Indeed, traditionalism is just one way the second-handers
like Roark and gain power over others, and it's just one motive. In the case of Roark, members of the general public chose second-handers like Guy Francon, Keating, etc. and rejected Roark because Roark refused to subject himself to architectural traditionalism and commonplace architectural practices such as giving a building a Classical or Renaissance theme.
In addition to traditionalism, second-handers also believed in and/or preached was showing off to each other, equality and the value of public opinion. Examples of this in modern society could be the false belief that McDonald's has good food or that Britney Spears produces good music because they are popular. That's certainly not just traditionalism; I agree.
Anyway, when I wrote that Roark was nontraditional not just in his architectural style but also his business and social style
, I think I was simply trying to say that Rand's story showed what I also believe to be true which is that there are far more second-handers in the world than first-handers. Or in other words, there are far more parasites than producers. Both in the book and in the real world, much more wealth and power is held in the parasitic hands of often wealthy second-handers like Keating, Guy Francon, Toohey, Wynand and all the other architects in the book besides Roark and Cameron than in the hands of first-handers such as Roark, Cameron, Mike and Mallory. Traditionally, people make money by being second-handers such as Wynand or Keating rather than being one of the very few who choose to struggle--often in or near poverty--as a first-hander like Roark or Mallory.
In chapter 11 of part 4, there's a part that I especially from Roark's speech to Wynand in which I think Rand via Roark gives examples of various types of second-handers:
Ayn Rand via her character Roark wrote:And isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he's honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. Than man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to mediocre, but he's great in they eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison. The man whose sole aim is to make money. Now I don't see anything evil in a desire to make money. But money is only a means to some end. If a man wants it for a personal purpose--to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury--he's completely moral. But the men who place money first go much beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, to impress others. They're second-handers. Look at our so-called cultural endeavors. A lecturer who spouts some borrowed rehash of nothing at all that means nothing at all to him--and the people who listen and don't give a damn, but sit there in order to tell their friends that they have attended a lecture by a famous name. All second-handers.
I especially like that passage because I think it shows what Rand disliked about what would may commonly be called selfishness.
I also thinks it stands in contrast to the true kindness of being a individualistic first-hander, which entails the absence of false pity, the absence of manipulative or deceitful charity, and the absence of pretending to follow an impossible creed of selflessness. The irony that Rand chooses to refer to the root of true kindness
, a traditionally negative term, is not lost on me. This "true kindness" is shown in the following examples:
The character Peter Keating says to Roark, "You're the most egotistical and kindest man I know."
Ayn Rand wrote:He looked at Roark and saw the calmest, kindest face - a face without a hint of pity. It did not look like the countenance of men who watch the agony of another with a secret pleasure, uplifted by the sight of a beggar who needs their compassion; it did not bear the cast of the hungry soul that feeds upon another's humiliation. Roark's face seemed tired, drawn at the temples, as if he had just taken a beating. But his eyes were serene and they looked at Mallory quietly, a hard, clean glance of understanding - and respect.
Let's also remember that Roark gives Mallory money to do work on his own. Also, Roark agrees to secretly build the affordable housing for the poor for no monetary gain or popularity for himself. In both instances Roark goes out of his way to explain that he is not being selfless but rather is being--in Rand's unique usage of the word--selfish. This 'true kindness' is in contrast to the false kindness, false sympathy, deceitfulness, ostentation and parasitism of the second-handers who either mistakenly or deceitfully claim to be "selfless," which is impossible.
I think Rand's ideas expand greatly on what I briefly addressed in my article, Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness?
Of course, Rand goes into it in much more depth. I think she does a great job in this novel of showing that unkindness is generally committed by unkind second-handers who want to seem kind or in the name of selflessness, an inherently false idea that thus manifests as false kindness, false sympathy, etc. Of course, Rand's long book explains those ideas better than a few sentences written by me or some other reviewer.
I would like to read comments on what I have written, but even more I would like to read everyone's comments on the book itself. If you have read the book and haven't posted yet, please do!