know these are "essential"? I'm including "leader" in my question.

--Brant

I suppose there may be an exception or two, but all great social movements of the past were spearheaded by a leader who was charismatic and resolute in purpose. Love them or hate them, they include Jesus, Martin Luther, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, and M.L. King.

The American Revolution is a perfect illustration of the key role that persuasive leaders play in changing the course of history.

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Is this premise of this post flawed?

Why should an Objectivist "come off" one way or another? Shouldn't our hypothetical Objectivist more or less simply "be"?

Worrying about how one comes off seems like sort of a Peter Keating-like thing to do.

Now, if you are asking why so many self-proclaimed Objectivists "come off" as douche-bags, then that is an entirely separate question, and one that, unfortunately, involves the fact that many of them are trying to "come off" like a character in a novel, written at least 50 years ago, by a lady from Russia.

This too is, ironically, a Peter Keating-like thing to do as well.

The reasoning is simple. Social skills (aka charm or charisma) enhance survival, happiness and well being. And survival is selfish and good. Therefore "should" is appropriately applied in this context. Objectivists *should* by and large be among the most charismatic, interesting, independant thinking and visible members of our society. A bit like today's movie stars. Exemplars, not cast outs. This was exactly was Ayn Rand and her inner circle was. Even though her ideas were often denounced by every corner of the establishment, the public was still fascinated. This is simply not the case today. My question is why?

Again, the issue is not "putting others first" but gaining selfish values from others through trade. Social relations (when not begging, exploiting or stealing) are a form of trade. If it is in your your interest both from a material and psychological point of view, why not? Again this goes back to the failure of Objectivism to properly clarify and communicate its ideas. It is not a "popular" philosophy but that is its biggest downfall. It will never gain the critical mass needed to change a culture. It will be perceived as forever a philosophy for nerds, misfits and socially mal-adjusted people, regardless of how right its ideas are. Nobody will believe it leads to a happy, fulfilled life. Only a bitter, isolated one.

Of course there are some who are for whatever reason (maybe genes) not good at social interaction and relations. People with Aspergers syndrome for example or Autism or some similar condition. For them it is not an issue of morality or choice. But for most normal functioning adults, I believe it is. If their goal is happiness that is.

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Before we admit any more false alternatives, let's understand: if you or I decide we need to brush up on our social skills - particularly in making ourselves and our convictions clear - we do it for our own benefit, primarily. With a thought to Objectivism as 'movement', secondarily, if we so choose.

So it happens as it should, by each individual at a time.

What you say has some merit - but it is the ~advocacy~ of promoting the philosophy that bothers me.

If it cannot flourish on its own accord..."should" it? It already has increasing visibility, and the rest is all volition and reason: you can't push those.

You wish to put energy there, great. There does not exist a single Objectivist who would not like more of his kind around him. Or will not enthusiastically explain the ideology to anyone interested (I'm willing to bet). This is my experience, anyhow.

Trade in all things and ways is already a foregone conclusion in O'ists comprehension.

So I'm not sure where this leaves you.

Charismatic leaders? For me, no thanks.

For enjoyment, there are always some sane and thoughtful non-O'ists about who can make knowing them a pleasure. All it takes is one.

Marcus, how many Objectivists, the real life ones, have you known? You make some assertions I have to doubt.

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As for being " charming, persuasive and interesting"--those are not the words that leap to mind when I think of Greenspan. Even in his Objectivist days Rand referred to him as "the undertaker."

Actually, Greenspan is known as being very charming, persuasive and interesting. One doesn't have a career like his without being a master of persuasion.

J

For me, at least, he has never come across that way on a TV screen--and I'm not speaking of his appearances before Congress.

However, I think your central point is sound. Ideas are important, but a leader with good looks, a way with words and the ability to connect with crowds is essential for a popular movement.

How do you know these are "essential"? I'm including "leader" in my question.

--Brant

I suppose there may be an exception or two, but all great social movements of the past were spearheaded by a leader who was charismatic and resolute in purpose. Love them or hate them, they include Jesus, Martin Luther, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, and M.L. King.

The American Revolution is a perfect illustration of the key role that persuasive leaders play in changing the course of history.

So, you don't know they are "essential for a popular movement," just for some if not most.

