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Look who's back

Posted by: Dan ( USA ) on September 04, 1998 at 01:33:21:

Got the time to pop my head back in here for a sec and see that not much has changed besides a few of the names. I actually found an article that I thought would be very appropriate for this board, ecspecially my good friend Qx. Its a little bit long so here is the web address along with it

www.rebt.org/essays/index.html

Intellectual Fascism ALBERT ELLIS, Ph.D.
If fascism is defined as the arbitrary belief that individuals possessing cer tain traits (such as those who are white, Aryan, or male) are intrinsically super ior to individuals possessing certain other traits (such as those who are black, Jewish, or female), and that therefore the "superior" individuals should have distinct politico-social privileges, then the vast majority or American liberals and so-called anti- fascists are actually intellectual fascists. In fact, the more politico-economically liberal our citizens are, the more intel lectually fascistic they usually tend to be.

Intellectual fascism_in accordance with the above definition_is the arbi trary belief that individuals possessing certain traits (such as those who are intelligent, cultured, artistic, creative, or achieving) are intrinsically superior to individuals possessing certain other traits (such as those who are stupid, uncultured, unartistic, uncreative, or unachieving).
The reason why the belief of the intellectual fascist, like that of the politico-social fascist, is arbitrary is simple: there is no objec tive evidence to support it. At bottom, it is based on value judgements or prejudices which are definitional in character and are not empirically valid atable, nor is it falsifiable. It is a value chosen by a group of prejudiced peo ple_and not necessarily by a majority.

This is not to deny that verifiable differences exist among various indi viduals. They certainly do. Blacks, in some ways, are different from whites; short people do differ from tall ones; stupid individuals can be separated from bright ones. Anyone who denies this, whatever his or her good inten tions, is simply not accepting reality.

Human differences, moreover, usually have their distinct advantages_and disadvantages. Under tropical condi tions, the darkly pigmented blacks seem to fare better in many respects than do the lightly pigmented whites. At the same time, many blacks and few whites become afflicted with sickle cell anemia. When it comes to playing basketball, tall men are generally superior to short ones. But as jockeys and coxswains, the undersized have their day. For designing and operating electric computers, a plethora of grey matter is a vital necessity; for driving a car for long distances, it is likely to prove a real handicap.

Let us face the fact, then, that under certain conditions some human traits are more advantageous_or "bet ter"_than some other traits. Whether we approve the fact or not, they are. All people, in today's world, may be created free, but they certainly are not created equal.

Granting that this is so, the important question is: Does the possession of a specific advantageous endowment make an individual a better human? Or more concretely: Does the fact that someone is an excellent athlete, artist, author, or achiever make him or her a better person? Consciously or unconsciously, both the politico-social and the intellectual fascist say yes to these questions.

This is gruesomely clear when we consider politico-social or lower-order fascists. For they honestly and openly not only tell themselves and the world that being white, Aryan, or male, or a member of the state-supported party is a grand and glorious thing; but, simultaneously, they just as honestly and openly admit that they despise, loathe,consider as scum of the earth individuals who are not so fortunate as to be in these select categories. Lower-order fascists at least have the conscious courage of their own convictions.

Not so, alas, intellectual or higher- order fascists. For they almost invari ably pride themselves on their liberal ity, humanitarianism, and lack of arbitrary prejudice against certain classes of people. But underneath, just be cause they have no insight into their fascistic beliefs, they are often more vicious, in their social effects, than their lower-order counterparts.

Take, by way of illustration, two well- educated, presumably liberal, intelligent people in our culture who are arguing with each other about some point. What, out of irritation and dis gust, is one likely to call the other? A "filthy black," a "dirty Jew bastard," or a "black-eyed runt"? Heavens, no. But a "stupid idiot," a "nincompoop," a "misinformed numbskull"? By all means, yes. And will the note of venom, of utter despisement that is in the detractor's voice, be any different from that in the voice of the out-and- out fascist with his racial, religious, and political epithets? Honestly, now: will it?

