Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ayn Rand Quote of the Week - 4/10/07

Ayn Rand on the American Indian:
"They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using . . . . What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent."- Address to West Point, 1974

31 comments:

Neil Parille said...

In Ayn Rand Answers, she goes on for a couple of pages about this question and I highly recommend people getting a copy of this book.

"We owe nothing to the Indians, except the memory of the monstrous evils done by them."

"Now, I don't care to dicuss the alleged complaints American Indians have aginst this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portayal of Indians and what they did to the white man."

"I oppose applying contract law to American Indians."

Note that Rand isn't making the point that it was unreasonable for Indians to claim property rights in land that they didn't work or use. She is saying that they have no rights to any land (or anything else).

Anonymous said...

okay, I give up: what part of this quote/attitude do you have a problem with?
oooohhh, sorry!
"Sometimes the light's all shining on me
Other times I can barely see..."

Red Grant said...

____________________________

okya, I give up: what part of this quote/attitude do you have a problem with? - anon.
____________________________


Logical inconsistency with her other "philosophical points"


____________________________

oooohhh, sorry!
"Sometimes the light's all shining on me

Other times I can barely see..." - anon
____________________________


My experience when debating ideas both on-line and in person(and not just with Objectivists)b has been when the other side can't win an argument, they tend to resort to attempted belittling cheesy, sophmoric jokes.

Red Grant said...

____________________________

She is saying that they have no rights to any land (or anything else). - neil parille
____________________________


On what ground did she say it?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget she got much of her American History from Hollywood films.

David said...

She was right of course. In fact, none of us has any rights or liberty to anything that we ourselves are unable to keep and defend.

Aaron Baker said...

". . . their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it."

I can't speak for the person who runs this website, but one of the problems I have with this statement is the colossal ignorance of American Indians that lies behind it. Rand seems not to have known that many American Indians practiced agrigulture (in the course of which they domesticated more plant species than were were domesticated in the pre-modern Old World), AND they created more than one civilization (Olmec, Maya, Aztecs, Moche, Huari, Incas, among others). Like everyone else who opines ignorantly, she should just have kept her mouth shut.

That ignorance (combined with smugness) infuriates me--but I'm utterly disgusted by the callous indifference here regarding theft and mass murder when perpetrated on someone the sociopathic Ms. Rand happened not to like.

"In fact, none of us has any rights or liberty to anything that we ourselves are unable to keep and defend."

If you're serious about this statement, you're defending a morality fit for thieves, rapists, conmen, and anyone else who prays on the weak. I hope you enjoy the company you're keeping.

Daniel Barnes said...

Aaron:
>I can't speak for the person who runs this website, but one of the problems I have with this statement is the colossal ignorance of American Indians that lies behind it.

Rand was colossally ignorant on a number of issues, and American Indians were one of them. For example, some Indian tribes did have individual and family property rights as well as collective ones. Plus her pronouncements on this are highly confused and contradictory, as usual - aren't men's rights "inalienable"? If so, then perhaps Indians aren't men - subhumans, to use a term she liked to bandy about.At any rate, this, the mosque schism etc seems to show that in reality Randians are no clearer about Randian property rights than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

To whomever made this post: If hell existed, you would burn in it for attempting to condemn a woman by grossly distorting the words she DIDN'T say and evading reality to make your heinously vacuous point.

The actual quote reads: "..Any EUROPEAN who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.." You piece of shit. She even said earlier in this riposte that "The white man DID NOT CONQUER this country. And you're a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race."

You will never be able to wipe out reality; reality will merely wipe out the wiper. And so surely has it wiped out your futile existence in that it consists of lying to prove one's point, though you just made Ayn Rand sound all the better in the face of her devotees, and in so doing making yourself look like an utterly pathetic jackass. :)

Anonymous said...

To the anon above:

If you're so concerned about NOT evading reality, then open some history books.

Read the logs of Columbus: he talks about how easy it would be to enslave the natives he found in the Caribbean islands.

Read about the deliberate attempts to spread smallpox among the Indians (e.g., General Jeffrey Amherst) in order to depopulate the land and render the Indians militarily inert.

Actually read the treaties the European-based powers made with tribes.

Visit an actual Indian reservation and see what their response is to Rand's assertions.

Only once you've actually confronted reality behind Rand's quote can we even talk rationally about this.

I wish Rand had done all of these things.

- Chris

Cavewight said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I had not concerned myself with irrelevant non-PC aspects of the Rand quote. What concerns me is that Rand offered no philosophical argument regarding property rights, but only asserted any civilized person's right to take the land away from the Indians.

Indian tribes warred with each other constantly over hunting grounds. They did not concern themselves with contracts or rights, but simply with which was the stronger tribe.

