THE SOUL OF A COLLECTIVIST
This excerpt is the confession of Roark’s antipode and archenemy, Ellsworth
M. Toohey, an architectural critic and sociologist, who spends his life
plotting the future establishment of a collectivist society. He is addressing
one of his own victims.
“I’ve always said just that. Clearly, precisely and openly. It’s not my fault
if you couldn’t hear. You could, of course. You didn’t want to. Which was
safer than deafness—for me. I said I intended to rule. Like all my spiritual
predecessors. But I’m luckier than they were. I inherited the fruit of their
efforts and I shall be the one who’ll see the great dream made real. I see it all
around me today. I recognize it. I don’t like it. I didn’t expect to like it
Enjoyment is not my destiny. I shall find such satisfaction as my capacity
permits. I shall rule. ...
“It’s only a matter of discovering the lever. If you learn how to rule one
single man’s soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It’s the soul, Peter, the
soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That’s 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—and the man is yours. You won’t need a whip—he’ll 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. Want to know how it’s
done? See if I ever lied to you. See if you haven’t heard all this for years, but
didn’t want to hear, and the fault is yours, not mine. There are many ways.
Here’s one. Make man feel small. Make him feel guilty. Kill his aspiration
and his 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 toward a goal destructive of all integrity. Preach selflessness.
Tell man that he must live for others. Tell men that altruism is the ideal. Not
a single one of them has ever achieved it and not a single one ever will. His
every living instinct screams against it. But don’t you see what you
accomplish? Man realizes that he’s incapable of what he’s accepted as the
noblest virtue—and it gives him a sense of guilt, of sin, of his own basic
unworthiness. Since the supreme ideal is beyond his grasp he gives up
eventually all ideals, all aspiration, all sense of his personal value. He feels
himself obliged to preach what he can’t practice. But one can’t be good
halfway or honest approximately. To preserve one’s integrity is a hard battle.
Why preserve that which one knows to be corrupt already? His soul gives up
its self-respect. You’ve got him. He’ll obey. He’ll be glad to obey—because
he can’t trust himself, he feels uncertain, he feels unclean. That’s one way.
Here’s another. Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognize
greatness or to achieve it. Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great
men. Don’t deny the conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The
great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional. Set up standards of
achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept—and you stop the
impetus to effort in all men, great or small. You stop all incentive to
improvement, to excellence, to perfection. ... Don’t set out to raze all
shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity—and the shrines are
razed. Then there’s another way. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument
of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer.
It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humor
is an unlimited virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul—
and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the
hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle. He’ll obey and he’ll set
no limits to his obedience—anything goes—nothing is too serious. Here’s
another way. This is most important. Don’t allow men to be happy.
Happiness is self-contained and self-sufficient. Happy men have no time and
no use for you. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take
away from them whatever is dear or important to them. Never let them have
what they want. Make them feel that the mere fact of a personal desire is evil. Bring them to a state where saying ‘I want’ is no longer a natural right,
but a shameful admission. Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men
will come to you. They’ll need you. They’ll come for consolation, for
support, for escape. Nature allows no vacuum. Empty man’s soul—and the
space is yours to fill. I don’t see why you should look so shocked, Peter.
This is the oldest one of all. Look back at history. Look at any great system
of ethics, from the Orient up. Didn’t they all preach the sacrifice of personal
joy? Under all the complications of verbiage, haven’t they all had a single
leitmotif: sacrifice, renunciation, self-denial? Haven’t you been able to catch
their theme song—‘Give up, give up, give up, give up’? Look at the moral
atmosphere of today. Everything enjoyable, from cigarettes to sex to
ambition to the profit motive, is considered depraved or sinful. Just prove
that a thing makes men happy—and you’ve damned it. That’s how far we’ve
come. We’ve tied happiness to guilt. And we’ve got mankind by the throat.
Throw your first-born into a sacrificial furnace—lie on a bed of nails—go
into the desert to mortify the flesh—don’t dance—don’t go to the movies on
Sunday—don’t try to get rich—don’t smoke—don’t drink. It’s all the same
line. The great line. Fools think that taboos of this nature are just nonsense.
Something left over, old-fashioned. But there’s always a purpose in
nonsense. Don’t bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it
accomplishes. Every system of ethics that preached sacrifice grew into a
world power and ruled millions of men. Of course, you must dress it up. You
must tell people that they’ll achieve a superior kind of happiness by giving
up everything that makes them happy. You don’t have to be too clear about
it. Use big vague words. ‘Universal Harmony’—‘Eternal Spirit’—‘Divine
Purpose’—‘Nirvana’—‘Paradise’—‘Racial Supremacy’—‘The Dictatorship
of the Proletariat.’ Internal corruption, Peter. That’s the oldest one of all.
The farce has been going on for centuries and men still fall for it. Yet the test
should be so simple: just listen to any prophet and if you hear him speak of
sacrifice—run. Run faster than from a plague. It stands to reason that where
there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where
there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you
of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master. But
if ever you hear a man telling you that you must be happy, that it’s your
natural right, that your first duty is to yourself—that will be the man who’s
not after your soul. That will be the man who has nothing to gain from you.
But let him come and you’ll scream your empty heads off, howling that he’s
a selfish monster. So the racket is safe for many, many centuries. But here
you might have noticed something. I said, ‘It stands to reason.’ Do you see?
Men have a weapon against you. Reason. So you must be very sure to take it
away from them. Cut the props from under it. But be careful. Don’t deny
outright. Never deny anything outright, you give your hand away. Don’t say
reason is evil—though some have gone that far and with astonishing
success. Just say that reason is limited. That there’s something above it.
