Monday, December 14, 2009

"Pandora's Box," or the Problem With "Hope"


"Sometimes they're enough to think that they're may be hope yet." That's how I ended my last post about songs that get my mood up. Note that I said sometimes. That said, I think I should explain the other times...

"If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow...but you know it's gonna be...alright..."

Is it? IS IT REALLY?

When we're watching Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged become prophetic, what is an Objectivish person to do? I was discussing things with a friend, about how things "supposedly" turned around after the Great Depression because of The War, while speculating what would turn things around this time without being more of the same. He thinks that a few positive signs are reason to hope. All I could think of was the "Five Year Plans" of the Soviets, as depicted in We The Living. It's very tempting to see a rise in the stock market as a "turnaround," but how many times have financial gurus told us that the recession is over already? And how can it be over if the debt still exists? Combine this with the threat of a government takeover of health care that promises penalties and jail time for those who refuse to participate, as well as the continuing climate talks despite the scandal of Climategate, there would seem to be very little to be hopeful about. Sure, the health care talks have stalled, and there is a grassroots resistance, but is that really reason to be hopeful? The fact that the discussion has stalled has nothing to do with a return to a free-market, and everything to do with political maneuvering.

But besides that, if one thinks in principles, one would know that a concrete-level objection does not make a principled stand. But yet, we are told to be "hopeful." In this case, it's a matter of keeping the sheep calm before the storm. (It's an art that Temple Grandin has perfected, keeping the cows pacified as they enter the slaughterhouse.) And god damn anyone who gets the sheep riled up. Just ask Roger Waters: "You betted watch out/ There may be dogs about/ We'll I've looked over Jordan and I've seen/ Things are not what they seem...." But I'm not going to keep silent just because the sheep don't want to hear it, so I'm going to say it. When it comes to the future of this country, as long as our rights and freedoms are subject to a majority vote...

Down with Hope.

And to other so-called Objectivists waiting for John Galt (or, Galt forbid, Sarah Palin), I'll say it again:

DOWN WITH HOPE.

Still with me? Good. I'll now explain myself. Why would I tell other Objectivists, who are supposed to be "allies," that their hope is misplaced? I'll repeat a post from a SOLO thread dedicated to the "hope" some found in Sarah Palin. Scott Desalvo wrote: "...don't give up yet. We can ALWAYS head for the hills. I prefer not to do that until there is NO hope. I do not think we are there yet. I could be wrong. I will be wrong soon if we do not turn the ship."

My response:

Well, I'd think that we'd fight (without having to head for the hills) things BEFORE they got to the point of hopelessness, but I'm not saying you're not saying that. But a funny thing about hope...
"Hopefulness is somewhat different from optimism in that hope is an emotional state, whereas optimism is a conclusion reached through a deliberate thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude."

Hope is like the carrot in front of the donkey. It's a double-edged sword. The tale of Pandora's box has two interpretations, btw: in the first, the box is closed, keeping hope in the box while the evils flew out. Supposedly, keeping hope in the box is a good thing, a gift to keep up going in the face of those evils unleashed in the world. In the second, hope is also considered an evil, and it's safer for us to keep it locked in the box. Or is it? "If the jar is full of evils, then what is expectant hope -- a blessing -- doing among them?"

Hope is supposedly a translation of the word "elpis," expectation. So what is hope? Expectation. Expectation based on what? What we need is less "hope," undefined and vague, and a more objective assessment, not based on our assumptions of men's rationality, but a cold, hard look at the facts of our situation. If it justifies an expectation of peaceful change, great, if not, then what? More hope?"

If you're still reading, you're probably saying, "But how can you live without hope?" At least, that's how Scott responded: "You can live your life however you want to. Without hope, even. I take hope to be more or less euphemistic with optimism."

To which I replied:

Yes, but it's meaningless unless we know what that optimism is based on. We can look at the same thing and have differing opinions on whether there's hope or not.

You say you "prefer not to do that until there is NO hope."

Hope by what standard? By whose standard? What if one sees no hope while the other does? That's what I mean when I say hope is useless, it's not objective, just an emotional assessment. Or, it's not useless to the individual, but it's useless among a group unless they all agree. But when it comes to individual rights, who decides when things are hopeless? What standard?
Does this mean I have the welcome mat from Dante's Inferno laid out on my doorstep? No. I distinguish between the "metaphysical and the man-made," and support a benevolent universe theory over a malevolent one. I think things CAN be better; but only if we MAKE them better. And of course, to the extent that I can take control of things enough in my own sphere, I can give myself hope in the things that I can change. Change starts at home, of course. And if the other bastards don't care to do so, I can't make it better for them. But they, unfortunately, can make it WORSE for me. And if they try to drag me down to hell, all their claims to good intentions don't make it better.

So what WOULD give me hope? What would make me optimistic that things will get better, as opposed to more of the same? Think of John Galt's challenge: "You want me to be Economic Dictator? And you'll obey any order I give? Then start by abolishing all income taxes. Fire your government employees." I want to see the American people wake up, stand up, and start giving the smackdown on a large enough scale that no politician would ever dream of such a takeover of the freest country on Earth ever again. Barring that, I'll settle for watching the remains of this once-proud country cleared for a new one born from principles without contradictions. Or any other conceivable scenario that indicates that the tide is truly turning. In other words, when life-affirming principles coincide with life-affirming action, this country will be saved. Otherwise, talk is cheap, and so is their "new hope."

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