“Rugged Individualism”

Submitted By: Mike Spindell. Guest Blogger

Fess_parker_crockett_disney_televisionMythology can be seen as the social glue of diverse groups. It is the accumulation of tales, beliefs, moral strictures and mores that gives a specific population a sense of homogeneity, allowing it to exist with synergy. This is true of nations, ethnic groups, religions and even political movements. One of the defining conditions in our nation is that we are one of the most diverse on this planet when it comes to religions and ethnicities. All of our original thirteen states came into existence via individual peculiarities of settlers, religious sects, slavery, climate and the spoils system of colonialism. About a third of the citizens of those thirteen colonies, of the nascent United States, chafed under foreign domination and engendered a rebellion against the British Empire’s exploitation. Among that fractional populace, there fortunately resided a group of the colonies wealthiest citizens and greatest minds. The rebellion succeeded and a decade later a government emerged created by the novelty of a Constitution delineating how it was to be run.

As improbable as the rebellion against the world’s greatest power might have seemed, the ongoing success of this enterprise is even more of an improbability. From the beginning most citizens saw themselves as attached more to their individual states, than to the Federal Government. The subsequent history of this country is well-known, but what I think often gets missed is that the history as we know it is mostly a creation of an American mythology, which has given consistency to this diverse enterprise and served to inculcate waves of immigrants into seeing themselves as part of America. While a nation’s mythology may serve it as “social glue” it can also contain within it seeds of social dysfunction. What follows is my take on the American Myth of the “Rugged Individualist” and why though it may have had initial utilitarian value; it has become cancerous within our country and may lead to the disintegration of America as we know it.

The initial inspiration for this piece came from this source: http://www.nationofchange.org/right-s-sham-religion-rugged-individualism-1355328952  and it is an article well worth reading. Robert Becker’s OpEd in The Nation of Change “The Right’s Sham Religion of Rugged Individualism” presents an excellent short essay. Rather than sprinkle this essay with quotations I urge you to read it, while I spin off in a less political direction. The study of Mythology in the tradition of Joseph Campbell, Robert Graves, Sir James George Frazer and Richard Slotkin has been a lifelong avocation of mine. Using Mr. Becker’s article as a kind of muse, I will look at “rugged individualism” from my synthesis of the ideas I’ve absorbed through the years. I first touched on this theme on 7/22/11 in this guest blog: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/07/23/the-american-quest-for-empire/#more-37487   and it is an insight that influences much of the way I view America’s current situation.

Rugged Individualism definition:

The belief that all individuals, or nearly all individuals, can succeed on their own and that government help for people should be minimal. The phrase is often associated with policies of the Republican party and was widely used by the Republican president Herbert Hoover. The phrase was later used in scorn by the Democratic presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman to refer to the disasters of Hoover’s administration, during which the stock market Crash of 1929 occurred and the Great Depression began.” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rugged+individualism

While it is true that Herbert Hoover is given credit for the coinage and usage of the words “rugged individualism”, in my view the concept and connotation of these words goes further back into American history as a mythological theme. With the advent of the “Social Darwinist” philosophical movement, that “pseudo-science” lent credence to the concept and helped blend it into the common wisdom of the country.

One way to view history is from a conspiratorial perspective. While I do think there have been many conspiracy’s that have indeed influenced the course of human events, I think that to view them as the result of evil cabals plotting their execution is to be naive as to the way we humans act and think. It is certainly true that the NAZI’s in Germany and the Communists in the USSR, conspired to gain power and then used propaganda to create national mythologies that were ultimately destructive in nature. Similarly, FDR’s Administration used ideology, and mythology to create propaganda to defend against these foreign forces. My thinking is that propaganda and its creator’s, no matter how cynical, ultimately starts out with a set of mythological beliefs, sincerely understood to be ultimate truths by the propagandists. Julius Streicher and then Joseph Goebbels of the NAZI Party really believed that Jews were an evil plague upon humanity and then created propaganda to convince others of its truth. The unexamined acceptance of mythology, common wisdom if you will, is perhaps a person’s greatest handicap in trying to understand the world they live in.

