Man Alive! Chapter 9: The High Cost of Mindlessness

Here’s the post that kicked it all off. This is chapter 9 of 12, to give interested readers the chance to take on the free ebook chapter by chapter over the weekend, debate it amongst themselves, or even challenge the author who’s keeping tabs.


From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

by Greg Swann

Chapter 9. The high cost of mindlessness.

When you are not thinking carefully, you are not not-thinking. If you are not asleep and not unconscious, you are always thinking – always sustaining an uninterruptible mental “dialogue” with yourself in Fathertongue. But if you are not thinking carefully – thinking mindfully – then you are thinking carelessly – mindlessly. Most of the academic nonsense I have mocked in this book consists of a scrupulous cataloging of the processes and consequences of human mindlessness – which is misrepresented by the professoriat as being the normal state of human consciousness.

The existence and substance of mindlessness are not what the researchers intend to document. Their work is simply a reflection of the fact that, for each one of us, the world we see outside the mind is the one we are looking for from inside the mind. If you want to be excluded entirely from any academic “study,” all you have to do is question the premises – the prejudices – undergirding the “research.” It suits the professorial temperament to insist that your purposive behavior must be the end-consequence of some type of mindlessness – genetics or physical-, psychological- or behavioral-determinism or brain chemistry or vestigial animality or social dynamics or anything except rationally-conceptual volitionality – free will. Accordingly, if you should dare to peek behind the curtain it will turn out that you are not an appropriate test-subject. If the territory does not correspond to the map, by all means dispose of the territory.

Even so, there definitely is a benefit to be realized from the careful study of mindlessness – from the fully-conscious examination of the means and ends of mental carelessness. Your world is in ruins, if it is, not because the universe is malevolent and not because somebody done you wrong. Your life is chaos – or you fear that it soon might be – because you have failed to think carefully in your own behalf. You have spent your entire life in the mental and emotional thrall of ideologues and demagogues – theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists, politicians and other so-called “thought leaders” – who swore to you that they could be trusted to do your thinking for you.

And every one of those putative “thinkers,” despite their superficial differences, insisted to you that the highest possible moral virtue was selflessness – the derision, the denigration and ultimately the destruction of the self. And you followed them, didn’t you? Unthinkingly – mindlessly – you surrendered your mind to them. And you have striven with all of your mental might to be “good” for your whole life, to denounce and renounce your self, to direct your thoughts and your actions toward any beneficiary except your self.

Be honest: How has that worked out for you?

The self is the value before all other values in the uniquely-human life. It is not only not possible for you to be a human being and not be a self, even attempting to affect to pretend to make believe that you could live selflessly is a well-worn path to Squalor.

Take a good look at your life. Would you say that you have lived a life of Splendor? Do you love your self and your life and your values with an uncontainable passion? We established that you are surrounded by an astounding store of material wealth. Are you satisfied with your possessions? Do you feel fulfilled – in your home, in your work, in your relationships? Do you look upon the world outside your mind as a realm of infinite possibilities, a place of nearly-unendurable beauty, a paradise-made-real – ripe with opportunities, full-to-bursting with unforeseen adventures, delicious in its cornucopian delights? Isn’t that the way you felt when you were four or five years old, when your mind first came to be awake in Fathertongue? Isn’t that the way you thought your life would always be? Why do you suppose it has not turned out that way?

The world you see is the world you are looking for. The world of existential reality – the real world that exists prior to and irrespective of your consciousness of it – is a matter of fact. You did not cause it to come into existence by thinking about it, and you cannot cause it to vanish by wishing it away. The universe is everything-that-exists, but the universe of your experience is entirely an artifact of your mind – of your thinking and of your repeated, persistent failure to think. Why are you miserable much of the time? Why wouldn’t you be? You have deliberately inverted your hierarchy of values – or tried to and failed, again and again, dozens of times a day, for every wretched day of your life.

Those so-called “thought leaders” with whom you thoughtlessly entrusted your mind didn’t know what the self was, precisely, but they knew they hated it. They knew that if you were to think in your own behalf, pursuing nothing but your own values, they would have no hold over you. They knew that if you were to learn to love your self, you would have no need for them whatever. They knew – not fully-consciously but viscerally, in their unexamined “guts” – that if you were to discover Splendor, you would never turn away from it, and they would never again be able to harness your strengths in the service of their vile and squalid weaknesses: Their doubts, their fears, their envy, their malice and their carefully-cultivated uncertainty. At the age of four or five, when you were learning to love and embrace the uncountable riches of the world outside your mind – when you were learning to love the mind itself, even though you did not know this is what you were doing – they were learning all about you: How to manipulate you – with the flattery of social inclusion or the threat of an ignominious exclusion – into sacrificing your values to them.

And so they told you that acting in your own behalf, in pursuit of your own values – values you chose for your self for your own reasons, with no standard of value except your self – they told you not once but a thousand times in a thousand different ways that your behavior was not just evil but was the essence of evil. They insisted that to be good, to achieve a true state of virtue, you had to surrender your self – and the “to whom” of that transaction mattered a lot less to your despoilers than the surrender itself.

