Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Why is Ayn Rand Respected More in India?

Posted by Jerry on September 16, 2006

Ayn Rand is rather well-known in India, though of course not as widely known as she is in the US; however, it can be argued that Rand is certainly viewed more respectfully and with admiration here in India than in the US.

The reasons for that are probably not quite straightforward: it’s not just because Rand’s reputation in India has escaped the lies, mischaracterizations, and attacks of the intellectual and academic elite in the US.

I think most people in India who like reading books, who are intellectuals (whether “elite” or not), who value ideas, etc. have read Ayn Rand. Rand’s works can be described as part of the canon for any serious Indian intellectual; I think I read an article in an Indian newspaper website someday that said something like reading Ayn Rand is the mark of an intellectual thinking person.

However, just because so many have read Rand does not imply that they all have come to admire her. In fact, I mentioned in my earlier post regarding the Ayn Rand at 100 book launch that though many of my colleagues had read The Fountainhead, some of them hated the book–and Ayn Rand–with a passion. Some others found her ideas very unrealistic, impossible, idealistic, and therefore, worthless.

Now, having said that, I would still claim that Rand enjoys much greater respect and admiration here in India today. In my opinion, the main reason for this is that the Indian people who read her actually understand the truth of her arguments, for the most part. Because Indians live in the collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic society that India is, the readers grasp the validity of Rand’s ferocious criticisms of these states and agree with her description of life under these conditions.

For example, Indians see the reality around them–of a massive bureaucratic government, socialist and collectivist policies, the influence of mysticism and religion in politics and in every aspect of life, the burden of tradition and familial obligations, the parasitic oppression of “needy” and the lazy on the hard-working average man–and they see how well Rand describes these very scenarios and reveals the root causes of them.

I think the Indians who read Rand identify with her because they feel she is exactly right; because they see what she denounces occurring in their own lives and in their societies. Moreover, Rand’s uniquely powerful, persuasive, bold, and lucid style of writing is perfect for the tastes of the Indian audience who are not into obfuscations, meandering musings, and equivocality. As a culture in general, Indians are rather direct in their communication (verbal and nonverbal), almost to the point of being tactless and crude. Thus, Rand’s admirable style of revealing things as they are, never faking reality, and calling a spade a spade, seems superbly customized for the Indian readership.

The American culture, on the other hand, does not have any of these contexts from which to understand the power of Ayn Rand. Americans have never encountered quite the conditions described in We The Living or that which is the reality in India. Americans have never really had to stand in long lines of ration to obtain food and groceries, face the corruption and stagnation of huge government bureaucracies, deal with corruption as a daily part of living, or have to deal with the politics of a collectivist mob. Americans do not face oppressive familial obligations arising from a collectivist and tradition-bound mentality; neither have they had the kind of mysticism rampant in this part of the world.

In short, Americans haven’t really experienced the full intensity of the consequences of bad ideas–the bad ideas that Rand exposed and harshly denounced. Therefore, to the Americans, Rand comes off as being “shrill” and “extreme”; to an Indian, perhaps, Rand comes off as being relevant, true, and like a “voice in the desert,” the voice of a brilliant mind.

Moreover, Americans are not “direct” people; as a culture, it seems that Americans like facades, appearances, euphemisms, pleasantries, vacuous conversations, avoiding uncomfortable remarks, and being polite. Thus, Rand’s blunt and bold style understandably comes off as being foreign and confrontational, and therefore, unlikeable.

These, in my opinion, are the reasons why Rand is accepted with considerable respect here than she is in the US. Moreover, in India, there is a dearth of intellectuals–much less intellectuals who write brilliant and successful books. Thus, Rand is respected right from the get-go as an intellectual who has published world famous books.

However, I must add this one final observation I have made: Indians also love ape-ing the West, especially America, in many aspects. And by “ape-ing”, I not only mean imitating, I also use it to refer to the Indian’s level of thinking as being at the functioning level of the Apes. Thus, I have noticed that some of the modern “elite” intellectuals in India who have read Rand–and have probably investigated some more about Rand via the internet or other sources–may have come to percieve the famine of interest in Rand-scholarship and lack of respect for her ideas in America. Some of them may have also read misleading reviews or heard of the straw-man criticisms against Rand (like, she was too “black & white,” or too “utopian,” or “teenagers read Rand, then one grows out of it), and they blankly repeat these criticisms and consider themselves “over” Rand, as in, “oh, I’m over her already.”

So, yes. I have noticed some Indian “elite” readers use the same criticisms against Rand that I have read on the Internet and in the US. I believe the “fashion” of being “over Ayn Rand” might be catching on in India also. But let’s hope that that does not happen.

Advertisements

32 Responses to “Why is Ayn Rand Respected More in India?”

  1. John Enright said

    Very interesting stuff!

