Saturday, February 20, 2010

How John Galt could have helped Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods made his first public appearance yesterday since the not-quite-Norman-Rockwell Thanksgiving that revealed all the trouble. It was painful to watch.

Using language of self-abasing humility, he proudly made it known that he employs a lot of people, creates a lot of wealth, and helps millions of children.

"To everyone involved in my foundation, including my staff, board of directors, sponsors, and most importantly, the young students we reach, our work is more important than ever," Woods said. "From the Learning Center students in Southern California to the Earl Woods scholars in Washington, D.C., millions of kids have changed their lives, and I am dedicated to making sure that continues."

The world's greatest golfer stood rigidly at the podium and spoke as if his neck was in a vise. "For all that I have done, I am so sorry," he said. "It's hard to admit that I need help, but I do."

He sure does.

He needs help from Ayn Rand.

"I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in," Tiger said on Friday.

Did he?

"Altruism," Ayn Rand explained to Playboy magazine in 1964, "is a moral system which holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the sole justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, value and virtue."

The novelist and philosopher advocated a different moral system: "a nonmystical, nonaltruistic, rational code of ethics -- a morality which holds that man is not a sacrificial animal, that he has the right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor others to himself."

This is an excerpt from the Playboy interview:

PLAYBOY: You are sharply critical of the world as you see it today, and your books offer radical proposals for changing not merely the shape of society, but the very way in which most men work, think and love. Are you optimistic about man's future?

RAND: Yes, I am optimistic....Look around you and look at history. You will see the achievements of man's mind. You will see man's unlimited potentiality for greatness, and the faculty that makes it possible. You will see that man is not a helpless monster by nature, but he becomes one when he discards that faculty: his mind. And if you ask me, what is greatness? -- I will answer, it is the capacity to live by the three fundamental values of John Galt: reason, purpose, self-esteem.
If John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's 1957 masterwork, Atlas Shrugged, had visited Tiger Woods, he might have told the golfer that he has split himself in two: living by the values of reason, purpose and self-esteem in his professional life but abandoning those values in his personal life, with predictable results in both cases.

From the Playboy interview, this is Ayn Rand on the value of reason:

"Reason is man's tool of knowledge, the faculty that enables him to perceive the facts of reality. To act rationally means to act in accordance with the facts of reality. Emotions are not tools of cognition. What you feel tells you nothing about the facts; it merely tells you something about your estimate of the facts. Emotions are the result of your value judgments; they are caused by your basic premises, which you may hold consciously or subconsciously, which may be right or wrong. A whim is an emotion whose cause you neither know nor care to discover. Now what does it mean, to act on whim? It means that a man acts like a zombie, without any knowledge of what he deals with, what he wants to accomplish, or what motivates him. It means that a man acts in a state of temporary insanity."

On the value of purpose:

"The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life. In order to be in control of your life, you have to have a purpose -- a productive purpose....A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man's life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos. He does not know what his values are. He does not know how to judge. He cannot tell what is or is not important to him, and, therefore, he drifts helplessly at the mercy of any chance stimulus or any whim of the moment. He can enjoy nothing. He spends his life searching for some value which he will never find."

On the value of self-esteem [elaborating on her view that the kind of man who spends his time running after women is a man who "despises himself"]:

"This type of man is reversing cause and effect in regard to sex. Sex is an expression of a man's self-esteem, of his own self-value. But the man who does not value himself tries to reverse this process. He tries to derive his self-esteem from his sexual conquests, which cannot be done. He cannot acquire his own value from the number of women who regard him as valuable. Yet that is the hopeless thing which he attempts."

If Ayn Rand's hero had paid a visit to Tiger Woods, he might have explained to him that his accomplishments on the golf course were only possible because he used reason to assess the facts of reality and apply his rational mind to the challenges of the game, because it was his purpose to become the greatest golfer of all time, and because he regarded himself as equal to the task.

John Galt might have explained to Tiger that the failures in his personal life resulted from his attempt to fake reality and portray himself as a perfect, people-pleasing fantasy figure, when in fact he was unhappy and adrift, loathing himself for failing to live up to the fake reality he created.

John Galt might have advised Tiger to close his foundation, give up his endorsement deals, divorce his wife and get back on the golf course. "I am who I am," the script might have read. "It was a mistake to mislead you for the sake of selling products and funding scholarships."

The reaction to that speech might have been: "Don't close the foundation! We need you! We love you! All is forgiven!"

The truth would set him free.

Instead, he's going to attempt to regain the fake reality through a public display of therapy, religion, marriage counseling, and philanthropy.

"I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again," Tiger wept.

Believe -- the word itself tells you that he's faking it.

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand has some interesting thoughts on what she called, "The Meaning of Sex":

"The men who think that wealth comes from material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think -- for the same reason -- that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of one's mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you -- just about in some such way as if iron ore transformed itself into railroad rails of its own volition. Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself....

"Observe the ugly mess which most men make of their sex lives -- and observe the mess of contradictions which they hold as their moral philosophy. One proceeds from the other. Love is our response to our highest values -- and can be nothing else. Let a man corrupt his values and his view of existence, let him profess that love is not self-enjoyment but self-denial, that virtue consists, not of pride, but of pity or pain or weakness or sacrifice, that the noblest love is born, not of admiration, but of charity, not in response to values, but in response to flaws -- and he will have cut himself in two. His body will not obey him, it will not respond, it will make him impotent toward the woman he professes to love and draw him to the lowest type of whore he can find. His body will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions; if he believes that flaws are values, he has damned existence as evil and only the evil will attract him. He has damned himself and he will feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He has equated virtue with pain and he will feel that vice is the only realm of pleasure. Then he will scream that his body has vicious desires of its own which his mind cannot conquer, that sex is sin, that true love is a pure emotion of the spirit. And then he will wonder why love brings him nothing but boredom, and sex -- nothing but shame...."

Ayn Rand diagnosed Tiger Woods pretty well, didn't she?

You should see what she says about Barack Obama.

Copyright 2010

Editor's note: You might be interested in the previous post, "Decoding Don Draper."