Central to American mythology is the idea of the “rugged individualist” as the driving force behind our country’s success. This myth holds that all of American progress came through the exertions of extraordinary men, going their own way, charting their own courses and bringing the rest of the populace along with them as followers of their iconoclastic natures. We have the legends of Daniel Boone, “Johnny Appleseed” and Paul Bunyan to represent how individualists helped spread the White Man in his quest to claim all of our “manifest destiny”. Like most mythology the process of the accretion of heroic stature onto real people came from a need to find “men” the populace could emulate and follow. This need came from the loose alliance of business and political interests seeking to make this country into a world power and seeking to exploit the bounty of its natural resources as they each pursued their selfish interests.

In the Revolutionary War we saw the creation of heroic myths used to rally people to the cause and then glorify the revolution to a population that did not overwhelmingly support it. Once the battle had been won a national mythology was needed to make this collection of localities and populations coherent. Think of Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys in upper New England.  Remember Nathan Hale’s speech on the gallows; Sam Adams radically rousing the people of Boston; Paul Reveres’ Ride; “The Shot Heard Round the World”; and of course the Boston Tea Party. These people and instances, along with the individual mythology surrounding the wisdom of our “Founding Father’s”, were used as a common mythology to take a collection of diverse localities and meld them into a national whole. That there was much truth to the fact of the extraordinary talents of some of these individuals does not diminish their mythological aspect, merely it enhances it.

To briefly bring us forward in time we see the mythology of the “rugged individualist” as the driving force of the American success story throughout our subsequent history. Behind that of course, is the belief in “great men” doing “heroic deeds” as being those who impel history, leading along the rest of us who lack their stature. We see this mythmaking in the “Taming of The West”; in the Civil War; in our “Industrial Revolution”, in fact this theme of individual greatness runs through the entire history of this country and to illustrate it let me just list a bunch of names and allow you to conjure the images these names produce:

Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, George Armstrong Custer, John Jacob Astor, Eli Whitney, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Thomas Alva Edison, Henry Ford, Teddy Roosevelt, William Randolph Hearst, FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower, JFK, MLK, RFK, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

I’m sure as you read these names all of them are familiar to you, but beyond that familiarity there comes to your mind a back-story that is full of detail. Though all of these were real people, they have already passed into American Mythology because of the mental associations you have with them and the partially mythologized detail of their particular life stories. I specifically chose those names because all of them can be associated with “rugged individualism”, American History, American Progress and the belief that great “Men” impel progress. The “Great Man” theme is certainly not unique to our country; it is in fact a common thread throughout humanity. Where America has taken this theme though, in the minds of many powerful political and economic forces in this country, is into the sense of “rugged individualism” representing the backbone of the “great men” who drive our history and create the mythology of “American Exceptionalism”.

If you accept “rugged individualism”, as exemplified by “Great Men”, as the driving force of progress and growth of our society, then logically it is to the needs of these “great men” that we must all cater. We see the truth of this today in the popularity of the works of Ayn Rand and the pervasive influence of libertarian philosophy. Viewing issues from this perspective leads one to the conclusion that any attempt by the government (or society) to restrain the individual rights of any person, or corporate entity, creates stifling counter-productive effects on our country. If we are all merely individuals ultimately responsible to ourselves, then we must be the sole guardians of our personal interests, without any mediation from the “nanny state”.

In this past election there was a recurring theme of much Republican and Libertarian argument that is the outgrowth of the “rugged individualism” mythology. The counterpoint between the people who “produced” for our economy and the 47% of those who merely took from it was put forth repeatedly. The idea of the entrepreneur as the modern “rugged individualist” hero creating wealth for all of us, was so common as to be a “given” in much political debate. Even the ultimate representative of collectivist bureaucracy, the Corporation, was seen from a “rugged individualist’s” perspective; since they were run by “entrepreneurial hero” CEO’s, who with their strength of leadership and wisdom provided for their workers.

I believe that the idea of the “rugged individual”, seen through the lens of American History, is not only dangerous but utterly false. I assert that it is contrary to the history of humanity from pre-historic ages unremembered. Humans are by nature “social” animals and humanity’s ascension to dominance on this planet is the result of building societies of ever greater complexity. Yes, to be sure, the actions of great individuals have spurred progress and change for better or worse, but all change occurs limned by the social structure where it occurs. We have had “great people”, geniuses perhaps, moving us forward via innovation due to their thinking outside the box. Yet this genius was nurtured in a particular social context that allowed it to grow. Michelangelo was a genius in his time, but his time included Leonardo Da Vinci and was after all “The Renaissance”. Sir Isaac Newton was a singular genius, but then too Gottfried Liebnitz was his contemporary and their time was the beginning of the “Enlightenment”. Thomas Edison was a genius electrical inventor, but his contemporary of no mean skills and accomplishments was Nikola Tesla and their time was the height of the “Industrial Revolution”.

