Isn’t that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a 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. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the 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 . . . . They’re second-handers . . . .
They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?” Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egoists. You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life.
Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing. That’s the emptiness I couldn’t understand in people. That’s what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility.
The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It’s everywhere and nowhere and you can’t reason with him. He’s not open to reason.
quoted from Ayn Rand Lexicon