Martel’s Gulch

I developed this concept some time ago, but I only mentioned it in comments from time to time because I thought that a long exposition on it would be a mere tangent.  However, nearly all of the comments on my post on White Knights made it clear that the concept is entirely germane to how I advocate Game be used, my rejection of White Knighthood, and why I support the Moralist faction in any schism that might occur within the Manosphere.  As I begin my advocacy for what I might end up calling “Higher Game” (but don’t hold me to that term), I’ll need to elucidate more clearly what differentiates those who hope to use Game for a greater purpose from the PUA.

Despite my religious proclivities, this formulation began some time ago after reading the works of Ayn Rand, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  Rand is roundly (and ignorantly) dismissed by the left, but even many thinkers I respect don’t take her seriously.  Sometimes I suspect she’s not liked merely because she’s so much more popular than other free-market oriented philosophes.

But some of the criticism is well-founded.  Her dismissal of religion is thoroughly unconvincing, her heroes are just a bit too perfect, she managed to alienate nearly every potential ally, and her dogmatism eventually got so intense that it alienated many of her closest followers.

Nevertheless, I did find her works inspiring, and she planted many seeds in my brain that came to proper fruition after I swallowed the Red Pill.  I don’t believe that a better portrait of an Anointed leftist has ever been drawn than that of Ellsworth Toohey,  Francisco’s money speech  is brilliant (despite the misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 6:10 which criticizes crass materialism, a sentiment I suspect Rand agrees with despite herself) , the downfall of the USA Motor Company is a great parable for America’s decent, the initial ride on the John Galt Line is a moving tribute to human achievement, her description of the Aristocracy of Pull could not have been more prescient, and Roark and Dominique’s “rape scene” is a Red Pill classic.

But nothing causes more ire on the left or more ambivalence among the religious than her belief in the virtue of selfishness, that it’s not only necessary, but morally preferable to prioritize one’s own self-interest.  Likewise, she criticizes one of Christianity’s (and leftism’s) ostensibly highest virtues, selflessness.

Rand’s critics come in a variety of flavors.  Some rightly criticize her pat dismissal of any notions of spirituality or eternity.  Some merely don’t like that her philosophy discourages the exploitation of society’s producers.  Yet others take issue with Rand primarily for semantic reasons, for without serious consideration, what she advocates can strike us as a direct attack on virtue.


Rand here is a victim of one of her own ideas, that we shouldn’t invent words (I have no idea in which essay, but somewhere she criticizes James Joyce for inventing new terms).  Therefore, to advocate her belief in self-interest, she used a term with extremely negative connotations.

Roark and Rearden are inappropriately criticized as being “selfish” for wanting to reap the fruits of their own labor, but “selfish” is also the word we use to describe the kid who eats all the cookies before anybody else gets to have even one, the car thief, and the husband who likes pissing all over the bathroom floor so that his wife has to clean it up.  Rand doesn’t endorse such behaviors.  To the contrary, she advocates a very strict moral code, but the word she uses to describe those who exemplify her code accurately describes many of those who violate it.

Whether you call them, “looters and moochers,” “churcians,”, “the cathedral”, or “the left”, they deride businessmen who want to keep what they’ve earned, parents who want the best possible education for their children, men who refuse to man-up and marry those sluts, and families who flee crime-ridden inner cities, as selfish.  Rand delivers an impassioned and eloquent defense on their behalf, but by extolling the “virtue of selfishness”, she implicitly conflates such perfectly appropriate behaviors with those of the very moochers she rips to shreds.

Their self-effacing rhetoric notwithstanding, I consider all of Rand’s villains, from James Taggart to Uncle Ellsworth to Wesley Mouch to be decidedly, and abhorrently, selfish.


At the same time, Rand criticizes ‘selflessness” as a vice, which leads to much the same confusion.  When we think of selflessness, we imagine the mother shielding her child from an explosion with her own body, Mother Theresa, the marine throwing himself on a grenade to save his buddies, or even Christ Himself.  In light of Roark’s statement to Gail Wynand that he would die for him, I find it hard to believe that Rand would necessarily considers all such acts of sacrifice to be evil.*

Yet Rand’s criticism of selflessness retains some validity.  After all, might not we describe as “selfless” the man who keeps lending money to his brother with a gambling addiction, the parents who refuse to impose their own beliefs on their children, the Benighted lefty who’s eagerly participates in unsustainable economic redistribution, the employee who doesn’t take credit for his own accomplishments and thereby encourages his unscrupulous co-worker, and the White Knight who gives his “friend” the confidence to stay in an abusive relationship?

