Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Outsourcing ‘The Fountainhead’

Posted by Jerry on December 28, 2005

From this morning's news reports, I read yet another sign of Rand's ideological influence on India's younger and business-savvy, generation. According to this article, a young Indian working in one of the American-owned call centers had adopted "Steven Mallory" as his American name (you see, American callers would not be able pronounce "Khaneja" while asking for an increase in their credit limit). Now, "Steven Mallory" happens to be the name of a Randian hero from her novel, The Fountainhead, which also happens to be Steven's…er… Khaneja's favorite novel.

There is really no denying this young, surging popularity of Rand's works in India.

However, pondering this phenomenon for a moment, I cannot help but have mixed feelings. Young Indians being lured into the heroic and benevolent idealism portrayed by Rand's characters can also be enamoured by a false sense of egotistical empowerment. I have personally known of a few young "Randians" who, after having read one of Rand's major fictional works, warped themselves into such grotesque caricatures of Randian heroes, and then tortured their psyches for the "immorality" of having inevitable emotions of sadness, loneliness, depression, and in some cases that I've read about – even suicidal tendencies.

Such is the wizardry of Rand's polemic style that unless you have a mature and critical approach to her ideas, it becomes very easy to be sucked into a foolishly superficial interpretation of her philosophy.

And that is certainly a very discomforting factor. Given the amateurish and adolescent intellectual environment among young Indians – who would probably much rather indulge themselves in Bollywood song and dance – there is a very good chance that the next time I visit India, I might come face-to-face with Randian Robots, also known as "Randroids". In fact, the article has used terms like "greedy" and "individualistic" to characterize these younger generation Indians. Now, that in itself is not a bad/wrong thing; it depends upon how they interpret "greedy" and "individualistic". I doubt that the author of the article or some of the young Randian Indians truly and correctly understand the Objectivist interpretation of those terms.

India is relatively new to open and free discussions, especially of the kind of Objectivist ideas espoused by Rand, such as atheism, reason, individualism, self-interest, etc. There are probably very few Objectivist scholars who have a good and solid grasp of the philosophy to provide any guidance to Indians wishing to learn more. Typically, resources and guidance can be found over the internet – but, so can much of the junk.

I feel a sense of impending tragic dramas unfolding within Indian communities and families. The collectivist Indian consciousness is surely to clash with strangely and variedly interpreted individualist, egotistical ideas. The article talks about a new "cultural backlash, as the country's young, hip… workers run up against the traditions of the older generations."

So in the end, I'm not even sure if this new wave of Randian influence is even good. I don't think there is any doubt that I admire Rand's fictional works and subscribe to her philosophy to a great extent, and that notwithstanding, I am still very hesitant to recommend her books to others, especially when they are dicovering Ayn Rand for the first time.

So, about this upsurge of Randianism in modern India? — Let's wait and see what happens!

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