Enemies and Evil-Doers


zantonavitch

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How do you deal with enemies? How do you deal with evil people who hurt you?

The best way -- if they aren't beyond all redemption -- is to do as Nathaniel Branden sometimes advises: Attempt to wisely and heroically "make a friend out of an enemy."

But you can't surrender your sacred self or your ideals in the process. You can't abdicate your convictions, your honor, or your soul.

Thus, often enough, this idealized convert-enemies-into-friends hope can't be realized. And if you can't honorably escape or avoid them, then you simply have to fight and defeat your enemy. In 1977 when Ronald Reagan explained his basic plan and strategic vision for America's enemy, the Soviet Union, he said: "We win and they lose."

* * * * *

The basic way to deal with enemies -- despite what religion and the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches -- is to hate them and then destroy them. You're supposed to glory in hurting them, seeing them suffer, and making them die. Think of Batman, Spiderman, or any other comic book superhero.

Altho' it was meant as a wildly un-PC joke, the recent film Borat essentially got it right: The over-arching desideratum is to seek to "drink the blood of every man, woman, and child" of your enemies. And such a clean, pure act of Good triumphing over Evil does not pollute or degrade you, despite what everyone says.

The goal and wholly legitimate desire to overcome your foe ultimately comes about because, ideally, you're a good person who doesn't attack your fellows, but who works hard and smart and successfully. Thus you properly and justifiably have a high self-regard. You have great respect for your own self, life, character, integrity, values, honor, and even public name and reputation. So you revile any would-be destroyers.

* * * * *

In this regard, Christian charity, tolerance, forgiveness, and love is an immense evil. This masochistic, "turn the other cheek" ideal violates the lofty standards of justice and social morality. It virtually treats good and evil the same. The poorly thought-out and deeply-flawed moral code of Christian "grace" and "love thy enemy"-ism essentially regards creators and destroyers as being equivalent; violators, attackers, and criminals are considered about equal to their victims.

Now this is a great act of ideological depravity and a stunning repudiation of the holy individual and of rational, civilized society. It is a betrayal of the best version of yourself, and results in the destruction of your part of the world. To equate good and evil, and to not discriminate thereof, is simply monstrous. Sympathy for the evil is treason to the good.

* * * * *

Evil today comes in many forms. This includes: Plato, Kant, philosophical skeptics, conservatives, progressives, neo-cons, environmentalists, Christians, Muslims, fundamentalist jihadists -- and even libertarians and "not overly religious" lapsed Catholics and non-practicing Jews.

But it also takes the form of Ayn Rand at her most faithful and authoritarian. However painful this may be to Objectivists, it also takes the form of this highly charismatic and intellectually seductive cult-of-personality leader who could be so maliciously and hatefully moralizing and psychologizing. It takes the form of this part-time cult leader who could be so angry, manipulative, and anti-social, as she repressed her emotions and rationalized her personal weaknesses. Evil today often takes the form of nothing less than "false prophet," Eastern Orthodox, true-believer, religious, cult Objectivism.

* * * * *

It's worth noting that all the people and beliefs listed above are evil in their own way. And all need to be fought in their own way. All have their special lacunas and vulnerabilities -- usually based on the nature of their evil. And all these limitations need to be learned, exploited, and ruthlessly attacked by the good guys.

But "reaching out to" or "extending the hand of friendship to" these various evil people and beliefs, under most circumstances, is morally wrong and practically counter-productive. Tolerating and forgiving those who don't and won't tolerant and forgive you is profoundly mistaken and often depraved. Especially if they're fundamentally in the wrong and you're in the right.

Generally speaking, if someone openly hates you and actively works to destroy you, you need to reply in kind, and seek mighty revenge. You need to hit him, in effect, twice as hard as he seeks to hit you; and four times as hard, if he actually succeeds in hitting you. This is justice and morality. This is also often the best and only effective method of deterrence.

If there's ever going to be "peace" on earth and bountiful "love" in the world -- with the Brotherhood of Man ascendant and triumphant -- then these miscreant enemies of yours need to fall to their knees and cry a Niagara of tears. They need to be forced to surrender -- and to beg you to forgive them. If you, the would-be victim, can't or won't reduce the bad guys to this level of debasement, dishonor, and humiliation, then war will be the permanent state of mankind, and of all our various philosophical movements.

* * * * *

Evil needs to be smashed and defeated at all times -- not engaged and appeased. Enemies need to be unambiguously stopped and crushed -- not accommodated or reasoned with. "Peace" and "love" is only possible when evil is destroyed.

You can't bargain or compromise with it, nor can you somehow befriend it. Once your enemy has been found to be strongly and objectively evil, no long-term truce is even possible. All such pathetic and depraved attempts to secure a "time-out" or "detente" in this timeless battle will be correctly regarded as craven debasement and shameful weakness, by both the evil-doers and the world. All such negotiations with evil constitute a horrific act of appeasement and surrender to the forces of blackness.

In the end, enemies and evil-doers need to be fought. Unforgivable and unrepentant opponents need to be openly, loudly, proudly, energetically, zealously hated; and then rudely, crudely, unceremoniously extirpated and extincted.

This is as true for Ahkmoud Amadinijad and Leonard Peikoff as it is for Plato and Kant. It's as true for Jesus and Marx, as it is for all the lesser malicious ARIans and bizarro Randroids.

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This was submitted to the Article section, but I decided to put it here in "Chewing on Ideas" because of the radical wholesale black-and-white approach and the promotion of outright hatred as a virtue.

There is enough truth in this article (in moral and practical terms) to warrant discussion, especially as there is a manner in which Objectivism can lead to such radicalism. But I find the essential view of human nature implicit in this view to be oversimplified.

I don't think I need to state the following, but for the record, this article is only Kyrel's personal view.