Ordinary Men (I’ve only read summaries) supposedly describes how the concept of selflessness could be used for deplorable ends.  Individual soldiers who found the idea of shooting four year-old girls in the back of the head morally repugnant were encouraged to be more selfless, to surrender their own selfish concepts of morality to the common ideals of the Reich.  “How dare you be so selfish as to put your own moral beliefs above those of the greater good?”

When the moral man is selfless as it’s currently understood, he renders himself and his morality impotent in the face of the selfish around him who become emboldened by his weakness.  Take the Catholic sermon described by Leap of a Beta:

The father literally said, “Some people say that the turn the other cheek in relationships can lead to being a welcome mat. Don’t just be a welcome mat, be a plush carpet for others!”.

The man was basically pushing co-dependency on a societal level. For an hour long lecture. And they ate it up.

And this is the selflessness that Rand so appropriately condemns.  Unfortunately, she ascribes such erroneous beliefs that have infiltrated too much of our religion to all religion.  Hence, the need for some updated terminology.


As they’re used today, the terms “selfishness” and “selflessness” incorporate both what’s best and worst in people.  The artist with impregnable integrity and the guy who cheats at poker are both selfish, whereas we describe as selfless both the father who works three jobs to support his family and the politician who uses other people’s money to buy political support.  This makes any in-depth analysis both cumbersome and confusing.  That’s why I’m re-defining things.

First, the root terms:

The self (smalll “s”) is the biological and temporal individual and its related needs.  The self includes the body, the requirements for food, water, shelter, sex, status, and whatever else applies to our more earthly existence.  Or, in my GIA formulation, the self is Ia (“I sub A“), or the Individual as it relates to the Earth.  This is that part of us that needs to render unto Caesar when appropriate, and when we learn rhetoric or Game, we’re studying the selves of others.

The Self (capital “S”) is Man’s eternal nature, his soul, his beliefs and values.  Your Self is that part of you that’s more than just your need for sex and water, that which does not live by bread alone.  Your self may be satisfied with regular sex, but your Self requires a deeper bond.  Your self is content with material success and achievement, your Self craves meaning, a reason for life that transcends getting a bigger flatscreen.

In GIA terminology, the Self is Ig (“I sub G“) or that part of the Individual that interacts with the Heavens.

Of course, there will be some dispute as to whether something pertains to the self or the Self.  Some might claim that a mother surrendering her life for that of her child pertains to self (a biological imperative to promote the survival of one’s offspring), whereas others would describe it as pertaining to the Self.  Sometimes, such disagreements won’t detract from the overall points I’ll be making, sometimes they will.  For now, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.  After all, there is some overlap.

In the Manosphere, the Hedonists are more concerned with the self, whereas the Moralists emphasize the Self.

Now, for my finer points of distinction:

I will use selfishness to describe a preoccupation with the self with its current negative connotations.  Selfishness is the act of prioritizing one’s own temporal needs over any notions of ethics or morality.  The dude who mugs you in the alley is being selfish.

On the other hand, selflessness (small “s”) becomes morally neutral.  It’s merely surrendering the needs of your self for something else, anything else.  Whether you’re giving a homeless alcoholic your lunch money, letting your wife beat you because she’s angry at her boss, or fasting, you’re being selfless.

But Selflessness (capital “S”) is decidedly negative, for you’re being Selfless when you give up on something that really matters to you.  Selfless acts include those ethical compromises you never should have made, the times you White Knighted for some girl who was never going to take your advice.  You were Selfless when you bought into some harebrained belief just because you didn’t want to have to keep fighting for it, whenever you knew something was truly wrong but you went along anyway.

In case you get the two mixed up, simply remember the Self with a capital “S” is the part of you that really matters,  Selfless therefore means without your Self, doing that which disregards what’s best about you.

So, now for the scary new terms:

When I use selfist (small “s”), I refer to the normal human desire to have the requisite stuff for a decent human life.   A selfist person may want a lot of stuff, but he’s not selfish in that he properly understands that others exist, too.  He wants to keep the majority of the money he earns,  A selfist person wants to satisfy his self while granting due recognition to others’ selves.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a lot of money, per se.  A financially successful man who’s gotten rich through hard work and intelligent choices is selfist, and not wanting to pay 60% of his income in taxes is anything but selfish.

