Price of a Soul


At fourteen, I read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” and fell in love with it. It is one of my favorites and last week I read it again. I still found it mind-blowing. This time, Toohey’s character got me thinking.

In the last few chapters of the book, Ellsworth Toohey speaks about his devious plan to portray mediocre people in the media as supremely talented to gain power over public. He planned to rule the world by ruining the thought process of the public, demolishing the careers of great thinkers, and glorifying stupidity.

His conversation with Peter Keating, who was one of his experimental puppets, reveals the crux of human behavior and our vulnerability for exploitation. He said –

“It is only about discovering the lever. If you learn to rule one single man’s soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It is the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That is why the Caesars, the Attilas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last. We will. The soul, Peter is that which can’t be ruled. It must be broken. Drive a wedge in, get your fingers on it – the man is yours. You won’t need a whip – he will bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him in reverse and his own mechanism will do your work for you. Use him against himself.”

Isn’t this what our education system and media done to us?

When was the last time our teachers taught us – “Lie down on the grass and let your tensions drain away. Look at the vast expanse of sea to be at peace.” They teach students – “Own a lot of land and you will be rich. Get a ship to cross the ocean with your merchandise.”

Our education system on the pretext of teaching fundamentals and preparing us for life, teaches us that conformity, obedience and pursuing a career for success are the greatest virtues. How many schools teach children that creative thinking, being different or spending extraordinary time on hobbies just for simple pleasure of life, is something worth pursuing and achieving?

By teenage, the fashion magazines decide the length of hair, size of waist and color of dress that are suitable for the season. If a teenager refuses to follow, others label the poor kid weird.

As we grow older, the competition becomes of the gadgets we have, than our thoughts and principles. The neighbor has an iPod, Mercedes and x, y and z. So I also want the same. Have we every compared ourselves to say “the neighbor has such excellent thoughts for humanity, works diligently for the benefit of humanity and always  walks the high road on principles, hence, I want to be the same.”

If we aren’t thinking in these lines, then I would say Toohey’s words are correct, our education system and media took our souls not the devil. Moreover, if we are questioning how it has happened, then the following quote of Toohey’s captures the problem though said with a different slant.

“Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and integrity. That’s difficult. The worst among you gropes for an ideal in his own twisted way. Kill integrity by internal corruption. Use it against itself. Direct it of a goal destructive of all integrity.”

The key is – “Kill integrity by internal corruption.” From childhood, we are taught success matters. Success is equal to money plus position. Organization position gives power. That puts you in top bracket of society. This idea of success destroys all integrity within us. For the sake of money or position, we are willing to make compromises one after another. Without it, we feel small and useless. The drive for money makes the man poor in character and principles. At the start of our careers, we willingly hand over a part of our souls for a few dollars. By the time we retire, we are uncertain whether we have a soul left.

Then we lament on lack of ethics and profess horror on breach of ethics by the people we have put on the pulpit. In most of our adult age, when we haven’t had a serious thought on ethics or made an effort to learn ethical behavior, can we really assume it will occur by itself? We want to delude ourselves into thinking we are a good people, living a principled life because not thinking in those terms will destroy our self-image. . We cannot face the fact that 99% of us have conducted some crime or the other sometime in life. We cannot afford to face reality if we want to live.

Closing thoughts  

Ayn Rand aptly put it – “Enshrine mediocrity and the shrines are erased.” By putting money as a standard for measuring success, we have enshrined mediocrity of character. Nobility of character lost its glory when money epitomized the crowned king of success. They why show surprise, anger or disgust when our much hyped heroes breach ethics. Should we punish them or the society for teaching them the wrong definition of success? Can we punish a person for doing a better sales job on selling their soul than the rest of us?



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4 comments on “Price of a Soul

  1. Sonia, as always very intruiging thoughts and making a person think about what he/she is doing and why. The first thing which came to mind was ‘keeping up with the Jones’, which actually only drives mankind to materialise and avoid to think about what they do.
    Today it brings courage to be different, think different, however very necessary.

    • Thank you. I couldn’t help noticing the irony of your statement ” courage to be different”. We are individuals, each different from the other, why should it require courage to be individuals. Next we will require courage to be humane.

      • Yes we are different, thouhg our mind is set / programmed (?) to belong to a group which is human nature. However moving too far in this by just showing by the clothes, cars and gadgets we have that we belong to the group, without wanting / willing to speak out loud when we, the individual, believe that something is wrong. Freedom of mind and soul is priceless. Group pressure can make one feel uncomfortable to speak out if they believe it is or should be different.

      • See, I understand your perspective of belonging to a group and group pressure. My view is that we are getting more and more sucked into conformity and stupidity.

        For example, study Facebook. What do most people do, they put their own photograph, next week their spouse, followed by children and pets. A few of the members will respond, “what a beautiful photograph”, “you or x look so good” etc. Now can you expect any friend of yours to write “you look like yuck and nothing has changed in the last week”. We are simply fetching for false compliments. Any value addition there in our thought process or for others? NIL.

        And just to point out how this thought process infiltrates our daily life, here is an example. Wife of a very well known Indian business tycoon purchased over a dozen Louis Vuitton bags, got them cut in small pieces and got the pieces stitched on her skirt. Why, to be different, since all the people in her social group had Louis Vuitton bag and it was no big deal. So she wanted an ego kick. It would have been better if she would have donated that money to a zoo or forest authorities for upkeep of animals.

        We have simply dedicated our life to stupidity because saying so will upset our near and dear ones. Being intellectual is becoming out of fashion because majority don’t understand what one is talking about.


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