Michael

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Kyrel, you wrote: “The basic way to deal with enemies -- despite what religion and the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches -- is to hate them and then destroy them. You're supposed to glory in hurting them, seeing them suffer, and making them die. Think of Batman, Spiderman, or any other comic book superhero.”

Kyrel, comic books are for children, not for adults living in the real world. From your post, I cannot see any difference in principle between you and the terrorists you wish to destroy. They want to watch those they decide are their enemies suffer and die; so do you. They glory in the agony of their enemies; so do you. They define millions of people as enemies, to be so treated; so do you. On precisely what moral high ground do you stand to look down on terrorists? You are one of them, by your own statement – the only difference is in the enemies you choose. Good god, Kyrel, surely it is this black hatred, this love of destruction, this glorying in pain and suffering, that we must try to rid the world of, not to emulate.

Let’s get the terrorists out of our way. Let’s make them suffer if we have to, but only in order to protect ourselves. Let’s kill them if we have to, but only in order to protect ourselves. But let us never, never take joy in their agony, or we have become as depraved as they, and we have equally polluted this earth,

You say “But you can't surrender your sacred self or your ideals in the process. You can't abdicate your convictions, your honor, or your soul.” But what else are you recommending” Is your “sacred self” one who delights in destruction, in pain, in suffering, in drinking blood? Isn’t the reason you want to stop your enemies precisely because that is

what they do? Why are you turning yourself into a carbon copy of them? Will you advise your children to look forward to drinking blood, as they advise their children? Perhaps you’d like to bring back the cross and the rack, perhaps you’d like to teach your children to slowly torture your enemies to death – so as not to surrender their sacred self or their ideals. It is sacrilege to speak of ideals in this connection.

You say: “The poorly thought-out and deeply-flawed moral code of Christian ‘grace’ and ‘love thy enemy’-ism essentially regards creators and destroyers as being equivalent; violators, attackers, and criminals are considered about equal to their victims.”

Yet you are demanding that creators behave exactly like destroyers; you are saying they should be equal -- that everything we loathe in terrorists, we adopt and make part of ourselves. We don’t want those who glory in pain and suffering to prevail. Why should we prevail if we do as you say, and similarly glory in pain and suffering?

Kyrel, if I take you at your word, if I assume that you mean precisely what you have written, then what you are advocating is as evil as anything the terrorists advocate. And you ask even that we equally hate and destroy conservatives, skeptics, libertarians, cultist Objectivists, even “Ayn Rand at her worst?!” What kind of hatred is eating you up alive? And how do you dare try to spread it to others?

Barbara

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Kyrel wrote: "The basic way to deal with enemies -- despite what religion and the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches -- is to hate them and then destroy them. You're supposed to glory in hurting them, seeing them suffer, and making them die. Think of Batman, Spiderman, or any other comic book superhero."

Kyrel,

Here we go again. Anyone who has had much experience of the Objectivist movement, as I have, can observe the never-ending moralizing and denunciation which seems to characterize--not the philosophy of Objectivism--but rather a handful of its adherents. Yes, there are people who oppose the philosophy of Objectivism (or who simply espouse ideas at odds with Objectivism) and they frequently find their character under attack, and these people walk away having a much worse impression of Objectivism when they could have been—perhaps—warmed over by its ideas.

Now I have been known to be suspicious of the "intellectual honesty" of many opponents I have debated and I have been vindicated in many cases, but I regret being too fast on the draw to come to that conclusion. I have been wrong, and you walk away feeling like an ass. So I would advise caution.

And more: You are ascribing to evil a metaphysical potency it does not have. Instead of making a big project out of scything evil, I believe one’s energy is better spent by simply “being good” and rewarding the good when appropriate. It is “the good” that is the source of potency in the world. Evil, by definition, is impotent, and as such, the thing to do is not reward it—not to "cut it down." That is a different thing. It's good that matters, not evil.

-Victor

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Kyrel, one addition to my post: You said that you respected me. But by your standards, I should long ago have been "rudely, crudely, unceremoniously extirpated and extincted." After all, I once was somewhat of an Objectivist cultist. I should never have been allowed the time on earth to understand my mistake, correct it, and attempt to show others the nature of the error of cultishness.

Barbara

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Nathaniel Branden once said to me amongst a group of people, and I'm sure he has repeated this many times in many forums, public and private, and it's certainly not original to him: "Living well is the best revenge."

He also stated elsewhere that Rand's heroes represented Rand's projection of her ideal ego state. There was no hate in that. Roark didn't hate Toohey; he was all but oblivious to Toohey. Was he, also, to smash Dominique?

Yes, you can find hate in the works of Ayn Rand, but she was not about that. That's why she hung so much on the sanction of the victim. When that is withdrawn the parasite dies. Who wants to hate a parasite? Hank hated Francisco, he didn't hate Mouch. Francisco killed to save Hank's life, he didn't kill out of hate. He killed out of love--not just his love for Hank but for what Hank represented.

As a combat war vet, I have to say hate had nothing to do with trying to kill the enemy. Trying to kill the enemy was trying to get a certain job done and staying alive and keeping your fellow soldiers alive. I do admit, though, that I hate the intellectual parasites back in France, like Sarte, who fueled the communist, nationalist war in Vietnam and the subsequent Cambodian genocide. I do hate Castro--I could kill him. I don't, however, cultivate that hate. One has to pace oneself. Hate burns you up.

I'm more than willing and desirous to smash evil; I'm not willing to smash myself.

--Brant

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I wonder if there's anyone Kyrel doesn't count as an enemy! My God, even denouncing Rand for "maliciously and hatefully moralizing and psychologizing". The intolerant are enemies, the tolerant are enemies...

Though I would class Osama bin Laden and Amadinijad as enemies, I don't think I have any personal enemies at all! I suppose that puts me on the list of evil tolerationists or something.

Life's too short to spend it looking for excuses to denounce everyone as evil.

