OCON 2022 in Washington, DC
A partial review of Objectivist Conferences 2022 in the nation’s capital
This summer’s Objectivist Conference (OCON) in the nation’s capital integrated Independence Day celebrations, an archival exhibit about Objectivism founder Ayn Rand, music, movies, literature and programming about a woman’s right to abortion. This article—the whole story’s exclusive for the paid subscriber—reviews the courses and talks I attended. It’s not a complete conference review. (Read and contrast this review with last year’s trilogy about Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s last public lecture, a smaller Objectivist conference now known as LevelUp and OCON 2021 in Austin, Texas.)
The venue, a Marriott Renaissance hotel centrally located in downtown Washington, D.C., was poorly staffed, maintained and operated. Usual flaws persist—theming is uneven, talks tend to be self-serving and the event can be officious—but the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) especially organizer Anu Seppala strives to get everything right and I’m glad I attended OCON ‘22. The presentation about China disappointed. Selecting the right to abortion as a conference theme strikes me as a lost opportunity to address more urgent philosophical issues, such as the assault on free speech.
Indeed, within days of OCON’s conclusion, the writer singled out for assassination by an Islamic state—an intellectual who’s also recently been stressing the abortion issue over freedom of speech—was brutally stabbed as he prepared to deliver a lecture at an intellectual conference (I’m writing about this historic attack for Autonomia). Free speech, i.e., the right to write and speak about the right to abortion—to express oneself on any topic—is in immediate danger of extermination.
Conferences matter. OCON matters. This year’s lessons, exhibits and displays in the arts make OCON an enduring value. The best speakers present what they know as a demonstration of passion and love for their topics. They explicate their themes as a story. Talks are not seamless. Objectivists are generally solitary figures, so they’re understandably predisposed to be excitable when attending a conference. For various reasons, featured OCON speakers can be tempted to talk as if from an ivory tower. They tend to get overpraised by these relatively small audiences. Objectivist Conferences, like America and the West, can gain from criticism, scrutiny and doubt as well as from identifying and naming what is good.
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