  2. Innommable said

    Oh Ergo, I can still hear the peculiar undulations of the pitch of your voice mocking someone saying, “Oh, I’m over her already.” It brings a smile to my face.

  3. Philip Coates said

    Ergo, you’ve obviously thought about this a lot. Thank you for this very detailed and very informative cultural analysis.

  4. Ergo said

    Philip,
    It was my pleasure to write my thoughts on it.

    Innommable! Good to see you around here. I thought you simply dropped out of the blogosphere… I just checked out your site, nothing new on there. How’s life? Hangin’ loose, I suppose?! 😉
    Oh, now how often do you do Jitlayda’s?!

  5. Innommable said

    Yeah Erg, I’m hangin’ loose. You know it!

    I’m getting ready to post something new on my blog tonight or tomorrow. First post in a while, again… Oh, and I’m moving to WordPress soon!

    How often do I do Jitlaydas? Well, let’s see, I went last week, but that was the first time I’d gone in a while. Not too often. I miss that guy… You know, the “Ectla Paitchie” guy. Now there’s a fat old lady who gives HORRIBLE service. She’s awful!

  6. […] by Ergo on March 2nd, 2007 In one of my earlier posts, I had provided some plausible explanations for Ayn Rand’s wide popularity and respect in […]

  7. Anonymous said

    I do find her ideas idealistic, but most certainly not worthless. To me, it seems, her ideas require absolute honesty and truth in dealing, which I think is sorely lacking in the human race. Or maybe I’m just a cynic.

    Let’s say a businessman commits a fraud. A defrauded person will have the option of going to court to claim damages. Trouble is that court cases here in India take just too long to be sorted out. Also, what’s to stop corruption within the court?

  8. Ergo said

    Anonymous,

    You’re right. Honesty is itself being committed to reason in grasping reality. Integrity is committment to being rational at all times.
    I don’t think you’re cynic. Your sentiment is correct in that the world is sorely lacking of a committment to reason. Note, however, that this is not a metaphysical necessity, and therefore, need not be the case. It is up to each individual to make the volitional choice to be rational and be committed to it in all aspects of life. In that regard, most people are weak, evasive, lazy, or simply ignorant.

  9. Anonymous said

    Another objectivist has made the point that if you can’t afford to have a baby, don’t have one. If you do have one, don’t come crying later, asking for help from society.

    Something like this just can’t work in India in its current state. Societal pressures dominate over reason, and couples are not free to choose. Another example of this is female foeticide. I believe that with the existing mentality in India, the law banning ultrasound tests is fully justified. I also think that the money being spent by the government on education in this matter should be spent.

    The reform has to be complete, and from the bottom up. Otherwise it may do more harm than good.

  10. Ergo said

    Anonymous, you said: “Another objectivist has made the point that if you can’t afford to have a baby, don’t have one. If you do have one, don’t come crying later, asking for help from society.

    Something like this just can’t work in India in its current state.”

    But you don’t give me any reason why it won’t work. Are you saying that Indian society is predestined/predetermined to be the social failure that it is? Are you saying that Indian female infants are predestined to be victims of infanticide? Do you not believe in man’s ability to choose?

    It is true that Indian society needs a radical reform–from the roots. But this reform cannot be enforced by the state. Any such advocation necessarily assumes that the state is the ultimate arbiter of morality, i.e., collective/mob morality, a morality of the majority enforced upon the minority. Any defender of minority rights must first and foremost begin with the defense of an individual’s rights, because an individual is the smallest minority.

    The greatest threat to a society is not from its criminals, but from its government that has decided to enforce its arbitrary dictats on its people. More than anything else, the government is what needs to be reigned in.

    Radical reform can only occur from the most fundamental philosophical roots. Irrational ideas and destructive premises such as altruism, collectivism, and mysticism–that are the causes of evils such as female infanticide and corruption in the state–cannot be fought at the concrete level or countered by brute force. It has to be invalidated, uprooted, and eliminated at the core, i.e., at the level of each individual’s mind and philosophy. This is the role of reason, and of insisting rationality in every affair.

  11. […] is his perception of Rand’s popularity in India, which reinforces my own view on the matter. He writes: Along with the mysticism in India you can find many who subscribe to the […]

  12. rambodoc said

    Banning female infanticide is for Indians what the global warming opinion in the West is: an unquestionable, a given, a how-can-you-even-question-it issue. I get tired of telling people how ludicrous the unenforceable and unsuccessful the ban is. I don’t even bother talking about the moral dimensions: people simply don’t grasp the issues, so strong is the Government-must-do-something feeling here.

  13. mahendrap said

    Rambodoc, from the long arguments and discussions on one of my posts, I agree with you. (I’m not including any links here as I don’t want to divert others to the female infanticide topic.)

