There are two elections this year -- one in America, one in New Zealand -- neither of which will have the slightest effect either in arresting the cultural decline of either country, or in pointing the way to the fundamental cultural reform that is an urgent necessity in both.
Reason, individualism and capitalism have been under attack now for decades in the U.S., in N.Z. and all around the the world, yet the fundamental philosophical ideas behind those attacks are now themselves in retreat, leaving an intellectual vacuum as shallow as the leading candidates in both elections.
The fundamental emptiness of candidates and campaign is itself a reflection of that intellectual vacuum.
We all know something is wrong with the world, but just getting angry won't do a thing to arrest the decay. We have to get smart.
One of those most responsible for the intellectual decay had this to say about the point of philosophy:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.
The philosopher who said that was Karl Marx. His philosophical system is as false has hell, which is the only word to describe the places created by his enthusiastic followers, but for a century-and-a-half the followers of Karl Marx and his ilk have succeeded in changing the world for the worse.
It's time for fundamental philosophical change for the better. That means, in a phrase, change you can really believe in. That's the point of the three lectures about which this post is based, all of them now online. If you take ideas seriously, then I urge you to make the time to watch them.
Yaron Brook and his colleagues at the Ayn Rand Institute have a twenty-year plan to make the culture over -- a plan on which they've already embarked with some success, a plan which they outline in the third lecture. You might describe it as "doing a Gramsci," only in reverse.
The first two lectures examine the influence of three important forces on the culture of the west for good and ill -- free market economics, environmentalism, and religion. Then in the third lecture he uses those examples to make predictions about the future, and extracts lessons for those who seek to inject reason into the culture.
Our eventual goal should be a "culture of reason", one in which intellectual leaders have a deep respect for reason, the world is full of energetic rational producers, great and beautiful art abounds, and material prosperity is valued as moral. Not everyone in this culture will be an Objectivist, but the principles of Objectivist philosophy would be infused throughout this culture. It's hard to imagine such a culture now, but this can and should be our goal...
As a realistic goal in 20 years, we could see a culture in which Ayn Rand's ideas are in wide circulation. Not everyone will agree with those ideas, but at least ideas such as "egoism", "rational self-interest," and "capitalism" (as we Objectivists understand them) are all part of the mainstream culture, being actively discussed and debated as a serious alternatives to the status quo.
So how do we get there? What can we do?
The bulk of this lecture outlines what's being done to make this a culture of reason, and what you can do to help bring this about.
If you don't take ideas seriously, or if reason is not for you, then neither are these lectures. But if you do and it is, then I recommend tuning in and 'turning on' to what is offered here. There's no reason that with sufficient financial backing a group of committed activists couldn't effect the same programme outlined by Yaron for American cultural change here in New Zealand -- and no reason we shouldn't start next year, or the minute the election is over. I invite you to digest the lectures and think about where you might fit in to such a campaign of cultural change.
As Paul Hsieh from Noodle Food comments (and I've relied on his summary for some of the above):
This was an alarming yet inspiring set of lectures.
It was alarming in that Yaron Brook and his colleague Onkar Ghate concretized in chilling detail the magnitude and urgency of the threats facing us. But it was also inspiring in that they offered a vision of a positive future that I want to live to see, as well as giving enormously valuable theoretical and practical advice on how we can effectively fight for that future.
If we make the cultural turnaround that needs to take place in the next 20 years, then future historians will someday look back on this set of lectures as a seminal event in American history. Given that it is likely that many of us will be alive in 20 years (and possibly even in 40 years), then many of us will directly experience the fruits of our action (or lack thereof).
I for one want to live in that future "culture of reason". I think we have a legitimate shot at getting there, but I also recognize that it is by no means certain. I also know that if we sit back and do nothing, then we *definitely* won't get there. All I've ever wanted in life is a fighting chance at achieving my goals, and we have one here. And even if I eventually lose, I want to go down swinging, and swinging *hard*. I sure as hell don't want the bad guys to win by default simply because I didn't choose to act to achieve my values.
As someone once said, the world won't change itself. If you want to live in that future culture of reason, then take responsibility now for helping to make it happen.
For ten years now, the Ayn Rand Institute has been undertaking a concrete programme to make American culture safe for reason once again. If you'd like to help make New Zealand safe for rational life-affirming values, following the same concrete programme adopted in America, I urge you once again to digest the lectures and think about where you might fit in to such a campaign of cultural change.
You can find the three lectures online at the front page of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights website. Each lecture is in three parts, and is totally free. (You can navigate to the various parts via the scrolling list that's just below the video box.)
Lecture 1 - Yaron Brook - Introduction; free market economists; environmentalism.
Lecture 2 - Onkar Ghate - Religion in politics and culture.
Lecture 3 - Yaron Brook - The future of our culture; why and how Objectivists can engage in cultural activism.
PS: I know there are a lot of you out there in New Zealand who know what I'm on about. I know that not just because of the numbers who visit this blog, and who I've met over the years, but because the fourth-highest number of visitors to the Ayn Rand Institute's new website comes from ... New Zealand (see the Alexa rankings here). There's a lot of us about. If we can each take effective coordinated action, then I know we can make the change that's needed. Think about the New Zealand you want to see in twenty years time, and let's start making it happen.