I went to the Objectivist Summer Conference in June. (For Spunky Misfit Girl newbies, those not in the know, still catching up, etc., etc., Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I’ve been an Objectivist since I was 17. Never been to a conference, though. Until now.)
After the conference, one of the young people I briefly met posted in the Facebook group for it asking everyone to vote for a question about Objectivism on Sam Harris’s podcast, in the hope that Sam Harris would talk about Ayn Rand and take her seriously.
Thing is, I’ve heard what Sam Harris has said about Ayn Rand. It’s not accurate, and it’s loaded (dare I say dripping?) with hostility and condescension. For whatever reason (who cares?), Sam Harris has already made up his mind about Objectivism (whether he’s actually read anything of Ayn Rand’s or not…), and his feelings toward it aren’t friendly.
Yet this guy in the group wanted to spend his time trying to change his mind (and get us to spend our time, too).
A number of people in the group expressed skepticism regarding the effort, and the guy who originally posted asked why. It seemed like low energy/time input for potential big reward, he said. Sam Harris has a large following, he said.
He genuinely didn’t seem to get why we might not think this was the best use of our time.
Many people chimed in with good reasons and talked him off the proverbial ledge, but most of them still offered some level of support for Sam Harris and said they thought he was of some value in certain contexts. It was fine to think that way, they said.
But I thought: Why would you spend your precious, valuable, short time on this earth chasing someone who has already made clear that he doesn’t respect your values?
Not just your values, but the ideas on which you base how you live? The entire philosophical framework, as well as the woman who created it, who we in that group would laud as a genius, Harris has treated with derision, in no uncertain terms. Why would you crawl after him and ask for more?
Because There’s a Better Way
Stand up and walk away, young man.
Square your goddamn shoulders and don’t look back.
Don’t chase people who don’t respect your values.
There’s just so much wrong about doing that that I can’t even get to it all in one blog post. It’s going to make you feel like dog crap, and they’re never going to change, because they don’t have any reason to respect you at that point. You’re not respecting yourself.
If Sam Harris thinks Objectivists have a “religious fervor,” you’re just putting fuel on the fire by acting like you do.
You don’t get influence by running around banging your head against walls. You don’t get it by prostrating yourself in front of someone with more influence than you and begging them to listen to you. (Objectivism doesn’t need you to beg them.)
You want to make change? You want to influence the course of things? You want to spread your ideas? You want to make sure lots and lots of people know a thing or two about Objectivism? Or whatever the heck else you’re on about? (Because it’s the same for Objectivists as it is for everybody else, lest we forget that.)
Become a person worth listening to.
You. Yes, you.
Be the person you want to see in the world.
Sam Harris has a big following? So what? Get your own following. Start figuring out what the steps are for doing that. It takes work, sure, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how these days. We have this cool new thing called the Internet where you can send your thoughts right to people’s inboxes on their home computers AND their mobile phones, and if you make your thoughts worth reading, you willl find people to read them. I promise. So work on figuring out how to make your thoughts worth reading.
Make something of yourself, and you won’t even need to think of Sam Harris. Not only is this way more fun than chasing douchy public figures (of which there are an overabundance already), it works better and is gonna make you happy, too.
Invest in People Who Invest in You
But I’m young, you say. There’s still a lot I don’t know, you say. I’m still learning and it’s a lot of work and it’ll take a while.
Yep, that’s all true. Heck, I’m getting kind of old and I still don’t know what I’m doing. So in the meantime, while you’re working on that…
There’s still a better way to spend your time than chasing that guy who insulted your heroine and, well, by extension, you.
Support the guys and gals who share your ideas and are already spreading your values in an intellectually honest and earnest way while doing what they love.
Support the people who’ve already made something of themselves, the ones who, like Sam Harris, have a following (albeit maybe not as big, but so what? How do you think someone’s following gets bigger? You think maybe it’s in part because of the support of the people who are already following them? Yes. Like that.)
There are plenty of amazing Objectivists out there doing incredible, original work in fields as varied as teaching, art, and, um, energy, including people like James Stevens Valliant, Alex Epstein, Luc Travers, Lisa Van Damme, and Scott Holleran. Every single one of them has a following. Every single one of them has influence. Help them grow what they’re doing by putting your weight behind them instead of chasing that guy who crapped on you.
Or, if you don’t wanna go the Objectivist route (since that’s a little more specific than we usually get around here), try somebody with a following who respects the same values. Those guys exist, too; I work for one of them. One of the things Matthew Hussey talks about often in regard to romantic relationships is that one of his criteria for being in a relationship with someone is that they really like him. It sounds like it should be obvious! But then you see how people act, and the criteria they’re using for pursuing or staying in a relationship while ignoring this one essential factor, and it has to be said.
For me to invest in you, you gotta like me, too.
Or at least, the thing I’m trying to do, the things I’m all about.
If you’re dissing me, or my heroes… there’s just no room. You can’t stay here. I don’t want you to.
There are SO MANY straight-up amazing people in the world, why would you take that crap? Why would you let even one minute of one day be filled with it?
I mean, hell, that’s not even the basis for a normal casual friendship. You diss me, you’re out. You diss my heroes, you’re out.
OK, OK, but he only wanted us to vote for some question on the guy’s website so he’d do a podcast, right?
OK, OK, but he (or I) could spend that five minutes reading (or writing) this blog post instead and come out better on the other side. Or setting up his own blog. Or practicing writing better. Or reading The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Or sharing Christopher Schlegel’s song “Bravado.” Or or or. There are so many better “ors” that would do more good in the world and more good for him and us psychologically. Pick one of those; do that instead.
And the flip side is that maybe Sam Harris shouldn’t have your support at all. With the insults he’s thrown at the genius who changed my life at its core for the better, I don’t have much empathy for him. I don’t think he deserves even five minutes of my time for me to vote on something on his site. I’d rather spend those five minutes on someone who does.