And Selfism is the dedication to one’s own highest Self.  The Selfist rejects the notion that he should be “a plush carpet for others”, for he recognizes that “[t]o say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I’“, that you can’t be merciful unless you first have power, that if your self is unduly denigrated your Self may well be rendered irrelevant.  After all, who’s more likely to change hearts and minds, the Christian Alpha that every man he knows wants to emulate, or the nice guy who women “just don’t see that way”?

The Selfist doesn’t negate his biological self unless it serves a higher purpose, he merely keeps his self in proper perspective.  He recognizes that man does indeed live by bread, he just doesn’t live by bread alone.

The self matters, but the Self matters more.

The Selfist acts in ways we currently describe as both selfish and selfless.  The artist who insists on bringing his dreams to fruition is Selfist, yet the ultimate Selfist was Christ Himself, for everything He did was dedicated to His highest Self (which was as high as it gets).  Furthermore, the most Selfist act in all of history was His willingness to sacrifice His self on the cross.  Among the lessons we can learn from this is that when we’re required to sacrifice our selves in service of the Self that we will be rewarded.

But that doesn’t mean you should give away all your money just for the hell of it.  Although I want a woman who’s also in touch with her Self, I still want her to be hot, yet my selfist desires are subservient to my Selfist ones, for those without a Self are those we have most to fear.  In Rand’s words:

And isn’t that the root of every despicable action?  Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self.

Or as I would put it:

And isn’t that the root of every despicable action?  Not Selfism (or even selfism), but precisely the absence of a Self.

Selfism is difficult, for it requires amplifying still small voice to make it louder than the shrieking accusations of “selfishness” of your detractors.  At risk of using an atheist to support Scripture (and therefore angering both sides), Rand again:

Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world—to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.

…especially if what you “really want” is what God wants.

Rand’s Contradiction

Sis recently commented:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35 (Ayn Rand could never understand how this is true)

She’s partially correct, but she points directly to a contradiction in Rand’s philosophy I’ve yet to see adequately resolved.  After all, Roark tells Wynand that he would die for him, and her heroes risk their very lives at the end of Atlas Shrugged for the sake of their beliefs.  Obviously, this isn’t explicitly Christian, but it does indicate that she believes in something more important than even life itself.

Yet she dismisses any sort of afterlife, any sort of reward beyond Earth as nonsense.  On one hand, she decrees that there are times when one should give up one’s life for something greater, yet on the other hand there’s nothing greater than or beyond your life here on this planet.

So one can’t dismiss Rand (or other secular idealists) as denying the existence of the Self as I describe it, but her rejection of God and the soul by necessity limits its scope.  Such limitations have their price; despite its merits, Rand should never have made an idol of her own philosophy, and by most accounts she died a very bitter woman.

Selfist Game

So, a quick rundown of how this all applies to the Manosphere:

The noble White Knight who really thinks he’s doing right by the women he’s letting walk all over him is being selfless.

The White Knight who knows that he shouldn’t be a doormat but who does it anyway is Selfless, as is the PUA who defies any notions of morality for the sake of getting as much poon as possible.

The PUA like the guy from RSD who tweets about how much fun it is to break hearts is selfish.

Guys who want to learn Game merely to improve their SMV are selfist.

And those I support, the men who master the rules of the Earth to further the goals of the Heavens, are Selfist.

Obviously, there’s some overlap, and y’all are free to disagree with some of the finer points, but that’s basically how I see it.  Ultimately, it’s not my call.  Like Rand says:

You can fake virtue for an audience. You can’t fake it in your own eyes.

Not many arrows have been flung my way yet, but they will be.  That’s fine, for I have the Armor of God, and they can maybe wreck my self, but they’ll never touch my Self.  Or, to quote Queen Non-Believer yet again:

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received–hatred. The great creators–the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors–stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The first airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.”

She would deny that this is God in action, but she recognizes that there’s something at work, and I would argue that it’s something that can’t be explained with reason alone.  Nevertheless, I’ll be as Selfist as I know how to be every day of my life, and I’ll never be Selfless ever again.

*  “Sacrifice” is another word I think lead to more confusion than clarification.  Rand explicitly rejects “self-sacrifice”, although other aspects of her philosophy endorse it.  Some of the distinction can be gleaned from this essay, but I’ll have to explore my interpretation of “sacrifice”, both in its Christian and Randian senses at another time.

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25 Responses to Martel’s Gulch

  1. I understand exactly what you’re getting at, and understand why your new terms are so similar, with them only being distinguished by a capital or not.