The Europeans happened to belong to the strongest tribe. Thus being civilized (or not) is of no consequence, and Rand's argument was based on a fallacious premise.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>The actual quote reads: "..Any EUROPEAN who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.."

Hi Anon

Can you provide a source for your version of the quote? I've googled both and get zero hits for your version. I don't have a printed version handy.

Cavewight said...

Daniel,

There is no hard copy version of the quote available, it is from the Q&A following Rand's 1974 West Point address entitled "Philosophy: Who Needs It." I happen to own a tape cassette of this lecture which includes the Q&A omitted from the text reprinted for The Ayn Rand Letter.

A google books search reveals that a book called "The Problem of Civilization," by Derrick Jensen, contains the quote which uses the word "white" in italics. But that is not as good as hearing Rand's own words.

Cavewight said...

Anonymous,

Sorry, I have just finished listening to the cassette tape of the Q&A session following Rand's lecture, and she definitely said "white person." In fact, at various points in her response to the same question about Indians she either said "white person" or "the white man." Daniel's quote is correct.

Cavewight said...

Anonymous,

I have more bad news for you. Ayn Rand did not say "The white man DID NOT CONQUER this country." She definitely said "Americans did not conquer this country. Whoever is making sounds there, I think is hinting that he's right. But to be consistent, you are a racist. If you are objective, that is. [laughter and applause.] You are that because you believe that *anything* can be given to man by his biological birth or for biological reasons."

Anonymous, please try to keep your comments in historical context. Because in 1974 nobody cared if anybody used terms like "white man" or "white person" versus "European." The PC movement, such as it was, had not progressed to the point of fiddling around with that part of the language, there were no hyphenated Americans, not as a rule anyway.

Cavewight said...

Daniel wrote:
>For example, some Indian tribes did have individual and family property rights as well as collective ones.

We should be a little careful here. The Indians had no legal notion of rights, they based their condition of ownership on religious grounds (see the Middle East for example). There was no individual ownership of land, only at best family or clan ownership. So when we say the Indians practiced property rights, even if only collectively, that is to impress our cultural perspective and concepts onto their own.

On the other hand, the American Indians had the forethought to practice conservative hunting and farming methods. They did not do so out of some mystical respect for the Earth, but only because it is wise for the tribe or clan not to consume all of its resources and starve.

Cavewight said...

Daniel wrote:
>For example, some Indian tribes did have individual ... property rights..."

I should also address this part. When we are discussing land rights, the situation changes to the collective, and only on religious grounds, as I said. However, it is obvious that individual Indians owned various other kinds of property: knives, bearskins, a tepee, items of their own creation or bartered for; and the women owned their kitchen utensils.

The concept "property right" is certainly implied in the idea that "I killed the bear so the bear's skin is now mine." Any animal has a sense of "mine," as far as that goes. But to be fair, disputes regarding possession were taken up with the tribal elders if only to keep the peace within the tribe. They were obviously not completely uncivilized, as Rand suggested. It's just that religious tradition and tribal authority was the rule, not European legal concepts.

Cavewight said...

"What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal..."

It seems that Rand has become confused by claims made by environmentalists regarding Indian motives. Indians may have left part of the earth untouched and unused, but only to practice smart farming methods.

Rand was criticizing environmentalists, not Indians. Environmentalists have fictionalized Indians (just as many others have, including Rand) into an ideal community to be practiced. Theirs is an ideal society to revert back to by emulation. If environmentalist culture is allowed to continue producing new laws and restrictions unchecked, within a few hundred years or less humans will be living in isolated communes and kept from entering certain areas.

Ayn Rand claimed that the Indians were stagnating. In fact, if they had developed agriculture then they were progressing. Or at least they had a chance of making progress; whereas, on the other hand, environmentalists want regression and stagnation in the name of progress.

gregnyquist said...

"To whomever made this post: If hell existed, you would burn in it for attempting to condemn a woman by grossly distorting the words "

If "grossly distorting words" were a mortal sin, worthy of hell's fire, than Rand herself is sizzling away even now. In the very "Philosophy: Who Needs It" address after which she made the quote in the post, she distorts the views of a number of philosophers. The views she ascribes to Kant, Hegel, and William James are mostly distortions, and would be recognized as such by any fair-minded person. Kant, for example, does not equate selfish with evil, as Rand suggests; this is a complete distortion. Nor would Dewey have ever endorsed the injunction, "Act first, think afterward." Why is it that Rand and her followers are able to indulge in all kinds of gross distortions without a word of protest from the Objectivist faithful, yet if some critic is merely perceived (rightly or wrongly) as distorting Rand, it is as if he has committed the worst crime in the history of civilization? Is this kind of raving partisanship, this refusal to abide by the same standards one applies to others, this veritable turning the golden rule on its head (treating others much worse than one expects to treat oneself!) -- is that what Objectivist egoism means en praxis?