Should you surrender your self to a god? To the poor? To the mob? To the state? Should you hate your life for being physically delightful to you, or should you hate it because you love how well your mind works? Should you hate it that you love your spouse more than anyone else on Earth, or should you hate it because you can’t stop yourself from beaming with pride about the accomplishments of your children? Should you despise your life because, for some reason – you don’t know why, and no matter how hard you try – you just can’t bring yourself to despise your life? Should you hate your self because, no matter how many times you expose your mind to these doctrines of self-hatred, you have never been able to hate your self completely, permanently, terminally?

Please forgive me one moment of outrage: What a crock of shit!

Most of the champions of these philosophies of selflessness are themselves victims of them. They regurgitate today the poisonous swill they imbibed yesterday as a way of “proving” – to themselves but more importantly to you and to everyone else – that they are good people. The theologians and philosophers who cooked up these foul brews knew exactly what they were doing, and they poisoned billions of thoughtless but otherwise decent people, leaving them with no antidote for their poison except still more poison.

How? Like this: If you cannot successfully renounce your self, it must be because you are too selfish. If you persist in loving your life despite making every possible perverse effort to despise it, it must be because you are unworthy of true virtue. If the territory that is your mind, your self and your life will not correspond to their map – no matter how hard you twist and contort yourself to try to “fit in” – then it must be that you are irredeemably evil, unfit to be alive, a bungled and botched abomination, a vile, demonic monster in human form.

I wish I were making this up.

With only a very few stunted exceptions, every argument of moral philosophy, for all of human history, has consisted of damning human beings for not being what they cannot be, condemning us endlessly and in infinite variations for being what we are – and cannot fail to be in order to be human beings. Recall, the unavoidable existence of the self is a matter of ontology – of being – not of teleology – of choosing or shoulding. You came to be a self because of choices – those of your parents and other human beings who helped to raise you – but once you had become a self, the effect was both unavoidable and irreversible.

You cannot be alive as a human being and not be a self. To condemn a rock for not being a tree is absurd. To condemn your house-cat for being a carnivore – no matter what you might choose to feed it – is perverse. And yet virtually every so-called “ethicist” in all of human history has argued that you cannot be both morally good and act in correspondence – in ontological-consonance – with your one, true, unavoidable, inalterable, undeniable nature. Stripped of all the impenetrable verbal fog, they said that the only good human being is not a human being.

And you bought it!

Because you never trained your mind to think about the ontology of human nature – don’t fault yourself for that; no one else did, either – you thought they were just talking about you. You’ve known your whole life that you yourself have never been able to live down to the perverse ideas of “virtue” that evil philosophers and their mindless minions have never tired of preaching at you, but you thought the fault was yours alone. You thought that, since everyone incessantly repeats these inverted moral prescriptions, everyone other than you must be conforming to them, as well, and it must be you alone who is defective. You could not succeed in condemning – damning – your life and still living it, so you called yourself a “sinner” for committing the awful crime of continuing to live as a human being after insisting to yourself not just once but a thousand times that the self – the cardinal value in the uniquely-human life – is evil. How could you possibly claim to be good if you could not ever seem to do the things you insisted to yourself are good?

You didn’t know that nearly every other human being swims in that same steaming sewer of longing and shame, each one of them perpetually and persistently failing to uphold “virtues” that are – by diabolical plan and intention – impossible to practice. You didn’t know that no one can practice those perverse ideas of virtue – because no entity can both be and not-be itself. That is the essential statement of ontology, the law of identity, and we can characterize virtually all of moral philosophy, until now, as anti-ontological teleology: You should be only what you cannot be. But that proposition is inverted, too. What virtually all theologians and philosophers have insisted, for all of human history, is that you should not be the only thing you can be – a self, a being of rationally-conceptual volitionality, a free moral agent.

Why would they make such perverse arguments – not just false, but comically, ludicrously, insanely contrary to plainly obvious fact, now that we have fully disclosed the facts of human nature? Why would they do that?

In order to enslave you. And guess what? It worked.

They said the only good human is a mindless human, and – man alive! – did you deliver the goods!

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. TMS71 on July 29, 2012 at 21:13

    Smells like Ayn Rand.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 29, 2012 at 21:29

      And that’s automatically an indictment, even though Greg criticizes Ramd, as I do, regularly.

      Thing is, there’s a difference between informed criticism and jerk-off, ignorant dismissal on all grounds without taking the trouble to make any argument,

  2. Greg Swann on July 29, 2012 at 22:00

    This is from an essay called “Reds” that I wrote in 2002:

    When the French, to pick an odorous example, rail against Individualism, we know what we’re hearing. When radical feminists — or radical environmentalists, or radical vegans — heap scorn upon Liberty, it doesn’t take much acuity to see right through them.

    But to listen carefully — and I am cursed with the skill of listening carefully — to a Scout leader or a PTA president or a youth minister is to listen no less to the preachments of Herr Doktor Marx. Service and sacrifice, the sacrifice of all to any, any to all, with the only measure of virtue being elaborately effected egolessness.