Suppose the individual against whom a well-educated, presumably liberal, intelligent person aims scorn actually is stupid, or misinformed. Is this a crime? Should he, perforce, curl up and die because he is so afflicted? Is she an utterly worthless, valueless blackguard for not possessing the degree of intelligence and knowledge that her detractor thinks she should possess? And yet_let us be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, now!_isn't this exactly what the presumably liberal person is saying and implying_that the individual whose traits she dislikes doesn't deserve to live? Isn't this what we (for it is not hard to recognize our own image here, is it?) frequently are alleging when we argue with, criticize, and judge others in our everyday liv ing?

The facts, in regard to higher-order fascism, are just as clear as those in regard to lower-order prejudice. For just as everyone in our society cannot be, except through the process of arbi trary genocide or "eugenic" elimina tion, Aryan, or tall, or white, so cannot everyone be bright, or artistically talented, or successful in some profes sion. In fact, even if we deliberately bred only highly intelligent and artisti cally endowed individuals to each other, and forced the rest of the human race to die off, we still would be far from obtaining a race of universal achievers: since, by definition, top flight achievement can only be attained by a relatively few leaders in most fields of endeavor, and is a relative rather than an absolute possibility.

The implicit goals of intellectual fascism, then, are, at least in today's world, impractical and utopian. Everyone can not be endowed with artistic or intellectual genius; only a small minority can be. And if we demand that all be in that minority, to what are we automatically condemning those who clearly cannot be? Obvi ously: to being blamed and despised for their "deficiencies"; to being lower-class citizens; to self-hatred and minimal self-acceptance.

Even this, however, hardly plumbs the inherent viciousness of intellectual fascism. For whereas lower-order or politico-social fascism at least serves as a form of neurotic defensiveness for those who uphold its tenets, higher- order fascism fails to provide such defenses and actually destroys them. Thus, politico-social fascists believe that others are to be despised for not having certain "desirable" traits_but that they are to be applauded for hav ing them. From a psychological standpoint, they compensate for their own underlying feelings of inadequacy by insisting that they are super-ade quate and that those who are not like them are subhumans.

Intellectual fascists start out with a similar assumption but more often than not get blown to bits by their own homemade explosives. For although they can at first assume that they are bright, talented, and potentially achiev ing, they must eventually prove that they are. Because, in the last analysis, they tend to define talent and intelli gence in terms of concrete achievement, and because outstanding achievement in our society is math ematically restricted to a few, they rarely can have real confidence in their own possession of the values they have arbitrarily deified.

To make matters still worse, intel lectual fascists frequently demand of themselves, as well as others, perfect competence and universal achieve ment. If they are excellent mathemati cians or dancers, they demand that they be the most accomplished. If they are outstanding scientists or manufacturers, they also must be first-rate painters or writers. If they are fine poets, they not only need to be the finest, but likewise must be great lovers, drawing room wits, and political experts. Naturally, only being human, they fail at many or most of these ventures. And then_O, poetic justice!_they apply to them selves the same excoriations and despisements that they apply to others when they fail to be universal geniuses.

However righteous their denials, therefore_and even though those readers who by now are not squirming with guilt are probably screaming with indignation, I will determinedly con tinue_the typical politico-social "lib erals" of our day are fascistic in several significant ways. For they arbitrarily define certain human traits as "good" or "superior"; they automatically exclude most others from any possibility of achieving their "good" standards; they scorn, combat, and in many ways persecute those who do not live up to these capricious goals; and, finally, in most instances they more or less fail to live up to their own definitional standards and bring down neurotic self-pity and blame on their own heads.

