Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Interlude: Getting Smashed

There's a ring of sites called smashourstuff.com wherein the gimmick is that they take donations from the readers, buy a coveted tech item, and smash it. Cnet just did a short article on it and talks about negative reactions to these sites. For example:

"This is not harmless fun, it is pure poison. Their enjoyment comes not from the achievement of values, but from the destruction of the values of others. Their response to the phenomenon a happy man, is to take his happiness and mangle it. This is what Ayn Rand so eloquently identified as, 'hatred of the good for being good."
From The Benjo Blog
No, cyanide is pure poison. And in case you missed it, Benjo, they're destroying an XBOX360, not the values of others. Let me make that clear again: it's only an XBOX360! And it's not somebody else's XBOX360, it's their own! How is that destroying somebody else's anything, much less their values??? In the not-so-grand scheme of things, this is less important than a speck of flour underneath your couch next to that hideous floral-pattern chair which, despite it being very comfortable and cheap, is just wrong. The problem I see with such a reaction is that it forcefully imputes meanings to an act which was neither intended as being particularly meaningful nor as something which could shoulder the burden of all these extra subtexts. And right, Ayn Rand, the practical philosopher of our times. *snort* I'm a fan of her philosophy and books but I don't ever delude myself by mistaking an interesting point of view with an applicable one. Ad hominem attacks are pointless too. For example:

"Even if these neanderthals were simply smashing an expensive object in mindless glee, I would still feel contempt."


"But these cretins are much worse than cave men."
From The Benjo Blog
And since when, Benjo, did you become the supreme arbiter of all that is good in the universe? What happened to free speech? Neandertals might have judged others without a second thought but surely, Benjo, we are above this? A case might be made that destroying an XBOX and deriving satisfaction from its destruction is similar in nature to a sort of societal nihilism and masochism. Rejoice in other people's pain, criticize all that is good for no other reason than to be contrary, and otherwise encourage the rotting of our morals and ethics, hoorah. But the fundamental flaw in such a comparison is the scale and impact of said act. In some far off abstract philosophical land (incidentally where Ayn Rand lived) the scale might not matter but in reality, it does.

The smashourstuff ring is nothing more than a few sites devoted to a few uninspired stunts. If we're going to talk about publicity stunts, the antics of Hollywood deserve much more attention than one broken XBox? If Benjo really believes that our society is going to hell because we're disparaging good because it is good, why not go after bigger fish? Using smashmyxbox.com as an example is like speaking about how a particular brand of butter is no longer available and then using that as an example for world poverty.

I don't think we should criticize the good just because it's good and we certainly should criticize the bad if it's bad. But I do not believe that we can criticize something and label it as bad just because it does not fit our own definitions of "good." Not good is not necessarily bad. And we certainly can not then generalize a very small example of "not good" to epic proportions. While I disagree with Benjo's point of view, I am more than happy that he can hold it without retribution. I just have a problem with his angle of attack which to me seems a bit unsound. But if you don't agree with me I will destroy my XBOX360 by hurling a kitten at it (her name is Bubbles) repeatedly until both have expired. This will in turn precipitate the total collapse of civilization as we know it, so just watch it buddy.

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