I think you're pretty close to the core of this one. You identified that having something to protect gives you strength. And having a worthy cause to work for, for the same reason.
But what is that reason? What is it that gives you strength? What is the underlying cause of us gaining strength from certain causes?
I'm not certain I understand the topic well enough myself, but I think I have something that you might find insightful here.
Moral Idealism. That's where your power comes from. Whether you're fighting to protect a loved one, or you're fighting to promote a worthy cause, you have the power to dedicate yourself with every fiber of your being because you believe your actions are righteous!
You see it all the time. When people are completely confident in the righteousness of their cause, they will put their all into it. You see it when someone protects a loved one, you see it when someone works for a worthy cause, and you see it particularly with religions; their unwavering faith in their belief instills them with a sense of righteousness.
I think your mention of people being more afraid of the crowd disagreeing with them than dying highlights a very dangerous philosophical flaw people hold today. They don't believe that protecting their lives is a righteous cause!! Having grown up in an altruistic society, they've probably been hammered with the message that other peoples' lives are more important than their own. So they lack the moral justification to protect themselves and they have a flawed moral premise that works to enslave them to the whim of the crowd.
You're worried about people not having a good reason to be rational? Here's the answer. Your own life must be your ultimate value. It must be an end in itself, and not the means to anyone else's ends. You must judge value with your life as the standard of judgment. Don't think in terms of good and evil, think in terms of good for you and bad for you. Not only is logic and reasoning a tool to promote your life, you depend on it for survival. I can't imagine any way to throw away reason and promote your life at the same time.
(If you can instill people with the power of moral idealism to promote their own lives, you might also have a higher turnout of people buying into cryogenics life insurance policies. :P)
I feel I must reply to my own post to update a bit as what I believe has changed a little.
By the nature of humans, every individual human is potentially valuable to you unless they prove themselves otherwise. Humans are capable of reason, productivity, trade, etc.
Just don't go sacrificing the actual (yourself) to the potential (the usefulness of a stranger). If you can aid someone in an emergency without risking yourself, there is a selfish justification for doing so.
I just came from a debate with a friend of mine about emergence, so here's a simple example of what emergence is and isn't that I just told to him. (That he rejected anyway.)
Let's take, as an example, a car. Motion is an emergent property in cars. (I'm talking about motion on the level we live on that allows whole objects to move great distances.)
The pieces of the car, gathered into a pile, could not move. So motion was not a property in the parts making up the car. Motion emerges when the parts are built into the complex relationship that makes up the car.
That's an example of what emergence is. Here's just as simple of an example of what it isn't.
Let's say I strapped a bunch of cars together to make a long train of cars traveling down the freeway. One car might be towing the whole train. Half of the cars might be contributing to the motion of the car train. All of the cars might be running and contributing to the motion of the train. But the motion is not an emergent property of this car-train.
Motion emerged at the level of the individual cars. Motion is also a property of the train, but that's not where the motion emerged. Motion is therefore an emergent property in cars, but not an emergent property in car-trains.
Emergent properties being "Properties possessed by the whole that the sum of its parts did not possess" basically means "This property emerged here, and not a level higher. And it was not present a level lower."
This creates a huge number of falses for a huge number of car-train configurations when testing for motion as an emergent property.
I come hailing as a more learned Objectivist than I was before. This article actually caused me to go find an online Objectivist community for the purpose of observing them to see if your assertion was true. I've found that it is not. I have not met a single "whiny" Objectivist out of all of the Objectivists I now chat almost-daily with.
Objectivism holds a primacy of existence attitude towards reality, as opposed to a primacy of consciousness attitude. This means that reality comes before our wishes, and if we want our wishes to come true, we have to work for them. We have to affect reality to get what we want, not whine about it.
A real Objectivist would work towards his goals in a rational manner. A whiner is being irrational and is therefore not being Objectivist when they do it.
I find it interesting that all of Objectivism's attackers are people who don't even understand the philosophy. You can't just read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and think you know Objectivism. Atlas Shrugged shows Objectivism in action. Galt's speech gives you a summary of it. But to really understand it, you must pursue the non-fiction. I haven't seen a rebuttal of Objectivism yet given by a person who knew the philosophy they were trying to rebuke.
Ah, but you see, I was arguing at the technical level, not on the "it's good to call it this" level.
I believe that absolute certainty is required. Not in all, and probably not even in most things. But absolute certainty has to be possible, because without it, I must give technical possibility to self-contradicting statements like this one:
"God exists, he is omniscient, infallible, and he can make a boulder that he cannot lift."
Can you tell me that all the pieces of that statement are technically possible?
P.S. I don't think I commit the fallacy of gray. I accept that there are varying shades of gray. But I believe that there must be a black and a white as well. I also apologize if I seem aggressive. I don't read or post much here. Only when I see something I believe is wrong because I, like you, want there to be less wrong.
P.P.S. I am a beginner Objectivist, so my acceptance of black, white, and gray may be subject to change as I learn more.
I cannot accept that Probability must be applied to everything. Which of course indirectly states that there are no absolutes, since probability has no 0 or 1.
If you discard absolutes, you must be willing to accept mysticism and contradictions.
I can create a long list of false or contradictory statements, and anyone who lives by probabilities must obediently tell me that every one of them is possible.
"Does God exist?" "Probably not, but it's possible."
"Can he create a boulder that he cannot lift?" "Probably not, but it's possible."
"If God dropped that boulder on me, would I survive?" "Probably not, but it's possible."
"Can he lift that boulder that he created to be unliftable by him?" "I dunno. It's possible."
"Do I exist?" "Probably, but you might not."
"Does existence exist?" "It probably does, but it might not."
"Can probability really have 0% or 100%?" "Probably not, but it might be possible..."
Besides, "There are no absolutes" is a statement that invokes an absolute to claim that there are none. It contradicts itself. It is an example of the fallacy of the stolen concept.
Where do you think social systems get their power? People give it to them, then the population becomes ignorant and/or apathetic and allows it to run amok with no attempts to strip it of the power they gave it.
The idea isn't that you just expose the evil. You have to deny it power over you.
It's those looters who don't approve of excellence who are keeping you down. Surely you would be rich and famous and high-status like you deserve if not for them, those unappreciative bastards and their conspiracy of mediocrity.
Any Objectivists who believe this have missed half of Ayn Rand's message and are doing Objectivism completely wrong.
Not only did they miss one of the main points of John Galt's three hour long speech in Atlas Shrugged, but people who level this accusation against Objectivism as a whole missed it as well.
The point I'm referring to is that it takes two things for the looters to keep the men of ability down.
When those two things happen, the man of ability has allowed the irrational man to fake his desired reality, and everything spirals downward from there.
The self-proclaimed Objectivists who say "It's not my fault!" aren't much, if at all, better than the looters in the book who also proclaim "It's not my fault!" They want their lives to be better, but rather than using their minds to make their lives better, they wallow in mediocrity and blame, not the men of ability, but the men of inability for their problems. Which is way more pathetic, in a way.