Behemoth said...

On Columbus Day you can count on the Ayn Rand Institute to issue a reactionary essay about the holiday, and this year is no exception.

(ARI page with a link to a post on Fox News Opinion)
http://tinyurl.com/29ruwpc

I'd say it's very much in the spirit of Rand's original quote above, and no more based in truth. I laughed at the line "We’ve been taught that Columbus opened the way for rapacious European settlers to unleash a stream of horrors on a virgin continent: slavery, racism, warfare, epidemic, and the cruel oppression of Indians." -- no, Columbus didn't open the way for others to do those things, he did all that himself!

BobandSusie said...

I love reading the comments more than the post lol...

Kills_Straight said...

Exponentially more appalling than the utter racist, ethnocentrism displayed by the bigot Rand is the fact that there were cadets in the West Point audience that day who are active duty 4 star generals today. It is highly probable those same high ranking officers planned their military campaigns, especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan, with Rand's blatant racism deeply entrenched in their military minds. The residual pathology of Rand's comments due not merit debate or concern to the Native American Community. A myriad number of independent cultures, tribes, traditions and soveriegn nations with eminent dominion rights a warped individual, such as Ann Rand, obviously was incapable of comprehending. Alas, in the end, Ann Rand succumb to the nihilism inherent in her historically obsolete works of fiction.

John Hanska Martin
Enrolled member,
Oglala, Lakota

Anonymous said...

It is highly probable those same high ranking officers planned their military campaigns, especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan, with Rand's blatant racism deeply entrenched in their military minds.

Rand would have to be a powerful speaker indeed for one comment in a question session to have such a lasting impact.

Tod said...

Rand's comments on the Native Americans were not unique to Objectivism, but were a reflection of then current (and still current) cultural attitudes. Namely, that the Native Americans were all backwards savages and while the white man may have committed a few genocides here and there, at least we brought them Civilization. Never mind that colonists who were captured or ran away with the Indians rarely ever returned to Civilized life when given the opportunity. Rand (and most people today) knew next to nothing about the Native Americans. But had a lot of strong unchallengeable opinions, which is her pattern for almost everything.

Frankly Curious said...

I just wrote about this quote:

Ayn Rand and Indians

I mostly talk about how this quote undermines her philosophy, but I was struck by many of the comments here that dealt with her utter ignorance of the cultures of Native Americans. I'm most struck by her apparent belief that Native Americans didn't have the concept of property rights just because they were not exactly the same as the western concept at that time (which has changed since then). Rand showed similar ignorance on any number of other subjects.

Anonymous said...

Rand continues to poison minds from the grave. The age of these minds is a statistic that brings pain. I do not hold much with stopping free expression but I believe her books must be banned for the toxicity of their contents.

Anonymous said...

Rand continues to poison minds from the grave. The age of these minds is a statistic that brings pain. I do not hold much with stopping free expression but I believe her books must be banned for the toxicity of their contents.

P. O' Freeman said...

Backwardness of native americans is not only cultural bias, it is a logical fallacy. It is a conqueror's truth: a lie, which is (percieved as) truth because the person who told it destroyed the opposition. I'm not saying technology has no place in this world, but technology (based on certain externalities, like total destruction of the environment, pollutants, oil, pesticides) that basicly let's you shit in the same place you live, makes people not more than animals, but less. It WILL cause the human race to adjust to a shit-filled home or extinction. Indians knew this, for they had experienced it a few times and had a culture for remembering these catastrophic failures. Their religion (as many other uninstitutionalised religions) had the purpose of educating the people and was constantly revised. Also, communal living is in some ways superior to our nuclear families based individualistic society. People tend to live longer (with better health), less suicides, less depression and less crime. Which sounds like a pretty good deal. I'm not blind to the bad sides (less freedom to do unto others what you want, like: conning them, hurting their feelings, not doing your duties, more plights in general, etc.) but I think in a way it's superior to our current civilisation.
As for the rampant racism in her quotes, I'm not even going in to that. Rand was a sadist and sadists like to deny others the possibility to rebel and take pleasure in this denial, because they know it creates desire of the opressed party to escape their power. (interesting subject though: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1518415)
Foucault write volumes about this kind of thinking.

Anonymous said...

To the idiot above, gregnyquist, Dewey was pragmatist and that school of though is very much "Act first, think afterwards" philosophy. If anyone here is trying to distort words, it is you.

Anonymous said...

Collectivism brings slavery to group ideals and kills innovation,,,America produced when Russia could not produced enough toilet paper for its people due to collectvism..Give it a damn rest,,the only difference between a socialist and a Communist is the socialist doesn't have all the guns yet.

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