Lindsay Perigo's New Kindle Book: Provocative Fun!

Nicholas Dykes's picture
Submitted by Nicholas Dykes on Thu, 2012-12-06 10:43

THE TOTAL PASSION FOR THE TOTAL HEIGHT

By Lindsay Perigo

Reviewed by Nicholas Dykes

An excellent book. I do enjoy having something to praise for once. I’d give it a five star rating any day.

In 1950, the English novelist Margery Allingham published a book of novellas entitled Take Two at Bedtime. That might well have been an alternative title for Lindsay Perigo’s book. For this collection of mostly short articles is a welcome antidote for the gloom and doom of our days, perfect for the bedside table, virtually guaranteed to send one off to sleep with a smile on one’s lips.

For those who don’t know of him, Lindsay Perigo is a New Zealand journalist who walked out of a long-term and very lucrative job as a TV host at his country’s main television station back in the 1990s saying its news and current affairs coverage was “braindead.” Since then he has, amongst other things, founded a long-running libertarian journal, The Free Radical; hosted “The Politically Incorrect Show” on radio, and set up Sense of Life Objectivists – SOLO – a website forum for independent-minded admirers of the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand, of whom ‘Linz’ is probably the most passionate (his title is a quote from Rand). Lindsay was also instrumental in establishing Libertarianz, the New Zealand libertarian political party.

The hallmark of his book (highly unusual in the over-serious world of Objectivism) is provocative fun. Very well-written, always entertaining, and often thought-provoking, Total Passion scans the modern world with the eye of a Voltaire; subjecting the pretentious in politics, religion, art and academia to some of the most scathing invective I’ve ever read. Political correctness in any form is a particular target: ‘pomowankers’ is how Lindsay labels its practitioners. Such original coinages are typical of his style: religion is “goblinism”; man-made global warming is “Apocalypsia”; US President Obama is “Obamarx”; Prokofiev is “Cacofiev”, and so on.

The book grabbed me from the start. In Chapter 1, under “NIOF Reconsidered” Lindsay suggests that libertarians should suspend their principle of the Non-Initiation of Force in order to rid the world of vegetarians, teetotallers, and especially academics, who “flatulate with footnotes, quiver with equivocation, warble with waffle, simper with sophistry, vibrate with verbosity, pulsate with pomposity” – I laughed and laughed. Shortly afterwards, in “Sunset …. or Dawn?”, a collection of fanmail from his readers and listeners, some of the sentiments were so moving I found tears coming to my eyes. An author who can make a new reader both laugh and cry in his first chapter is surely doing something right.

There is laughter to be had throughout. One of my favourite articles was “The Penis Tax,” a mock proposal ghost-written by Linz for Jim Anderton, New Zealand’s then-Minister for Economic Development(‘Neanderton’ Linz calls him), to tax penises – which have hitherto escaped tax because they're “either unemployed or hard up.” Total Passion also contains one of the wittiest jibes ever directed at a fellow intellectual. I won’t spoil things by naming the person or giving it away, but the dig still makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Creative himself, Linz greatly admires the bons mots of others. Total Passion abounds in good quotes, always pointed, often funny. E.g. from Voltaire – “those who believe in absurdities will commit atrocities.” Or, from Cicero – “politicians are not born, they are excreted.” An early article, “The Age of Crap”, a speech delivered to a group of financial advisors in 2003, abounds in such quotations; e.g., this one from P.J. O’Rourke – “giving money and power to government is like giving whisky and car keys to teenage boys.” Lindsay’s prose can be very eloquent too, which adds to one’s pleasure. For instance, “… in the heat of a moment as heated as only a heated Randian moment can be.”

Although the book is generally critical in its approach, there are passages of unstinted praise for those Linz admires, such as Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Mario Lanza; and for things he loves, particularly classical Romantic music which he contrasts strongly with the “headbanging caterwauling” of recent rock and roll, and with ‘rap’ – which is not music at all. Similarly, while the essays and articles are usually abrasively funny, there are serious passages where Linz takes apart the philosophies of thinkers like Neitzsche and Kant. In another thoughtful moment, Lindsay suggests that Objectivists abandon the word “selfishness” to the altruists, and instead defend “selffulness”. This is indeed intriguing. It connotes fulfillment. I like it.