    That being said, can we think of some terms to avoid confusion of speaking on these in future posts?

    • Martel says:

      If you think of some better terms, I’m all ears. But, if you don’t, I’ll probably give a quick summary of what I mean each time I use one of these, especially at first.

  2. Emma the Emo says:

    I wonder if Rand used the words “selfless” and “selfish” the way she did, on purpose. Perhaps she wanted to redefine these words and blow everyone’s mind, but it didn’t work for those who didn’t read her deeply enough. It’s always like that, isn’t it? You say something outrageous and mind-blowing, and it’s supposed to parody the lefty logic with a twist, but the joke falls flat cuz they are too willing to attack their own reflection and to see you as the enemy.

    “Yet she dismisses any sort of afterlife, any sort of reward beyond Earth as nonsense. On one hand, she decrees that there are times when one should give up one’s life for something greater, yet on the other hand there’s nothing greater than or beyond your life here on this planet.”

    I’m kind of new to Rand and don’t know exactly what she meant, but my impression was that there was no contradiction. Sometimes, if you don’t sacrifice your life, you fail to get what your Self really wanted. Even if you can’t enjoy your “victory” when you’re dead, you can’t accept failure while alive. In other words, living with loose principles is too big of a price to pay, and the philosophy really is about your life here on this planet. Your life is your Self, not your Self is your life. If that makes any sense 🙂

    • Martel says:

      In your first paragraph, you’re probably right. Nevertheless, I think the strategy backfired. A defense of “selfishness”, even if intended to support only perfectly reasonable behaviors, is easily rhetorically succeptible to accusations of defending thievery, etc., even if you despise thievery (which Rand did).

      I think that your second paragraph probably defends her view about as well as it could be done, and I’m going to have to really think it through before I dismiss or accept it. I’m not used to comments causing my brain to go into overdrive, so I’ll get back to you.

      • Emma the Emo says:

        Hope you don’t mind me expressing more thoughts on it. Or else I’ll forget them.

        I think what I was saying is the secular version of “He who preserves his life will lose it, he who loses his life will keep it”. One only has to look at the characters from Fountainhead to see its meaning. Peter Keating chooses what is usually known as “the good life” and gives up his Self (In religious context, that thing which is higher than himself. In my own secular understanding, the core principles). But in the process, he doesn’t get to enjoy his good life – he lost what he tried to preserve.
        Howard Roark, on the other hand, preserves inner consistency and moral peace, by giving up the “life”.

        So… I think this willingness to give up life (willingness to live like Roark or actually give up life, literally) makes you less likely to waste your life. Heck, when people know you are capable of dying for something, they are less likely to mess with you, too.

        I know this isn’t entirely consistent, but this Bible quote describes, to me, that feeling of life slipping through your fingers due to bad goal choices, or that feeling of preserving something important, despite having little.

      • Martel says:

        You correctly point out Rand’s equivalence with “lose one’s life to save it”, and it works well here on earth, whether it be Roark working in the quarry or the heroes of Atlas moving to the Gulch. Indeed, all of them give up their lives to save them. Dagny knew a peace her brother would never understand.

        But it doesn’t work as well when it comes to literally giving up one’s actual life.

      • Emma the Emo says:

        “But it doesn’t work as well when it comes to literally giving up one’s actual life.”

        Maybe because it’s a way to trick yourself into being more likely to retain your life. It’s like love – real love feels great because it’s real. We seek out love because it feels so great. But if it’s real, you would be willing to sacrifice many things for it, and would be hurt if you lose it. But that means that in your quest for selfish (in a good Randian way 🙂 ) pleasure you exposed yourself to risk of great displeasure or even death. But then again, risk nothing, gain nothing 😉 We can’t have it all, no matter what feminists say. We can’t have our cake and it it too, we have to choose.

  3. Wilson says:

    Don’t think self-sacrifice requires the belief in the afterlife, any more than having a “Self” requires a belief in the soul. I guess there is a sort of dual nature of mortality: our lives are so important because they are limited, but they are also trivial since we die no matter what.

    • Martel says:

      Self-sacrifice doesn’t require a belief in the afterlife, but the notion that self-sacrifice could somehow be beneficial to the person sacrificing himself does.

      Your duality works well in the secular sense, but can also apply in a context of faith. Some religious traditions have belittled Earthly existence and have encouraged their followers to forget about life here and think only of the afterlife. “I’m going to Heaven so who cares what I do now.” Rand and others correctly criticize this, for it’s a recipe for exploitation and the waste of human life.

