Anti-Altruism : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

I want to know why anyone else is ENTITLED to my resources, resources I had the forethought and ambition to prepare. Has anyone thought about some of Ayn Rand's work through all this "give freely, give often" socialistic talk?

The grasshopper IS NOT entitled to the stores of the ant! Abby

-- Abby Harmon (, December 24, 1998



Interesting comment, good topic. The system just passed me your note. I'd like to get into it, but right now this ant's gotta go split some firewood (like a grasshopper!). The winds blowing, there's snow in it, we're scheduled for some weather wherein the highs are going to be in the below zero range, and the unseasonably warm recent temperatures seem to have lulled me a little.

But to just briefly relate that to your point, firewood's "free," but I always seem to have to go cut, haul, split, and stack it. And there don't seem to be hundreds of volunteers streaming out of the woodwork to help me get the job done in the fall. But then of course, I'm not exactly rushing over to other people's places to help out either.

Would I be upset if somebody pulled up to my wood pile and helped themselves to a pickup box full, smiled, said, "Thanks. You're okay," and gave me a friendly wave good-bye? You bet. But then again, most people don't do that, and if somebody was caught up in a heat emergency, what could I say? I'd help them out best I could, as I'm sure most would me.

But when it comes to what my personal conception of what the parts of this site I believe you're alluding to are about, it really doesn't have all that much to do with those kinds of things. It does, but it doesn't. What it really has to do with (in my mind, anyway) is realated to the word "collaboration": I've never known if it's more efficient to get a bunch of people together to help each other cut firewood or not. Does it take any less time? Cost any less money, etc.? Probably a negligible savings (if anyone could measure it). But here's the thing: It somehow has a way of making the job easier, more fun, a substantive "social experience." A different kind of "aesthetic socialism."

The best analogy or metaphor I seem to have hit on lately for the core issue involved is that of an Amish Barn Raising. I don't know what category the Amish fit into when it comes to capitalism, socialism, communism, whatever. But I DO know they can throw up a barn in about 3 days, and that they seem to have a heck of a satisfying time doing it. Again, if you calculated everybody's time/labor/etc. costs (a construction crew of around 100 for 3 or 4 days), it may not represent a huge material savings. But it DOES get a big job done fast, and it has a way of making it more enjoyable than the average job like that is.

When it comes to the purely, rationally materialistic aspects of what you're alluding to, I think I mostly agree, simply because as much as people would like to THINK things can be done for "free," there never has been and most likely never will be any such thing. And personal truth be told, anytime I've experimented with that approach it seems to most often have a tendency to turn into a confusing, aggravating, convoluted, and (suprise of surprises), oounterproductive and actually MORE expensive approach.

But then too, there's the "baby and the bathwater" thing. It also seems to me that few have ever been able to come up with whatever the combinations are that balance the two polarized viewpoints or approaches: The often cold and stark loneliness of the rugged individualism, "I got mine, now you get yours," point of view, versus the often way too gooey, "Let's all share," perspective.

To me it has always seemed that the optimal way would be something that blends the two... Unfortunately, that seems to call for healthy doses of things similar to, or in the same vein of things like that rare commodity, common sense.

That stuff tells me that what I think you're saying is probably a realistic, healthy thing. But it also tells me that there's nothing wrong with a great little ticketless pot luck dinner with a dance afterwards where the people in the band play just because they like to play...

And when it comes to y2k and people sharing ideas, experience, practical know-how, and Big Jobs that need get Done Fast, I don't think I've ever seen anything that quite compares to what the whole of society may be up against in the coming 378 days.

Okay. Gotta scoot because nobody's showed up with a splitting maul and taken over while I've been typing this...

Again. Interesting topic. There's much more to it than meets the eye, isn't there?

-- Bill (, December 24, 1998.

Abby, Bill - Interesting that this would come up just now, as I'm having to deal with this one.

A woman friend, 45, with two children 9 & 12, is a close friend and y2k confidant. She thinks y2k is going to be worse than I, (yes, Bill - because I have a higher expectation about human behaviour in a crises). While talking with her yesterday she related how her girl has become very concerned that no prep is be done in that house. The younger boy is prone to panic attacks and y2k is often the focus. My friend is on welfare and claims to not have _any extra cash she can use to prepare with, even a 50 pound bag of wheat at $5.65 is out of the question. This past summer the girl wanted to put in a garden, but Mom nixed it.