    It is everywhere. The National Honor Society, which by its name and its selection process is about nothing but selfish individual achievement, immediately demands of its honorees that they spit on their accomplishments and pursue instead endless collectivist sacrifice.

    The real, genuine, actual purpose of the Knights of Columbus or the Elks Club or the Shriners is to provide a place where members can drink after hours and play poker unsurveilled. But the ‘official’ reason-for-being for fraternal organizations — for ‘organized’ activities of any kind — is charity. We will suffer the boys a snort and a draw to a straight, provided they dress it up with a sacrifice to the mob.

    The country club, membership in which is the very hallmark of individual distinction and exclusivity, justifies its existence with ritualized charity balls and charity golf tournaments and cacophonous silent auctions for charity.

    I could cite examples unending, and that’s the point. I can think of almost nothing in the lives of ordinary Americans, nothing that is ‘organized’ or ‘official’, that is not thoroughly steeped in Marxism.

    Is the youth minister a Communist? The PTA president? Emphatically, no — so much the worse. The theorists who lead the feminists and the environmentalists and the vegans know what they are doing — which is helpful, since their theory leads them to take stands so absurd that normal people are repelled. But when the Scout leader regurgitates the Marxist horseshit he was force-fed without even knowing it was Marxist horseshit, without even realizing he was being force-fed, without ever once thinking about what his words might mean — that man is the most effective recruiting agent the Communists ever had.

    Oh, but the Soviets are dead and gone. And the Chinese are reforming. And Castro is a joke. And none of that matters. Communism — more properly Anti-Individualism — has never been healthier, death notices notwithstanding. Communism thrives not because some state waxes or wanes, but because its core philosophy is ubiquitous.

    And in fact the West has never been safe. At times we have flirted with Individualism, but never openly, without shame or reservation. Our brother Abel was making Marx’s argument and effecting Marx’s murders long before Herr Doktor Marx rationalized Abel’s pathology. And we have volunteered for millennia to despise our highest virtues in order to win, by bribery, the approval of the despicable — who we hope will spare us even as we tacitly concede that they have as much right as Abel to slaughter us.

    But even this is not enough for Communism to triumph. So long as you have even one small place to go to be alone, to be a self, an ego, free and disunited — so long as there is even one little thing about which you can say, “This is mine and you can’t touch it!” — so long as there is even one tiny little corner in your mind that is not to be pawed, not to be mauled, not to be defaced and desecrated by all or by any — so long as there is anything in your life that is not to be shared, socialized, sacrificed — then Communism must fail.

    And that is the why of the force-feeding Scoutmaster, why he spends all his time spewing unexamined Marxism, why he has been assiduously indoctrinated to spend all his time spewing unexamined Marxism. He is not a Communist, but when he force-feeds that unexamined Marxist horseshit to innocent children, the PTA president and the youth minister smile. And they are not Communists. They are simply regurgitating the Marxist horseshit they swill everywhere — newspapers, magazines, television, the sermons and speeches they write by cribbing the same horseshit from other articles and sermons and speeches. If asked, they would deny that it is their claim that service and sacrifice are the only justifications for human life. If pressed, they would insist that they are not trying to destroy every redoubt of Individualism.

    But we are what we do. They are the unwitting foot-soldiers, the useful idiots, of Communism. They’re not coming for your guns; that’s a distraction. They’re coming for your children. They’re coming for you.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can repair to your family, if you can love your spouse or your children and not share that love equally with all or any. So the family must be destroyed. Undermined from within by feminism and divorce and the destruction of fatherhood. Undermined from without by films and jokes that demean the family and promote accidental, temporary relationships.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can turn to your church, to a communion and consolation that is immutably private. So the church must be destroyed. Dismantled from the outside by ridicule and loathing, dismantled from the inside by the indoctrination of Marxism.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can own anything. So ownership must be destroyed. Everything you own, from your house to your car to your things to your memories to your thoughts to your soul itself — everything you own becomes subject to review, to derision, to oversight, to criticism, to regulation, to confiscation.

    Communism cannot triumph if you can escape it. One-world Communism doesn’t require a global state. All that is necessary is for you to be unable to get away from it no matter where you go. To the church? To the school? To the country club? To the Elks club? To the legislature, even? There is nowhere for you to run, no place you can go where you are permitted to uphold your right to your own life as a matter of right.

    But Communism cannot triumph if you can resist it. And that is the true battleground — your mind. They’ll take your guns when they can, and your house soon after that, but the property they must take, in order to triumph, is your mind. That is why they took your church and your school and your family and every social organization you belong to and everything you see or hear about or read: In order to force-feed you Marxism and to leave you no alternative but to be force-fed Marxism.

    You think they’re beaten, but you’re wrong. You watched it on television — a vast electronic rectum ceaselessly spewing Marxist horseshit — and you think they’re defeated. You’re wrong. The Soviets might be gone, but Communism — more properly Anti-Individualism — has never been healthier.