Despite common belief to the contrary, Henry Ford invented neither the automobile, nor the “assembly line”, but he certainly helped to perfect both, again in the context of an ongoing “Industrial/Technological” Revolution. I celebrate the “individual” who has the ability to think counter to the myths they are born with and who strives to introduce new ways of looking at the world. For better, or ill, I’ve tried to act that way in my own life, so I certainly am no justifier of collective thought and action. Yet no matter how much I would like to believe that I am not the product of my heredity, my social milieu and the country of my birth, I must accept that all of those elements and many more shaped me.

The specious philosophy of “rugged individualism” has caused much ill to this country. It has lent itself to the companion myth of “American Exceptionalism”, because the thinking goes that with our “ruggedly individualistic” natures this country has been raised above all others and it is our destiny to enforce our hegemony. This myth has actually allowed us to create a mythology similar to the mythologies created in countries with overwhelming ethnic homogeneity, like Hitler’s Aryan purity premise in Germany, French “cultural superiority” and/or the Serbs vs. the Croats and vice versa.

We humans do have a need for mythology as a means of establishing societal connectivity. At the same time though, when we allow ourselves to become blinded by the myths we live by, we lose the ability to see our world clearly enough to make logical decisions on the issues that we face. To me the scariest thing about politics in the world today is that our discussions and our debates are muddied by mythological premises to such an extent that we can’t hear other points of view, or allow ourselves to consider them. While this has been generally true throughout human history, our species has never had the power before to destroy everything and everyone. Because of that destructive ability it is imperative that we look beyond our myths to see our present world as it really is. We are on the brink of so many disasters like climate change, over-population and water shortage, that we must seek means of dealing with them. Yet due to the inhalation of various counter productive mythologies we merely talk at each other, allowing events to overwhelm us, as we remain in a state of inaction.

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

131 thoughts on ““Rugged Individualism””

  1. Mike S,

    After “Unfortunately” wasn’t directed at you. Dredd spilled over. I should have gone new paragraph and “to all nimrods”. I’m really shocked by how many think “Nietzsche had syphilis, or desires on his sister”, “Rand was” whatever, or “Darwin was a racist’, or even Margaret Sanger was “a Eugenicist”, is an argument against their arguments. You argue against or for their arguments by point.

  2. Hi, Dredd,

    Actually, I think I was writing about that “proper individualist”. Maybe you missed it, rugged in taking chances but cooperative in achieving a goal. As for your scholar with “I quoted the scholar who specializes in her history, who has decades of experience and access to all of her notes, drafts, and writings.” I take only from her four books: Anthem, We the Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. If your scholar doesn’t understand that Roark was trying to design something special and meaningful for the Poor, something to make their lives better, while holding others to contract and his self to his own creativity, your scholar missed the whole damn point (I thought I’d say more than the dismissive and lazy-as-intellect “appeal to authority”). I said I think she went off the rails, and like in Super 8 it can be so long in happening. You by vehemence have more idolatry of her than I. I just think she made some good points that should be noticed, acknowledged, even incorporated. Answer this: if you have no right to your life, with all it entails, who does? And if they do, who are you?

    Hi Mike S., “And if you are a strong believer in individual rights then you would also belive in the individual rights of others. Individual rights are hard to secure without the force government can bring to bear on those who violate other’s rights.”

    Taking this from Bron, and going by your retort, yeah it’s why we have government. We have all sorts of ideals, like not lying or stealing, but too many go for the moment. Rand was making a point by hyperbole, though given her later life, I may just be being kind. Unfortunately, I have some of the old time pesky liberal thought in my head; I have to take the message separate from the messenger. As far I know, Kant liked small boys, and, G*d, what did Sarte like? Before the literalist lawyers go off (can’t wrap your head around Swiftian satire can you?), I don’t care the messenger but the message, or more to their understanding, I don’t care the arguer but the argument. If you don’t care, and think messenger or arguer is definitive of the message or argument, the Palestinian cause is shot to sh*t. The Storm endorses and argues for their cause. Done deal. Has to be wrong.