Let me give a case in point which I deliberately take not from my psycho therapeutic practice (since, as one might expect, it is replete with cases of all kinds of self-haters) but from my presumably less neurotic acquaintanceship. It is the case of an individual I have known for many years who, partly because of his longstanding union connections and the fact that his parents were killed by the Nazis, prides himself on his antifascist views. This individual, however, not only tries to avoid associations with people whom he considers unintelligent (which, of course, is his privilege, just as it is the privilege of a musician to try to associate mainly with other musicians), but goes into long diatribes against almost everybody he meets because they are "so terribly stupid" or "real idiots" or "utterly impossible." He gets quite upset whenever he encounters people who turn out to be below his accepted standards of intelligence, and says that he cannot understand "why they let people like that live. Surely the world would be much better off without such dopes."

This same individual, as I would have predicted from seeing many clients with similar views, has for many years been completely ineffective in his own desires to write short stories. Every time he reads over a few paragraphs he has written, he finds them to be "stupid," "inconsequential," or "trite," and he stops right there. He obviously is trying to write not because he enjoys doing so, or feels that he'd like to express himself, but mainly because he has to be admired, accepted, thought intelligent by other people, particularly by other writers. His intellectual fascism not only prejudices all his human relationships, but also sabotages his own creativity and potential happiness. His name, I contend, is legion.

What is the alternative? Assuming that intellectual fascism exists on a wide scale today, and that it does enor mous harm and little good to people's relations with themselves and others, what philosophy of living are they to set up in its place? Surely, you may well ask, I am not suggesting an uncritical, sentimental equalitarianism, whereunder everyone would fully accept and hobnob with everyone else and where no one would attempt to excel or perfect himself at anything? No, I am not.

I feel, on the contrary, that significant human differences (as well as same nesses) exist; that they add much variety and zest to living; and that one human being may sensibly cultivate the company of another just because this other is different from, and perhaps in certain specific respects superior to, others. I feel, at the same time, that one's worth as a human being is not to be measured in terms of one's popular ity, success, achievement, intelligence, or any other such trait, but solely in terms of one's humanity.

More positively stated: I espouse the seemingly revolutionary doctrine, which actually goes back many hundreds of years and is partially incorporated into the philosophies of Jesus of Nazareth and several other religious leaders, that people are worthwhile merely because they exist, and not because they exist in an intelligent, cultured, artistic, achieving, or other way. If any particular person decides to pursue a certain goal, such as excelling at basketball, astrophysics, or Terpsichore, then it may be better for this purpose that he or she be tall, intelligent, supple, or something else. But if the main purpose of humans is, as I think it can be, living in some kind of satisfactory way, then it is highly desirable that they live and enjoy simply by acting, doing, being, and not by acting, doing, or being anything special.

Let us get this matter perfectly straight, since it is the easiest thing to muddle and confuse. I am not in any manner, shape, or form opposed to people's trying to achieve a given goal, and to this end consistently practicing some task and trying to keep bettering their performances. I believe, in fact, that most men and women cannot live too happily without some kind of goal direction or vital interest in solving some problem or completing some long-range project.

I still maintain, however: the fact that people achieve, produce, solve, or complete anything is not to be used as a measure of their intrinsic value. They may be happier, healthier, richer, or more confident if they successfully paint, write, or manufacture a useful product. But they will not be, nor is it desirable that they see themselves as, better people.

In Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET), we encourage you to refrain from rating your self, your totality, your essence, or your being at all_but instead to only rate your acts, deeds, and performances (Ellis, 1962, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1987, 1988; Ellis and Becker, 1982; Ellis and Dryden, 1987, 1990, 1991; Ellis and Grieger, 1986, 1987, 1988; Ellis and Harper, 1975; Hartman, 1967; Lazarus, 1977; Miller, 1983; Tillich, 1953).

Why had you better not rate your self or your essence? For several reasons:

1. Rating your self or your you-ness is an overgeneralization and is virtually impossible to do accurately. You are (consist of) literally millions of acts, deeds, and traits during your lifetime. Even if you were fully aware of all these performances and characteristics (which you never will be) and were able to give each of them a rating (say, from zero to one hundred) how would you rate each one?; for what purpose?; and under what conditions? Even if you could accurately rate all your millions of acts, how could you get a mean or global rating of the you who performs them? Not very easily!