      However, we can see human life as a precious gift for the reasons you describe while also seeing it as a stepping-stone to something more. If life here didn’t matter, God wouldn’t give it to us. Much like you say, our lives are merely a blip in the continuum, which is exactly why they matter so much.

  4. Sis says:

    hey cool! Thanks for the mention. I think your definitions are a much needed addition to the English language, it would end a lot of confusion.

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  6. Instead of “selfishness”, how about “enlightened self-interest”?

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  14. Chuck says:

    Sorry for the late entry, but I just found this. I think you have a good idea on Rand, but you are still missing some the finer points of her philosophy and I would recommend reading her non-fiction to clarify your thoughts. I am going to speak on the self-sacrifice topic: the Marine saving his buddies, Roark telling Gail he would die for him, etc.
    Rand refused to accept the widely held meaning of selfish and used the meaning Aristotle gave it, which is enlightened self interest (as mentioned earlier), or self interest with a moral purpose. Even though you define a thief as selfish, Rand would never apply that term to them because they are not morally guided.
    Living your life this way means having a hierarchy of values using the value of your life as the measuring stick. If you do this, you will find things that are as valuable as your life or some things more valuable. Think Sine Qua Non – there are things that make life worth living, and not having them would make life unbearable and not worth living at all. The idea of things worse than death are common in many philosophies, not just Rand.
    The Marine throwing himself on a grenade to save his friends is a profoundly selfish act. The act of cowardice is so disturbing that if he exhibits it his life is not worth living. A mother saving her child, the same thing. Roark valued Gail so much he was willing to die for him – sine qua non.
    This is getting long, but one more item: I’ll paraphrase one example Rand used for selfish vs selfless. A man has a dying wife and $10,000 in their account. The wife needs an operation to save her, but it costs $10,000. The selfish thing to do is to spend the $10,000 for the operation because, sine qua non, he could not live without his wife and she is more important to him than the $10,000 is. Also, there are 10 other women that need operations to save their lives, each costing $1000. The selfless thing to do would be to let the wife die and pay for the other 10 women – for the greater good (10 vs. 1), of course.

    • Martel says:

      I agree with your assessment of Rand’s use of the terms, as well as that she refused to coin terms of her own. You analysis of the Marine, etc., make perfect sense.

      However, I have no such compunction against inventing new words, so I have. When most folks hear “the virtue of selfishness” their minds shut off; “selfishness” has been given such a bad rap that they’ll refuse to listen. Likewise, “selflessness” is considered to be so noble that anybody who opposes it must be some sort of monster.

      I’ve come to the conclusion (with respect to those who disagree) that it’s rhetorically more advantageous to create new terms than to rehabilitate the old ones.

      It’s not just me who defines a thief as “selfish”, it’s damn near everybody. Defending “selfishness” as it’s currently understood implies that one’s also fine with the thief, although in Rand’s case that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nevertheless, she had to refute such accusations continually, and the confusion never quite resolved itself.

      So instead of having to offer caveats and draw fine layers of dialectical distinction when dealing with people who feel irrationally hostile when I attack “selflessness”, I prefer to use different words so as to bypass some of their emotional filters.

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  16. She was an amphetamine addict her whole life, a severe one, and it got worse. Her paranoia, her rage, all got worse, just like my mother. I can’t believe people look to this amoral addict for guidance of ANY kind.

    But as 12 steps groups taught us, “belief” is a vacuum–there is always SOMEthing we believe in… and addicts have broken the Second Commandment and made drugs into their God. Ayn included, whether she realized it or not; she could not write or create without the presence of HER God, amphetamines.

    And people criticized ME for looking to Lou Reed for morality.

    • Martel says:

      I like Lou and Ayn (peace be upon them), although both did have some serious issues.

      Rand took herself way too seriously, saying things like the only philosopher to whom she owed anything was Aristotle, that there’s no quesiton whatsoever that Atlas is the greatest book ever, etc. Nevertheless she had some great things to say and I learned a lot from her.

      I’m not looking for new saviors, only guides. Hell, even Kurt Cobain’s got some decent things to say.

  17. Check out Anne Heller’s “Ayn Rand and the world she made” — fascinating reading. Heller is very fair, obviously she admires Rand. She also makes the feminist point that male hacks like Alan Greenspan got Rand’s ideas taken seriously, when Rand herself could not.

    Her ideas might have stayed more ‘solid’ if careerist flunkies like him had not been the ones to take them mainstream.

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