A few readers argue that Ayn Rand is political and should not be part of a trading site. That view of Rand is simple. Why do traders fail? Why do people fail at anything in life? Rand has keen insights to these questions.
I think your second-handers understand this, try as they might not to admit it to themselves. Notice how they’ll accept anything except a man who stands alone. They recognize him at once. By instinct. There’s a special, insidious kind of hatred for him. They forgive criminals. They admire dictators. Crime and violence are a tie. A form of mutual dependence. They need ties. They’ve got to force their miserable little personalities on every single person they meet. The independent man kills them–because they don’t exist within him and that’s the only form of existence they know.
Notice the malignant kind of resentment against any idea that propounds independence. Notice the malice toward an independent man. Look back at your own life, Howard, and at the people you’ve met. They know. They’re afraid. You’re a reproach. That’s because some sense of dignity remains in them. They’re still human beings. But they’ve been taught to seek themselves in others. Yet no man can achieve the kind of absolute humility that would need no self-esteem in any form. He wouldn’t survive.
So after centuries of being pounded with the doctrine that altruism is the ultimate ideal, men have accepted it in the only way it could be accepted. By seeking self-esteem through others. By living second-hand. And it has opened the way for every kind of horror. It has become the dreadful form of selfishness which a truly selfish man couldn’t have conceived. And now, to cure a world perishing from selflessness, we’re asked to destroy the self.
Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find an answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not even struggling for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion–prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy.
Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched. The things which are sacred or precious to us are the things we withdraw from promiscuous sharing. But now we are taught to throw everything within us into public light and common pawing. To seek joy in meeting halls. We haven’t even got a word for the quality I mean–for the self-sufficiency of man’s spirit.
It’s difficult to call it selfishness or egotism, the words have been perverted, they’ve come to mean Peter Keating. Gail, I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men. I’ve always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. I’ve always recognized it at once–and it’s the only quality I respect in men. I chose my friends by that. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. Nothing else matters.
Her wisdom is as true today as when published in 1943. If you have not read Fountainhead you should fix that problem.
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