Reason as the Leading Motive

How to Change the World

Posted by Jerry on April 10, 2007

Before we ask the question, how can we change the world? we must realize the fact that it is impossible for all human beings to freely and volitionally accept the exact same ideals. This is because of man’s metaphysical nature as volitional beings.

With that in mind, it then becomes clear that the focus of our efforts for realizing change should not be squandered on the mindless and careless masses who let life just happen to them; rather, we must target individuals in key positions who set the tone, agenda, culture, and direction of a particular society. The Objectivist theory of history points out that all historical change is preceded and influenced by changes in the dominant ideas accepted by the mainstream of a particular society. Ideas are promulgated through thought-leaders like the pope, priests, evangelists, philosophers, educators, public intellectuals, writers, etc. These are the people whose ideas should be confronted head-on and refuted, and they are the ones who should be the primary targets in efforts to reform a culture or society. Of course, on a personal level, we should be cognizant of insisting on a rational basis of interaction in our daily affairs with friends and acquaintances, and seek to uncover and clarify the premises behind their ideas or actions.

However, it is a mistaken but widely accepted notion that for any substantial reform to materialize in a society, the majority of that society’s population has to be transformed or persuaded into accepting the principles in question. This notion is false and is based on the premise of majoritarianism–or democracy. Morality not a collective decision; the moral is not made moral by the large number of people persuaded to believe that it is.

Realize that, just as it is in the case of economic and material production, the one who contributes the most to innovation, change, or transformation is not the “common man” among the masses but the prime-mover, the key individual, the thought-leader. The tone and direction of a culture–metaphorically, the banks of the river through which the mainstream flows–is always set by the key individuals with intellectual power. Therefore, it is important to first persuade them and target their ideologies, not the masses or the majority, in instigating any cultural change. Just as in material production, the innovator, the inventor, or the genius contributes immeasureably to a society’s health and prosperity and thereby raises the standard of living for millions of people over generations, so it is in intellectual matters wherein an entire society can be lifted (or destroyed) by the intellectual influence of its thought-leaders and philosophers.

Since my recent posts on the immoral, interventionist, and statist actions of the Indian government, it should be clear that the Indian society is in dire need of radical reform–from the roots–and an immediate acceptance of rationality and Enlightenment values. However, this reform cannot be enforced by the state. Any such advocation is in direct contradiction to the intent of the reform and necessarily assumes that the state is the ultimate arbiter of morality, i.e., collective/mob morality. Any defender of minority rights must first and foremost begin with the defense of an individual’s rights, because as Rand corrently pointed out, an individual is the smallest minority.

Rand also noted that the greatest threat to a society is not from its criminals but from its government that has decided to enforce its arbitrary dictats on its people. More than anything else, the government is what needs to be reigned in.

Radical reform can only occur at and arise from the most fundamental philosophical roots. Irrational ideas and destructive premises such as altruism, collectivism, and mysticism cannot be fought at the level of superficial concretes. It has to be invalidated, uprooted, and eliminated at the core, i.e., at the level of an individual’s mind and philosophy. This is the role of reason, and of insisting rationality in every affair. This is the only way to change the world.

Addendum: When I state that reform cannot be enforced by the state, I mean that political change is a consequence and a reflection of cultural, intellectual, and societal change, not the cause. I do not mean that the state should not and cannot legislate on legal matters that are within its legitimate perview.


4 Responses to “How to Change the World”

  1. Luis said

    There is a poem here.

  2. Ergo said

    Is there? I don’t understand.

  3. Luis said

    Oh. Yes. Well, this is a large block of text with a very important, and very beautiful idea. And by whitling away at the prose, I think that we may find a lovely, and powerful poem within. I’ll give it my best shot. Give me a couple of days.

  4. Well, tell me what you think.

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