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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship.

- James Harvey Robinson, via Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends and Influence People

7 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Brad

    What are we supposed to take from this? Every interventionist out there uses a form of this to justify their actions and deflect criticism from the unwashed.
    I haven’t read the passage in which this quote is taken, so cannot speak in context.

    I don’t mind if people are heedless in the conducting of their own lives, it is when they invert their heedlessness into violence on others – to take their limited formulations, form pat solutions to their simplification of infinite questions, and set about Forcing others to act according to those solutions.

    Even the most self-controlled individual has much about them that is formed by being conditioned to the world around them – unexamined. We concentrate on events that matter to us, and the bulk remainder is washed out of minds – yet everything we have experienced has affected us. Perhaps some people have a higher ability to absorb more of these events, and examine them, and they may consequently prosper more than others. But even so, they do edit out much of what is going on around them from meaningful scrutiny.

    Given this, and that even if a person is so superior in absorbing and comprehending versus the average, they still only have a scintilla of the stored knowledge of mankind, much less all that is possibly knowable. Everyone ultimaty has much to which they are heedless, and are woefully uneducated. Far from being an amoeba crawling across a slide, a particular individual is still blind to much of the world, and has to struggle against a massive wall of uncertainty to make it through life.

    So to me freedom really is choosing what we will heed and what we will not. The consequences of being wrong about those decisions can be dire, and the mitigation of choosing incorrectly is up to the individual and those who will voluntarily assist them out of personal fealty. One person’s heedlessness is another person’s blissful ignorance.

    Why we become so attached to our beliefs, even those unconsciously conditioned, is that we do not like to be coerced. We may not have a long, involved explanation of why we believe X or Y, but we certainly aren’t going to have it overridden by someone else who isn’t offering any better explanations of what they plan on replacing your belief (and behaviors) with. The best you can hope for is someone will choose to take the time to focus in on your peaceful argument at the expense of being consequently heedless about something else. Unfortunately we now live in a time where such space isn’t allowed and we move directly to Power and Force and Interdiction.

  • An excellent comment, Brad.

  • Nuke Gray

    Yeah! What Brad wrote! It’s all good!

  • James Waterton

    What are we supposed to take from this?

    Whatever you choose. I didn’t add any commentary. However, I will say that I certainly didn’t post it to defend the interventionist point of view.

    Actually, this quote reminds me of my mindset from about 15 years ago, when I was a convinced socialist. Why was I a socialist? Well, because firstly because I was interested in politics, but wasn’t really any kind of “-ist” – and I thought I should be. Furthermore, I didn’t know much about the world or the human condition and wanted to help people, and redistribution seemed logical. It truly was an instinctive decision to become a socialist. And, knowing what I know now, an incredibly heedless one, as the quote says. However, the (quite long and drawn out) process of abandoning socialism and embracing classical liberalism certainly wasn’t. Actually, I wasn’t all that far down my Road to Damascus when I realised the people trying to convince me had the logic. But still, I described myself as a socialist for at least another year. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. It was an emotional decision not to turn away from socialism at the moment I realised it didn’t make sense – perhaps not quite an illicit passion as in the quote, but certainly something strong.

    Anyway, as many liberals (as in the European definition, for any Americans reading) were once instinctive socialists like I was myself, perhaps this quote resonates with them, too.

    If anything, I posted it to remind us what we’re up against.

  • James, FWIW, I just really liked Brad’s comment as a stand-alone, not necessarily as a reply to anything or anyone.

  • “Furthermore, I didn’t know much about the world or the human condition and wanted to help people, and redistribution seemed logical. It truly was an instinctive decision to become a socialist. And, knowing what I know now, an incredibly heedless one, as the quote says. However, the (quite long and drawn out) process of abandoning socialism and embracing classical liberalism certainly wasn’t“.

    Sounds just like my story, James.

    But even if my story was different, I would have liked the quote anyway, because it tallies with my observations over the years.

  • Paul Marks

    Everyone (yes – including us) should be prepared to accept the possibility that we are wrong.

    We should be open to new evidence – and also to reason (to logical reasoning as well as empirical evidence).

    That is what I get from the quote, at least I hope that was what was meant.