The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand chronicles the struggle of architect Howard Roark, the archetype of the creative spirit of the individual, against the evil forces of collectivism, represented by the diabolical Ellsworth Monkton Toohey, while in the grip of a tumultuous love affair with a femme fatale who is at once his greatest defender and most bitter foe. It is a novel of about 720 pages that was first published in 1943. The Fountainhead is one of the most influential and important books that I have ever read, right up there with The Torah, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and Flatland.
First, it is important to appreciate at the outset that the various characters in The Fountainhead are symbols or archetypes. Taken literally, the characters cease to be believable and, in the case of the protagonist Howard Roark, cease to be even likable. I will freely admit that at first I did not grasp this important point and almost stopped reading the book in disgust after the first 100 pages--and that would have been a shame.
Throughout history, there have been those who have sought to enslave the human mind and spirit and gather undeserved power for themselves by suppressing the creative power of individual, ironically by convincing others to see individualists as "selfish" and "egotistical." In fact, as Rand points out, the very meaning of the words "selfish" and "egotistical" have been warped by these forces to represent their exact opposites. Another word, "selflessness," has been elevated by these forces to represent the highest form of virtue.
The truth will be difficult for the brainwashed, uninitiated masses to understand--and that is the vast majority of us--but I will do my best. Without ego, without love of self, a man leads only a borrowed life, a half-life, a life whose value is no higher than what others think of him, a self-less life. Only by suppressing the easy and natural instinct of self interest and replacing it with the unnatural and evil concept of altruism can such a man blunder on through his meaningless existence. His existence is only made meaningful by service to others less fortunate--making the suffering of others and the enshrinement of misfortune a prerequisite to virtue. To such a man, the word "equality" means not that all men deserve equal opportunity, but that all men deserve an equal outcome regardless of individual talent or effort. This is the definition of evil.
However, left to his own devices to act independently and without restraint, the unfettered individual, seeking to serve his own interests only, will instinctively strive for creativity and excellence. This leads to intrinsic self-worth, and the fruits of such a man's labor--should he chose to share or market them freely with other such individuals--will be of the highest quality and of benefit to all. The United States of America were founded on this very principle. And, yes, I meant "were" and not "was." There are several, individual, sovereign States in the union--a fact which every president since Abraham Lincoln has tried to make each sovereign citizen forget--more collectivist thinking.
We are taught the exact opposite of the truth by the collectivists, particularly in our churches and in our government-run schools--and look at where it has taken us as a nation and as a people. How many times have we heard and been tricked and seduced by the slogans of the collectivists such as: There Is No I in Team; Together We Accomplish More; Yes We Can; We Are All Heroes? We have a Department of Education, a Department of Homeland Security, a Department of Social Security, the Internal Revenue Service, and a Department of Housing and Urban Development--just as did the ultimate collectivists of recent memory--the Soviet Union aka The Evil Empire. And don't even get me started on government-run healthcare!
Today--when at least half the American people have been indoctrinated by the communal liberals to such a degree that they cannot fathom a solution to any problem that does not involve more collective government, the enshrinement of mediocrity, and the suppression of individual freedom--the wisdom of The Fountainhead is more important to understand than perhaps at any time in history. The speech explaining the methodology and application of collectivism given by Ellsworth Toohey toward the end of the book is absolutely chilling. I could close my eyes, hear the words, and picture President Obama saying them and meaning them while the brainwashed masses looked on in an hypnotic stupor chanting "yes we can."
In contrast, the speech given by Howard Roark on the power of the individual in the climax of the book is breathtakingly inspiring. Taken literally, in the context of collectivist brainwashing, Roark will appear to be the very devil. But once the veil of the enemy has been lifted from the eyes of the careful reader by Mrs. Rand, the logic, beauty, and truth will shine.
A parting shot: If you are a liberal democrat, The Fountainhead is a MUST read for you. If you will take the time to suspend your prejudices, you will see the error of your ways and start living a meaningful life. And if the book does not transform you, at the very least, you will understand your enemy...every time you look into the mirror.