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The basic way to deal with enemies -- despite what religion and the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches -- is to hate them and then destroy them. You're supposed to glory in hurting them, seeing them suffer, and making them die. Think of Batman, Spiderman, or any other comic book superhero.

Altho' it was meant as a wildly un-PC joke, the recent film Borat essentially got it right: The over-arching desideratum is to seek to "drink the blood of every man, woman, and child" of your enemies. And such a clean, pure act of Good triumphing over Evil does not pollute or degrade you, despite what everyone says.

Those who are horrified by what Kyrel says here haven't confronted their own Jungian dark side or shadow. Who, while watching "Batman Begins", in the scene where Batman and Ducard/Ra's al Ghul are battling on the elevated train just before it crashes and Batman says, "I'm not gonna kill you -- but I don't have to save you" -- who doesn't experience a dark sense of justice? Schadenfreude in a truly appropriate sense of the word. Rand herself spoke of the feeling of satisfaction one feels at seeing a "bad" person get his/her just deserts.

There is, however, a difference between feeling such emotions in the moment, and dwelling on and living for them. When it's over, it's over. You go back to living and forget about it almost immediately. It doesn't become a permanent part of your psyche. If it does, then it DOES damage you.

In this regard, Christian charity, tolerance, forgiveness, and love is an immense evil. This masochistic, "turn the other cheek" ideal violates the lofty standards of justice and social morality. It virtually treats good and evil the same. The poorly thought-out and deeply-flawed moral code of Christian "grace" and "love thy enemy"-ism essentially regards creators and destroyers as being equivalent; violators, attackers, and criminals are considered about equal to their victims.

Not always. Turning the other cheek can be an immensely powerful tool for waking people up to the evil of their ways. Returning good for evil -- same thing. One has to know with whom one is dealing. With some people it can have profound, life-changing effects; with others, it can get you destroyed. Think of Gandhi's passive nonresistance tool. It was powerful as hell against the British. What would it have accomplished against the Nazis or today's Islamic terrorists? Know Your Enemy.

Evil today comes in many forms. This includes: Plato, Kant, philosophical skeptics, conservatives, progressives, neo-cons, environmentalists, Christians, Muslims, fundamentalist jihadists -- and even libertarians and "not overly religious" lapsed Catholics and non-practicing Jews.

Unlike many, I'm not at all shy about using the word "evil". It's a good word. I would not apply it to any of the individuals and classes of people to which you have applied it above, with the exception of fundamentalist jihadists.

Evil is not an on-off, pregnant-or-not-pregnant kind of thing. There are degrees of evil. Some people have a problem with applying the word "evil" to people like Hitler and Vlad the Impaler and also applying it to the office gossip who deliberately tries to ruin your reputation. I don't have that problem, and don't hesitate to use it in both instances. But there ARE degrees. If I believed in a hell, I'd say that there are levels of hell, as did Dante.

But it also takes the form of Ayn Rand at her most faithful and authoritarian. However painful this may be to Objectivists, it also takes the form of this highly charismatic and intellectually seductive cult-of-personality leader who could be so maliciously and hatefully moralizing and psychologizing. It takes the form of this part-time cult leader who could be so angry, manipulative, and anti-social, as she repressed her emotions and rationalized her personal weaknesses. Evil today often takes the form of nothing less than "false prophet," Eastern Orthodox, true-believer, religious, cult Objectivism.

Christians often say, "Hate the sin, love the sinner." Since I have to assume that Kyrel finds some value in Rand despite the above, I assume that he intends some such distinction. I find it useful to distinguish between evil acts and evil people, although like most people I tend to get sloppy and call people evil when, if I were being more precise, I would say that their acts at a particular time were evil. A person has to have a pretty serious pattern of evil acts before I say that the person is evil. Malice is definitely required, not just ignorance or negligence.

But "reaching out to" or "extending the hand of friendship to" these various evil people and beliefs, under most circumstances, is morally wrong and practically counter-productive. Tolerating and forgiving those who don't and won't tolerant and forgive you is profoundly mistaken and often depraved. Especially if they're fundamentally in the wrong and you're in the right.

Generally speaking, if someone openly hates you and actively works to destroy you, you need to reply in kind, and seek mighty revenge. You need to hit him, in effect, twice as hard as he seeks to hit you; and four times as hard, if he actually succeeds in hitting you. This is justice and morality. This is also often the best and only effective method of deterrence.

Again, it depends on the circumstances. Know your enemy. Is he/she redeemable? Why is he/she behaving this way? As Brant said above, did Roark try to smash Dominique? She was acting to destroy him. In the current war, I'm just as fed up as you are with the endless negotiating and ignoring of blatant acts of provocation by the other side. Know your "enemy". Know your enemy.

Revenge is useful only as a deterrent. Otherwise, it's a waste of time. Consider the terrorist leaders. I'm not interested in carrying out gruesome punishments on them. I just want to exterminate them like cockroaches and get back to living. Do it quickly and humanely and get it over with. Why "humanely", you ask? Why not? It dispatches them just as efficiently, and we are a kind and generous people; as long as our purpose is accomplished, why not?

If there's ever going to be "peace" on earth and bountiful "love" in the world -- with the Brotherhood of Man ascendant and triumphant -- then these miscreant enemies of yours need to fall to their knees and cry a Niagara of tears. They need to be forced to surrender -- and to beg you to forgive them. If you, the would-be victim, can't or won't reduce the bad guys to this level of debasement, dishonor, and humiliation, then war will be the permanent state of mankind, and of all our various philosophical movements.

In war, this is nothing less than the truth. Modern wars have been inconclusive because we have not had the intestinal fortitude to carry them to this necessary conclusion. Israel's most recent adventure with Lebanon is a case on point.

But in anything other than physical force-on-force, the analogy isn't appropriate. It would entail the kind of tactics Rand tried to use on the Brandens -- lies, character assassination, fraud, intimidation, etc. In the realm of ideas, as Jefferson said, good ideas drive out bad ones. That's your only honorable form of recourse.

