from The Psychology of Liberty
by Wes Bertrand © 2000, copylefted 2007

The Psychological Side Of The Negation Of Rights

The process of logic is typically ignored by a person who holds incorrect ideas and who acts on them. Without the primary vehicle of rational thought, conflicting emotions are fostered; inaccurate assessments of reality arise naturally from inaccurate identifications.

In such a psychological context, action can become destructive. However, one who initiates force—for example, overt physical violence—does not consider these consequences. While the person acts from an emotional state, he or she simultaneously avoids rational understanding of it. Feelings such as anger, malice, resentment, contempt, superiority, righteousness, inferiority, and fear can be instrumental in the act.

A person might want to act against the facts of reality in this way for a variety of reasons: to achieve purportedly moral ends impossible or improbable through voluntary means; to show supposedly that one is more powerful than others; to create the illusion that one can control the minds of people; to fulfill twisted fantasies of dealing with people like insentient matter or lower life forms; and finally, to act out a subconscious assessment of oneself that evidences a lack of self-respect and self-confidence. In fact, these motivations are interrelated. They all point to a fundamental sense of inadequacy and insecurity about asserting oneself in a coherent and rational fashion.

Instead of being sacrificed or being “inferior” to others, the person who resorts to violence promotes the other side of sacrifice. He or she becomes the one who sacrifices others. In doing so, the person engages in the impossible task of trying to prove wrong his or her feelings of inadequacy. Though evaluations can be right or wrong, feelings just are. Trying to prove feelings right or wrong is just another way to disown or deny them.

Rationalizations are used during this process to make actions seem reasonable. Rationalizations may stave off discomfiting self-images and an uncomfortable self-concept for a time. They may allow one to temporarily protect oneself and possibly deceive others. But, ultimately, one can never deceive the innermost self; one knows somewhere the game that is being played, and one pays a psychological price. Part of the psychological price is diminished self-respect and self-trust.

Additionally, a destructive cycle arises in which one distances oneself from important issues in the psyche. To differentiate right from wrong, truth from falsehood, the real from the unreal, becomes increasingly difficult. One has now made oneself ignorant of a large part of the self.

Pretensions and defensive attitudes are characteristics of people who find the use and examination of aspects of their mind burdensome, unimportant, and/or frightening. Typically, they choose not to stop in the midst of upsetting emotions to examine them. If they did, then behavior would likely not be so harmful to self and others.

As noted, force is the antithesis of rationality. Our rights are violated through the initiation of force. This conclusion is drawn from a long chain of logical abstractions. Without the identification that we possess the survival faculties of reason and volition, we could never fully grasp the concept of rights. We could not arrive at a sound principle, and apply it properly to any circumstance.

Because survival for us means living as rational beings, initiating force against others for survival’s sake is plainly a contradiction in terms. Therefore, it is not a practical way to survive. Yet some may believe that if one can accomplish actions of evil, then one “wins,” like a bank robber who pulls off his escapade and never gets caught.

Certainly from a physical standpoint, a person might benefit from such actions. But what actually gives physical things meaningful value? In order to authentically appreciate and enjoy one’s material values (or any value for that matter), they must be accompanied by the recognition that one has earned them and that one deserves them. Following from one’s accomplishments should be the belief that one has made the right choices—that one has acted appropriately, in mind and in action (which directly involves the virtue of integrity). To not feel that this has occurred puts one in a pathetic condition. Though this condition can sometimes happen to any person with distorted self-worth (irrespective of his or her correct actions), it exists largely for those who decide to get something for nothing at the expense of others.

Of course, one can have certain subjective views about earning and deserving. Such views allow one to tolerate living with oneself by making contradictory actions somehow seem reasonable. This policy undoubtedly has injurious psychological consequences that merely add to previous mental torment. Although some might say, for instance, that a criminal enjoys what he obtains, this perverted joy has little to do with mental health; his subconscious slowly gnaws away at him through guilt, anger, or anxiety.

Survival for humans must include psychological survival, which entails genuinely seeing oneself as being worthy of happiness. Clearly, this entails a high level of mental health. And few would argue that a high level of mental health means being mostly free of debilitating emotional repression and rationalization. Lastly, since initiatory force is an action based on the premise of death, retaliation against it is an action based on the premise of life. Self-defense involves fighting for one’s life, if the circumstances arise. The person who infringes on another’s rights ought to expect justice to be served.

To allow acts of unprovoked force to be perpetrated without any response is basically to endorse them. Rand called this phenomenon sanction of the victim.82 Many atrocities in history as well as corrupt social and political philosophies have depended on it. Even in today’s vast context of knowledge, in which human rights are mentioned commonly in political discussions, people still permit their rights to be infringed in many ways. One may even get the impression that some people do not want to understand the concept of rights. In fact, the term is used so loosely in current media and politics that a clear definition for it is apparently considered passé. Clear definitions are usually preempted by hopeless debates over derivative issues—for example, over violations of amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

In a society where everyone realized the importance and inalienability of their rights, very few initiators of force would view their acts as practical for their survival and for achieving their goals. In such a society, these subhuman acts would be extinguished—and the perpetrators would instead have their own rights and freedoms diminished. Irrationality stays alive only by feeding off irrationality. When confronted with reason, the denial of reality is seen for what it is, and it is dealt with accordingly.

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