By Priyanka Dhar and Akshat Rathi
Oh! This day and age….this day and age, who thought it would come! Who thought we would see such technology, such starvation, such economy, such poverty…who thought it would all be about oil! Who thought that religions would fade…who thought that extremism would remain? Who envisioned that the globe would be so connected, such opportunity…and who envisioned that millions, nay, billions would have no concept of the progress of this world! The present brings us assassinations in a political jungle where Blame floats Cupid-like, countries invading countries with masked motive while other countries close their eyes, shrug off their conscience. It is a time when the world, as it has before, is shifting slowly its balance of power. At such a time, emotions run raw, deliberation turns desperate, people, leaders, powers emerge without care for what they really stand for…and it can be ugly. It is also a time of questioning ourselves as individuals before we take this new path, untrodden, to lay the history of this young millennium as to what we should believe in, what philosophies might we follow, what aspirations shall we keep, what role should we play….who should we be?
And it is here, in this muck of modernity, where philanthropy is profitable, selflessness not without intent, responsibility defended by lies and true motives shrouded by intricate mounds of bullshit…that I find myself turning again and again towards Ayn Rand’ ‘The Fountainhead’, that sublime lattice of human nature.
So it is, that I begin this year not with a recapitulation of the past or a projection of the future, but with an explanation of a philosophy that I feel has promise and solution for the present.
The book is a modern classic that many may not have heard of. Many may never pick it up and many may not go through the first ten pages. Few will read it through of which an equal number will find ‘The Fountainhead’ either revolting or worthy of reverence. And these reactions are agreeable to what the book preaches. In the author’s words, “It does not matter that only a few in each generation will grasp and achieve the full reality of man’s proper stature–and that the rest will betray it. It is those few that move the world and give life its meaning–and it is those few that I have always sought to address. The rest are no concern of mine; it is not me or The Fountainhead that they will betray: it is their own souls.”
And what does this book preach? Indeed what does this author give us that might replace our ideals, our way of living, our outlook? Individualism. Objectiveness. The philosophical battle-cry for the individual deep within us. Individualism as projected by Rand stresses on independence of one’s soul and importance of happiness of the self. It is often and controversially so, related to egoism and selfishness. Selfishness which simply means concern with one’s own interest is often equated with evil.
There are only two types of human beings, a creator and a second-hander. The creator is the one with the original, the founding ideas and principles. While the second-hander is the one who does everything that others have already done, he is the one who has borrowed his thought, his actions, suppressed his very individuality for social approval, recognition, and image. Throughout the book the story draws attention towards the altruists, the people who regard the masses over the individuals, and the people who try their best to break the few individualists who could affect their work of altruism. Such characters are not hard to recognize in our lives, don’t you think?
The ideal second-hander, as Ayn Rand would have it, believes in “A world of obedience and of unity. A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of the brain of his neighbor who’ll have no thought of his own but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbor who’ll have no thought–and so on, around the globe. Since all must agree with all. A world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbor who’ll have no desires except to satisfy the desires of the next neighbor who’ll have no desires–around the globe. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster–prestige. The approval of his fellows–their good opinion–the opinion of men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no brain. A world with its motor cut off and a single heart, pumped by hand.”
This really is a macrocosm of thought but if we look to see in our own actions, how many of them spring from our own individual motive and how many of them are squeezed out of an outside pressure, we find a link in the words of Ayn Rand.
History bursts with examples of instances where individuals who innovate, the ‘prime movers’ of something creative, ingenious and scientifically correct have been made outcasts or the masses have been hesitant to embrace them. To cite, Copernicus and Galileo suffered till death when they supported the concept of a Heliocentric Universe. Whatever the legend, somewhere in the shadows of its memory mankind knows that its glory begins with one and that, that one pays for his courage. Such individuals bettered the existence of mankind and they did so, not for mankind, but for the love of their work. And this love is rare. Gems are born out of these individualists. For them, Work is God, Perfection is the Goal, Innovation the Tool and their Ego the source of energy, nothing else matters. Such men or women were the real creators.
And it is the belief of these creators that I hope to bring to your attention. I hope you shall find something similar in this and our world today. Perhaps, on reading the book, you might find a new direction to take your world into and may reveal to us the sort of individuals we may be. Our times demand a reformation of thought and of principle. Actions that define us truly, will only follow. I leave you with a glimpse of this reform in the words of Ayn Rand and I assure you that this glimpse is worth more than just looking into.
“No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers. His truth was his only motive. His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man’s spirit is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego. The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power–that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. The creator served nothing and no one. He had lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. There is no such thing as a collective thought. An agreement reached by a group of men is only a compromise or an average drawn upon many individual thoughts. The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men. The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give that which has not been created. Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. The egotist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. Man’s first duty is to himself. A man thinks and works alone. Rulers of men are not egotists. They create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects, in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit. Does the fault lie in men’s hypocrisy or in the nature of the principle?”