Considering the discussion that brought about this essay, I have to agree that there's sometime an almost hyprocritical level of niceness in our society based on the Judeo-Christian ethic of pretending to like people we really don't like. And, Americans in particular tend to be a very generous and benevolent people, even to people who don't deserve it. I find myself doing it often -- being nice to someone, or doing someone a favor, and saying to myself, "Judith, what are you DOING? That person HATES you! He/She has actively tried to damage you more times than you could possibly count!" And I forget, and go about being my usual benevolent, generous self, because to do otherwise would do more damage to me than would keeping track of all the wrongs people do to me.

But there's a point where one must be honest. If those people died, I wouldn't miss them for a moment. If they got seriously sick, I truly wouldn't care. Such statements are supposed to be shocking in our society, but more people think them than dare to admit them. I wouldn't go around saying so to the people who care about them -- I'd simply keep my mouth shut. But neither would I go around making the usual hypocritical caring statements when I didn't mean a word of them.

Judith

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Kyrel's jeremiad (Old Testament irony intended there) has so much I would disagree with that I wouldn't know where to begin, and don't care to do so, especially with others rising to the task. But I must dispute one item (and a response to it), for the sake of a quarter-century-long esthetic interest and passion.

Kyrel wrote:

> You're supposed to glory in hurting [enemies], seeing them suffer, and making

> them die. Think of Batman, Spiderman, or any other comic book superhero.

Think of sheer, wanton caricatures, you mean, which have nothing to do with these elements of popular American culture? And which dishonor a host of intelligent creators?

None of those stories involve "glorying" in any such actions. They involve a motivation for justice, if there's any common element to all of them.

And you've read next to nothing of these tales if you're this oblivious to how nearly all of these heroes are made to be steadfast in avoiding needless killing, period, and especially of innocents. (Would that "real" military planners on all sides were a hundredth as careful.)

Yes, the cynicism and world-weariness that has become part of some recent comics / graphic novels is not showing these characters at their rational, purposeful best. Yet they're not all of the world of creativity that produces what Rand called this "pulp Romanticism."

Richer palettes, of both storytelling and visual art, are less morally unambiguous in some ways, as opposed to the stronger hues of the Big Blue Boy Scout from Krypton printed on newsprint by the millions. They also allow for richer character examinations, though, than in the past, certainly in the last 30 years of such tales.

And the comics spectrum has burst, in recent years, onto the silver screen in a thousand hues. Almost none of them involving any sort of "moral grayness," to note what Rand decried in much of current culture. The fidelity to protecting values and acting with justice may be conflicted, diverted, but almost never denied outright. "Batman Begins," which Judith cites, is an excellent example.

Even the less consciously or abstractly purposeful types act to preserve some, usually many, genuine values. In this aspect, you'd do well to actually, say, rent the two most recent "Spider-Man" flicks, and follow them up with the new epic in theaters next month, to see an arc of how an underestimated creator like director Sam Raimi is keeping flames of Romanticism alive in popular culture.

Barbara responded:

> Kyrel, comic books are for children, not for adults living in the real world. [...]

It should be apparent that I cannot agree with her, though I should stress that I see this coming from unfamiliarity, not chosen blindness.

Not even Rand dismissed them like this, though she never saw the subtleties of their storytelling, and those were notably fewer when she examined popular culture in the '60s and early '70s. The more accomplished "graphic novel," of sequential art promoting storytelling to longer and broader ends, has become its own intricate crossing-mediums art form.

Rand could and did appreciate James Bond as Romantic inspiration. The recent Bond films (apart from "Casino Royale") have played with the bounds of realistic storytelling, gaining the thrusts into challenging the restraints of reality that graphic novels have shown. Popular culture rarely respects neat boundaries.

Many of us who are firmly in the real world know that we need to take Romanticism where we can find it. It can be pleasurably found, certainly far more than at any time in the past century, in this particular corner of popular culture. Whether in Tolkienesque fantasy, space opera, or passionate heroics ... and on wood pulp, celluloid, or Flash Video files at YouTube.

And the cheering crowds at many of these comics-inspired movies can, and do, give even some jaded Objectivist types more hope for a return to Romantic values. If they'd just buy tickets or rent them.

In any event, this all constitutes a digression from Kyrel's point, which called for its own unpacking and dissection, and has gotten a good bit already, but I couldn't let this go unremarked.

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"Those who are horrified by what Kyrel says here haven't confronted their own Jungian dark side or shadow. Who, while watching "Batman Begins", in the scene where Batman and Ducard/Ra's al Ghul are battling on the elevated train just before it crashes and Batman says, "I'm not gonna kill you -- but I don't have to save you" -- who doesn't experience a dark sense of justice?"

Judith,

I particularly liked that scene, and I don’t regard this as an example of “dark justice”, but rather --“whiter than white justice.” If the Dark Knight specifically and cruelly killed him (murder?) then it might be called “dark justice”—but justice nevertheless. No, he didn’t have to save him. Why should he?

What’s more: When I saw Death Wish years ago, I felt a particularly acute sense of satisfaction when Charlie Bronson plugged his first bad guy, (and he was a bad guy) and I still feel that to this day. It’s the same feeling I had seeing Sadist Hussein hanged. It was, “Bye-bye, have a nice day.” Now this is not the dark Jungian side of me, but rather it’s the little cute angel with the Shirley Temple golden locks that whispers in my ear to tell genuine evil to go fuck themselves. And then I move on with my day. :)

-Victor

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Steve: "And you've read next to nothing of these tales if you're this oblivious to how nearly all of these heroes are made to be steadfast in avoiding needless killing, period, and especially of innocents. "

You're quite right, Steve, and I misspoke. My own particular hero was Tarzan, and I cannot imagine him needlessly killing or enjoying the inflicting of pain. He got the bad guys out of his way, and that was the end of it.