2. Just as your deeds and charac teristics constantly change (today you play tennis or chess or the stock market very well and tomorrow quite badly), so does your self change. Even if you could, at any one second, somehow give your totality a legitimate rating, this rating would keep changing constantly as you did new things and had more experiences. Only after your death could you give your self a final and stable rating.

3. What is the purpose of rating your self or achieving ego aggrandizement or self-es teem? Obviously, to make you feel better than other people: to grandiosely deify yourself, to be holier than thou, and to rise to heaven in a golden chariot. Nice work_if you can do it! But since self-esteem seems to be highly correlated with what Bandura (1977) calls self- efficacy, you can only have stable ego-strength when (a) you do well, (b) know you will continue to do well, and (c) have a guarantee that you will always equal or best others in important perfor mances in the present and future. Well, unless you are truly perfect, lots of luck on those aspirations!

4. Although rating your perfor mances and comparing them to those of others has real value_because it will help you improve your efficacy and presumably increase your happiness_rating your self and insisting that you must be a good and adequate person will (unless you, again, are perfect!) almost inevitably result in your being anxious when you may do any impor tant thing badly, depressed when you do behave poorly, hostile when others outper form you, and self-pitying when conditions interfere with your doing as well as you think you should. In addition to these neurotic and debilitating feelings, you will almost certainly suffer from serious behavioral problems, such as procrastination, with drawal, shyness, phobias, obsessions, inertia, and inef ficiency (Bard, 1980; Ellis, 1962, 1971, 1973; Ellis and Becker, 1982; Ellis and Harper, 1975; Ellis
and Knaus, 1977; Grieger and Grieger, 1982; Miller, 1983; Walen, diGiuseppe and Wessler, 1980; Wessler and Wessler, 1980).

For these reasons, as well as others that I have outlined elsewhere (Ellis, 1962, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1988), rating or measuring your self or your ego will tend to make you anxious, miserable, and ineffective. By all means rate your acts and try (undesperately!) to do well. For you may be happier, healthier, richer, or more achievement- confident (confident that you can achieve) if you perform adequately. But you will not be, nor had you better define yourself as, a better person.

If you insist on rating your self or your personhood at all_which RET advises you not to do_you had better conceive of yourself as being valuable or worthwhile just because you are human, because you are alive, because you exist. Preferably, don't rate your self or your being at all_and then you won't get into any philosophic or scientific difficulties. But if you do use inaccurate, overgeneralized self- ratings, such as "I am a good person," "I am worthwhile," or "I like myself," say "I am good because I exist and not because I do something special." Then you will not be rating yourself in a rigid, bigoted, authoritarian_that is, fascistic_manner.

Human traits are good for a purpose; are not, in, or, by, and for themselves, good or bad, virtuous or evil. Intelli gence is good for problem-solving; aesthetic sensitivity for enjoyment; persistence for achievement; honesty for putting others at their ease; courage for facing dangers with equanimity. But intelligence, aesthetic sensitivity, persistence, honesty, courage, or any other purposeful trait is not, except by arbitrary definition, an end in itself, nor an absolute good. And as soon as such a trait is defined as a good thing in itself, all non-possessors of that trait automatically are labelled as evil or worthless. Such an arbitrary labelling, again, is fascism.

What, then, can be taken as a valid measure of a person's worth? If being intelligent, or artistic, or honest, or what you will does not render him or her "good" or "worthwhile," what does?

Nothing, actually. All human "worth" or "value" is simply a choice, a decision. We choose to rate our selves or to not do so. Almost always (because that seems to be our nature or innate predisposition) we decide to give ourselves global ratings. And we select standards to use for this rating. Thus, we choose to rate ourselves as "good people" because (1) we perform well, (2) we have good, moral character traits, (3) we win the approval of others, (4) we are members of a favored group, community, or nation, (5)we believe in some deity (e.g., Jehovah, Jesus, or Allah) whom we are convinced created us and loves us).