  3. Dredd,

    If I had read further, then I would have seen your recall of the post from another thread as being phony. Which it was. A test of blabla thread.
    What horsemanure you put out.
    You were baiting me, and trying to show how dumb I am.. How you could motivate the latter by using at best two sentences quoted from me, escapes me.

    Well, thanks for rattling my chain. It, in lack of seeing your phony recall, which was probably meant to irritate MikeS, gave me an opportunity to respond again to your pet hobby horses. You are a brilliant man, maybe.
    But you play dirty pool. And get off your amygdala trip, as at least I tire of it being used as a trump over the rest of the brain. Important? Damn right.
    But no more than the rest. IMHO 🙂

    I don’t mind being made an ass. I do it all the time without assistance.

    But you now give me reason to wonder if you are like so many others enamored in your own ideas which you see as a part of YOU.

    And I can also take it as showing how illy you tolerate being disputed by others. I have seen this in reviewing your above commentary dialogue with ones with opposing ideas.

    Your brilliance is only exceeded by your attachment to yourself.
    And I said that, without rancor. Only an observation, not a snark.

    Good luck with yours, to borrow a phrase.

    Written after reading one of your worse, as yet, salvos. There might be a later coming mea culpa, but doubt it.

    But welcome with tales of derringdo as I enjoy a good myth when served well down.

    A shame that ended relationship ended like that. Just my paranoia perhaps.
    But I love it too. An evolutionary trait from pre-human stock.
    But perhaps that is one of the consequences of idolizing someone.

    You gotta love yourself, otherwise you can’t live with your bad self. Dubja comes to mind and most definitely his Poppy. Read the Russ Baker book.

    I can also be allowed my rants too. And Baker and the Bushes is one.
    A perfect exemplification of how we got screwed, and will be screwed until we find a cure for this nation, US-eh!

  4. Dredd,

    First an insult between friends. Are you perceiving things through your own filter? Borrowed from another here. 🙂

    I say that because I see:
    !) No animosity anywhere by Jack. Only an attempt to explain as he sees it , the separation between biological evolution and the creation by chemical powers and coincidence the first what would be called a biological lifeform.

    2) I frankly don’t believe that evolution is the proper word for what you say abiotic life did. Evolution in my admittedly limited studies, mean a process of random mutation in cellular DNA. Which creates many mistakes which are lethal, but some which are positive in the sense of “fitness”.

    You mentioned beetles as a good example of non-intelligent life being favored over intelligent. I laughed because the beetle is perfectly adapted and that is due to the selective process of evolution.
    But survival is not enhanced for a one environment/one nutritional source being. They can (usually) not adapt and are, as you pointed out, usuallly extinct after 100,000 years.

    I am not quibbling over choice of words, but saying that the creation of life depended on the process which produced carbon as an element, is not sound IMHO.

    Then we are back again to the discussion as to why the universe is parametrized by such favorable values. From such speculations arise creationism by an extra-universal power. And I don’t think you belong to that clan. I can mention the peculiar value of gravity in relation to other forces; the maximum net energy released by nuclear fusion of hydrogen is ca 0.007, if larger the suns would have exploded and not been stable in their short lifetimes, if less then the sun would have collapsed in stages but never “ignited” , thus ending only as a black hole.

    I could go on but why we are discussing this here on the Rugged etc thread is confusing. Any special reason? “Evil thoughts lie in the hearts of men…etc.” A really mixed up analogy. Only in the US of eh.

    Back to yóu.

  5. PS A thought for consideration.

    I wonder if the womens toilets at the Kyoto hotel were equipped with an extra button which would provide a stream pointed at the clitoral area?

    No wonder that there always was a long line of ladies waiting to get in there.

    And don’t say I am crude, only a tabu breaker, as long as they are not mine.

    One lady friend told me how she found out that her daughter had bought an battery driven dildo. After asking mom for batteries, she later returned the borrowed suitcase with discarded packaging left in it identifying the need for batteries.

    I did not ask her if her son has asked for batteries. Might have been shocked, even tho the voltage is so low.

    Sorry for the OTOTOT.

  6. I’ve lots of comments left to read, but a comment beside jokes would be welcome. At least it would assist me in staying awake.

    One well-spoken person wrote his summary which I loan as a starting point: “if you are an individualist, then you must recognize the rights of other individuals.” And if you think that means you as an individualist are qualified to enter the arena.to fight for you life and fortune then headsup.