Barbara

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Barbara, what you quoted from me immediately above was directed at Kyrel, not at you — I didn't want you to think otherwise. In regard to your own comment, I said that I saw it as "coming from unfamiliarity, not chosen blindness."

Wherein I meant: I see someone of your generation as not nearly as likely to be keeping close tabs on the changes in sequential art, as a crossover among mediums,* and what it's inspired in turn. (Though I'm sure you've encountered Romanticism from that corner along the way, especially on the silver screen.)

Someone from my generation (Boomer in his 40s) is far more likely to have followed such art, and in detail. Someone such as Kyrel (whom I gathered is Gen Y or Z) almost has to choose to be unaware of it, methinks. From his comments, it seemed that this was the case.

(Sorry, Kyrel, about my using the third person there. Precision in my disagreement is all that's intended.)

_____

* I see "mediums" as being a proper plural for forms of artistic expression, where the art is the focus of the process. And "media" as a better plural for routes of communication, where reporting is the focus. Call it an intransitive plural versus a transitive one. {rueful pedantic smile}

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Sorry about the slowness of this reply. I didn't realize my essay was posted till a few hours ago. (I'm still working out the system here.) I'm going to initially confine myself to Post #3 and Barbara Branden's answer to my (ahem!) rather flamboyant piece.

Barbara writes:

From your post, I cannot see any difference in principle between you and the terrorists you wish to destroy. They want to watch those they decide are their enemies suffer and die; so do you. They glory in the agony of their enemies; so do you. They define millions of people as enemies, to be so treated; so do you. On precisely what moral high ground do you stand to look down on terrorists?

First off, thank you for the detail and passion of your reply!

The basic answer to most of your comments are: I try to distinguish carefully between murderers and those who justly execute them. Both involve inflicting death, but there is no real equivalence here that I'm aware of -- especially not morally. And no-one is allowed to "decide" who his enemies or the evil-doers are. The bad guys have to be genuinely, objectively bad. Otherwise, if you hurt them, you're a criminal or bad guy yourself.

You are one of [the evil-doers yourself] by your own statement – the only difference is in the enemies you choose. Good god, Kyrel, surely it is this black hatred, this love of destruction, this glorying in pain and suffering, that we must try to rid the world of, not to emulate.

It's not a matter of arbitrarily choosing enemies. They have to be truly, objectively evil. And "black hatred" has its proper place in the world, just as does sweet love. I don't think you can have one without the other. The "glory" comes from seeing evil defeated. But pain and suffering absent this, and for their own sake, aren't of value.

Let’s get the terrorists out of our way. Let’s make them suffer if we have to, but only in order to protect ourselves. Let’s kill them if we have to, but only in order to protect ourselves. But let us never, never take joy in their agony, or we have become as depraved as they, and we have equally polluted this earth.

We may simply differ on this one. I favor full justice here, and not a mere escape from evil. If I avoid criminal harm, that's nice, but it isn't good enough. My enemies and would-be attackers need to be brought to complete justice, in my view. And the joy comes from seeing justice done -- not agony out of context or without a reasonable purpose. In my view, adults generally only pollute and become polluted when they're vicious and cruel -- not just.

Is your “sacred self” one who delights in destruction, in pain, in suffering, in drinking blood? Isn’t the reason you want to stop your enemies precisely because that is what they do? Why are you turning yourself into a carbon copy of them? Will you advise your children to look forward to drinking blood, as they advise their children?

Uh, no. Perhaps not. ;-) Drinking blood has no value per se, and in the Game of Life is usually a disvalue. It's only proper when a true criminal or bad guy is made to suffer proportionate to his evil acts.

Perhaps you’d like to bring back the cross and the rack, perhaps you’d like to teach your children to slowly torture your enemies to death.

Only possibly in the most absolutely extreme circumstances -- such as a reply in kind. But not for children. Even adults may very rightly choose not to view or inflict this. It's a bit interesting to note, Barbara, that in other discussions you seem to be on record as favoring torturing the jihadis more than me. (But that's another discussion, admittedly.)

Yet you are demanding that... everything we loathe in terrorists, we adopt and make part of ourselves.

This seems to come back to the main point -- yours and mine. Appropriately and justly punishing enemies and evil-doers doesn't seem to be the same behavior as the evil activity that they do to us. I never advocate aggression or the initiation of force. I never advocate cruelty or disproportionality. This would be morally wrong.

But in the most recent battle between liberalism and Islam -- involving Britain and Iran and those 15 hostages -- no justice was done or equality achieved, in my opinion. So I certainly think Britain should seek revenge and make them pay. And yes, perhaps, glory in seeing this justice done. Religion and altruism teaches us that we "lower ourselves to their level" or "permanently debauch ourselves" if we take pleasure in seeing people get what's coming to them. I think this is only sometimes true.

...you ask even that we equally hate and destroy conservatives, skeptics, libertarians, cultist Objectivists, even “Ayn Rand at her worst?!”

This is a very mixed bag. All merit different levels of opposition and personal distaste.

What kind of hatred is eating you up alive?

Maybe it isn't hatred, but a love of truth and justice. Altho' I do think this necessarily entails hatred of lies, injustice, immorality, wanton destruction, unnecessary pain, etc. I'm just not sure how to have one emotion without the complimentary other. Everyone says you can, but this seems to be merely the loose, false claim of religion and altruism.

The key point in this discussion, perhaps, is that my thoughts in all this reply-and-revenge business are forever with the forgotten third party -- the victims. This includes others and myself.

I hope this addresses some of your concerns! Your reply was very dense, Barbara, so I tried to confine myself to your main points.

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One quick addition to Barbara's observation in Post #5! She writes:

Kyrel, one addition to my post: You said that you respected me. But by your standards, I should long ago have been "rudely, crudely, unceremoniously extirpated and extincted." After all, I once was somewhat of an Objectivist cultist. I should never have been allowed the time on earth to understand my mistake, correct it, and attempt to show others the nature of the error of cultishness.