--Brant

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Before we admit any more false alternatives, let's understand: if you or I decide we need to brush up on our social skills - particularly in making ourselves and our convictions clear - we do it for our own benefit, primarily

That is exactly my point. The result (if everyone is truly "brushing up" on their social skills) *is* a movement. It is the type of movement most people would like to be a part of. Most people want to to be around charismatic, interesting people. It's natural. They would then ask ok "why is this person so interesting or friendly or happy etc" and that would then lead them to investigate Objectivist ideas. It's win-win.

What you say has some merit - but it is the ~advocacy~ of promoting the philosophy that bothers me.

If it cannot flourish on its own accord..."should" it? It already has increasing visibility, and the rest is all volition and reason: you can't push those.

Let me clarify that I'm not advocating directly "promoting" the philosophy. Only following through on selfish interests. And It is in the interests of Objectivists to live in a more rational society. Charisma is first and foremost, a selfish trait.

You wish to put energy there, great. There does not exist a single Objectivist who would not like more of his kind around him. Or will not enthusiastically explain the ideology to anyone interested (I'm willing to bet). This is my experience, anyhow.

Good. But where are the real world, observable, results of this?

Charismatic leaders? For me, no thanks.

Sorry to burst your bubble but this is exactly what Ayn Rand was.

Marcus, how many Objectivists, the real life ones, have you known? You make some assertions I have to doubt.

It is not so much what I've seen, it is what I "haven't" seen. And that is, personable, persuasive, prominent and openly Objectivist individuals in our modern Western society. They are more or less non-existent.

This *is* real life we are talking about. Not an abstraction, but real people that are highly visible and noticeable. In theory, the best (Objectivists) rise to the top of society. Where are they? Like Fermi's Paradox.

Ayn Rand was one of the most famous people in America, not from her movies but her books. Alan Greenspan was Federal Reserve chairman. Nathaniel Branden was highly respected in the field of psychology and a pioneer in self-esteem studies, more or less coining the modern usage of the term. But that was then, in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. Another generation. This is now.

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Rand was founder and creator, well before and distinct from charismatic leader, I believe.

She was one of a kind; no more required. I thought her too obvious to mention.

What would a new charismatic leader have to offer?

An authoritarian figurehead?

No, I think Objectivism is intensely individualistic in every respect, and while some (in marketing, for example) would say this could be its downfall, it must stand or fall by that.

(But then I have said before, I can't see Objectivism sweeping the world numerically - but certainly see it gaining enormous influence behind the scenes, so to speak.)

I'm with you on what you "haven't seen".

My personal puzzle is that most people in business and industry have been slow to openly and proudly claim the morality of capitalism that Objectivism establishes - as nobody has ever better done. The atheist connection has been well-discussed, but may be overdone. I believe it's more: that big business has so sold itself into cronyism, that today's 'capitalist' feels a pang of guilt at how far from the ideal standard he has fallen. Therefore, distances himself from any moral deliberation.

(Another topic).

For "observable results": wait and see. This is a philosophy, not a pyramid scheme.

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I suppose there may be an exception or two, but all great social movements of the past were spearheaded by a leader who was charismatic and resolute in purpose. Love them or hate them, they include Jesus, Martin Luther, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, and M.L. King.

The American Revolution is a perfect illustration of the key role that persuasive leaders play in changing the course of history.

So, you don't know they are "essential for a popular movement," just for some if not most.

--Brant

I say "essential," because I cannot imagine how it would be done otherwise. In every successful business venture I've personally witnessed, there has always been a single man or woman (or sometimes two people) who burned with ambition and made the idea come to life. I've never seen a start-up initiated by nine people on a board of directors or 100 stockholders.

Granted, political movements are not businesses, but there are certain common factors that determine success: product knowledge, market knowledge, persuading investors, and building a cadre (training employees). In the beginning of every new business I've been associated with, those skills were concentrated in one or two people.

And that person always had unshakable self-confidence and the ability to inspire.

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I suppose there may be an exception or two, but all great social movements of the past were spearheaded by a leader who was charismatic and resolute in purpose. Love them or hate them, they include Jesus, Martin Luther, Cromwell, Napoleon, Lenin, and M.L. King.

The American Revolution is a perfect illustration of the key role that persuasive leaders play in changing the course of history.