    It’s not a matter of controlling states or controlling weapons or controlling factories. The issue — the only issue — is controlling you. More properly, convincing you to surrender your self-control. To give up your mind and your body and your soul, to deny to yourself any right to the personal, the private, the not-to-be-sacrificed. To renounce your own ego because it is yours, because it can never be shared, because it is a treasure so precious it must never be pawed at by strangers. When they convince you to damn your own self for being a self, then Communism can triumph. The territory to be captured is you.

    This is their goal, their only goal. They are relentless in pursuit of that goal, and they will not give up.

    And they are everywhere…

    • marie on July 30, 2012 at 13:04

      Greg, I’m a bit confused, please clarify? Communism = Christianity? (I mean that Christianity which is prevalently taught by authority/church).
      The reason I’m asking is because in my experience, the Scout master, PTA, Knights of Columbus etc etc all think they are expressing Christian ‘charitable’ values, and christianity’s been around a lot longer than Marx and the Internationale, yes?

      • Greg Swann on July 30, 2012 at 14:41

        > Communism = Christianity?

        No. The point is that most or all of the rationales you will hear for organized activities of any kind, regardless of their putative wrapping paper, consist of Marxist rhetoric. If you’re not listening carefully, and if you don’t know what to listen for, most of this will glide right past you, particularly because you hear the same Marxist appeals everywhere you turn. That was the objective of the Marxist theorists behind this push — this putsch — and they have been hugely successful in it.

        Why is it necessary for me to take 30,000 words to insist that you are right to live for your own values? Because everywhere you turn would-be “thought leaders” declare that to live for your own sake is the essence of human evil. Almost none of these people are self-conscious Marxists. They’re just thoughtless folks trying to demonstrate their own virtue as members-in-good-standing of the anti-egoistic mob. This is Marx’s enduring genius, not just to make a virtue of self-destruction, but to take the people most serious about virtuous behavior and turn them into self-killing zombies.

        Does your mileage vary? I’m sure it does. But if you want to see Herr Docktor Marx bubble to the surface in any contemporary doctrine, take Man Alive! in for a discussion of the value of self-adoration to Christians or Muslims, to the Scouts, to the PTA or to a fraternal/sororal organization. No need to take the whole book. Just the matter quoted below, from Chapter 5, will be enough to get you shunned by any mob:

        So what might be the cardinal virtue in an ontologically-consonant moral philosophy? Self-love, of course. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this whole book is about self-adoration as the highest possible virtue in the uniquely-human life. Philosophy is about shoulding – “What should I do?” – and my entire philosophy of the fully-human life can be summarized in three words: Love your self. The pursuit of bodily utility is completely teleologically appropriate to the life of any other organism – and they don’t need us to tell them that! But mere bodily utility is not sufficient for the life of a human being: Man does not live by bread alone.

        The term “ontologically-consonant” is immensely useful, so long as you retain in your mind the fact that what you are most fundamentally is a self. Any object or action or idea that advances or enhances the true interests of your self is a value – it is of value to your self, in the context of the full hierarchy of your values. Anything that retards or diminishes the interests of your self is a disvalue. In the next chapter we will talk about a more granular evaluation of values. The point to be made here is that virtue and vice writ large can only be meaningfully judged by reference to a cardinal standard of value, and that standard, for all human beings – whether they like it or not – is the self.

        Anti-egoism is the constant factor in all of human civilization, for all of our history. The Greeks carved out a few exceptions to this rule — which is why we can even talk about it, and keep in mind that the three religions of Abraham are all theological compromises with Greek civilization — but Marxism-write-large can be understood as the East coming back to reclaim the West.

        I am in league with the Greeks.

    • TMS71 on July 30, 2012 at 16:47

      Country clubs and K of C and other groups having some charitable function is not communism. Its a good thing. It seems like your ideal is that no one does anything for anyone other than their own family members. I don’t think most people feel that way.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 30, 2012 at 17:25


        I think you miss the principle. You follow your values. For most people that includeds a lot more than family.

  3. Amy Haines on July 30, 2012 at 05:32

    I’ve been hesitant to comment on the Man Alive! series because I feel quite out of my league, only having taken one Philosophy class in college and am otherwise not terribly well read in the field. Better minds than mine should be debating, I thought…

    …and then I read this post and had an “ah ha!” moment and thought “why is my mind not good enough to debate and discuss?” Because I believe I’m not good enough because I’ve been taught to worship authority, whether authority over my behavior or authority that dictates my level of intelligence. It feels like my entire life, my ENTIRE life, has been one of challenging authority and accepted knowledge. I suspect I barely survived high school not because I was not intelligent but because I had started to give up on the Narrative in grammar school. I read widely (of course, outside of the curriculum) and pursued my own interests, only paying passing attention to my homework. The penalty was C and B grades when I could have been a straight A student. I disappointed my parents, none of my teachers cared for me and my rebellious attitude, and there was no yellow honor stole to grace my shoulders. All of those were little shaming punishments for shunning the drivel in which I was drowning.

    And I feel like I’m still waking up and breaking free. This chapter is Randian, distilled Rand to a point. Rand is sometime misunderstood on the matter of selfishness and living for yourself. I am critical of her views as well and often it seems like her philosophy and her personal life were rather poorly aligned, but who among us can say we live perfectly and strictly according to our ideologies?