All these "criteria" of our "worth" or "value" or "goodness" are actually arbitrary and are valid because we choose to believe them so. None of them, except by our belief in them, is empirically confirmable or falsifiable. Some work well and some badly_that is, bring us more or less happiness and greater or lesser disturbance. If we are wise, therefore, we will select those cri teria of our "worth" or "value" that bring us the best results.

According to RET, the best or most effective criterion of our human worth is no self rating_yes, no measure of our self or our ego. For then we would only rate our behaviors and traits, and thereby strive for continued aliveness and enjoyment_and not for deification or devil-ification. And, because self- ratings are overgeneralizations that are impossible to validate, we would be philosophically sounder.

If you do, however, choose to rate your self or your totality, why not rate it in terms of your aliveness and your enjoyment? Try, for example, this philosophy: "I am alive and I choose to stay alive and to try to enjoy my existence. I will rate my aliveness, my existence as 'good' because that is my choice; and if my aliveness truly be comes too painful or unenjoyable I may rationally choose to end it. Mean while, I value my existence (my be- ing) simply because I am alive and, while so alive, I can sense, feel, think,
and act. This I select as my 'real' worth: my humanity, my aliveness, my present cheating of non-existence."

From choosing to value your alive ness, your existence, you can also choose various sub-values. You can decide, for example, to be happily, vitally, maximally, or freely alive. You can judge if it is good for you to be alive and happy it is also good if you help others to enjoy their existence (and to enjoy yours with them). You can plan to live healthfully, peacefully, and productively. Once you choose to see living as "worthwhile," you will probably also choose to live in a social group, to be intimate with some others, to work
productively, and to engage in several recreational pursuits. These choices and the actions you take to implement them are frequent concom itants of your decision to value your aliveness and the enjoyments that may go with it. But all these values and their derivatives are not only given to you (by your heredity and your envi ronment) but are also accepted and chosen. They are "good" because you (consciously or unconsciously) decide that they are. And even when you think that outside forces foist them on you or devoutly believe that God loves you (and that he or she makes you "good" or "worthwhile") you obviously chose to believe this and thereby select the criteria for your human worth. If you are wise, therefore, you will admit that you make this choice and will consciously and honestly (from here on in) continue to make it.

To return to our central theme: If you insist on rating your self instead of merely rating your acts and traits, choose to see yourself as worthwhile simply because you exist.
And try to see all other humans as "good" because they are human, because they are alive and have potential for enjoy ments. If you, for purposes of your own, prefer to be with intelligent, or cultured, or tall, or any other kind of individuals that is your privilege_go be with them. But if you insist that only intelligent, cultured, tall, or any other kind of individuals are good or worthy humans, you are, except by your personal and arbitrary definition, wrong: since you cannot present any objective, scientific evidence to support your preference. Even if you induce the majority to agree with you_as, presumably, Mussolini, Hitler, and various other dictators have done_this merely proves that your view is popular, not that it is correct.

People, then, can be viewed as good in themselves_because they are people, because they exist. They may be good for some specific purpose because they have this or that trait. But that purpose is not them. Nor is this or that trait. If you want to use people for your purpose_for having cultured conversations, for example, with them_then you can legitimately spe cify that they be intelligent, aesthetic, well-educated, or what you will. But please don't, because you desire them to have certain traits, insist that they are worthless for not possessing these traits. Don't confuse their worthlessness to you with worthless ness in themselves.

This is the essence of intellectual fascism: it is a belief about humans which convinces not only the believers, but usually their victims as well, that people acquire intrinsic worth not from merely being, but from being intelli gent, talented, competent, or achieving. It is politico-social fascism with the trait names changed_the same hearse with different license plates.


Copyright 1984 by the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy; Revised, 1991.



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