PRODOS SPEAKS WITH
WHY OBJECTIVISM IS WINNING AND WHY IT MUST WIN
Betsy Speicher is the Owner/Editor of The CyberNet - the world's leading Objectivist news service. For information on how to subscribe click here. To view a sample issue click here. As a subscriber myself I happily recommend it.
Prodos: (INTRO) Sometimes, I know, when you look around you today it's hard not to get negative. On the other hand when you stop and think about what really counts, it's hard not to feel damn positive! Almost cocky! Almost invincible! Sometimes it actually looks like good ideas, rational values, courageous, virtuous people are winning!
Well, today on the show we're going to look at WHY Ayn Rand is winning and why she MUST win. Just bask in that thought for a moment (pause). And my special guest on the program is an absolutely charming lady who has given this matter a great deal of study over the years. In fact there's no-one on the planet more qualified to talk about how and why Objectivism is winning. Ladies and gentlemen, on line from California, USA, the owner and editor of The CyberNet THE leading internet-based Objectivist news service. You'll know Objectivism is winning when we now talk with Betsy Speicher. Hi Betsy.
Betsy Speicher: Good morning! Or is it morning where you are?
Prodos: Well there's about 19 hours difference between Melbourne and California. (Actually it was 6am in California and 1am the next day in Melbourne).
(Down to business) Now don't toy with my emotions Betsy! Is it true? Is Objectivism really winning?
Betsy Speicher: Oh of course it is! (Prodos laughs) And not only that, but I have evidence all the time. I write about it in my newsletter, people send me news about it, and I knew it would happen. I knew it would happen 35 years ago because Objectivism HAS to win.
Prodos: But every philosophy and religion says that Betsy. They all say "we've gotta win, History's on our side".
Betsy Speicher: Well it's not history that's on our side. The most important thing is that REALITY is on our side. Objectivism is true. And that's an ally that we have that nobody else does. And it's a very powerful ally. Objectivism is moral but it's practical. It works! I mean it works in the REAL WORLD.
Prodos: Moral AND practical! Let's have a look at that for a moment. You're talking about an amazing philosophy in that case. I don't know of any other time in history when someone could say "I have a moral system which actually works in real life". That's unprecedented.
Betsy Speicher: Well, it was DESIGNED for that. It was designed for living on earth. It was designed for achieving happiness. It was designed for people who want to be successful in THIS life, in the only life we ever have, and for people who choose to make the most of their life on earth. It was designed for people like that. It wasn't designed for getting you into heaven or anything else. It wasn't designed for the benefit of the next generation or for other people. It was designed for you and for me and for people who want to live and succeed and be happy.
Prodos: You make it sound so commonsense and easy. Yet Objectivism and Ayn Rand arouse a lot of hostility. About six or seven months ago when I was running a theatre venue I invited the Executive Director of what is understood to be Australia's leading free enterprise think tank. I invited him to give a talk based on an Ayn Rand Institute op-ed. He agreed to do it and I faxed him the op-ed. But when he got there, in front of the audience, and I asked him to comment on the piece, he kind of waved his hand dismissively and referred to "that other crowd" and went off on another subject. I mean he couldn't hack it. He couldn't hack it! When he was confronted with what Ayn Rand and Objectivism actually said - here he is: Executive Director of a leading free enterprise think tank - he had to turn away, almost evade the whole issue. Why is that?
Betsy Speicher: Well, I've seen opposition, gosh knows. I've been at this work more than three decades, and it doesn't faze me a bit. And the reason it doesn't is that I see it for what it is.
Prodos: OK (feeling reassured).
Betsy Speicher: This is THEIR problem. It is not MY problem. If these people don't understand that Ayn Rand is their best ally for promoting freedom, it's not going to stop me from making that case. If they want to make a bad argument it's not going to help them very much but it's not going to hurt me either. There is nothing that's going to shut me up, or the people who advocate the right things for the right reasons. There's nothing that can stop us - absolutely nothing. These people can't. And if they want to be irrational it will cost them, it will hurt them, but it can't touch me.
Prodos: Do you see such people, the detractors of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, do you see them as 'the enemy' Betsy?
Betsy Speicher: Well I think they WANT to be (Prodos laughs) but they're sort of silly.
Prodos: Hard to take seriously?
Betsy Speicher: They have no power whatsoever. I sometimes look at them as comic relief and I imagine how silly and stupid and apologetic they're going to be about forty years from now. (Prodos laughs). As a matter of fact I once said "You'll know Objectivism is winning when former critics of Objectivism say that they have been 'misinterpreted' or that their statements were the result of 'youthful ignorance'". They're going to be in the same class as people who said that man would never fly. I imagine what's going to happen a generation or so from now - and how stupid these people are going to look.