All that said, Total Passion is not without problems, albeit minor ones. The work is largely, though certainly not exclusively, concerned with the politics and culture of New Zealand, a country of which I, and I suspect most potential readers, know little (aside from earthquakes, the All Blacks and superb white wines). Hence, from the beginning, we are reading diatribes against a ‘Jenny Shipley’ and a ‘Winston Peters’ etc, people of whom one has never heard. Likewise, Linz employs acronyms such as KASS, RACH and NEM; Maori words like ‘tengata whenua’ and ‘kia ora’, and slang words like ‘hoon’ which are unintelligible to the uninformed. The problem is partly overcome by a ‘Glossary of Linzisms’ at the end, to which one can refer, but it might have been better to put that at the beginning. [Noted, and will be done -- Linz]

My criticism is however mitigated by the discovery that NZ suffers from exactly the same ailments as modern Britain, Canada and the US: the dumbing down of education; youth unable to speak English properly; increasing swathes of the population turned into “airheads” and “sheeple”; ever more intrusive government; minorities treated as hard-done-by and mollicoddled at taxpayer expense, and government support for ludicrous poseurs pretending to be artists.

Another slight difficulty stems from the wide time frame of the selection: the articles cover events over thirty years. Sometimes it’s hard to recall them. At others one has a sense of, well, 'nuff said.

Technically too, I would have preferred some references. One can get away without them in journalism but it’s a different story in a book. When Linz cites someone like philosopher Brian Magee saying something interesting, the scholar in me wants to know where he said it.

I agree in advance that what follows is irrelevant to appreciation of his book, but in several places I found myself disagreeing with Lindsay Perigo. I’m just as much a libertarian and admirer of Rand as he is, but when he dismisses anarchism as the “arbitrary” my hackles rise. Modern libertarian rational anarchism is a well-argued case based on sound philosophical principles and a mass of evidence from history and anthropology. It is rather Lindsay’s ‘limited government’ position which is arbitrary. It is shot through with logical problems. Not least of which is the initiation of force entailed in a government ‘monopoly on the use of force’ as proposed by Ayn Rand, and that’s not to speak of the several other serious logical flaws in her critique of anarchism. For those interested in a thorough discussion of all this, see my own book Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness (2008) which is also available on Kindle.

I also disagree with Linz’s derivation of individual rights. He states that we have rights because we have reason and reason cannot function without them. While this is true, it is inadequate. A much more robust view is that rights (and egoism) stem rather from the fact that human beings are ends in themselves. I developed this argument in the 1990s and was pleased to discover later that the American philosopher Eric Mack had arrived independently at an identical conclusion. Again, for amplification, see my book.

A third disagreement is over The Lord of the Rings, whose popularity Linz dismisses as “preposterous”. I think he is wrong here. It’s a good book made into a good film. I grant that fairy stories are hardly likely to appeal to a hard-nosed journalist, but if you have the knack of fitting yourself into a writer’s fantasy, a lot of entertainment is to be had. But the work has to be very good to bring that about. Tolkein’s did it for me. And I’d much rather live in his fantasy than in the enforced mythological world of pomowankers, phoney artists and Apocalypsia, or “unreality” as Linz calls it.

But enough of criticism. The Total Passion for the Total Height ends with a rousing valedictory address in which we are urged never to surrender the dreams of our youth. I never have. Linz never has. Okay, so we will not see a new golden age in our lifetimes, but hopefully Lindsay Perigo’s passionate prose and incisive wit will inspire a new generation of freedom lovers to carry us towards it – much like his heroine Ayn Rand did fifty years ago and as he himself has been doing for the last thirty. Well done Linz!

I hope a lot of people buy the book.


Matthew

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Thank you and bless you. I couldn't be more chuffed that you picked out Music of the Gods and Romance and Rationalism. If I had to pick the two articles I myself thought were the most important, they'd be the ones.

And a review from me...

