The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.
-G. K. Chesterton
Ayn Rand, though a very entertaining author, has her philosophical flaws. But if she is right about anything, she is right about this so far as it goes: you must have a philosophy to live by or you will have no bearings for judging your actions. You will have no way of interpreting what to do or when to do it.
Too many people lack this. Set aside for the moment whether any given philosophy is right. That is surely the next question to ask, but it isn't the point just now. The thrust of today's commentary is that a framework is necessary for us to determine the value of our life's, in fact even of our daily, work. Certain frameworks will prove to be wrong; indeed we suggest that there can only be one right set of guidelines when all is said and done. But again, we are veering from the issue at hand.
Rand says, if we remember her correctly, that if you do not discipline yourself towards thinking about things at the least within a context of ideas which you take as a given, you will eventually merely wander from day to day, from idea to idea, and find yourself eternally at the influence of other forces without regard for what you may actually want or need. You will discover, if the thought ever actually develops in your mind, that you have not become an individual of any value. You will be a sheep. The time of slaughter will one day consume you, as you will have no way of defending yourself from it.
Or something worse will happen. You will become a petty little dictator, self assured that all that you do is itself the standard of right and wrong. And why not? You would be at the point where whims and passing fancy will guide you, or, more correctly, you will be the flag proudly fluttering in the wind, too proud to know that it is the air which unfurls you and not your own knowledge or will. As the breeze fades and dies, so do you. And what will be seen of you as you are opened to the world?
So you need a philosophy. You need some way of determining whether the people and events around you are evolving into things useful or things destructive. You need coherency in your life. You need to, in the words of that old saw, stand for something lest you fall for anything. This approach may well leave you standing for the wrong things in the end. Still, your only chance of being found by the just and true lies in the firmness of your stance.
As we discuss issues and political activism whether here in Detroit, in the larger state of Michigan or the larger still United States, indeed even or especially of world affairs, we must see that without a useful framework no ideas can seriously be discussed. It is important that the framework itself be just, of course. Yet without something to bounce thoughts off of, they will only travel onward away from us to sink in the abyss of non-thought. Or be captured by imaginations sinister to what is really right or really wrong.