Two very different novels I read at university appear to have completely different ideological stances, but are actually about the same fundamental thing, now considering decades later.
The Beggar’s Strike (La Greve des Battus) 1979 by Aminata Sow Fall, considered an African classic, on which my Master’s thesis was based. Plot according to GoodReads:
“The sight of disease-ridden beggars in the streets is giving the town a bad name, and the tourists are starting to stay away. If the Director of Public Health and Hygiene can get rid of them he will have done a great service to the health and economy of the nation – not to mention his own promotion prospects. A plan of military precision is put into action to rid the streets of these verminous scroungers. But the beggars are organized, too. They know that giving alms is a divine obligation and that Allah’s good will is vital to worldly promotion. So when the beggars withdraw their charitable service, the pious city civil servants and businessmen start to panic.”
In the U.S. this would be leftist ideology without a doubt. And yet, the very ‘right’ ideology of Ayn Rand fame, the Fountainhead (1945), is also about a strike. Again, according to GoodReads:
“This modern classic is the story of intransigent young architect Howard Roark, whose integrity was as unyielding as granite…of Dominique Francon, the exquisitely beautiful woman who loved Roark passionately, but married his worst enemy…and of the fanatic denunciation unleashed by an enraged society against a great creator. As fresh today as it was then, Rand’s provocative novel presents one of the most challenging ideas in all of fiction—that man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress..”
What I remember from my nut-shell: In the first the poor/used strike against the wealthy/privileged. In the second the gifted/used strike against the wealthy/ privileged. Sounds like a classic case of working both sides against the middle, Machiavelli-style.
Whether man’s ego is the fountainhead of progress we can debate all day and night, but what happens in the Fountainhead plot is basically they build a walled community of the select brilliant people to escape the tyranny of the majority.
In the Beggar’s Strike the majority is manipulated to serve the tyranny of the underprivileged few.
Both novels lead to the same outcome: collectivism. Rand’s ruggedly individualistic characters still had every intention of serving the collective, they just wanted to be well-recognized for their efforts. Fall’s characters have no intention of leaving the herd, they just want their heroic efforts to be recognized. One noose for all necks.
From whom are y’all seeking recognition? Rand’s characters deserve it based on their passion and creativity and integrity and perseverance. Fall’s characters deserve it based on their humility, and perseverance, and creativity and integrity. But from whom?
Both are based on power structures of who needs whom more, and exploiting that angle to the hilt.
Whether the African jungle or the American one, the spin doctors are hard at work.
One thought on “Beggar’s Strike or Fountainhead”
Wonderful offering! Indeed, the spin doctors are always at work! And thank you so much for your comment on the jazz piece I posted today. Somehow, (I don’t know how) I started to reply to your comment and to thank you for the link to “Dinah”, and I hit some key that deleted it all. But again, thank you for the comment and the link. Best to you and yours! Cheers!
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