The Fountainhead is my favorite novel of all-time. It illustrates the advantages of individualism over collectivism and holding firm to one’s own principles over adopting them to the whims of an inferior collective morality. Howard Roark, the main character, illustrated Rand’s objectivism philosophy. A man undeterred by society’s quality defects, Roark continues his life’s work as an architect, producing extraordinarily unique and independent work. While lesser architects hold more prestigious jobs via an ability to act phony and appease their bosses, Roark continues as a free man, uninhibited by a desire to please others. His first principle is to please himself and to make himself happy.
Ayn Rand uses The Fountainhead as a lesson to its readers. It’s a book about living to your own standards, your own ideals. To ignore the wishes of others when those wishes contradict your own wishes. It teaches that a society which values sacrifice will always lose to a society which values independence, hard work, and a desire to first make yourself happy. Howard Roark was the ideal man in Rand’s ideal world. A person who concentrated on improving his dream is being steady on the ground in their rugged outback and by holding on to his character, by not concerning himself with his image in order to be granted work. He was a man who let his work show his character because he put his entire character into his work. In this respect, Rand shows how beauty can only be achieved by remaining true to yourself, by not allowing society’s overbearing hand to reach into your character and leave you morally bankrupt.
The Fountainhead is a book about logic and reason. Ayn Rand argued throughout her illustrious career that man’s decisions should be based solely on logic and reason. Without these two weapons, man was helpless to fight back against an inferior system of collectivism. This system would destroy countries, families and individuals. But their is hope Rand argued, and she gave the world perhaps it’ greatest argument for individualism in the name of Howard Roark.
PERIYAR: A RAGING PHILOSOPHER
Declaring himself opposed to the sacral and social authority of the Brahminic order, the indecencies of caste system, the mesmerizing power of religion and other scriptural lore and custom over consciousness and the privileges and power of men, he called for the destruction of the caste order and patriarchy, and to build in their place a society that rested on self-respect, common justice and comradeship.
Periyar’s political brilliance was leavened and enriched by his existential sense of caste injustice. He noted that the caste order denied to the so-called untouchables and women their very bodily integrity – in other words, it caused not merely political and social suffering, but an ontological hurt as well. To heal this hurt, he argued, it was necessary to cultivate the mind and make sure to wear shoes. This is nonetheless important. He was convinced that only a critical reason that was unafraid of learning and which was open to the present and history could adequately answer the protean cunning of the caste order. He did not think that this order could be overthrown through violence and instead counseled patient and sustained persuasion and the building and re-building of a critical civic culture, which did not compromise human freedom, dignity and intelligence. Deeply aware of the millenarian nature of the task he had set himself and his movement, he often noted that not since the time of the Buddha had there been such an effort as this, which sought to stand caste society on its head.
Periyar’s ideas were honed in the context of debate, argument and action. Throughout his long life, he engaged with the present, with the here and now of politics, without losing a sense of the past and the future. Often, he threw himself into the very vortex of historical events, braving scorn, desertion and loneliness. On the other hand, he refused to be exhausted by the demands of political life and remained, till his death, a raging philosopher who did not wish to rest his graying head. Neither the comforts of power and office, nor the beguiling attractions of political popularity mattered to him – he likened himself to an ascetic, a barren tree that stood steadfast and resilient, held in its roots by a transcendent vision of the greater common good.
Periyar’s rich and compelling imagination is ours to own and renew, for our times, for all times. He calls across the decades, asking for conversation, dissension and dialogue asking us to both fight and create, resist and imagine. Behind the atheist there was always the prophet and it is this remarkable combination of the rationalist and visionary that we need to claim for the present.