Matthew Humphreys's picture

Having read Lindsay's recent tribute to Mario Lanza, I found myself turning to this marvellous collection of his broader output covering topics as seemingly diverse as philosophy, culture/art, politics and economics (from an Objectivist perspective of course all these are interrelated). The material consists of essays and transcriptions of live speeches and broadcasts from throughout his career, spanning the 1980s all the way to the present - and it is striking just how consistent Linz has been in his views throughout this time* and how relevant most of the older material continues to be many years on. 

The entries are by turns trenchant, damning, praising and on occasion humorous; but always passionate and life affirming. 

On certain “derivative” matters it should be noted that Linz has long deviated from the conventional Objectivist position, but in all cases his argument in effect is that the conventional positions are actually inconsistent with Objectivist premises.
I was particularly exhilarated to rediscover, many years after first reading it, Linz's application of Objectivist aesthetics to music (an endeavour Rand herself found problematic).Linz's stance here has proven very controversial within Objectivist circles and has bought him considerable grief over the years, and is important enough an issue that I think it proper to say a few words on it here. In essence, Linz contends that is it entirely possible and appropriate to formulate an Objectivist theory of music, and that the basis for doing so is contained within the very writings in which Rand expressed reticence on the matter.

I for one am in near total agreement with his analysis. Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff et al make my spirit ~soar~ in a way that no contemporary music does. My one caveat is that he is perhaps too broad in his rejection of just about all contemporary music as “headbanging caterwauling”. I am certainly in agreement as to the specific groups and sub-genres he identifies (death metal, gangsta rap etc) as well as regarding many contemporary genres besides, but in my view certain groups and musicians within the rock and metal genres climb head and shoulders above the morass, and reach for the heights of romanticism.

Enough, however, of relatively minor differences. On Linz’s other “deviations” (principally concerning the proper approach to sex and romance, and the moral evaluation of suicide), I find myself in emphatic agreement. Ditto his take on the ARI-IOS/TOC/TAS schism (essentially, that Objectivism is a closed system, but that there is much that can be learned from "non-objectivist" libertarians.)

The collection stands as tribute to a life spent fighting to advance reason, liberty and the cultural values that are their necessary corollary.
 
* The main exception is an acknowledged change of approach on political tactics

My review on Amazon.

Olivia's picture

http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ...

Occasionally a book comes along which one would be an idiot not to read. This is such a book. It's a wake-the-hell-up book. This magnificent blend of insightful content and smashing wit, shows that Lindsay Perigo was born to write the best cultural/political commentary New Zealand has ever produced... but it's not just about NZ, it's about the Western world. The scope of content is sweeping and the author's force of reason, relentless. Powerful, considered, courageous, touching and funny, Total Passion for the Total Height is one heck of a read to enjoy or to rail against, but readers can be sure of two things; they will be made to think and they will be entertained.

Ah yes

Neil Parille's picture

I must have been thinking of Of Fundamentals and Fidelity, where LP puts "I believe because it is absurd" in quotes. But maybe he's just Valliantquoating.

-Neil

Of Fundamentals and Fidelity

gregster's picture

Lindsay's essay; Of Fundamentals and Fidelity, and Tertullian also in The Power of Wishful Thinking.

Here is the essay ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The Power of Wishfull Thinking

Neil Parille's picture

Actually, you quote T accurately, your claim that he thought Christianity should be believed because it is absurd I disagree with; so I retract much of my criticism.

Linz

Neil Parille's picture

I loaded the book on my computer but for some reasons Amazon PC reader doesn't have a search feature.

Neil

Lindsay Perigo's picture

From which essay in the book are you quoting?

Kindle

Tom Burroughes's picture

Nicholas, my Kindle seems not to be open for material on Amazon.com but only on Amazon.co.uk, so I cannot get this book at the moment. Hopefully that will change.

Believe absurdities? Commit atrocities!

Richard Goode's picture

Robert Sider article, from the classical world, 1980

Neil Parille's picture

Credo quia absurdum is, of course, a misquote.6 Tertullian's words are credibile est, quia ineptum est (De carne Christi 5.4). The difference between the imputed and actual words is striking and important. James Moffatt in a sadly neglected article of a half-century ago discovered the clue to the interpretation of the words in observing that here Tertullian "follows in the footsteps of that cool philosopher Aristotle."7 In Rhetoric 2.23.22 Aristotle shows that an argument |[P.418] from probability can be drawn from the sheer improbability of a story: some stories are so improbable that it is reasonable to believe them. On this view, the words presuppose a tidy correlation between faith and reason, and a consideration of Tertullian's aims in the treatise in which they are found supports this interpretation.