In the '50s people were saying that Ayn Rand was a flash in the pan and that nobody would be interested in her beyond the current moment. But the interest in her philosophy, years after her death, has never been greater. Her book The Fountainhead and her other novel Atlas Shrugged are among the few books that are still best sellers in hardcover so many years after they originally came out. They're going strong. The critics are dropping by the wayside, but she goes on.
Prodos: I think Ayn Rand actually sells 300,000 books per year still.
Betsy Speicher: Yes. And if they counted old books on the New York Times best-seller list, it would still be there.
Prodos: OK. So you're suggesting that Objectivism IS winning and MUST win because, by its nature it's about reality, it's about life. The other thing that comes through - or is implicit in what you're saying Betsy - is that Objectivism may be winning and may HAVE to win because the people who are, if I may use the term, EMPOWERED by it, are able to TEST their belief in Objectivism - their understanding - by looking at reality. They're kind of immovable in a way - and strong as a result.
Betsy Speicher: Yes, that's true. As a matter of fact one of the advantages that Objectivism has, is that it attracts some of the finest people in the world.
Prodos: Aw shucks. You shouldn't have said that, Betsy (feigning humble and shy).
Betsy Speicher: But it DOES. It attracts all kinds of people, including some pretty strange people too. It attracts a lot of people for a lot of reasons, some of them good and some of them bad.
Prodos: You think Objectivism also attracts bad people?
Betsy Speicher: Yes. There are some people who want to cash in on it. There are some people who want to use it for devious ends. That doesn't work in the long run, but in the short run you may encounter some strange people.
Prodos: Fair enough.
Betsy Speicher: But it attracts some of the finest people in the world, some of the most intelligent, some of the most honest, some of the most dedicated to reality. And those are the kind of people that are UNSTOPPABLE. It also, as you said, energizes them and it motivates them to accomplish great things.
Prodos: It believes in success.
Betsy Speicher: Yes. It may motivate one man to speak up for his ideals. It may motivate someone else to go out and make lots of money. It may motivate someone to create a great, monumental sculpture - each in his own way - one mind, one individual at a time. It DOES empower people. And once they are empowered the are unstoppable.
Objectivists don't compromise - and they have absolutely no reason to. They don't want second best and 'almost'. They want it ALL. Also, Objectivists, unlike people who have other moral philosophies, have no problem with temptation. This is because, to an Objectivist, you live a life of RATIONAL SELF-INTEREST. Which means you do what makes sense and what's good for you. Which means there's absolutely no temptation to do stupid, self-destructive things.
Prodos: Yes. And if you've integrated it properly your conscience and your emotions should be aligned quite well.
Betsy Speicher: Oh yes! After a while - and it takes a while - it takes philosophy and it takes a decade or so to fully integrate it - it becomes your way of doing things. It makes sense, it seems right, it feels right, you have a track record of it working for you. And there's absolutely no interest in doing dumb, self-destructive things.
Prodos: Objectivism reminds me of Israel. When I spoke about a year ago to Ophar Aviran, the Israeli Ambassador in Australia - our topic was 'What is the fundamental nature of Israel' - he explained that Israel was set up to defend - using whatever it took - they would defend Jews anywhere in the world. And at last, it seems that 'Truth, Justice and The American Way' has a hero - which is Objectivism. A good example of that was early in 1998, Robert Tracinski - someone who I admire greatly - who organized a street protest to defend Bill Gates and Microsoft. That's something unprecedented in history: A billionaire being defended on MORAL grounds! (Transcript available soon "PRODOS talks with ROBERT TRACINSKI".)
Betsy Speicher: Oh yes. One of the reasons Objectivism is winning is that it also has an ally in American and Western culture. That it's the spokesman for them. And it's fully compatible with the American sense of life and the spirit of Western civilisation at its best. There is enough of that alive in enough people, particularly in the West, that we can tap into that and use that and give it strength and give it a foundation - a moral foundation - that it really didn't have. So we tend to attract some very fine people there. The main base of Objectivism is in the United States and there's a reason for that.
I think another cultural advantage that Objectivism has is because of where we're living right now: in The Information Age. Objectivism is spreading like wildfire on the internet, it's spreading in newsletters, it's spreading on the radio, it's spreading on RealAudio, it's spreading in the press. And the reason why, is that Objectivists are out there, and they're aggressive, and they have no real opposition.
Prodos: Good point!
Betsy Speicher: Our opposition gave up a long time ago. I mean, they've retreated into another dimension or another world
Prodos: (Prodos laughs) God bless them all!