    Remember two things only:
    ******You did not create the arena you are playing in. (Sorry NickS 🙂 ) So you are not an individualist, you are playing at someone elses place. You did not build it. And that has been my firm conviction since ca 14 years of age. My rights but not at the cost of the rights of others.
    ******You can always lose, because there is someone else who does not play by the rules. Only street rules like robbers, only in silk suits and playing the fraud game on WS.

    If you really believe in individualism, then stop sucking on the teat of the community which gives you its services, and a chance to improve your life through its assistance.

    Go get a hut on some strand of the Amazon and live like the Indians there do. No short wave radio for asking for a rescue, no chest of emergency medicines, no anti-venom shots. In short be that individualist that you so hotly desire.

    Betcha won’t.

  7. pete9999,

    I was at a conference in Kyoto in 94 or something. The hotel provided the following facilities for conference members, ie those without rooms there:
    toilets (we call them here!) were designed so as to wash your anus with a stream of lukewarm water. The drying was by hot air. No paper, no germs, no idea why we don’t have them.

    Of course, those with special problems were SOOL.

  8. S Supak,
    Re MikeS response on HST comparing him to a Zen master.
    Unfortunately, HST did not awaken many of us. The power of words?
    Depends on where you preach from, your social status, and the power of your money. He had a little, but not enough.

    Now if he had been sent out by the NYTimes, the results might not have been as worthy, but he despised those “slaves”.

  9. S Supak,

    HST, ahhh, the man. Have you read his Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. (of 1972)??? Someone here tipped me.
    Will take a look at your tip.

  10. Late arrival due to health issues. Much to read and absorb.


    You sit on your Olympian mountain, sharing the view and the comforts(?) of truth with the others in your village, the American village.

    America is composed, like you emphasize, of essentially mythologically dependent people, as is the rest of the world. Is it our myths that conflict??? They do domestically and probably inter-culturally.

    I can add no more.

    1. “America is composed, like you emphasize, of essentially mythologically dependent people, as is the rest of the world.”


      Humanity is driven by mythology for good, or for ill. Any person trying to interact with the world rationally needs to look beyond it.

  11. General Notice to all bloggers.

    Someone using aol.com as email, sent a message to my address fallingpetals@hushmail.com. It has been received and replied to.

    However my email server above advises that it and the other system are not working together. “It is not talking to me” was what it actually said other than the usual tech blable. So that means that my reply has not been delivered. Don’t give up hope. Sometime these spats between systems resolve themselves peacefully.

    It will keep trying for 4 more hours, and then we will see if I need to send ti to another address if provided by the sender.

    Thanks all for your attention.

  12. BarkingDog,

    Joseph Kennedy was certainly a bootlegger in the 20s, but the proof only came sometime in the last 15 years by ledger from a Canadian whiskey manufacturer. Prior, it was only hear-say and conjecture, except to my grand-parents and great-grandparents. Still, they had no proof.

    Kennedy fought Coughlin, an anti-communist, anti-Semitic, anti–Federal Reserve and isolationist, from at latest 1936. So he was a Nazi sympathizer fighting an anti-Jew (I’ll give weight to anti-communist, but isolationist? The last thing Nazis wanted in the late thirties was a non-isolationist US). In the 10s, 20s, even the 30s (take into account lag time) when Nazism wasn’t seen as something substantially different from Fascism, and Communism as Marxist-Leninism wasn’t seen as so substantially different than the Socialism of 1890s Britain or Europe, all number of intellectuals or thinkers embraced either; you had this interplay of discussion of ideas that allowed acceptance of Fascism, Nazism or Communism until it became apparent what they actually led to: authoritarian repression; wholesale war and genocide; and genocide, repression, oppression, and incoherence where ideals were turned up-side down (Stalin’s 1936 Constitution is a wonderful document on freedom, never practiced). Susan Sonntag gave great perspective: “Communism is Fascism with a Human Face”. The sarcasm is evident as Fascism was the boot on that face. She likely meant Nazism, leftists do tend to confuse and conflate the two, but still…

  13. Gene H.,

    “He just had to be malleable. He had Cheney to be the puppet master. Where the weak minded (sic) play, the predators will follow.” The weak-minded also think what they believe is proof because they believe it. Prove that Cheney pulled the strings, by objective fact. Point by point.