    Critics like to infer that Rand advocates giving a “f*ck you” to everyone else and just do whatever you want, regardless of consequences. That is a over-simplification and frankly disingenuous and misleading interpretation of the virtue of selfishness. Swann puts it better than I can when he says If you cannot successfully renounce your self, it must be because you are too selfish. If you persist in loving your life despite making every possible perverse effort to despise it, it must be because you are unworthy of true virtue. If the territory that is your mind, your self and your life will not correspond to their map – no matter how hard you twist and contort yourself to try to “fit in” – then it must be that you are irredeemably evil, unfit to be alive, a bungled and botched abomination, a vile, demonic monster in human form…every argument of moral philosophy, for all of human history, has consisted of damning human beings for not being what they cannot be, condemning us endlessly and in infinite variations for being what we are – and cannot fail to be in order to be human beings.

    This goes a good part of the way towards crystallizing how I feel about selfishness as well. We’ve all been taught that sharing is good and to hoard things for ourselves is evil. Personally, I think taking from others for the sake of taking when you don’t need something is a net wrong, something I must do everyday as the referee between my toddlers who only want a toy once the other starts playing with it. That is a learning process all children go through, not to take -but to require sharing of toys that are not explicitly communal is wrong, too. My kids have certain toys that are special and just for them, and I never force them to share those toys with others. They can if they want to, if it helps them feel good or sorts out a problem, but forcing them to out of a sense of “goodness?” No. It would be like working very hard for many years to buy a certain car or something I have always wanted, and upon finally having the object of my desire in front of me, being told I have to now share it with someone who doesn’t have such a car but wants to drive it anyway. It would be like meeting someone who desired to sleep with my husband and being forced to share him out of the goodness of my heart, because she can’t get someone like him and who am I to keep him all to myself? These might seem like ridiculous examples, but I have met people who think this way. And they frighten me.

    Even a glance at the plant and animal kingdom reveals no such altruism in any other species: they all care about themselves first. Mothers, of course, care for their young to varying degrees according to r/K selection and species, but I’m not certain that elephants have a conscious thought about not drinking too much water so the grazers and predators can also have a share. Deer in the woods and fields band together in matriarchal kinship groups after mating season and take care of the young of fallen mothers, but that is deer being deer, once again not motivated by a sense of altruism that goes against deer behavior but is rather an expression of it, the same as boar bears killing cubs to force a sow bear into estrus is bear behavior. To judge such things as moral/immoral is a human projection and a source of pain. We feel that pain and then reflect the projection back on ourselves, always judging another’s actions as moral/immoral because we can imagine the pain of being on the receiving end of whatever behavior we deem immoral. People often say “I can’t imagine…” when in fact the reason some things are horrifying to us is precisely because we CAN imagine x-y-z, and are uncomfortable with the thought. But until x-y-z is happening to you, why should you care? We cannot alleviate the suffering of others everywhere, all the time, and in fact attempting to alleviate it stunts the ability to become self-aware and self-reliant. I know how terribly awful it sounds to say “let them eat cake” in this manner, but stepping back and taking an objective look at some of the horrible situations around the world reveals that the root cause of this suffering is not YOU or your possessions, but attempts by other unknown people to control other unknown people in a way they do not wish to be controlled. I’ve come to believe that all suffering comes from external attempts at controlling our nature and desires, and the larger society gets, the greater the external forces have to come down on people, thus increasing despair.

    To force a person to live his life in the service of another is not a lofty goal. If a man willingly gives his time and labor and life to serve others, he is more than entitled to do that with his life. It serves his ego to do so – it is merely another expression of selfishness hiding beneath a veneer of sackcloth and claims of righteousness. I will not submit to his exhortations that I do the same with my own life.

    • Greg Swann on July 30, 2012 at 06:40

      That was excellent, all the way through. The clarity of your thinking is a striking indictment of the one-size-fits-all education system. My hat is off to you.

    • Elenor on July 30, 2012 at 08:05

      +10! Very well done!

    • TMS71 on July 30, 2012 at 17:03

      If you cannot successfully renounce your self, it must be because you are too selfish. If you persist in loving your life despite making every possible perverse effort to despise it, it must be because you are unworthy of true virtue. If the territory that is your mind, your self and your life will not correspond to their map – no matter how hard you twist and contort yourself to try to “fit in” – then it must be that you are irredeemably evil, unfit to be alive, a bungled and botched abomination, a vile, demonic monster in human form…every argument of moral philosophy, for all of human history, has consisted of damning human beings for not being what they cannot be, condemning us endlessly and in infinite variations for being what we are – and cannot fail to be in order to be human beings.

      Holy strawmen Batman!

      Who wants me to renounce myself? No one. Who says that loving life means one is unworthy of true virtue? No one. Its just nonsense. Their just are very very very few people out there that believe anything close to this.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 30, 2012 at 17:33

        “Their just are very very very few people out there that believe anything close to this.”

        Absolutely. And, biggest laugh I’ve had all day, easily. OK, at least we can chalk this guy up to pretty clueless and a point missed.

        I love it when someone makes the entire point, with no clue he’s just doe that.

      • TMS71 on July 31, 2012 at 08:56

        Yes. I guess I’m just stupid. Ha! Ok Richard – just explain to me in plain simple english wha his point is – because I so obviously have missed it.

      • Greg Swann on July 31, 2012 at 09:23

        The challenge for you would be to produce a counter-example to what I see as being pandemic anti-egoism: Can you name anyone who promotes the idea of self-adoration as I am discussing it here?

        I won’t insist on a discussion of the idea of the self as I define it, since that is unique to Man Alive!, but can you cite any argument, anywhere advocating self-adoration as the cardinal virtue of human life?

        As you noted above, Ayn Rand comes close, especially in The Fountainhead. Nietzsche and Stirner try to call a defiant self-loathing egoism. Smith and all the economists after him defend self-serving utilitarianism as the highest expression of collectivism.

        And that’s it, as far as I know, for anyone who could even be accused of being an egoist. All the rest of human thought, for all of our history, has been hostile to the self as the central tenet of each doctrine. Each one of them is superficially different, but they are all united in their strident denunciations of self-love, self-regard, self-responsibility, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, self-rule.

        This is not a coincidence. The purpose of virtually every dogma is to sustain and rationalize the dominance of ordinary people by an elite, where the elite is, by definition, the people who control the doctrine. The very last thing the emperor wants is for the ordinary people to discover that he is not just naked, he is a naked, defenseless, paranoid fraud.

        Is this really news to anyone?

      • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2012 at 09:34

        No, TMS. Just making the point that almost no one believes something means nothing as to validity, for one. For second, this the the whole point of Greg’s exercise.

      • TMS71 on July 31, 2012 at 10:35

        The purpose of virtually every dogma is to sustain and rationalize the dominance of ordinary people by an elite, where the elite is, by definition, the people who control the doctrine.

        It’s no great insight that power tends to corrupt. Those with influence and power tend to use it to their own benefit. That doesn’t mean that the point of the dogma is to sustain and rationalize the dominance of the ordinary by the elite. That’s just what happens because what benefits one often harms another and people can’t help but use their influence to benefit themselves (thereby harming some others). I’m not sure why you see egoism as a solution for this problem. Even egoists are corrupted by power. The issue is not egoism vs collectivism. It’s that humans can’t help but use their power to benefit themselves. I don’t believe any system can eliminate this but it should be our goal to minimize it. Its not clear to me that egoism will accomplish this any better than any other system or dogma.

        I don’t believe that there is a pandemic of anti-egoism. The desire to be successful and out-compete others is, if anything, encouraged in our society. There is also a widely held belief that those who are successful should ‘give back’. I don’t see this as anti-egoism. I guess I just don’t perceive this strong undercurrent of anti-egoism.

        I think most people have a reasonable balance of egoism and concern for the less fortunate. Most people will substantially increase their own standard of living before giving away significant amounts of money. This doesn’t seem anti-egoist to me.

        I agree with your criticism of anti-egoism but I just don’t see that it has any real significant and pernicious influence in the US today.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2012 at 10:52

        ” I’m not sure why you see egoism as a solution for this problem.”

        You miss half the boat, and Greg has dealt with this in previous chapters. A huge part of the problem is that the way of the sociopath is labelled egotistical and selfish. Egoism, if it means anything, means a full integration and a sense of your own memory and not being able to escape your own conscious accounting of your own memories.

        I see precious little egoism. I see predation. I see ends justifying means. I see grandstanding and clapping for saying what everyone is supposed to say. I see sheep, and sheep herders.

        I see no egoism. I see wanton evil tagged as egoism.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2012 at 10:53

        ….And I see wanton evil of a different sort tagged as selflessness.

      • TMS71 on July 31, 2012 at 08:37

        There just are very very very few people out there that believe anything close to this.

        I have to start proofreading my posts.

      • Greg Swann on July 31, 2012 at 09:01

        > There just are very very very few people out there that believe anything close to this.

        This is absurdly false. You are not paying attention, hardly rare, but there is no public philosophy anywhere in the world right now that is not openly and explicitly hostile to the human mind and to the self. No one can act on these ideas and continue to survive as a human being. And yet virtually everyone mouths anti-egoistic ideas all the time, while forbearing to follow through on them. Living (relatively) egoistically is good. Professing to the imputed virtues of anti-egoism is twice evil: The hypocrisy itself is self-destructive, and yielding the arena of ideas to the enemies of the human mind results in pandemic catastrophe — which condition you are graced to live in right now. I wrote Man Alive! in anticipation of the day when ordinary people wake up and wonder what the hell went wrong with Western civilization.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2012 at 09:38

        To clarify, I took TMS to mean nobody believes in self-adoration/egoism, taking “nobody” in the context, not literally, i.e., the socio-cultural mileu.