That may have been a bit of hyperbole. Verbal sins should be answered with verbal counter-measures, just as physical assaults are properly answered in kind. Everyone's views -- yours and mine -- should be "rudely, crudely, unceremoniously extirpated and extincted" if they're false and evil.

The key point in today's rather radically bifurcated Objectivist world is: Does the intellectual opponent seem like a good person and is she worth debating? I think this comes down to:

Does he practice censorship and excommunication? Does he condemn as "intellectually dishonest" and an "enemy of Objectivism" when it's clear he merits these labels. Does he regard Objectivsm as mostly a philosophy or a religion? Everyone makes multitudinous "errors of judgment" and "breaches of morality" -- but is the other person open to argument, discussion, criticism, and possible correction and improvement?

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Kyrel,

Some people don't know, so I should make it clear: you are the same person as Andre Zantonavitch and you requested me to change your posting name here on OL to your real one. Now to your article.

The weirdest thing about your essay is the different ways it appeals to different parts of us all at the same time. On one level, I think we all feel satisfaction in seeing one who is trying to destroy us encounter his just reward. On the other, the thought of holding up pain, destruction and hatred as a virtue and reason for living causes such revulsion that I can think of no greater defense for Christianity.

Here is where oversimplification operates. In the attempt to find a universal premise, one who oversimplifies ignores all context. If Objectivism teaches us anything, it teaches that facts are absolute, but our knowledge of them is incomplete and dependent on our contexts. This goes for cognitive knowledge and what we do with it, i.e., value judgments.

The very first context that comes to mind in reading your wholesale call to destroy evil and rejoice in it is one of perspective. When I look at other people and see them trying to destroy me, it is easy to apply a black-and-white me against them principle where "me" is the good and "them" is the evil. There is the problem of how this standard is arrived at, but in terms of practicality, it is easy to implement.

But what about when I look inside myself? I have had serious problems with alcoholism and drug addiction in the past. Looking at this solely from the aspect of behavior disorder and not illness, I was trying to destroy myself. Literally. Using my own life as standard, I was evil. Should I have destroyed myself because I was evil and rejoiced in that? The obvious question arises, who will do the rejoicing if I destroy myself? There is only one me.

The second context that arises is in applying our knowledge based on how we identify facts. We are able to form concepts but we also have a mathematical ability, which is similar and intertwined, but not the same. The purpose of concept formation is to classify. The purpose of mathematics is to measure. We can classify something as good and evil but our cognitive task is not complete for making a rational value judgment until we measure it. We always have to keep in mind that evil is not some metaphysical entity in itself, like a devil, but is a value judgment of a thing in reality based on a standard. Thus there are degrees of evil, just as there are degrees of good.

Putting Ahkmoud Amadinijad and Leonard Peikoff in the same category shows a lack of such measurement. Even putting Ahkmoud Amadinijad in the same category with Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein shows a lack of measurement (and I am no fan of Amadinijad—for the record, I think he is a power monger and deluded and potentially very dangerous).

The third context is the philosophy/psychology issue. Philosophy rates values according to good and evil while psychology rates them according to healthy and unhealthy. If any moral good leads to an unhealthy psychology, then it cannot be a moral good by definition. And here is the danger in holding hatred up as a virtue.

Hatred is an emotional reaction. It is not sought. It is triggered automatically by something perceived. It is the psychological equivalent of pain. In survival terms, it is a biological signal to warn you of something threatening. Pain is good in that sense—it calls attention to something that needs attention urgently. If there were no pain, survival would be cut very short. So in that sense, as a signal, hatred also is a good thing.

But a person does not seek pain as a form of happiness and neither should he seek hatred or even try to tie it to happiness. This is similar, but not identical, to defecation. However, it is similar enough to apply in one respect. One needs to defecate, but one does not hold feces up as something to be pursued as a goal in life or the act of passing it as something to be shared with others. It is merely a regular act that is required so we can continue our pursuits. I suppose a momentary rejoicing is in order when it is particularly difficult, but essentially, this is the clean-up part of survival, not the part we strive to attain. There is nothing glorious in taking a crap, even when it is particularly successful. We strive, I suppose, but this is merely to try to attain proper regular functioning, not to attain any specific experience like composing a symphony or building a skyscraper is. If our bowels are in working order, we attend to them when needed and then forget about them.

Hatred and contempt are like that. Notice that people who emphasize that part of their emotional make-up end up secreting the wrong hormones (or secreting a wrong hormonal balance) and triggering unhealthy biochemical reactions. When they do this over long periods of time there is a heavy price to pay. They turn bitter and depressed. Or they turn fanatical and sabotage their rational judgment. Both of these are unhealthy and survival threatening, so hatred cannot be a wholesale good in moral terms. The biological price alone paid for wallowing in hatred and contempt, even when targeted at objectively correct people and things, is the reason that hatred can never be a virtue. Hatred is merely a biological value as a warning signal. Nothing more. It is only good and healthy in a highly limited context, like defecation.

What can be a virtue is the recognition that one should not feel guilty for hating if the object of our hatred is objectively warranted and our hatred does not consume the good in our lives. But this entails both classification and measurement, and especially a hard objective look at the condemned object from several angles. The real virtue in that case is rationality and the goal is profound self-esteem. Hatred is merely one small part of that.

The fourth context is one of measurement, but it is so crucial that it needs a separate category. This is impact. There is a huge difference between an immediate, clear and present danger to one's life and a threat that is remote, long-term and not lethal. And here we get all kinds of things mixed up with oversimplified calls to hate.

For instance, a soldier on a military operation has a need for violently hating an attacking opponent and those who command him to attack. A person reading a philosophical tract by Kant may disagree with his ideas and correctly identify some horrible things people have done using his ideas as justification, but Kant himself is too remote to be of any value one way or the other. Also, he is very dead. Hating him is simply a waste of hormones. Holding the same emotion in the same intensity for both situations is completely imbalanced, wrong and unhealthy.