    Lincoln was thought to be Seward’s puppet, as well a puppet of others. If I could find the right string, I know google would give you a whole list of Presidents who were thought puppets to some hated individual that was either VP or Cabinet member. It’s a tired meme.

    Now I know by weak-minded you meant easily swayed, you couldn’t have meant low IQ as JFK had the lowest estimated IQ at 118 and Carter the highest measured at 176, with most falling in the high mid 20s to high 30s.

    So, here’s a great quote for you on weighing personal assets that you don’t measure (if you want the link, I don’t help the lazy):
    “Presidents with high SQ (social skills), Ambition, and Integrity (but only above average IQ): Washington, Reagan, Ford, Kennedy (117 or 119), G Bush, GW Bush (126).
    Presidents with high SQ, IQ, and Integrity (but only above average Ambition): Truman, Eisenhower
    Presidents with high SQ, IQ, and Ambition (but only above average Integrity): Clinton, Johnson
    Presidents with high IQ, Ambition, and Integrity (but only above average SQ): Carter, both Adams’

    Failure with less than 3 qualities: Nixon had high IQ (143) and Ambition but flawed Integrity and SQ.” And damn he was elected twice. What were you thinking? (Fall for the you, remember English usage.)

    You see it just falls into your own cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. I can’t see any President as a puppet, they might listen too much or too little to others, but a puppet?. A vacuous, talking head you listen to on nightly news likely, but a President no. If only because the position would go to his head…and the weak-minded would think it meant more than it does.

    However, pulling from the Lovenstein Hoax, such a great quote: “The smartest president didn’t know enough to keep his pants zipped and the dumbest one thinks he can run a war.” The problem of course is which presidential zipper and which dumb president. FDR was called an “amiable dunce’ by his family; Woodrow Wilson thought he was the smartest president to run a war by shutting down any dissent; with, lastly, how many Presidential zippers does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, the zippers didn’t screw in a light bulb, the Presidents screwed in the the White House.

    Is it true that JFK had a dispenser to meet “take a number” like the Post Office?

  14. Malisha,

    “How could you forget the “grandma-killing panels”? Actually, in the USA it was “death panels”. Which is what the Netherlands, Belgium, and a few other European countries are doing when looking at allocation of health benefits. In their case, it is swung towards the young not the elderly.

    Why should you at 65 get a new hip, kidney, or liver, when someone at 45 needs it more, if only because they’ll live longer? These are the decisions being made now in Europe, and they aren’t being made in favor of those over 60-65. Who would you give a kidney to, your 65 year-old grandmother? What a waste.

    With longevity increasing, and resources static or growing slowly, where do you think the decisions will go?

    Enjoy your old age. “Logan’s Run” isn’t that far-fetched when allocation of resources with most benefit for society is the rule. If your past 67, what the hell good are you anyway? Or 30 for that matter…

  15. Dredd,

    As for Rand, I take her by her books and not her cult afterwards, which really went south from her books. I also take Plato as a technocratic totalitarian (benign philosopher kings with “experts” as advisors, oh please). I take British empiricists during the Enlightenment as the best for government, and French existentialism as the most entertaining for life. I live but I don’t exist; you should know my life, or would it be my existence?

    There is no philosopher, or school of philosophy, that hasn’t hit a dead end. It doesn’t mean we ignore all they wrote, or that all they wrote is to be ignored. What, you want to go with Political Scientists? They use logic, words, even color, so poorly.

  16. Dredd, oh my poor Dredd, how I feel for you. If I could just drag you from that hell pit so deprived of light leaving a darkness you suffer so that Angels weep and Demons rejoice, then I would be assured of life eternal for my altruism alone because no egoism could be called to speak for me.Trust me by my assurance of all my worth and humanity that yours is just a nightmare from which you only have to open your eyes. I will, I so promise with all that is right and where all humanity in its utmost depth has meaning, hold you tight to quell your fear in that moment when you cry out in pain, even horror, from the abyss you dwell, and realize you’re a schmuck.

    “Palin’s notion of individualism is encapsulated in her “all rogue and mavericky” imaginings and myths, which is the essence of Rand’s meanderings too. Like Ariel’s.”

