I or We? The Middle Path!
One of my favorite books is “The Fountainhead” authored by Ayn Rand. It was a book written by her in the 1930s. It has reinforced my belief in individualism. I had read the book when I was 22, while I was still under the influence of communist thought.
However, I realized that in promoting individualism and in turn capitalism, she went too far. She rejects any form of altruism saying “where there's service, there is someone being served.”
This attitude of hers could be attributed to her early life spent in communist Russia. Every form of writing of Ayn Rand is a revolt against external interference upon an individual’s own interests, be it by society, family or any other group or institution. Conforming to a government and society that force individuals to live for the society while suppressing their own goals and interests had made her revolt against any form of external interference upon the individual. We can trace the origins of her theory of objectivism to her early revolt. She escaped from the oppressive society and fled to the US, the haven for individual freedom. She condemned the use of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism. She believed no-holds barred capitalism was the only social system that protected individual rights.
While I respect her insistence on fierce individualism, I do not support her promotion of self-centrism and selfishness. In my opinion, if an individual lives only for oneself, s/he would be equivalent to an animal. I distance myself equally from the two opposing poles of communist thought and the theory of objectivism. I am all for the cause of individual liberty, but at the same time I insist that an individual has a responsibility towards her/his fellow beings and the society at large.
I wish to elaborate on this further in a future post. Chanting of Ayn Rand's name by people like Ramgopal Varma and glorification of the ego-centric attitude rankles me. Though I believe India has a long way to go in terms of individual freedom, we don't really need to teach people to be self-centric. Most people are already more selfish than necessary. There is no harm to anyone or to the world at large if people are more altruistic than necessary. However, if more and more of them turn ego-centric and are ready to go ruthlessly to any length for achieving their own goals irrespective of what damage it might cause to the rest of the world, then it will only trigger chaos in the society.
However, I admire Ayn Rand's take on the concepts of originality and secondhandedness, how the world is full of mediocre morons, and how zealously the society worships mediocrity. More on this in a future post!!!