So, you don't know they are "essential for a popular movement," just for some if not most.

--Brant

I say "essential," because I cannot imagine how it would be done otherwise. In every successful business venture I've personally witnessed, there has always been a single man or woman (or sometimes two people) who burned with ambition and made the idea come to life. I've never seen a start-up initiated by nine people on a board of directors or 100 stockholders.

Granted, political movements are not businesses, but there are certain common factors that determine success: product knowledge, market knowledge, persuading investors, and building a cadre (training employees). In the beginning of every new business I've been associated with, those skills were concentrated in one or two people.

And that person always had unshakable self-confidence and the ability to inspire.

I admit, your reply is good enough for government work. That's a big step up from "motel quality."

--Brant

no comment here from me about the business world

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Marcus: In case I haven't made myself clear, I'm sure you're not completely wrong. I agree that it's possible sometimes for Objectivists to hold themselves remotely apart from other people. If I'm right, this may be your essential concern. Reality most often IS "other people". Because we do not exist *for* others, in no way implies we can't exist *with* them.(Very much the opposite).

Only, it's important to recognise that since man is a conceptual being, he can and does hold in his mind varying breadths and levels of concepts at any one time: iow, "scope" and "hierarchy". Because he is a "being of volitional consciousness" he also has the faculty of switching from concept to concept and throughout those levels, at will - depending on the circumstance: iow, contextually.

As "a student of Objectivism" (as we all are) you understand this.

So what concerns you is not insignificant, I believe. The level of awareness of this should be raised. It just has to be addressed and undertaken by each Objectivist alone, fitted in to his hierarchy, and applied in context. We are not all one thing, at any given single moment - but our priorities and parameters have to be fixed. Rationally selfish individual - and/or, member of a philosophical 'movement' (which we want to see succeed) - and/or, social being?

As usual, adherence to reality, our values -and self-honesty- will sort it out.

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It's worth noting that being an Objectivist is hard! For example, it requires that one not only be an atheist, but to condemn all people of faith as evil. Evil! As in, depraved, foul, vile, sinful, dishonorable, corrupt, bad, wicked, villainous. It also requires that one denounce altruism in every form. We're faced with Ayn Rand saying if she had to choose between the life of her husband and the life of her child, she'd choose her husband. Objectivism is a tough pill to swallow, much less sell to someone else to swallow. It's easy to be charismatic when you're espousing free health care to everyone yay! On the other hand, it's hard to say out loud that sometimes the orphans will just have to take care of themselves.

I would argue that there are a great many charismatic and interesting leaders who subscribe to many of the elements of Objectivism, but who, for whatever reason, don't call themselves Objectivists. It will be those leaders who make the most impact, whether it be in business, in politics, or in their everyday lives.

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The genuine Evil I know is forcing false, anti-mind, ideologies on someone. So long as there doesn't exist theocracy, one can get on fine with many religious people. Without the power to force their way, they can be most reasonable, honest and characterful.

(There's the rub, with creeping progressivism - by its nature, the State gets right behind it, so presently I find little room for honest debate and finding commonality, with liberals.)

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It's worth noting that being an Objectivist is hard! For example, it requires that one not only be an atheist, but to condemn all people of faith as evil. Evil! As in, depraved, foul, vile, sinful, dishonorable, corrupt, bad, wicked, villainous. It also requires that one denounce altruism in every form. We're faced with Ayn Rand saying if she had to choose between the life of her husband and the life of her child, she'd choose her husband. Objectivism is a tough pill to swallow, much less sell to someone else to swallow. It's easy to be charismatic when you're espousing free health care to everyone yay! On the other hand, it's hard to say out loud that sometimes the orphans will just have to take care of themselves.

I would argue that there are a great many charismatic and interesting leaders who subscribe to many of the elements of Objectivism, but who, for whatever reason, don't call themselves Objectivists. It will be those leaders who make the most impact, whether it be in business, in politics, or in their everyday lives.

Hard choices are hard choices irrespective of any philosophy. If you had to choose, you chose. Objectivism, properly understood*, is no harder to sell than rationality and if rationality is too hard to sell that's too bad. That's the hard pill to swallow.

--Brant

*not the philosophy of Ayn Rand, BTW; she took that to her grave; there are pale imitators, but they are outside this conversation

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