I could go on with some other contexts, but the point here is that hatred (and all the negative emotions) is a very serious issue. There are times when it is proper, but it is basically to be avoided as much as possible because it is not healthy in heavy doses. Also, when it is preached in an oversimplified manner, it becomes easy for someone to default on the responsibility of correct thinking and apply it to the wrong area. It is a powerfully blinding emotion and that makes it easy to default on proper rational identification.

How often, throughout history, have people preached hatred on what they thought was a clear issue, then watched in despair as their precious values were consumed and destroyed by the hatred of others while they cried, "But that's not what I meant!"

Human beings have psychological realities. We can ignore them when we devise and adopt our philosophies. Reality will not ignore them.

Every one of the principles you identified as to be hated, like "turn the other cheek," works differently in the different contexts. As a military strategy, it is an outright evil principle. As a short-term tactic (when it is not life-threatening) to expose the naked evil of an attacker to a group of people, it is a very powerful tool. It can even induce guilt in him.

In short, there is no way to draw up a hard-and-fast universal rule so you can hate something without thinking anymore about it. You always have to think about what is in front of you if you want to be rational. One who falls into the trap of hating too much loses his rationality over time.

I have one last comment on destroying vermin. One does not need to hate vermin to destroy them. One only needs to recognize the threat. I suspect that the most effective people at destroying vermin are the ones who do not hate them. Their minds are free to be competent and they perform the task efficiently to preserve what they love. For instance, a simple child with a can of bug spray more interested in watching a TV program than killing is far more deadly to bugs than a person ranting and railing against being stung.

I think your essay needs a huge dose of contextual considerations to become universal, but I see the possibility. Black and white do exist and this needs stressing. It is sometimes refreshing to read an author point to things and remind people of good and evil in very clear and sonorous terms. However, black and white are not the only colors that exist. There are not only grays, there is the whole spectrum of colors. And that's what makes life interesting.

Michael

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Hatred is an emotional reaction. . . .

. . .

What can be a virtue is the recognition that one should not feel guilty for hating if the object of our hatred is objectively warranted and our hatred does not consume the good in our lives. But this entails both classification and measurement, and especially a hard objective look at the condemned object from several angles. The real virtue in that case is rationality and the goal is profound self-esteem. Hatred is merely one small part of that.

This entire "third context" discussion is really good, Michael. I've often thought of hatred as being a very clean and natural response, akin to vomiting up something unhealthy.

Judith

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I found almost every comment in this discussion thread interesting and illuminating. But unfortunately they seem to require substantial thought and then 500 or 1000 words to decently reply, and I simply won't have the time for 3 or 4 days. My original essay was a little like a really big and strong fullback fearlessly charging straight up the middle. But I know there's a lot more to the field of play -- especially what Michael alluded to.

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Frankly, I did not want this article to go up on OL as it was written, and certainly not on the front page...but it was something worth discussing so we put it in chewing. I really find it disturbing that people actually see the world in this way. To be so consumed with hatred is not healthy and I was personally offended with the jabs at Ayn Rand and saying Objectivism is a cult. It isn't. I'm glad Barbara, Michael and others took the time to reflect and write their comments on this. Michael expresses my thinking very well. That's one of the reasons I love him. Thanks for that awesome post.

Kat

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  • 4 weeks later...

The original article dealt primarily with my understanding of good vs. evil as a social phenomenon. For those interested in this issue as a personal phenomenon -- as an aspect of personal ethics -- they can go here. It should be obvious to all Objectivists that personal morality (how you deal with yourself) is more important than social morality (how you deal with others). Indeed, personal morality is the foundation of social morality.

(Note from MSK: I corrected your link.)

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I, for one, have alwys assumed that hatred is necessary for the same reason love is. When someone's values match your own, you love them. When someone's values oppose your own, you hate them (of course this should be adjusted to number and extent). It just so happens that society doesn't disagree with us on some points. There are non-objectivists who value intelligence and the human mind. There are very few people out there who hold values opposed to mine enough to truly hate them.

However, when you love someone's values, you don't just love their ideas and the actions that sprout from them, you love them. When you hate someone's values you don't just hate their ideas or their actions, you hate them. Who people are is defined by those parts of them.

Even as I write this I am contemplating how this would be applied. Is hating someone giving them more control than they are worthy of? Is the inverse of love either hate or indifference depending on your frame of reference? If the inverse is hate then what actions are necessary? I would think that it would be to fight against them using the mind, not physically, unless you were in iminent danger. I'll think more on this one.

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I, for one, have alwys assumed that hatred is necessary for the same reason love is. When someone's values match your own, you love them. When someone's values oppose your own, you hate them (of course this should be adjusted to number and extent). It just so happens that society doesn't disagree with us on some points. There are non-objectivists who value intelligence and the human mind. There are very few people out there who hold values opposed to mine enough to truly hate them.

However, when you love someone's values, you don't just love their ideas and the actions that sprout from them, you love them. When you hate someone's values you don't just hate their ideas or their actions, you hate them. Who people are is defined by those parts of them.

Even as I write this I am contemplating how this would be applied. Is hating someone giving them more control than they are worthy of? Is the inverse of love either hate or indifference depending on your frame of reference? If the inverse is hate then what actions are necessary? I would think that it would be to fight against them using the mind, not physically, unless you were in iminent danger. I'll think more on this one.

That is a completely illogical standpoint for you to take on this subject. Perspective's differ, and using your different values as reason for illogical hatred, you have made a mistake.

More later when I have time.

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I, for one, have alwys assumed that hatred is necessary for the same reason love is. When someone's values match your own, you love them. When someone's values oppose your own, you hate them...