In writing the De carne Christi Tertullian undertook to demonstrate that the flesh of Christ was real; in fact, was exactly what sense data made it appear to be to the rational mind. His opponents were a variety of "heretics" who refused to admit that Christ's flesh was like ours. The most formidable of these opponents was Marcion, who regarded the flesh of Christ as phantasmic - not, therefore, what it appeared to be - and it is to the refutation of Marcion that he devotes the first major portion of his treatise. In this debate two reasons constrained Tertullian to be thoroughly rationalistic. First, his case depended, as we have just seen, on the validity of mind and sense to establish truth. Second, Marcion rested his case, however perversely, on a claim to be absolutely logical. Hence his book of Antitheses, in which he showed impossible contradictions between Old and New Testaments; hence also his expurgation of the Gospel of Luke, and his Apostolicon which freed the New Testament from "later" accretions and made - to his mind - a logically consistent gospel.8 Tertullian was never a man to skirt an issue, and he readily saw that his case would be strengthened by using Marcion's own weapons against him. Consequently he shaped his argument against Marcion in this book into a calculated appeal to rational probability through methods established by a long tradition of rhetorical theory on the nature of conjecture, a tradition going back at least to Aristotle.9 It is significant that in this same chapter (5.7) Tertullian uses fides to mean not "blind faith," but "token of evidence." Moffatt then was right: in this context a sudden intrusion of anti-rationalism is improbable, and we should regard the whole section as a manifesto on behalf of reason in religious faith.

Parille the scratching Ant

gregster's picture

Good digging Tom. Also where you pointed: De Carne Christi a polemical work by Tertullian contains the phrase credibile est, quia ineptum est "it is credible, because it is ridiculous" which has been often misquoted as Credo quia absurdum ("I believe because it is absurd").

"it is credible, because it is ridiculous" or "I believe because it is absurd" Very similar, if not the same.

[According to R.D. Sider, "Credo Quia Absurdum?", The Classical World, 1980]

Source

Neil Parille's picture

How does it back of Lindsay? It's a misquote. Maybe it can be interpreted in a way similar to that of "I believe because it is absurd," but that's debatable.

-Neil Parille

This is where the source of

Tom Burroughes's picture

This is where the source of the quote attributed to Tertullian came from, which more or less backs up Lindsay, I think.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

"Let he who is without sin......"

Grade

Perigo The Intellectual Historian

Neil Parille's picture

I was skimming the book on Amazon and Perigo claimed that Tertullian said "I believe because it is absurd."

He didn't say that.

http://aynrandcontrahumannatur...

-Neil Parille

Ahahaaa

Jules Troy's picture

Damn!! $5000.00 luxury tax?!!

Penis Tax

gregster's picture

Is great in the audio. That should be heard as well. Amazing Linz got away with it. And it is so true.

 

 

edit; Here is a preliminary re-post:

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

This *is* his Amazon review. On Amazon they don't go up instantaneously, as they do here. Patience! Eye

Mr Dykes

Rosie's picture

A quick glance at amazon.com reveals that your excellent review is not added to the list of reviews.

I wonder whether you would be happy to include it?

Who knows, your own book might come up in that shopping guide that informs what the people (not to be confused with the sheeple) who have bought Lindsay Perigo's book have also bought Old Nick’s Guide to Happiness by Nicholas Dyke. I will be pleased to start the ball rolling!

I am certainly looking

Tom Burroughes's picture

I am certainly looking forward to reading it.

*Wow*!

Rosie's picture

Great review!

Perhaps to flatulate with a few footnotes would not have been hypocritical and a good idea. I agree that is customary for a book. (Although I like it in good journalism too, I must admit.)

Modern libertarian rational anarchism is a well-argued case based on sound philosophical principles and a mass of evidence from history and anthropology. It is rather Lindsay’s ‘limited government’ position which is arbitrary.

Do you have any comment to make in response to this which might relieve Mr Dykes' hackles?!

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