      • TMS71 on July 31, 2012 at 12:27

        No – I meant nobody believes self-abdication – or self-renunciation or that a person is not virtuous if they love their life. I’m saying that this Marxist attitude that is supposedly so pervasive is held by very few and they are rightfully mocked as ‘bleeding hearts’ and are mostly ignored.

      • Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2012 at 12:31

        Well, thanks for the clarification and pointing out that you’re not paying attention.

  4. Greg Swann on July 30, 2012 at 06:46

    Yesterday, I post a very old essay of mine called Meet the Third Thing at

    This is a clip from a comment I wrote on that essay when I had posted it at another site:

    > I’m asking how you: Greg Swann, exercise this truth in a system designed to thwart you at every turn.

    I don’t let it. That’s all. I don’t live for pain — for suffering, for doubt, for any sort of negative value. I just don’t.

    Be who you are. Do what you want. Have what you love.

    If some bad person tries to stop you — whether that bad person is a statist thug or just a freelance criminal — this does not actually matter, no more than it matters that a moth might try to eat your sweater.

    And here’s the best news of all: No one is actually trying to stop you. Freelance criminals mainly prey on each other, and statist thugs are lazy slugs. Their hope is that they can induce a fear in you that is great enough that you will enslave yourself. If you choose not to do this, no one will know, no one will care, and no one will do anything about it.

    But: You will not rid the world of cannibals by eating them. If you choose to become a bad person — as a twisted route to what you perceive as being the good — no one else will become a good person in consequence. You will have increased — not decreased — the quantity of endemic, epidemic, systemic crime.

    My answer, always: Live for your own sake, in pursuit of your own values, in behalf of your own loved ones — starting with yourself. You owe nothing to other people — and they detest, abhor and will rebel against what you’re proposing anyway.

    Short of killing me, no other person can stop me from being who I am. But I can do that, or pretend to do it, as a matter of choice. But, if I do, I will have annihilated the only human life I can have — for no reason whatever. Other people cannot control me, no matter what, even if I affect to pretend that I have surrendered myself to their control.

    How can you be free? You already are free. You cannot be anything other than free. Stop telling yourself lies. That’s all.

  5. Elenor on July 30, 2012 at 09:11

    I hear (welcome) echoes and intimations of Herr Professor Doktor Nietzsche (and not in the twisted (and muted) way He is offered up in academe, but) in his clear-sighted way of expressing (and lauding) the warrior, the predator! The ubermensche, no matter how maligned, is what clear-thinkers aspire to: not to participate in the (propagandic — is that a word?) ‘virtue’ of the oppressed, the ‘moral’ (self-)valuation of the weak; but to work towards the hierarchy of the strong. My husband used to teach that societies are run by lies and violence: “priests” and the “warriors.” The “priest”-class tell stories (“babies pulled from incubators,” “genocide against his own people,” “shake hands in Iowa,” “the 1% and the 99%” ); they whip up envy and anger; they start stampedes. The warrior doesn’t need to tell tales to get things done: the warrior (and sadly, there are few or none left extant!) uses (or is willing to use) violence to control the lower orders/achieve his or her aims. The warrior acknowledges that *actions have consequences*, and chooses the consequences s/he will accept to achieve a goal. The “priest” teaches that you can escape consequences; if not in this life, then head on to the next — your reward will be in heaven!

    The “priest” tells you that the “elite” (those who disagree with him) are eeeeevil, or not ‘one of us,’ as a means to control your behavior — to get YOU to control your behavior to his liking (and to hate and avoid those who might teach you self-hood). He tells you that you are morally ascendant (and “deserve” better) *because* you are a victim! Very appealing to the masses — their pain is not the result of their choices (actions have consequences) but are caused by “those folks over there,” those folks who won’t color within “our” lines, won’t play nice according to the rules the priest class has written. If you — as one of these “virtuous victims” — are led to believe that you “deserve” better: more money (without education and hard work), “free” health care (paid for by someone else), “decent” housing (paid for by someone else), college-level education (paid for by someone else), and and and…. why then, you’ll do whatever these “priests” tell you to do to get “what you deserve”!

    My husband once wrote:
    The term “rightly understood interest” is used, in the discussion of the logic of political economy, to characterize an aspect of the behavior of homo oeconomicus, the hypothetical rational actor or entity engaged in commercial or “market” activity. The following illustration of its meaning will show it to be a rather obvious concept — though it nevertheless can be seen to have devastating implications:

    If, for example, several individuals periodically derive a minimal level of nutrition from a “pie” created for them by one or several of their number, from materials supplied by others of the same, the “raw” interest, so-to-speak, of each of them might well be to take the whole pie for himself. As there is only one pie at a time and multiple individuals to be satisfied, the raw interest of all cannot be realized at once in this regard. If any one or few of them deprive or deceive others in regard to a share of the pie, violence may ensue with possible damage to pie creation. If the creators of the pie are not suitably rewarded, pie production may diminish or cease — likewise with the supply of materials and the persons responsible therefor. The group is confronted with a multi-dimensional challenge in trying to develop a formula for dividing the pie to at least the minimal satisfaction of all, while deterring misbehavior and motivating pie production. If such a formula is successfully achieved and basically adhered to, it may be said to serve the “rightly understood” as opposed to the elementary “raw” interest of each of the participant individuals.

