The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bleeding Hearts

I swear, by my life and love of it, that I will never live for the
sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine.
-- Galt's oath, from Atlas Shrugged

What does it mean to be a “bleeding heart?” Does it mean to feel compassion for our fellow man and thus act to help “lift” him up when he is in need?

Ayn Rand says that every individual is responsible for his own happiness and that you should not live for the sake of another. This I agree 100%. Bleeding hearts do not live for the sake of others – they merely share their bounty so that the less fortunate can be helped. I do not see that this is contrary to Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

Ayn Rand railed against Communism. Communism believes that we should all pool our resources and distribute them evenly to everyone. This I do not agree with.

In Canada, we believe that in a just society we should help those in need. Since it is impossible to do this successfully on a voluntary, individual basis, we need to enact social policies that allow government to implement the help on our behalf. I do not understand the “right wing” philosophical objection to this.

(Speaking from a practical perspective, “social justice” can be abused – for example, we have many welfare “bums” that simply leech off society. But ANY practical social system is subject to abuse and corruption. This is not an argument against the principle and value of “liberal” policies...)

Harville Hendrix elegantly convinced me that we have a responsibility to take care of our fellow man...

Psychologist Carl Jung adds clues to the nature of our connectedness with his theory that we all share a collective unconscious. In this view, our cumulative human experiences coalesce over time around certain archetypes, or repeated patterns of human striving and behavior. The archetypes are the stuff of myth by which we live – hero and villain, earth mother and seductress. As much a part of what we inherit as our animal instincts and our hair color, these universal archetypes are an unconscious influence on our behavior and responses, even as our own thoughts and actions influence their mutation and add to their collective force.

What it all boils down to is that our inchoate longing for connectedness, and those moments when we pierce the veil of our everyday evidence, stem from a hazy memory that at one time we were not separate, but connected to everything, and particularly to all other humans, in a way that felt safe and supporting. And our fundamental yearning is to transcend the barriers that now separate us from our awareness of this connection.

There is something in the psyche that knows that things are not as they should be. We don’t hope or long for something imaginary. That buried intimation of a pan-existent human essence, when we contact it, feels absolutely normal and objectively real. We yearn for our original wholeness, for that dimly remembered state of relaxed joyfulness, because we did experience it, if only briefly, in the womb. We just can’t identify its source. Theologian Martin Buber expressed it well when he said that “birth is the moment when we begin to forget.”

I don’t understand why Objectivists think that we don’t have this responsibility.


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