“The marks you score in exams matter very little. The fifty percent-walle will rule over the ninety percent-walle. What matters is attitude.” I was not surprised to hear these words from an educator-administrator. Nor did it surprise me that he was addressing a school during the morning assembly. This educator-administrator had risen in the administrative hierarchy using his “attitude” which translates as Machiavellian schemes. A temporary hobby of his was to invite top level administrators as chief guests on various occasions and introduce them to students as people who were “lulloos” [his word] while at school. One of the first things he did after exhorting the students to cultivate their “attitude” was to recommend some serious punitive measures against the teachers who had failed to produce expected good results in the last Board exams. To his credit also must be added that he indirectly punished the teachers who produced the expected good results by refusing to give them the reward promised by the school.
What he said about “attitude”, however, applies not only to him; unfortunately there is much general truth in it. The mediocre reign over the others almost everywhere.
Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, is an illustration of the uncanny knack of mediocrity in asserting its supremacy wherever it may find itself. The genius, Howard Roark, is thwarted right from the beginning of his career. Allowing genius to pass promotion exams is a threat to the mediocre. If genius is recognised by the people, then the mediocre won’t be able to market themselves successfully. Rand’s novel shows how the mediocre make use of every trick available in their limited resources to keep genius under suppression. The media, religion, social morality and conventions, parties and gatherings, are all always at the service of the mediocre.
There is a very intriguing argument given by a character in the novel that an architect cannot be destroyed by proving him a bad architect. An architect can be destroyed by showing him to be an atheist or homosexual or alcoholic or something that the conventional morality or religion will love to castigate. Such means are employed to destroy Roark.
Genius is usually centred round a particular skill. In the case of Roark it was architecture. For Einstein it was scientific thinking. We have geniuses in painting, music, sculpture, literature, etc. Has anyone heard of a genius in politics? Or even in administration?
Politics and administration are about power over other people. Rand argued that the culmination of civilisation’s evolution is “hands off”. The primitive bandit said, “Hands up.” The civilised man would keep his hands to his work and let others keep theirs to their work. Wanting to assert power over others is a primitive urge, according to this logic.
That does not mean the present writer is an anarchist. It just means that administration need not be an exercise of power over others. It can be a service as noble as the medical profession or, why not, teaching. Or, for those averse to the word ‘service’, administration can be a skill just like any other skill; a skill far superior to proving one’s superiority by exercising one’s power over others.