Rioters and Rocket Ships: The age-old pull between emotion and reason

On Wednesday, June 3rd 2020, as SpaceX launched its long-awaited Dragon rocket towards the international space station, rioters took to our streets and began looting, setting fires to police cars, vandalizing, and shouting obscenities at our dedicated police officers. To me, it felt like we were just reliving history.

Fifty years ago, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 carried three intrepid astronauts to the moon. The incredible landing was the result of the hard work and preparation of thousands of people from all walks of life over a period of years. I had the honor of knowing personally Balraj Sokkappa, a man who came to America from India by boat in the 1950s and ended up managing a team from MIT on the Apollo 6 mission. The story of black women doing math for these missions is detailed in the movie Hidden Figures. The landing was the result of thousands of experiments conducted over many years among a diverse group of people who put aside differences at least long enough to accomplish something transformative.

A month later, on August 15, 1969 a crowd of about 300,000 people converged near the small town of Woodstock, New York for a three-day party. The event required nothing more than scant planning by three inexperienced event planners, who mainly planned to make a lot of money. For three days, people stood in muddy fields. Almost no one had thought to bring food or water. They stood in hours-long lines to get hot dogs. There were not enough bathrooms for the unexpectedly large crowds. The townspeople were harassed, and fields were destroyed. People stayed stoned and/or drunk, babies were conceived, and at least one baby was born. There were 742 overdoses. One 17-year-old was run over by a tractor and died. Some people point to the fact that there were no records of interpersonal violence as an indication that people can live together in peace. But had it gone on for four days, or five, and the drugs and food started running out, what disasters might have happened.

In her essay “Apollo and Dionysus,” Ayn Rand writes regarding Apollo 11 and Woodstock, “The issue in this case is the alleged dichotomy of reason versus emotion.” She points out that in Nietzsche’s metaphysics, reason–symbolized by the Greek god Apollo–is an “unreliable and inferior” guide to existence. Emotion (symbolized by the Greek god Dionysus) is the best guide for existence.

However, Ayn Rand disagrees with Nietzsche. She says, “This much is true, reason is the faculty of an individual, to be exercised individually; and it is only dark irrational emotions, obliterating his mind, that can enable a man to melt, merge and dissolve into a mob or a tribe. We may accept Nietzsche’s symbols, but not his estimate of their respective values…It is not true that reason and emotion are irreconcilable antagonists or that emotions are a wild, unknowable, ineffable element in men. But this is what emotions become for those who do not care to know what they feel, and who attempt to subordinate reason to their emotions.”

The people who are protesting now would do well to stop and examine their motivations. It seems to me that they subordinated reason to their emotions and have thereby allowed themselves to dissolve into a mob or a tribe. And it is a tribe bent on destroying the traditional order of Western society. The BLM organization’s website spells that out very clearly.

Make no mistake, if the socialists behind organizations like BLM, Antifa and the others succeed, they will bring America, and likely the world to a new low. And it may not be possible to ever again free Apollo from under the trampling foot of Dionysus.

Apollo and Dionysus

Published by RLMartin

Search for truth. Defend it as best you can.

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