Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hero Envy

This article put out by the Stanford Daily is so ridiculous in so many ways I just have to point it out. First of all it's written by a man who is majoring in the economic theory of apologies . He's a self proclaimed Marxist who claims that:
"The Randian heroes of capitalism are not the ones that make market economies work."
"If we see someone succeed, we tend to assume that she succeeded because she’s smart, rather than that she succeeded because her environment allowed her to obtain the tools necessary for success."

So in other words, you haven't really earned your position in life, rather it was a gift from a benevolent society. And your greatness doesn't matter, it isn't really great at all, because it's only the system that allowed you your greatness at all, so the system deserves the admiration, not the individual. He comes to this after trashing several movies and using them as some sort of haphazard "evidence" to this outlandish claim.

"In the cultural phenomenon that is Harry Potter, the hero is a whiney and lucky kid who was born to greatness, rather than the studious and hard-working Hermione."

So forget that the greatness he was born into was an orphan living with relatives who despised him and locked him upstairs. That the talent he found had to be developed, and when he finally did make friends they all worked together to fight evil. Forget that he actually overcame his environment to be a force of good, despite great forces against him. That was all luck. The system was in his favor.(!)

"Brin asks, why is it that the heroes in Lord of the Rings are super-powerful beings who are endowed by birth with power, while Sauron’s forces which represent science and industrialization are looked upon as evil? The ring represents technology: improvement of man or orc by science rather than by noble birth. The fellowship seeks to destroy it."

Who is this David Brin? Did he consult the actual author of the stories on this assessment? Because, that's not what Tolkien himself said in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien:

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit" (p. 243.)
"Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)" (p. 246.)


Or from the book itself:
"We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it." (p. 261.)

The author of this article even admits:
"Twin studies have shown that genetics determine about half of the variance in explaining intelligence. However, this is a case where I willfully ignore the science."
"Unfortunately, it is so much more satisfying in movies to root for an individual rather than for the environment."

And he insults his whole school when he says:
"I refuse to believe that the students of Stanford are somehow genetically superior."


As if those were the only two options, that they are genetically superior or that their environment paved the way for them, as if they were mutually exclusive sides of a coin. Forget each students personal struggle to make the best of whatever genetics gave them, and the best of whatever environment they grew up in. Instead this author seems to say that if you are gifted from birth you are somehow less entitled to your greatness. Only society can provide that for you by granting you a controlled environment programmed for success. In line with his Marxist philosophy he pronounces that :
"market economies work because of their institutions: the norms, values, rules and knowledge, which create the proper incentive structures and the proper environment effectively letting individuals organize in efficient ways. This system has led to unprecedented widespread prosperity more fantastic than anything achieved by some superhero."

Where? No answer. Not suprisingly this author quotes no sources or references directly for all his bizarre claims, but relies on his educated opinion as an economist of apologies for effective persuasive power. Perhaps he himself is one of the individuals who was born with no talents of his own, and who was somehow brought to greatness by his "environment" (I'm thinking this must mean he's somehow skating through on my tax dollars and yours) but it is a harsh pronouncement to bring everyone down to his own level, but I suppose he's working out a theory of how his indictment might bring about apologies from the actually gifted.

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