The average person does not in any way have an impact on major developments in the world. Be accomplishments in politics, science, business, architecture, literature, the common man does not contribute in any major way. He listens to what he is told in the media and by his favorite politicians. He doesn’t question, reason or think. He follows and takes orders, he doesn’t lead, change or create. He thinks and stays inside the box.
Only very few people have the drive and the ability to create, change, and improve things. The greatest technological accomplishments in this world, such as electricity, motor vehicles, aviation, or computers were not made by a collective herd of compliant individuals. They were the work of a few innovative, industrious, and contrarian researchers and businessmen.
Today the American worker enjoys goods and services that a Croesus or the Medici would have envied him for. But he doesn’t realize that it was very few brilliant people before him who made this possible. He mostly takes these things for granted. He doesn’t acknowledge his deficiency when compared to these individuals, in fact he generally scorns them as intellectual elitists.
Those few who create, change, and innovate are caught in a precarious predicament. They need to produce for a large number of people who generally display poor judgment, bad taste, and consume goods of little intellectual value. This is particularly true in the fields of entertainment and literature. The majority of people prefers shallow movies and novels. But in a relatively free system the producers have no choice. They have to serve their consumers as they please and subordinate their will to the wishes of the masses.
Nobody likes to accept the fact that he himself is a tiny cog in a huge machine and that he has contributed nothing to the accomplishments of his age. Thus he finds refuge in the words of the politicians. The people who tell him that all humans are equal. That no one person contributes more than another. Thus he falls for the soothsayers of collectivism. He begins to sympathize with the mindless blather of the worshipers of nature, the people who tell him that human accomplishments will always be inferior to the creations of the seas, the earth, and the winds, that the merely man-made New York skyline is dwarfed by the colossal beauty of the Alps, the Sierra Nevada mountains, or the redwood trees of the Yosemite valley. He finds comfort in the words of religions that tell him that in the end we’ll all be judged by god in heaven and that mundane accomplishments won’t matter anyway.
Thus he begins placing his trust in government instead of in his own capacities. The government, as the mystical force that can conjure up wealth out of nothing. The government that tells him everything he wants to hear. The government that represents the mighty collective versus the callous and rugged individual. The government that will fix all his problems. The thought of that is way too appealing to be cast aside as a result of any logical reasoning. Plus an army of self styled intellectuals stands ready with simple and shallow justifications for any government policy, no matter how mindless and harmful it will be.
Thus he begins placing his trust in the god almighty instead of human logic and reason. God, the ultimate judge of all his inferior children. God who will welcome him in his benign aegis as one among equals once his sorry mundane life is over. Again an army of self styled intellectuals stands ready with simple and shallow justifications for any particular religion one happens to have fallen prey to.
Justification for one’s relevance unwittingly turns into a genuine hatred of mankind in general, and ultimately self hatred.
Ayn Rand put it best in The Fountainhead. When the opportunistic, yet brilliant publisher Gail Wynand tells his soon to be wife Dominique on their romantic excursion on his yacht:
“[T]he person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind. He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him.”
“You mean the person who says that there’s some good in the worst of us?”
“I mean the person who has the filthy insolence to claim that he loves equally the man who made that statue of you and the man who makes a Mickey Mouse balloon to sell on street corners. I mean the person who loves the men who prefer the Mickey Mouse to your statue-and there are many of that kind. I mean the person who loves Joan of Arc and the salesgirls in dress shops on Broadway-with equal fervor. I mean the person who loves your beauty and the women he sees in a subway-the kind that can’t cross their knees and show flesh hanging publicly over their garters-with the same sense of exaltation. I mean the person who loves the clean, steady, unfrightened eyes of man looking through a telescope and the white stare of an imbecile-equally.”
“You’ve never felt how small you were when looking at the ocean.”
