Individualism v. Altruism

Are You an Innovator or a Parasite?

Zoputa Difini, Staff Writer

I was searching for scholarships recently when I stumbled upon one that required me to write an essay based on a prompt. The prompt asked me to analyze and explain the meaning of the quote: “The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.”

I was immediately fascinated with the quote and had to find out from where it came from.
The quote was a part of a speech given by Howard Roark, the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s novel Fountainhead. The speech describes a human’s urge to create and innovate while at the same time our desire to be dependent on others.

Upon closer examination of this, I’ve become convinced by Roark and have come to believe there really are only two types of people in this world: the creators and the parasites. There are people throughout history who have pushed the boundaries, challenged laws and ideas, and taken on those who could have easily put an end to their life. These people stared into the face of possible destruction and persevered. They continued because they had become driven not by money, not by fame, not by others, but by their own personal motive and truth.

When Pythagoras declared the earth was round, he didn’t do it primarily to educate those around him; he did it because it was a discovery that quenched a curiosity he had. Even in today’s world there are people all around us who pursue their own truths, truths that lead them to new creations and innovations. Pushed by their ego, even their selfishness at times, these innovators looked to accomplish something that others could not; they looked to find the answers where others had failed.

However, societally we’ve become accustomed to frowning upon the very traits that allow these innovators to stand out. We, instead, praise those who practice altruism for, as Roark states in the text, “Men have been taught that the ego is the synonym of evil, and selflessness the ideal of virtue.” We allow ourselves to believe that by putting everyone else before us we are doing a great service to humanity when the truth is we’ve only allowed ourselves to become the parasite. As Roark says, the parasite is the one who borrows, fed by the mind and creations of others failing to use their own to further their own well-being. Whether they are scared or simply lazy, I don’t know. However, what I do know is that by not pushing themselves, by not being selfish or independent, they go through life living through others, which is a parasitic action.

Look at some of the most successful people in our modern society and you see examples of this mindset. Steve Jobs was beyond selfish. In fact, some might even call him inhumane for how he neglected his daughter, denying paternity of Lisa Brennan. For he was consumed by nothing more than the advancement of his company and his ideas, choosing not to let the birth of his first daughter hinder his progress, and it didn’t. Jobs was able to build a product that is not only used in millions of people’s daily lives, but also coveted across the globe. It wasn’t greed for more money or fame that drove Jobs, it was a hunger to simply be better. He was a creator and he lived up to that, even in death.

There are others who also embody this formula of innovation including Kanye West, Mark Zuckerberg, and our nation’s “beloved” President, Donald Trump. Each of these individuals is wildly successful, exhibiting selfishness and arrogance that drives their success, exempting them from the need to be motivated by anything or anyone but themselves.

But of course, not everyone is a creator, which is why we need parasites in this world. The truth is, one cannot exist without the other. There have to be people who live off the creations and ideas of others without ever feeling the need to have innovations of their own. Why is this? I don’t know for sure, but we also don’t know why there is evil in a world full of good, nor why we immediately condemn those that push the barriers in our societies, our thinking, and our beliefs.

All we know is that we need those who are willing to make progress and change even if it forces them into pits of selfishness and isolation, for this is the only way we will thrive.

So which will you be, a creator or parasite?