What? You don’t have to be too clear about it either. The field’s
inexhaustible. ‘Instinct’—‘Feeling’—‘Revelation’—‘Divine Intuition’—
‘Dialectical Materialism.’ If you get caught at some crucial point and
somebody tells you that your doctrine doesn’t make sense—you’re ready for
him. You tell him that there’s something above sense. That here he must not
try to think, he must feel. He must believe. Suspend reason and you play it
deuces wild. Anything goes in any manner you wish whenever you need it.
You’ve got him. Can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want any thinking
“Peter, you’ve heard all this. You’ve seen me practicing it for ten years.
You see it being practiced all over the world. Why are you disgusted? You
have no right to sit there and stare at me with the virtuous superiority of
being shocked. You’re in on it. You’ve taken your share and you’ve got to
go along. You’re afraid to see where it’s leading. I’m not. I’ll tell you. The
world of the future. The world I want. A world of obedience and unity. A
world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to
guess the thought in the brain of his neighbor who’ll have no thought of his
own but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbor who’ll have no
thought—and so on, Peter, around the globe. Since all must agree with all. A
world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his
efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbor who’ll have no desires except to
satisfy the desires of the next neighbor who’ll have no desires—around the
globe, Peter. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work
for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster—
prestige. The approval of his fellows—their good opinion—the opinion of
men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no
brain. Judgment, Peter? Not judgment, but public polls. An average drawn
upon zeros—since no individuality will be permitted. A world with its motor
cut off and a single heart, pumped by hand. My hand—and the hands of a
few, a very few other men like me. Those who know what makes you tick—
you great, wonderful average, you who have not risen in fury when we
called you the average, the little, the common, you who’ve liked and
accepted those names. You’ll sit enthroned and enshrined, you, the little
people, the absolute ruler to make all past rulers squirm with envy, the
absolute, the unlimited, God and Prophet and King combined. Vox populi.
The average, the common, the general. Do you know the proper antonym for Ego? Bromide, Peter. The rule of the bromide. But even the trite has to be
originated by someone at some time. We’ll do the originating. Vox dei.
We’ll enjoy unlimited submission—from men who’ve learned nothing
except to submit. We’ll call it ‘to serve.’ We’ll give out medals for service.
You’ll fall over one another in a scramble to see who can submit better and
more. There will be no other distinction to seek. No other form of personal
achievement. Can you see Howard Roark in the picture? No? Then don’t
waste time on foolish questions. Everything that can’t be ruled, must go.
And if freaks persist in being born occasionally, they will not survive
beyond their twelfth year. When their brain begins to function, it will feel
the pressure and it will explode. The pressure gauged to a vacuum. Do you
know the fate of deep-sea creatures brought out to sunlight? So much for
future Roarks. The rest of you will smile and obey. Have you noticed that
the imbecile always smiles? Man’s first frown is the first touch of God on
his forehead. The touch of thought. But we’ll have neither God nor thought.
Only voting by smiles. Automatic levers—all saying yes ... Now if you were
a little more intelligent—like your ex-wife, for instance—you’d ask: What
of us, the rulers? What of me, Ellsworth Monkton Toohey? And I’d say,
Yes, you’re right I’ll achieve no more than you will. I’ll have no purpose
save to keep you contented. To lie, to flatter you, to praise you, to inflate
your vanity. To make speeches about the people and the common good.
Peter, my poor old friend, I’m the most selfless man you’ve ever known. I
have less independence than you, whom I just forced to sell your soul.
You’ve used people at least for the sake of what you could get from them for
yourself. I want nothing for myself. I use people for the sake of what I can
do to them. It’s my only function and satisfaction. I have no private purpose.
I want power. I want my world of the future. Let all live for all. Let all
sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy. Let progress stop.
Let all stagnate. There’s equality in stagnation. All subjugated to the will of
all. Universal slavery—without even the dignity of a master. Slavery to
slavery. A great circle—and a total equality. The world of the future. ...
“Look around you. Pick up any newspaper and read the headlines. Isn’t it
coming? Isn’t it here? Every single thing I told you? Isn’t Europe swallowed
already and we’re stumbling on to follow? Everything I said is contained in
a single word—collectivism. And isn’t that the god of our century? To act
together. To think—together. To feel—together. To unite, to agree, to obey.
To obey, to serve, to sacrifice. Divide and conquer—first. But then—unite
and rule. We’ve discovered that one at last. Remember the Roman Emperor
who said he wished humanity had a single neck so he could cut it? People
have laughed at him for centuries. But we’ll have the last laugh. We’ve accomplished what he couldn’t accomplish. We’ve taught men to unite. This
makes one neck ready for one leash. We’ve found the magic word.
Collectivism. Look at Europe, you fool. Can’t you see past the guff and
recognize the essence? One country is dedicated to the proposition that man
has no rights, that the collective is all. The individual held as evil, the
mass—as God. No motive and no virtue permitted—except that of service to
the proletariat. That’s one version. Here’s another. A country dedicated to
the proposition that man has no rights, that the State is all. The individual
held as evil, the race—as God. No motive and no virtue permitted—except
that of service to the race. Am I raving or is this the cold reality of two
continents already? Watch the pincer movement. If you’re sick of one
version, we push you into the other. We get you coming and going. We’ve
closed the doors. We’ve fixed the coin. Heads—collectivism, and tails—
collectivism. Fight the doctrine which slaughters the individual with a
doctrine which slaughters the individual. Give up your soul to a council—or
give it up to a leader. But give it up, give it up, give it up. My technique,
Peter. Offer poison as food and poison as antidote. Go fancy on the
trimmings, but hang on to the main objective. Give the fools a choice, let
them have their fun—but don’t forget the only purpose you have to
accomplish. Kill the individual. Kill man’s soul. The rest will follow