    Only if you’re delusional given that Palin came out of your head (when did I even allude to Palin? What should I do if you brought up Cotton Mather, or John Brown, Quisling, or any one else you could bring out of that dark pit of hell you think is thinking), should I be left with that you think “assume” gives less blame to you but more the one of which you make assumptions? It’s actually only “ass” applies in assume, it doesn’t tar “me”. Maverick isn’t that a bad a term, if only because the closest antonym in the animal kingdom is “sheep”. Do you prefer sheep?

    I do thank you for the use of “myths”, it only shows you have no understanding on the deeper meaning of myths; Joseph Campbell would shake your world, chastise your ignorance, and just shake his head.

    “The reference to “I think historians” is advanced as authoritative because I suppose in Ariel’s mind, like Rand’s mind, “I think” is dispositive of any issue.” Arguing the word dispositive (as I don’t think it means what you think it does, and I’m not an Oxford snob), “I think” with “I am” is Descartesian ( or Cartesian if you prefer) with regard to consciousness, and has as much to do with your quote of me as binding Chinese female feet.

    I wrote “I think historians” in context of “You know, really there’s a term for what you did. I call it anachronist (you give what he did in 12/27 while prior quoting Rand in ’28, but no month for her and no indication of when Hickman was actually believed to have done what he did). I think historians have a better term, but I can only remember it as by my own filter: “stupid BS””. I see this too often, this inability to put things in context by what was known at that time. Bernie Madoff was great until he wasn’t. Is this basic way of putting history into a meaningful matrix so hard?

    Kimmel and Short paid by you method of thinking. A cost neither deserved. I’m sure you can find a way of blaming them, by evidence years later.

  17. Mike S.,

    I had a good friend that was a wobblie; he called me a romantic rightist, as well knob, and I called him a less than rational idealogue (I warned him if he moved up he’d lose his standing as a wobblie, he did an thus goes ideological purity because it isn’t how you think it’s what you think; I prefer how not what). I agreed with him that workers should own the means of production, but that they should buy them not confiscate them. He actually agreed in terms of the system as it is. He recognized creativity and putting one’s life into it, and we both agreed that capitalism today isn’t that.

    “As I’ve stated before I abjure all “Ism’s” and think they are but foolish mythologies to intellectually give credence to the ministrations of people’s ego’s. Do my sympathies lie with the problems that the Left identifies such as poverty, unneeded wars and class warfare by the corporate elite, in a sense yes. ” On “isms” so do I, and see it as the foundation of political correctness, as well groupist blindness.

    Poverty? I’m going to change that word, and please note I did that to change direction on your argument, to “poor”. We’ll always have the poor as it’s a subjective term, so you can never make “poor” a thing of the past. The poor have less. “Poverty” is less and subjective but can be defined easily as one or more or these: without shelter, without clothes, and without food (I’ll give food as meaning meeting nutritional needs, especially growing children). The poor in this nation don’t meet this. If you want to go “people sleeping on grates”, we go into civil liberties by way of the ACLU and Reagan. The Right identifies and acknowledges poverty and the poor, but just has a different solution (while giving a whole lot more money to private charity than the Left, but that’s just voluntary versus coerced). If you hate to fish I can understand why the Left’s solution is better as you never have to learn to fish. I am for a social net; defining what that means is always the issue.

    “My distrust comes from the fact that it seems there must be elements of sociopathic/psychopathic behavior to want to be a political leader in the first place. Egotism and hubris also fit in when psychological disorders leave off.”

    Oh, that just makes us twin sons born of different mothers. My son (hey a segue) is in an Honors program at his University (the poor kid has to write a thesis to get his Baccalaureate), which includes Peace Studies. One thing I have gotten through to him is that it only takes one sociopath to destroy all that the idealists, and I’m one, envision for peace. Only one. No more, though one is just too idealistic.

    “However, I mistrust the leaders of the Left almost as much as I distrust leaders on the Right and think even those formulations of the political spectrum are mere chimera’s for the real issues of humans.” And I distrust the leaders of the Left more than the Right, and think the same way as you do for both but that the Left, at this juncture, is more dangerous than the Right. Part of that is that I think the Right believes we are constrained by that old, hoary document, and the Left by whatever judicial theory comes latest. “Separate but equal” was a judicial construct, ignored the meaning of the Reconstruction Amendments, and ended my religious trust of SCOTUS. You can blame it on “too many Southern sympathizers”, or any other excuse, but it was what SCOTUS does. How many exemptions to the 4th now dance on the head of a pin, or more pointedly on pinheads?

