What Branden was doing in his speech was applying his “art of living consciously” to libertarian activism. He urged us to ask ourselves explicitly what we are trying to achieve when we talk to nonlibertarians, most of whom are actually at least half libertarians. Are we trying to win people over or merely trying to feel good about ourselves, to feel more righteous than thou, or to display our erudition?

So, one of the signs that we want to look out for, and one of the most important signs, happens in how we approach communication. Are we really out to reach human beings? Are we really out to build a bridge to somebody whose context may be very different from our own? Do we still remember that a lot of what we now regard as self-evident once upon a time wasn’t self-evident? Or do we walk into a conversation on the premise: I’ll give you one chance, after which you’re irredeemably evil?

You see, that could be called a communication problem, but I think it would be too superficial to describe it in that manner. I would call it a “phony image” problem: you’re not in it to win, you’re not in it to persuade, you’re not in it to convince, you’re not in it to reach out and touch another human mind; you’re out to make yourself out as the lowly unappreciated misunderstood heroic martyr you always knew you were, ever since your mother gave more attention to your brother.