    This is all rather commonsensical and obvious, but, again, this reality has devastating consequences, when we “scale-up” this challenge to encompass the requirements for satisfaction of millions or billions of individuals. On this scale it is literally impossible to develop a formula for attending to the rightly understood interests of this number of advanced organisms confronting inescapably scarce resources. If prevarication does not serve to pacify the victims of inevitable deficiency, violence and death will be the frequent alternatives. Thus is humankind governed by none other than Lies and Violence, Priests and Warriors, as the record of historic human experience so richly reveals. For no form of State or State-less-ness serves to enduringly and approximately obviate this limitation on the administration of human affairs. So Utopian hopes, measures toward a “New World Order,” even durable national stability, are thus without foundation, excluded by the logic and experience of political economy, at least until Jesus brings the Second Advent to town or the day those “mysterious material forces of production” finally turn up.

    (He was being sarcastic about Jesus turning up. And about the “invisible hand” showing up. And alas, I am a poor presenter of his depth of wisdom. Understanding his teachings, and passing them on complete, are two very different abilities. I have the one, but not so much of the other.)

    He asked: would you rather commit an “atrocity” or suffer one?

    • Greg Swann on July 30, 2012 at 10:04

      So there is no doubt about this, I reject every notion of dominance. Both Nietzsche and Rand are dealt with, not by name, in Chapter 6:

      The second type of ethical creeds called egoism is actually other-centric. Whether the philosopher claims that his egoism permits him to dominate other people, or that his egoism forbids other people from dominating him, the focus of the doctrine is not the self at all – not the self as I describe it nor even the reflexive or utilitarian self – but is instead those other people.

      Neither committing crimes nor combatting criminals will result self-adoration — which topics are addressed in a general way in Chapter 7.

      • Elenor on August 1, 2012 at 07:25

        {shrug} Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don’t.

      • Greg Swann on August 1, 2012 at 09:02

        Have you done the odds on single-combat in a land of 200 million privately-owned firearms? Nietzsche said “god is dead.” When individual people understand and value self-adoration, it won’t be long before Nietzsche is dead. Marx, too. If the only choice is to enslave or to be enslaved, the more self-loving choice is to be enslaved. But the best expression of self-adoration is to choose neither — which can entail putting the salve-master in the grave, where he belongs. This is all discussed in Chapter 11.

  6. EatLessMoveMoore on July 30, 2012 at 14:22

    @ Elenor,

    Hitler and Mao would have heartily agreed with you.

  7. Greg Swann on July 31, 2012 at 08:15

    [This is me from December of 2006. –GSS]

    Praising Cain: Change the world forever by learning to love your life the way you actually live it.

    Imagine this: You are the High Priest of a nomadic tribe following a herd of foraging sheep. When the tribe needs food, a beast is slain and the meat is shared equally. The political structure is hierarchical, but even the Chieftain is governed by the unchanging traditions of the tribe.

    One year the herd wanders toward the seacoast. You encamp a short walk away from a trading post built by a sea-faring civilization.

    For the first time in their lives, your tribesmen discover a way of life different from their own. The traders live indoors, sleeping on beds! Their diet consists of more than meat and foraged nuts. They eat grain, fruit and fish, flavoring their water with delectable nectars.

    Wealth is not shared. Villagers trade with each other to get what they need — and each family owns its own land! Disputes are resolved by reasoned conciliation, not by fiat. Even so, each family seems to own more weapons than your whole tribe combined.

    Anyone can introduce a new tool, technique or idea at any time — upending the whole civilization if it comes to that — and not only is this not forbidden, it is avidly sought!

    This is horrifying to you as High Priest, but your horror is nothing compared to the apoplexy of the Chieftain. As he watches tribesmen disappearing into the village one by one, he turns to you for a solution.

    Now you understand the story of Cain and Abel.

    Cain made a sacrifice of grain, Abel of meat, and the meat — the wealth of the herders — was pleasing to the god of the tribe. Why does Cain slay Abel in the story? To scare the tribesmen back into the herd.

    The Greeks found a better way to live, spreading it with capitalistic abandon. Those who abhorred the Greek way of life crafted their mythologies to portray Hellenism as evil.

    Would you like to change the world, forever, for the good, one mind at a time? Here’s how:

    If you live in Cain’s world, stop pretending to live in Abel’s.

    If your life depends on capitalism, private property and free trade, stop pretending to admire collectivism. If you thrive by continuous innovation, stop enshrining tradition. If you govern your behavior by reason and conciliation, stop praising vengeance and retribution. If you want to live free from coercion by other people, stop pushing other people around by force.

    You know your way of life is better. Dare to share that secret with the victims of Abel. You are wrong to let Abel’s High Priests make you feel guilty about your wealth, but you are also wrong to hoard this civilization — this incomparable gift from Cain — to yourself. Innocents the world over are starving — in terror, in squalor — because you don’t have the courage to say that Abel was evil and Cain was good.

    Make that one small change in your life, and the rest will come of its own…

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