My friend assumes y2k is going to hit very hard. She _knows she and her children are going to survive. When, after getting past the no money thing, she examines _how she is going to survive she says that she doesn't know specifically, but she has always been a survivor and knows how. She was raised Catholic, non practicing now, but sometimes I wonder if she is one of those people who are just going to let God take care of her.

It has evolved to the point where I no longer call her on a regular basis and have stopped visiting her, one of my best friends, because of her attitude. If she asked me to stock some grain for her, I would probably do it. If she asked me to stock grain and also worked out a y2k plan where her and her children helped here to do the garden, wood, and animal chores, etc, in return for the stocked food I would be overjoyed, because I would understand that she is taking charge of her life, planning, and not just relying upon someone else to take the family in. However, she is an urbanite transplanted to very rural, and deep down probably wishes she was back in the city. As I said, she refuses to learn how to garden, she refuses to learn how to cook in a cheap, plentiful, healthy way, and animal chores? - forget it.

This woman has an education, has held a professional job, and has somehow over the last few years lost her ability to take charge of her own life. Is it welfare? I don't know, and this isn't the place for that discussion. But I do know that there seems to be the odor of victimhood about this whole thing now, and I'm very uncomfortable about that. And I have deep discomfort over the pre-y2k reactions of her children and her method of dealing with them.

Would I turn her away? Would I invite her in? Would my answers be influenced by even a small effort on her part to y2k prep? - YES.

-- Mitchell Barnes (, December 24, 1998.

Bill, Mitchell & others,

I wanted to expand on my brief introductory question and respond to your notes lest anyone think me a hoarding, selfish isolationist. Nothing could be further from the truth. (I do know the difference between someone playing the poor helpless defenseless victim and someone genuinely in need of assistance though.)

The notion that those with the means(physical, mental, etc.) and fortitude to prepare will be required to or are morally bound to give their goods over to those who didn't have the time or inclination to be bothered with making their own perparations or taking personal responsibility for their circumstances is repugnant to me. Where, indeed, has PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY gone in this country? Why is _anyone_ allowed not to pull their own weight or at least make some contribution to society? As I believe I have read in this forum, _everyone_ has something to offer, including the infirm, elderly, poor, and children. That's supposed to be what make a society work, everyone does what they can. I don't buy the argument that some people just aren't equiped to be productive members of society. Baloney!

I've done some serious soul searching the last few days about just how far I would go protect my property and under which circumstances I would "take someone in" and I can honestly say I won't know until the situation presents itself. There are some very interesting "people vs. property" ethics involved.

I saw on 60 Minutes (I believe it was) this past Sunday that a man is being sued for protecting his business with electrical current from a repeat robber, a last resort for him after being repeated robbed by the same person. The perpetrator died from electricution. The police had been unable to stop the repeated burgularies, so the owner did the only thing he thought left for him to do besides close his business and lose his livelihood. Very thought-provoking.

Sorry, I've strayed from the topic a bit but I think the program has potential merit for discussion prior to the time any of us are presented with the same dilema.

I had a hard time with the Hurricane Mitch situation too. I called and argued with a woman at the Red Cross that their insistence on only taking monetary dontations would not serve those people - they can't eat or wear or live in MONEY!! I kept my eyes and ears open for an alternative to help where and how I could though. Some friends of a friend have decided to take time off from work to go down there and give the manual labor they can to help carry food and supplies over impassable roads to locations which can't be reached any other way. They don't want to present any drain on the country while they are there and want to take all their own food and water. So, I donated some of the dehydrated food I have been preparing for my stores to their effort. I figured it was the best possible use of any contribution I could make.

Well, I see I've run on.... I'll stop there for now and eagerly anticipate further comments on this thread. Abby

-- Abby Harmon (, December 24, 1998.

Even in Ayn Rand's novels, those who would "survive" have to gather into a community (Galts Gulch) for the simple reason that there is no survival outside of community. The American ideal of the self-sufficient individual or family is an adult Santa Claus fantasy.

