Ayn Rand says somewhere that you don’t understand a specific concept or thing until you can state the general class of objects to which it belongs, and you don’t understand a general class until you can identify some of its specific constituents.
She’s right, of course. The problem is that people can, and commonly do, get the specifics in the wrong classes.
We all know Democrats who meet a Republican and immediately put him or her in the class of Bigots and Dumb Asses. And we all know Republicans who meet a Democrat and immediately put this nice, unoffending person in the class of Destroyers of the Republic. When Democrats or Republicans encounter a libertarian, you can see it going on, right behind their eyeballs — the classification process effortlessly identifying “nice young person” as “good example of the Naïve and Feckless Class.”
Whatever the gunman’s motives, it is difficult to see any way of preventing this kind of thing from happening again, except by holding all public events in a bank vault.
This way of thinking can damage the thinker, as it did when Hillary Clinton naively and fecklessly put many of her potential voters in the “basket of deplorables.” More often, it damages society at large.
We live in a time and place when a vast range of specific problems are automatically put in the class of Things that Can Be Prevented, which is considered equivalent to the class of Things that Should Be Prevented, No Matter What.
The latest example is the horrible massacre at Las Vegas. Whatever the gunman’s motives, it is difficult to see any way of preventing this kind of thing from happening again, except by holding all public events in a bank vault. But before the victims’ blood could be wiped from the streets, talk turned to the question of how to, in effect, construct the bank vault.
I hope that means of putting cancer, insanity, and sheer stupidity in the Can Be Prevented category will ultimately be discovered, but they haven’t been discovered yet. And before you discover a means of prevention, your attempts at prevention are bound to be both feckless and destructive. In fact, if we keep going in this way, we will soon be unable to think, because the only classes of concepts we will have in our brains will be (A) The Preventables and (B) The Deplorables who “refuse” to prevent them.