“Never. Nor looking at the planets. Nor at mountain peaks. Nor at the Grand Canyon. Why should I? When I look at the ocean, I feel the greatness of man. I think of man’s magnificent capacity that created this ship to conquer all that senseless space. When I look at mountain peaks, I think of tunnels and dynamite. When I look at the planets, I think of airplanes.”
“It’s interesting to speculate on the reasons that make men so anxious to debase themselves. As in that idea of feeling small before nature. It’s not a bromide, it’s practically an institution. Have you noticed how self-righteous a man sounds when he tells you about it? Look, he seems to say, I’m so glad to be a pygmy, that’s how virtuous I am. Have you heard with what delight people quote some great celebrity who’s proclaimed that he’s not so great when he looks at Niagara Falls? It’s as if they were smacking their lips in sheer glee that their best is dust before the brute force of an earthquake. As if they were sprawling on all fours, rubbing their foreheads in the mud to the majesty of a hurricane. But that’s not the spirit that leashed fire, steam, electricity, that crossed oceans in sailing sloops, that built airplanes and dams . . . and skyscrapers. What is it they fear? What is it they hate so much, those who love to crawl? And why?”
It is ultimately their own deficiency they hate. It is what makes them follow false ideas. But ultimately there is no problem with deficiency per se, so long as one accepts it and makes an effort to improve. The problems only arise when people reject reality, refuse to improve, and begin to delude themselves.
5 thoughts on “The Self Hatred of the Masses”
Rather than regularly commemorate the state, its leaders and its bloodbath wars we should instead pay homage to men like Tesla, Edison, McCormick, Armstrong, Hall and many others who provided us a higher standard of living through their unique insights and considerable efforts.
I like some of your ideas in this article, but I’d like to offer a couple points.
1. While it is true that man’s mind allows him to operate within nature and build machines – and this is due to man’s greatness, his mind – he is still limited to the framework of nature. Man can only operate within the laws of nature he exists in. Even the gift of man’s mind he had no control over, and the structure of our mind, the categories we use to think. Our minds have limitations, our bodies have limitations – that is the source of real humility. Humility is an emotion that is based on reality. Not self-hatred or low self-esteem, but real humility.
2. As a person I think you have to strike a balance between the idea of humbling yourself before reality/nature, and having self esteem and courage to explore the unknown. My personal approach is that nature itself has given you the tools to explore the unknown, both physically and intellectually, but you should never make the mistake of thinking that somehow you are ultimately above the system of nature. You are definitely trapped in it, even though you are given the tools to explore.
3. It’s a natural reaction when you study astronomy, when you reach a certain level of understanding, that you feel like an infinitesimal speck of matter. That is the fact. It’s also a fact that no one will remember your name, even if you are extremely famous, in 3000 years. Neither of these facts mean that you should just pack it in, so to say, and don’t strive for the rest of your life. But they do provide an important context for any individual and they inspire feelings of humility, not arrogance.
Rafi: I pretty much agree with everything you said, and I don’t think that, in essence, what I wrote above contradicts your points.
I discovered your site today. It is going to be a great resource to me. I appreciate your hard work in writing articles on the economy and our times with logic and reason.
My discontent with my political choices during this past election has caused me to begin a quest to think for myself and determine what I truly believe with respects to politics and the economy. I started with DiLorenzo’s book, “Hamilton’s Curse:…”, and I will next seek to tackle some Ron Paul and F.A. Hayek. Mark Skousen had already gotten me interested in Austrian economics. But, I am an infant when it comes to the economy.
We will disagree on philosophy. I am a Christian with Reformed theology beliefs. I believe in the pleasure-pain mechanism, but I also believe the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. In doing so, man will find the utmost happiness in this life and the next.
I am eager to explore the common ground in politics and economics, and I take comfort in knowing that the Christian and Objectivist can differ in philosophy, but work as partners to achieve the greatest freedom, liberty, peace, happiness and prosperity for all of man.
Hey – just found this site via a link from dailypaul.com. Looks good, will keep me occupied for hours. In return, I’d like to do the same for you and suggest a site I think you’d like – freedomainradio.com.