It seems to me that the debate as to the morality of "requiring" you to help others misses the mark big time. If you don't help others, you won't survive. Period. You will die. So if you want to survive, plan now to be a leader in your neighborhood. Start organizing now to encourage others to prepare, but accept the fact that most people won't do very much. You can talk about ants and grasshoppers all you want, but human ecology is different. Ants and grasshoppers can get along without each other, we can't. If you don't like your neighbors, then now is the time to move to someplace where you can get along with your neighbors, because nobody is getting through y2k without them.

-- Robert Waldrop (, December 24, 1998.

I don't know about you, but I was just noticing how "in a hurry" I feel, actually seem to be, about absolutely every little aspect of my life these days. Anytime there's the slightest "time-drag" in anything that happens I seem to find myself in that, "Come on... I don't have < i>time for this!" mood, if not flatout saying it to whatever's "slowing me down." (I was just saying that to the computer connection to MIT where the server seemed to be a little busy. So while I was waiting I went outside and checked the antifreeze in my car. No sense wasting Time, doncha know...)

I've got this friend. Luke. He and I go back further than any of the older friends I'm still in touch with. About 30 years. He lives in Minneapolis. Basically, he drives a cab and drinks beer. An intelligent, articulate, moderately contemplative soul who's also an alcoholic. Among other things, we used to drink together. I gave that up years ago, but he's stuck with it.

He has a few beers and calls every now and then. Every time he has over the past year or so we spend at least a little time talking about y2k. I keep telling him it's time for him to get his act together and think seriously about getting his butt out of the big city (he lives on the edge of a wild zone, of course). Or, if not that, at least have some alternative plan or option open.

And that's when he always says, "Yer my ace in the hole, Billy."

And that's when I always say, "Yeah. You bet. I'll be sure to have a map to the armory ready for you."

And it always suprises me what a good and fair idea that seems like to me. Shelters. Armories, schools, whatever places wind up being designated and set-up for that.

Assumming they are, of course. (The way things have been going, you have to wonder if even that's going to be seriously approached). One would think that if the computers start coming unglued in a couple of weeks (some of them are supposed to start malfunctioning in January, right? The "Joanne Effect"? Look at the red line), and the visible indications are that some form of the worst case may be possible, you'd think somebody in an emergency management (or similar) position would maybe start thinking about shelters, "just in case."

And when it comes to what you were talking about Mitch (and it's a pretty common concern among those preparing), it seems like that's a semi-reasonable approach. Those who've gotten the word but haven't heeded it should probably expect to find themselves living in a shelter.

Douglass Carmicheal put out what struck me as one of his best ideas last September. It had to do with using schools for shelters. You probably got a copy of the brief article in an update from the forum the other day. Your note made me think of what I just wrote and that article, and I went and fished it out. I wanted to put it in here because A) it impressed me; and B) I think that may be one of those things some of us can maybe lobby for (or bring up) if people start to get the idea and get concerned enough to do something community-wise.

Ideally, I agree with what Robert says. Unfortunately, we live in that version of the world wherein the people in apartment 208 don't have a clue as to who lives in 214. And truth be told (and who knows why, other than simple, low-grade fear?), they don't really want to know. But still, I agree that the best "defense," or the best chance for being able to make it in a rough situation is knowing our neighbors. Maybe an increase in "public intensity" will foster that by creating opportunities for people to get together and talk about it which will introduce them to each other. But I'm not sure how much of that is going to happen until the y2k consciousness people on the net have somehow gets translated to the people who aren't on the net, don't know what the net is, and couldn't care less. If that doesn't happen, I think the bulk of getting to know our neighbors is going to happen after the fact...

Again: It's not that I disagree at all with what Robert was saying. It's just that the world has drifted so far away from that that I think it's going to take something with a lot of oomph to get the realization of the worth of knowing our neighbors fired back up. And, of course, a lot of us don't want to know a lot of our neighbors because other than on the ideal plane, we don't have a lot in common with them. Or a lot of them don't want to know us.

But getting back to this shelter thing. I was thinking too about the Montreal ice storm of last year (or any natural disaster, actually), and relating it to what I was saying about somebody coming into my yard and stealing firewood. The most basic fact is that people just don't do that kind of thing. And they don't refrain from it because they're afraid I'm going to shoot them. They pretty much don't do it because most people actually are pretty decent and just know that's not cool.

