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LoBagola

Understanding allusions and indirect language

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So a while ago I read an article which I bookmarked, for reasons other than the author intended, I'm sure. I saw something which made me think.

 

After he graduated from the School of Mines, Saunders went to work for an oil-exploration company in the jungles of Sumatra…They worked four weeks on and two weeks off and in the down time would be shuttled in helicopters to the nearest city, 40 minutes away, and then from there fly to Singapore.
....
 
“I’d been kind of an Ayn Rand guy before that,” he said. “And then you go to Asia and  you see people who are genuinely poor and genuinely suffering and hadn’t gotten there by whining.” While on a break in Singapore, walking back to his hotel in the middle of the night, he stopped by an excavation site and “saw these shadows scuttling around in the hole. And then I realized the shadows were old women, working the night shift. Oh, I thought, Ayn Rand doesn’t quite account for this.”

 

 
I was REALLY angry reading this. I know that subconsciously I've identified things the author is saying indirectly but I'd like to understand how to deconstruct this type of thought process explicitly. I've seen it used elsewhere and I will often hear it about random subjects or people. I think conceptualizing whatever this is, will be powerful, because then I can begin to understand and think about it in my mind. So here's my attempt to conceptualize what I felt. 
 
Is there some name in polemics for what the author is doing here?
 
 
"Oh, I thought"...

 

 

 
that pisses me off. That one clause. Maybe its because he implies surprise, which requires understanding, which contradicts the level of thought displayed in saying he was an "Ayn Rand kind of guy."
 
 
"who hadn't gotten there by whining." 

 

It's unclear as to whether all American get to places by whining? or maybe his friends? or maybe his family did? Not sure. He doesn't specify. But if Americans are doing so well compared to those in Asia, and they got there by whining, maybe what the author means by "whining" is the secret to material success at building wealth?

 

 

 
"kind of an Ayn Rand guy"

 

(relates to my post on lazy propositions as being destructive = http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=2727)
 
He clearly has not given the topic much thought at all. I have no idea what a "kind of Ayn Rand guy" is. Your left wondering whether he read one book, two, maybe none. You have no idea what to do with this phrase mentally.
 
 
Original piece is here. Suitable titled.
Edited by LoBagola

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genuinely poor and genuinely suffering

 

Not just poor and suffering, genuinely so. :)

 

It all seems to me strawman. Nothing very sophisticated.

 

BTW I like the title, not in the sense they mean it, but because I believe children should be educated in thinking.

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Like you said, he didn't give it much thought.

I had a similar experience recently, where a Facebook acquaintance was mildly angered by a Rand quote-meme I posted, where Rand pointed out the double standard to which rich businessmen are held in society. She said something like, "Rand could never have foreseen the level of greed we've reached in today's world! Totally not applicable." When I started picking apart her premises and assumptions, she quickly abandoned the discussion. These people only think to a certain point, to the level that supposedly verifies their held beliefs, and that's it.

But, I couldn't tell you why they do this. I have no clue why people expend the energy to get upset about a cause of their choosing, but when questioned they won't continue the effort to actually support this cause that is firing them up!

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I had a similar experience recently, where a Facebook acquaintance was mildly angered by a Rand quote-meme I posted, where Rand pointed out the double standard to which rich businessmen are held in society. She said something like, "Rand could never have foreseen the level of greed we've reached in today's world! Totally not applicable." When I started picking apart her premises and assumptions, she quickly abandoned the discussion. These people only think to a certain point, to the level that supposedly verifies their held beliefs, and that's it.

 

I'm glad you brought this example up. That is exactly what I struggle with. Out of curiosity how did you begin in addressing what she said? what are her premises?

 

"Rand could never have foreseen the level of greed we've reach in today's world! Totally not applicable." It's like there's too much implicit in this and I don't know what.

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Facebook's privacy settings should shield her identity, so...

The original quote of Rand's:

If workers struggle for higher wages, this is hailed as "social gains"; if businessmen struggle for higher profits, this is damned as "selfish greed."

Her:

That was then, not scripture. She couldn't possibly have understood greed going supernova.

Me, knowing that she is an explicit socialist who dramatically altered her life for the cause of major socialist ideals, and assuming she was not very familiar with Rand, or at least didn't understand her:

She considered earned wealth a just reward, and she condemned the kind of lobbying crony capitalism that is so prevalent in the world today. "Greed," if it's to mean "wanting too much earned wealth for yourself," is not a bad thing. Most people seem to passively accept the premise that she cites in that quote/graphic.

If I've got to choose between welfare recipients who do no work (plain old handout recipients mostly in ghettos) and corporations who receive favors in various forms from the government (who shouldn't be permitted to supply such favors to begin with,) I'll take the corporations who supply me with value and wellbeing, who don't have much of a choice if they want to compete against other government favors and handouts given to their competitors.

Her:

Who's forcing you to choose? It's not really a legitimate polarity.

Me:

Those were the two sides (/choices) presented in her quote. I would actually choose neither. No one deserves handouts that were taken from people against their will, whether it's a single mom/corner coffee shop, or Elon Musk/General Motors.

Edit: actually, I created those sides. I was assuming you were ok with one type of handout but not the other, even though they're essentially the same.

Her:

Certainly, but Rand was writing in a time like any other time that can't draw understanding from the future. There might be a theoretical justice of sorts in "no one deserves handouts that were taken from people against their will." Sure. As a construct. But the word "handouts" is perfectly worthless and abused by all parties who argue issues--and the word "people" is almost impossible to talk about in the abstract, which is the way it exists in policy. A real single mother and General Motors are not the same thing. Not. Not in any way. Not ever. I wish I had something to argue for, or even, in fact, something to argue convincingly against, but the scale and velocity of what's going on is so far beyond our capacity to gain primary access, I'm left squawking against too-easy formulations of the problem. Like a weensy meme-crusher. Like I don't throw around memes myself.

Me:

Formulations may be easy or not, but the important part is whether they're true. Same thing with theory, constructs, or memes/quotes. They're useful when they put some abstract truth in a simple or clever formulation, but it has to be true.

"Handout" can be simplified by defining it: wealth taken from one person and given to another, by the force/threat of a third person. Today, we have many huge systems in place that accomplish this in many complicated ways through governments and mafias, but it is exactly the same thing: a "handout." In this way, GM and a single mom are the same, by taking handouts acquired from the original person who created the wealth, against that person's will.

The scale of this theft isn't important in defining the theft, though it is important in calculating the damage done.

Btw, Rand foresaw our current world in almost startling detail and accuracy, as told in her novel Atlas Shrugged. There are *many* parallels in that book to today's American eroded culture and degenerated political system. You can almost name real existing people to their fictional counterparts which she created 60+ years ago. She knew all about "greed," aka. what I assume you are referring to: crony capitalism.

No response from her! Lately I've been trying to steer clear of wasted argument-interactions. But, this is the first time I'd had this kind of exchange with her... and likely the last.

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Not to nitpick, but, your definitions for Greed and Handouts are too narrow -- Greed, as it is used to today, is more about wanting more than the bare minimum or what is necessary or average, within a certain context. Handouts do not necessarily involve force or the threat of force by a third party. I can think of plenty of handouts where there is no force involved at all -- such as a charitable donation or my parents giving me gas money. 

Edited by thenelli01

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