    Mike, if you take much of what I write as tongue-in-cheek because too many take themselves seriously, you’ll be no more informed by what I write but less disturbed by what I write. I’m really a moderate, by American standards, but still go by not what you think but by how you think. I try to please the longshoreman named Hoffer rather than the schoolteacher, or the illegitimate little corporal, or the son of a wealthy farmer.

    1. “The poor have less. “Poverty” is less and subjective but can be defined easily as one or more or these: without shelter, without clothes, and without food (I’ll give food as meaning meeting nutritional needs, especially growing children). The poor in this nation don’t meet this.”


      I used the term poverty in a much more inclusive sense:

      “pov·er·ty [pov-er-tee] Show IPA
      the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. Synonyms: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. Antonyms: riches, wealth, plenty.
      deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil. Synonyms: thinness, poorness, insufficiency.
      scantiness; insufficiency: Their efforts to stamp out disease were hampered by a poverty of medical supplies. Synonyms: meagerness, inadequacy, sparseness, shortage, paucity, dearth. Antonyms: abundance, surfeit, sufficiency, bounty, glut.”

      My use of poverty is in line with 2 and 3 above. Yours is much more exclusive as in 1 above. My meaning is back upped by a 37 year career as a Social Services executive, Social Worker and Psychotherapist. Contrary to you statement the “poor” in this country do meet my definition, but going beyond that with the high unemployment and consistently dropping wage scale many more of the former “middle class” are also in that same boat.

      “If you hate to fish I can understand why the Left’s solution is better as you never have to learn to fish. I am for a social net; defining what that means is always the issue.”

      You are dealing in memes in this statement since the underlying connotation is that many don’t want to work. The facts don’t and never have born that meme out, but it remains a constant in Conservative circles.
      It is the equivalent of Romney calling 47% of this country “takers” and Reagan talking nonsensically of “Welfare Queens”. I actually spent a career working with people held up by the “social net” and in truth I claim as much, if not more expertise than any of the so-called “experts” discussing social net policy issues. The “social net” has always been merely a stopgap affair, that doesn’t address the endemic inequality of our system. Since Reagan’s ascendance even the “social net” that existed has
      been continually shredded.

      “The Right identifies and acknowledges poverty and the poor, but just has a different solution”

      Not to belabor the issue but while you yourself may recognize poverty as a problem that needs solving, the Right in general recognizes it as a failing of lazy people. Since in general they view the problem in this way, than their logical solution based on that mis-perception is to further do away with the “safety net” to force those “lazy” people to work. As for charitable donations, that too is a convenient dodge for guilty people. After my retirement from the City I worked for three non-profits charities.
      Prior to my retirement I served as a Director of Contracts, a Director of Budget and a Director of Administration. In those capacities I dealt with many on-profit charities dealing with NYC and regularly sat on the committees that assessed their proposals. Most charities, like the American Red Cross are at heart con games that pay well to those on top, who get their positions through political prominence or connections to personal wealth. It’s sad but true and I can cite chapter and verse from personal experience and research done on behalf of my work.

      “Mike, if you take much of what I write as tongue-in-cheek because too many take themselves seriously, you’ll be no more informed by what I write but less disturbed by what I write.”

      Ariel, what you write doesn’t disturb me. I react to you when in your argument your resort to attacking the writer, rather than the writer’s points. You haven’t done that with me, for the most part. Ideed, it seems that we eve agree on some issues, though come at them from different perspectives. One of the notions about me and the writing I’ve done here is to think of me as a Leftist Ideologue. Given the paucity of real discussion that exists these days I understand where that impression might come from but it is false. The 60’s taught me well that ideologies and “Ism’s” lead people astray from the real problems. Training as a Psychotherapist has opened my eyes to the fact that humanity’s problems are not the result political/economic theory, but stem directly from the still un-evolved human consciousness of humanity’s essential interrelation. Since evolution is measured by centuries and millenia, I as a pragmatic iconoclast prefer to seek solutions that will keep us from destroying ourselves before we can evolve. Secondly, ad from a personal perspective, I have suffered in my own life and in my work life I spent years dealing with human suffering, since I understand the pain, my sense of empathy and connection with other humans impels me to try to work to ameliorate it.

  18. Gladwell’s Outliers explains how success isn’t merely an individual endeavor but both circumstantial and a person’s commitment to work. It supports the argument here that the social circumstances bely mere individual ruggedness.

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