And I think the same thing would happen in the kind of situation that drives people out of their homes.

IF there are shelters available.

That is to say, I don't think the first thing the majority of people would think is, "Who's house should I go to and be a complete load at?" And I think fewer people still would be likely to wonder who the softest, easiest to kill for their beans, target would be.

I mentioned the ice storm. How many people who had to leave their homes on account of that drove or walked around until they saw somebody's lights on, went up and banged on the door with or without a shotgun in their hands and begged or demanded to be let in and taken care of? Not many. They all either headed for friends or relatives houses or went to a shelter.

Hurricanes are the same way. There are three kinds of people: Those who evacuate; those who buy extra batteries and canned food and cook stove gas and ride it out; and those who put off both those things and wind up on a cot or the floor at the junior high.

And I think that's some kind of basic, "contemporary human nature" thing now. I think that's "the pattern." People's first choice is always to be able to stay home and ride it out. And in a situation like the ice storm (which is probably a closer comparison to initial rough y2k circumstances than a hurricane), when that's not possible, their next choice (after friends or relatives who've got room and will welcome them), is shelters. People would rather go to one than barge in on stragers.

I think that's the "natural flow" of things, and that, if there are shelters available, people will naturally gravitate to them as opposed to coming over and saying, "Well. Here I am. What's for supper and where should I sleep?"

And I also think that in a situation where people are forced out of their homes - even though they've had advanced warning they may be if they failed to prepare - it isn't unreasonable, or cruel to direct people to the shelter, as opposed to trying to be the shelter ourselves.

If there IS a shelter.

And then of course, there's always the, "Yeah. But y2k's going to be different," thing. It's going to hit everywhere at once. There won't < u>be any friends or relatives with lights and heat or grocery stores. It's going to be something like nobody's ever seen, and therefore (the logic goes), all of a sudden everyone's going to go berserk because a key element in everyone not coming unglued is the knowledge that outside help is on the way. If there isn't any outside help they'll go crazy and revert to the darkest side of human potential right away.

Maybe. But that rarely happens. The only example I can think offhand of where that kind of widespread behavior occured in some kind of "sizemic" (how do you spell that word?) way was what happened in LA when Reginald Denny (the truck driver) got bonged with a brick by someone in the out of control crowd. But in just about any other situation where some big disruption to the basic infrastructure of life has occurred in recent history, people seem to A) stay pretty calm, and B) turn into better people, instead of worse.

But again: The thing about how Y2k's going to be different. More massive, etc.. I dropped the word "initial" in up a ways in front of "rought y2k time." What I mean by that in this context is that locally (anywhere) y2k's initial impact (if it's a worst case kind of thing, and barring accident nuclear war, or massive meltdowns) would be similar to the Montreal ice storm, with no phones. By this time next year, everyone on the planet will know that something's going to happen, ready or not. But I don't think it would mean (even if the power goes out and the phones go dead) that everyone would flip out and suddenly go into a massive reversal to savage, insane behavior, or that they'd suddenly deviate from what has proven to be the predominant norm in big infrastructural crisis where everyone's in the same boat.

And those initial moments (the first few days) are when people who'd have to leave homes would be moving, seeking shelter, etc.. That's the time when it would be most likely for that woman and her kids to show up on your doorstep and present you with that dilemma. And I guess what I'm saying is if there's a community shelter, people's natural inclination will be to go there instead of a stranger's house, or even to a friend's they haven't been invited to. And if they do arrive, it would seem more than reasonable to maybe put them up for a night and then take them over to the shelter the next day to help them get settled in.

What might happen in that really wooly worst case when the shelter runs out of everything required to sustain everyone is where the crazy stuff would be more likely to start coming in. But that would be down the line some, I'd think. And if things look that bad, it would probably be in the stretch of time between the intial breakdown and the point where it looked like all the resources would run out that we'd find out about the reality Robert talked about, and just how cooperative and resourceful people could (or couldn't) actually be in a major, widespread crisis.

Anyway... Here's that link to the excerpt on shelters. It's worth thinking about.

Schools as shelters

-- Bill Dale (, December 24, 1998.

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