Betsy Speicher: . . . or cynicism. And they've left the road open for us. All we have to do is get out there and take it. We can go anywhere we want to go. We can fight for whatever we want to. And when we run into what looks like opposition we just touch it with our little finger and it falls over.
Prodos: I noticed on your personal website something that's very dear to my heart and I'll just quote you on this - perhaps you could clarify what you mean here. You said that one of the things you really love is: "inviting fascinating people to your house for a party" (pause for effect)
Betsy Speicher: Yes?
Prodos: What's the secret of organizing a good party Betsy?
Betsy Speicher: (not thrown off at all) To find people who share your values no matter how different they are in concrete details: People who are essentially rational, People who are essentially value-oriented, value-seeking people. They could be artists, businessmen, intellectuals. They could be very different from me. I'm very fascinated by what I call 'the varieties of the rational'. People like that add a lot to my life. They inspire me, the teach me, they make me laugh. People like that make for a good party.
Prodos: (laughing and rather impressed and hoping to get invited some day) And some nice dips and biscuits I suppose?
Betsy Speicher: Yes. Or pizza or bagels.
Prodos: So "You'll know Objectivism is winning when Women's Weekly contacts Betsy Speicher for hints on how to organize a good party".
Betsy Speicher: That too. I'm not going to replace Martha Stewart (the American expert on hospitality and decorating) any time soon, but I like to give parties in Cyberspace and people are welcome to write in and join in.
Prodos: (serious again) Another issue I'd like to ask you about Betsy is humor. You've written fairly extensively on the whole topic of humor.
Betsy Speicher: Yes I have.
Prodos: Some Objectivists I speak to seem to go into this phase where they think that humor and Objectivism are incompatible - which is silly because, of course, Ayn Rand herself had a great sense of humor. Francisco in Atlas Shrugged was a very funny fellow. Humor runs throughout Objectivist writing.
Betsy Speicher: Oh yes!
Prodos: What can you tell us about humor Betsy?
Betsy Speicher: Well the reason that it does is that humor is actually a high conceptual art. In order to be humorous and to appreciate humor you have to THINK. For instance, we all know that if somebody doesn't get a joke that you think he should have the knowledge to be able to, that he's a little thick. He's a little dumb.
Prodos: That's why I always laugh at jokes even if I don't get them.
Betsy Speicher: Yes. Someone who's intelligent is someone who we say "has his WITS about him". In fact, it takes conceptual thinking and it rewards conceptual thinking to be humorous and to enjoy humor. That's why some of the cleverest people I know are also some of the most rational people I know. There's a definite connection right there.
Prodos: That's interesting, that you consider humor a high conceptual art. Of course animals don't have a sense of humor so it seems that it is a distinctively human trait.
Betsy Speicher: Not only that, but people who are dull don't have a sense of humor either. People who are, what we call 'concrete-bound' - who are obsessed with the things immediately before them and don't think about them - people like that don't have much of a sense of humor either. People who are caught up in some dogma or whatever that they haven't thought through to its roots in reality, that don't hold it conceptually, are often said to not have a sense of humor - and they don't! You have to understand ideas on a conceptual level and be able to work easily at that level to be witty, humorous, or enjoy humor.
Prodos: I suppose humor also has another thing that I can see which is in common with Objectivism and that is: with Objectivism's focus on discovering reality and understanding it, it suggests sometimes we're in for a surprise. And a sense humor is a kind of willingness to surrender to surprise. Perhaps humor and objectivity and willingness to discover go hand in hand. What do you think about that Betsy?
Betsy Speicher: Well that's true. The process of everyday thinking and the process of humor are exactly the same. The only difference is that humor is done as an end in itself. You seek out humor in order to engage in a process of thinking - not to achieve something, not to win something - but just for the sheer fun of it.
Prodos: Right. Have you ever met Ayn Rand, Betsy?
Betsy Speicher: I met her briefly. I used to attend the lectures in New York City where she spoke and on a couple of occasions I spoke with her briefly after a lecture in New York City. I was in a group of about four or five people that cornered her in the aisle after the lecture (both laugh). Yes.
Prodos: And what was your impression, may I ask?
Betsy Speicher: She was so OPEN. She's probably the most unrepressed person I have ever met. She was transparent. You could see exactly what she was thinking and feeling by what showed on her face - totally without pretence, without reserve. Some of the mythology I've heard about her is utterly fantastic because she was such an open, unrepressed person. You don't see that kind of thing generally in anybody but children under the age of five, but you saw it in her - along with the intelligence of an extraordinary mind. And the combination gives you a view of a person who is intense and focused and totally, utterly happy - pleased with herself and with life.
(thank you's, farewells, END)
Recorded: Melbourne time: Friday 4th December 1998, 1.00 am.