Monday, May 22, 2006

Enshrine the Good

Gideon Reich has a positive essay at his blog The Armchair Intellectual titled "The Good: The Objective Standard" in which he points out the need not just to identify evil but to champion the good. Here is a quote:

**I recently had the privilege to attend and enjoy Tara Smith's talk on Justice in Irvine where I work. The talk was excellent but ironically it was primarily during the Q&A that Dr. Smith was able to put increased emphasis on the greater need to praise the good. Of course, it is important to identify and judge evil but as anybody who has studied Objectivism in some detail knows, evil is metaphysically impotent -- it is far more important to express appreciation to the good people one encounters as they are the life-givers."

I couldn't agree more. I had just finished rereading (in The Fountainhead) Ellsworth Toohey's confession to Peter Keating on how he Toohey, aquired his power. I was thinking about the technique Toohey used to destroy the good:

**Don't set out to raze all shrines--you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity--and the shrines are razed.**

This technique has been used to destroy all forms of the good. To paraphrase Toohey:
"Want to destroy the hero? Don't attack the hero. Enshrine the anti-hero, the zero, and you have destroyed hero. Want to destroy individual rights? Don't attack individual rights. Enshrine needs over rights (by moving the context of rights from the individual to the collective and declaring these needs to be group rights.) This process can be used to destroy any good.

But this technique can be used in reverse. Want to destroy collectivism? Enshrine individualism. For example, want to destroy diversity? Enshrine peoples' similarities not their differences. But I don't want to be misleading. There is a difference. Toohey wanted to destroy the good not to enshrine any particular evil but to create a void which he would fill. The rational man doesn't seek to destroy anything. He creates the good which blocks the existence of evil. That is why Tara Smith and Gideon are right is saying that is is more important to enshrine the good than to just oppose evil.
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