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Relevance of Objectivist Ethics

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Guest Guest_Gabriel_

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Guest Guest_Gabriel_

I need some advice related to the application of objectivist ethics. Before I can state my problem, allow me to briefly describe my situation.

Most Americans, as far as I can tell, subscribe to rational or Protestant-like work ethics, which leads to high productivity and a personal commitment to productivity and earned profit.

On the other hand, Romania, the country where I live, is dominated by the turkish tradition of nepotism, serviture, dog-eat-dog gossip and office politics, one-hand-washes-the-other favor exchanges and so on.

It is a very known, and accepted fact, that every time you need to interact with a public clerk, you are supposed to offer him some kind of gift as bribe, or your request will never get processed.

The entire system is so corrupt that clerks usually receive gift from people who need their services, and give them to other clerks they need services from. A single bribe can exchange hands 3-4 times in a day.

While in the US, and most of the western world, a worker is a mainly a worker, an engineer is mainly an engineer and so forth, here, everyone is a shrewd politician first, and a productive individual second, optionally.

The main goal of the average Romanian is to find new ways to cheat others into doing his work, making other look bad so he can get promoted and, if we works for the state, put himself in a position of power where we would get the most bribes.

So, in this dog-eat-dog, quasi-Nietzschean inspired setting, the role of objectivist ethics in minimal, because while I do adhere to the Trader Principle and I DO try to have fruitful and sincere relationships with others, this will often put me in a position to be easily abused. This is mostly true for office politics. (the kind not even the worst anti-corporate movies haven't shown).

Seing how my life is the standard of morality, I often find myself acting more and more like others, playing the same sick game, because that's the only way I can think of, except emigration, which is not a possibility right now.

My problem is that I often find myself doing things wich Objectivists might consider evil, but the only reason that I do them is because of the context.

I consider my action to be the best I can do, in a Ragnar Danneskjold sort of way.

I find myself being more and more influenced by philosophers such as Nietzsche, Machiavelli or pragmatist, since their theory and study of power-play and politics is much more relevant for my context than Objectivist ethics.

So... are objectivist ethics irrelevant in my situation? (beyond saying that I should think for myself and take my life as the moral standard, which goes without saying)

What am I to do to live a more "objectivist lifestyle" in these conditions? Is that possible?

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Guest Guest_Gabriel_

No. I work for a private company whose owner/CEO has a very collectivist style (the concept of seniority, "damn the individual, long live the team", etc.).

It's the best job I could find, but an objectivist would still find it unbearable.

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You should emigrate to a place where you can get a better job as soon as possible, Gabriel. Resolve to do this, and act every day to achieve it. When you do that, it'll be much easier to survive your days in your current job, because you will know that there is a better future awaiting you, and you're getting closer and closer to it day by day.

It might help to sing some optimistic and inspiring songs to yourself from time to time. For example:

It's a long way to Tipperary

It's a long way to go

It's a long way to Tipperary

To the sweetest girl I know

Good-bye, Piccadilly

Farewell, Leicester Square

It's a long, long way to Tipperary

But my heart's right there!

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I find myself being more and more influenced by philosophers such as Nietzsche, Machiavelli or pragmatist, since their theory and study of power-play and politics is much more relevant for my context than Objectivist ethics.


I think you are trying to use the word "relevance" in two different ways at the same time.

The relevance of your knowledge of the philosophies you mention lies in the understanding it provides you of the nature of the evils you face and their manifestations in the actions of those who would make your life miserable.

The relevance of the Objectivist ethics lies in the guidelines it provides for choosing your actions under those circumstances. Those guidelines are equally efficacious and more necessary in precisely the irrational world you dwell in than they are in our slightly less irrational world. [Read Rand's "How to Live a Rational Life in an Irrational World".]

Objectivist ethics are derived from definitions of the nature of man. They therefore always were, are now, and always will be relevant in all human contexts. To conceive of a context in which they are irrelevant would require at least one contradiction.

Also, I suspect that you are harboring an overestimation of American corporate politics compared to the Romanian. Yes the style here is more refined, but the content is, more often than not, the same.

When I was just barely through my training period at a major American manufacturer and still in Rand-Phase I, I wrote a 40 page memo carefully outlining the self-prostitution we were engaged in in the designing of our products. They shunted me off to the German subsidiary, gave me an apartment on the Rhine, a company car, and Berlitz lessons during work every day for a year. It was their way of getting rid of me without seeming to diminish the fake importance they placed on "good communications". The moral questions, of course, remained untouched.

German fluency gave me the opportunity to flee to a high position at an equally major German manufacturer. With a design department long overdue for an overhaul and a past reputation of honesty to a fault, it seemed like a much better venue to pursue a productive career. But sooner than I could have imagined, I found myself standing in passive amazement (and amusement) in the middle of a huge room full of staff while the chief engineer over our division literally yelled in my face repeatedly, "Now, you must say yes!, you must say yes! you must...."

In the long run, the politics in these two companies were indistinguishable except that the Germans were less sophisticated in their execution. It is to be expected that the Romanians would be even more primitive in this respect, but I seriously doubt that the moral issues you face are much different from those you would face in this country. Your integrity and the life of your career are at stake in both.

In that decade over which this sequence of events transpired, I grew to suffer less and less from the experience of enduring their irrationalities, because I read more of, thought more about, and learned more from Objectivism. The most powerful weapon against irrationality is the ability to fully comprehend it.

If you would provide us with some specific moral dilemma of corporate politics you face, or have faced, and tell us how you judged the ethics of those other philosophies to be more relevant than the ethics of Objectivism, I am sure we can show you how exactly the reverse is true.

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