Everyone assumes love is a universal good and hatred is a universal evil. They also assume hatred constitutes a personal failure and is a personal destroyer. Hatred "eats you up" supposedly. You're weak and defeated when you can't "rise above" this allegedly illegitimate emotion.

All wrong, in my judgment.

But even most Objectivists, as far as I can tell, fall for the religion-based, altruism-based rubbish above. Then they repress these "negative" emotions. Then the emotions control and warp them, but from a secret place. Now this is an example of being "eaten up" and having a personal failure/destoyer.

However, when you love someone's values, you don't just love their ideas and the actions that sprout from them, you love them. When you hate someone's values you don't just hate their ideas or their actions, you hate them...

Bingo!

Even as I write this I am contemplating how this would be applied. Is hating someone giving them more control than they are worthy of? Is the inverse of love either hate or indifference depending on your frame of reference? If the inverse is hate then what actions are necessary? I would think that it would be to fight against them using the mind, not physically, unless you were in iminent danger. I'll think more on this one.

This subject is well worth thinking about, in my view. Off the top of my head, I would say sometimes hatred is the best response to evil and sometimes indifference is. There's only a limited amount of pleasure in attacking and defeating social evil. But there is some. And it's very sweet, in my view. It's also a pleasure for which there is absolutely no equivalent or substitute. Your life is significantly impoverished without this feeling and these experiences.

James Bond, Jack Bawer, and superhero comic books don't cut it. You have to know this victory from real life. It's not as if today's world lacks for enemies and evil-doers that really need to be hurt.

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Hatred "eats you up" supposedly. You're weak and defeated when you can't "rise above" this allegedly illegitimate emotion.

All wrong, in my judgment.

But even most Objectivists, as far as I can tell, fall for the religion-based, altruism-based rubbish above. Then they repress these "negative" emotions. Then the emotions control and warp them, but from a secret place. Now this is an example of being "eaten up" and having a personal failure/destoyer.

Kyrel,

I am astounded you can read a post on this very same thread and attribute it to altruism (if I understand yourr sweeping statement correctly). I am also astounded that you do not think that experiencing an emotion is the polar opposite of repressing it, but instead think that taking delight in the emotion is the opposite.

I stand by the entire post below (and all one has to do is click on the arrow to read it), but I particularly don't see how your comments bear on the part I quoted:

The third context is the philosophy/psychology issue. Philosophy rates values according to good and evil while psychology rates them according to healthy and unhealthy. If any moral good leads to an unhealthy psychology, then it cannot be a moral good by definition. And here is the danger in holding hatred up as a virtue.

Hatred is an emotional reaction. It is not sought. It is triggered automatically by something perceived. It is the psychological equivalent of pain. In survival terms, it is a biological signal to warn you of something threatening. Pain is good in that sense—it calls attention to something that needs attention urgently. If there were no pain, survival would be cut very short. So in that sense, as a signal, hatred also is a good thing.

But a person does not seek pain as a form of happiness and neither should he seek hatred or even try to tie it to happiness. This is similar, but not identical, to defecation. However, it is similar enough to apply in one respect. One needs to defecate, but one does not hold feces up as something to be pursued as a goal in life or the act of passing it as something to be shared with others. It is merely a regular act that is required so we can continue our pursuits. I suppose a momentary rejoicing is in order when it is particularly difficult, but essentially, this is the clean-up part of survival, not the part we strive to attain. There is nothing glorious in taking a crap, even when it is particularly successful. We strive, I suppose, but this is merely to try to attain proper regular functioning, not to attain any specific experience like composing a symphony or building a skyscraper is. If our bowels are in working order, we attend to them when needed and then forget about them.

Hatred and contempt are like that. Notice that people who emphasize that part of their emotional make-up end up secreting the wrong hormones (or secreting a wrong hormonal balance) and triggering unhealthy biochemical reactions. When they do this over long periods of time there is a heavy price to pay. They turn bitter and depressed. Or they turn fanatical and sabotage their rational judgment. Both of these are unhealthy and survival threatening, so hatred cannot be a wholesale good in moral terms. The biological price alone paid for wallowing in hatred and contempt, even when targeted at objectively correct people and things, is the reason that hatred can never be a virtue. Hatred is merely a biological value as a warning signal. Nothing more. It is only good and healthy in a highly limited context, like defecation.

What can be a virtue is the recognition that one should not feel guilty for hating if the object of our hatred is objectively warranted and our hatred does not consume the good in our lives. But this entails both classification and measurement, and especially a hard objective look at the condemned object from several angles. The real virtue in that case is rationality and the goal is profound self-esteem. Hatred is merely one small part of that.

I suppose relief from pain could be considered "very sweet" and as having "absolutely no equivalent or substitute." I do not see how my life would be "significantly impoverished without this feeling" when taken to extreme levels. I certainly don't think a person needs to feel guilty for feeling hatred and the pleasure of relief when facing raw evil and its destruction (like I have felt with that recent college student killer in Virginia). But that is not what you are talking about here. You are talking about seeking a value.

The simple fact is that one must seek pain in order to seek the feeling of relief. Do I really need to state that seeking pain is not healthy and, anyway, it is a piss-poor value? One must seek hatred in order to seek the pleasure you speak of.

But A is A and man's nature is man's nature. There is no need to seek hatred. It comes to all of us as part of who we are. Just like pain does. Where is that realization based on altruism or repression?

I would paraphrase your words with a different focus:

"Observing and consuming the achievements of others doesn't cut it. You have to know the victory of productive achievement from real life. And it's very sweet. It's also a pleasure for which there is absolutely no equivalent or substitute. Your life is significantly impoverished without this feeling and these experiences."

Now that is something worth living for. Something worth seeking. Not hatred of evil.

Michael

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Earlier today on National Public Radio and the Leonard Lopate Show, Christofer Hitchens said: "I hate my enemies, and think the enemies of civilization should be killled."

Clear, correct, honest, healthy, rational words from a dynamic, heroic, "new liberal" thinker.

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