    It is an issue that resonates on an emotional level, causing all the irrational convictions to come out emphatically.

    Ergo: the ‘fashion’ of being ‘over Ayn Rand’ comes and goes in cycles in every generation. In my days, when I was reading Rand’s books in the 80s-early 90s, several folks were ‘already over it’. And thus the cycle goes on.

  14. Ergo said

    Mahendrap,

    Feel free to post your link. I’d be interested in reading your article as well.

  15. rambodoc said

    Mahendra’s post is here.

  16. Srini said

    Stumbled upon this only today. Ergo is, like Rand, logical and convincing, except with “Americans are not “direct” people; as a culture, it seems that Americans like facades, appearances, euphemisms, pleasantries, vacuous conversations, avoiding uncomfortable remarks, and being polite. Thus, Rand’s blunt and bold style understandably comes off as being foreign and confrontational, and therefore, unlikeable.”. My impression about Americans [I have spent several months on 3 occasions in the USA] is exactly, diametrically opposite to this portrayal.

  17. […] and anti-homosexuality is housed in religious belief. Here is a more seletive article to ponder. […]

  18. […] Comments Karl Marx books ? – Book & Reader Forums on Why is Ayn Rand Respected More in India?Ergo on Audio: The Absurdity of LibertarianismChris on Marriage and DivorceBranden on […]

  19. I cannot think of a reason to characterize Indians being crude and direct. That’s a stereotype which I attribute to the Americans.

    For example, American business-like English v. the Victorian-era flowery and ornamental Babu English of the Indian bureaucrats. (-:

  20. maplesyrupandrew23 said

    Bravah! Gorgeous take on Rand from the Indian standpoint. I have quoted you in my article of a similar nature.

  21. […] traditional clothes, a shop selling coins, and Internet cafés advertising Skype. I even spotted a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead sitting in the window display of a small […]

  22. curt said

    As an american I use Rand as a reference point–showing me where I’m at. In this Hienlien is also usefull. Not all americans dodge around plain speach-Whith the ‘progressive’ influence here you just learn you can only push it so far.

  23. Jai said

    I have just gone through Atlas Shrugged third time and it does shakes me down to my bone marrows. As Ergo said, we Indians have exactly the kind of society that has been exploded in the book. I will not try to make a list of the problems, but what I have been trying to fathom, is the solution out of it.

    There simply is no point in being intellectual about understanding a problem but intellectuality lies in using the understanding to solve it.

    I do worry a lot about the future of this country, and not because i care for the whole lot, I care for my kids and then their kids who will have to face it in even worse form. I care for the frustration that we all have to go through in our daily life dealing with Taggarts and Boyle and Thompsons everyday, every hour.

    I do have a couple of threads going. I would appreciate if I could exchange some notes with someone thinking on these lines.

  24. Harsha said

    @Jerry-Absolutely agree with your post ! If you find a person who has read Ayn Rand in India, you sure can expect something good from that person. And it is very good indication for me here if i met a person who has read Ayn Rand.

    Very good analysis !

  25. Aarti Mehta said

    Objectivism and rationality needs to be the inculcated in the coming generations on an individual level…the government has no say in it…after all the Indian government is a democracy and nothing is enforced on the individual’s thinking. Ergo is completely right here, we are still free to choose!

  26. HarPea said

    I agree with your views. I wish there were Objectivist forums in colleges in India just like there are many in US.

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
    “The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason; when tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in works of history and on the stage; and when we shall think of them only to pity their victims and their dupes; to maintain ourselves in a state of vigilance by thinking on their excesses; and to learn how to recognize and so to destroy, by force of reason, the first seeds of tyranny and superstition, should they ever dare to reappear among us.”
    -Condorcet

  27. Jerry said

    Hey HarPea,

    I run the Atlas Sunday Club Philosophy Salons in Mumbai once every month… we discuss philosophical matters, watch video clips, movies, or listen to lectures, etc.

    If you’re in Mumbai, would love to have you join us. You can get more details on our Facebook page “Ayn Rand in India” or on the blog Ayn Rand India blogspot.

  28. […] libertarian, writing a few years ago—before the rise of the Tea Party—argued that she was even more respected in India than America because Indians actually live in the “collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic […]

    • Steven Mitchell said

      But America was also once a place, where unlike India, most people were middle class – and that gaps between the rich and the poor were not so widespread. It was at one time common for a wealthy person in the United States to actually meet and come in contact with a middle class or working class person. That now never happens in the U.S. – ever.

  29. […] Rand has a cult like popularity in India.  That we all know and see how she is so respected.  She, born a Russian, was a laissez-faire queen and evangelist of […]

  30. jay said

    bang-on

  31. Jay isamare said

    We live in a society which is so collectivized that we tend to relate to miss Rand more when compared to an american counterpart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: