John Galt was the main character in "Atlas Shrugged", a man who's role was so important that you didn't really truly meet him until about 2/3rds of the way through the book. And then wish you hadn't.
- 1 Either/Or
- 2 Non-Contradiction
- 3 A is A
- 4 Confused?
- 5 See also
Born in rural Ohio, his father was a gas station attendant, his mother, not described, was no doubt some bar slut, as who else would screw a man held in such contempt by his own son? After all, not once did he ever call or write his parents, never mentioned them, and was upset when a buddy mentioned them one time. He apparently did not excel in school at all, drew no notice, and then - of course - attended the most prestigious university in America, the Patrick Henry University.
At PHU (Home of the Striking Titans) he took a double major in Physics and Philosophy, worked a full time job to pay his way, and stayed up all night at his professor's house quite often. These all nighters were widely believed to be how John "J-Dawg" Galt and his two buddies (Ragnar "The Ragman" Danneskjöld and Francisco "Cisco" D'Anconia) passed such grueling classes. The professor - Hugh "Go Greek" Akston - was known to have a thing for boys. Especially such fine boys as these, and ones who cared nothing about dating women, either.
Not that the boys didn't have quite a reputation, they being... er... "inseparable", and those all nighters at two of the most reclusive professors at PHU's houses. They got their nicknames from the other students, not for being cool, but in a teasing fashion which the three ignored, they being - as who isn't in their teens and early twenties? - all about the studying.
Of course, Professor Akston had competition, Dr. Robert "Xylophonist" Stadler. He, too, loved these boys and regarded them as "his". He understood why the boys kissed up to him, but could never understand their need to kiss up to Akston. This would haunt him in later years, when his endorsement of a government science institute caused all three of the boys to denounce him. After all, boys attending a State supported University would naturally be upset about someone endorsing a State supported institute.
The Ragman was the son of some bishop, a bookish and quiet lad, who - of course - chose to leave Europe to get the type of great education that the children of nobility can only find in Ohio. The man who had not enough balls to get laid till his thirties, apparently had balls enough to become a pirate after graduating. Maybe he got relief from the cabin boy.
Cisco was unique in having been laid. He laid Dagny Taggart, in what he thought of as "rape" and she thought of as "about time". He then, though having had no great philosophical revelation at that point, left her, went to college, never called or wrote, and generally figured that a bright, intelligent, vibrantly alive young woman would wait for him. Sadly, he was correct. For a decade or so, anyway. His daddy was descended of Spanish aristocrats, and was a wealthy Argentinian, and one of the richest men on Earth. Naturally, Ohio U. was the ideal choice for a college.
Howard "Red" Roark was only briefly in J-Dawg's life, as he was booted out of college for his "unbridled individualism" - as he called it - and being a "self centered asshole so arrogant even J-Dawg won't hang out with him" as his guidance counselor called it. It always being about him, he always tried to lecture J-Dawg, Cisco and The Ragman on architecture, till they drove him off by taunting, "Don't you have some of Peter's homework to do?"
J-Dawg's first career, after leaving his carefree campus days behind him, was at the 20th Century Motor Company, where a glowing letter of reference from Akston got him the job of assistant to the Chief Researcher. Wait, that would be help from others, and J-Dawg is not about that. He got the job just because Jed Starnes, then President, enjoyed giving positions of great responsibility to penniless no-names. There he developed a motor that could take static electricity and turn it into unlimited power. How? Some how. He found a way. He always does. He always will. Quit questioning him, you second hander.
He kept up his reclusiveness and celibacy - at least with women - and only hung out with some old dude, William Hastings, a man who had no friends either, just a yearning desire to retire and hang out in his basement without talking to his wife.
J-Dawg quit when he was told that he'd have to give a little back to all the little people who made his work possible. He left in a rather disgruntled fashion, threatening to "stop the motor of the world" which many at the time thought was a rather extreme reaction to a proposed
microcosm of a communist police state that destroyed the factory, town, and 6,000 people pay cut.
He also attempted to start a wildcat strike, though this was not very successful, as most people need to work and feed their families no matter how screwy their company is being. But that's just a silly prejudice of such little people, as they expect to have to earn the values of their lives and trade their highest values for another's highest values. Not retreat into oblivion when others don't think like they do.
Apparently not wishing any real responsibility in life, and violating his own future advice to Dagny, in which he said that "you do not need to conquer or convince the world", he immediately set about trying to conquer and convince the world. As opposed to just realizing that life sucks, you live with it and do as best you can, without trying to live your life for others, or expecting others to live their lives for you.
Not having any friends or family (at least any that he gave a crap about) made this easier. He had kind of grown apart from the Ragman and Cisco, though he apparently looked them up soon after his walk out. He found his true calling then, apparently that of a proselytizer, as he was able to convince a quiet philosopher to be a pirate and a brilliant industrialist to be a playboy. I'm guessing the second was an easier sell, as Cisco, unlike J-Dawg and Ragman, had actually been laid before. Not that it seemed to have meant much, as he was just waiting and waiting and waiting...
His second career was that of a track laborer at Taggart Transcontinental, a job that he believed required no mental effort. This was a bit at odds with his professor's philosophical outlook that there "are no small jobs, only small men who don't care to perform them", but J-Dawg was never one for being fully consistent. Else he'd not have left a motor created by his mind behind at the 20th Century Motor Company while declaring that he was withdrawing the fruits of his mind from them and everyone. (On the other hand, he did take the design of the motor with him to reproduce later, in flagrant violation of the "sanctity of the contract" he signed with his employer which, if it was like most engineering employment contracts, ceded the patents for his inventions to the company.)
There he apparently worked for twelve years, never getting laid. Ever. At all. He took his minimal wage track laborer's salary and used it to finance a multi-thousand dollar lab in his slum apartment and to fund his cross country trips to every industrialist, artist and scientist in America. He not only had the extra cash for these train trips, but plenty of vacation time to take those trains to every state in the union. And plenty of cash to stay in hotels while persuading rich men to give up all they own and live in the wilderness of Colorado.
Evidence of his staggering super-proselytizing power is evident in that he could take a vacation not only for one month each year, but also any other time he pleased. Stationed in New York City, he could get time off to take a train trip to Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah...and the other forty five states (yes, 45, Alaska and Hawaii weren't states back then) that presumably had some 'men of the mind' to talk to. His foreman never knew why he gave J-Dawg so much time off, just a sucker for those green eyes and copper hair, I guess. Hey, we've all been there.
Founding of Galt's Compound
It was at this point that he was able to persuade Michael "Midas" Mulligan to buy a huge patch of wilderness in Colorado, and hide it with super futuristic ray screens to camouflage it. Then all the formerly rich folk moved there. And with no prior training or ability, were able to live off the land, becoming farmers, sheep herders, cattle ranchers, fishermen, miners, smelters, blacksmiths and a few dozen other highly specialized trades that take years of training and far more than just common sense and an HGTV video series.
We are to imagine here that they all funded their little homes and factories and businesses in the middle of nowhere themselves, though perhaps Midas loaned out a lot of gold -- gold to people who had no place to spend it but amongst their currently assetless selves.
Plumbing and electricity found its way there, all the machines and materials pretty much just appearing. Or Midas bought it all and had it super secretly shipped in. And again gave it away to assetless people. Hoping that they'd duplicate two centuries of industrial progress quickly enough to pay him back with interest. And without the thousands of manual laborers necessary for the construction of even a small foundry, the 'men of the mind' constructed power plants, factories, aircraft mechanic shops and -- seriously -- a mint. How? Somehow. Don't start that again!
Sometime in all of this, he peeped at Dagny Taggart, Vice President of where he worked. And by "peeped", this is literal. He first spied her legs as she was walking down some stairs in a dress. As most guys know exactly what they are likely to see when staring up stairs while women in dresses walk down, this seems to have been a special hobby of the J-Dawg's. Though as he's not been laid in the entirety of his life, this may perhaps be forgiven, though feared.
In any case, having seen Dagny's legs, and then the rest of Dagny, he knew -- as does any Randian hero -- everything he needed to know about her philosophy, morality and outlook on life. A Randian hero always knows these things just by looking at faces, and in the J-Dawg's case, he had seen her legs, too, so he also knew how she voted and what her favorite color was. I guess.
Interestingly, he was aware that his old college buddy Cisco had laid Dagny. And that Cisco was still carrying a torch for her. A torch that Cisco was willing to carry forever, and had carried for at least 12 years, never laying a single other woman. This didn't stop the J-Dawg from falling for her, though. In real life, most men need some time to be hopelessly in love with a woman, and if the woman is "taken" or "spoken for", they never let their emotions develop to that point. Out of respect for the other guy, friend or not. Well, men who know that "emotions are not tools of cognition" feel that way.
But when J-Dawg sees the woman that his best friend loves with all of his heart, he naturally focuses on her anyway, and pair bonds with her - even before being introduced. Psychologists would say that a man who focuses on his best friend's lady, then watches her for years without ever talking to her, and nonetheless falls in love with her and dreams of the day when he can take her to his cabin in the middle of nowhere is -- well -- let us say, "imperfectly adjusted", as "psychotic" seems so harsh.
Pscyhotic J-Dawg shows his "love"
As he has never been laid, his emotional development is that of a pre-pubescent boy. In other words, J-Dawg, like most sixth graders, shows he likes a girl by torturing her. Fully aware that Dagny is trying to keep the industrialists working, so that her life is easier and the world works well, he deliberately uses his super-proselytizing powers to remove each industrialist that she relies on.
Of course, if he was just about some noble mission, he'd persuade each industrialist to quit in a more logical order, and at least, do so in order of ease of reaching them - he being confined to a train and his track laborer's salary. That and his foreman is getting tired of the endless and weekly vacation requests.
Or, if pure and decent love was his motive, he'd persuade Dagny first, then get the rest of the industrialists. But seeing how well the plan "torture first, win her love later" had worked for his buddy Cisco, he decided to do the same.
So like any obsessive little stalker, he tries to isolate her and unbalance her. Perhaps in his illness he believes that this will make her more vulnerable and amenable to hooking up with a manual laborer. Please note here that John Galt bears a suspicious resemblance to those unemployed losers that clog the basements of the mothers of America, always talking about what he could do if society were "just" or he had a "chance".
Other signs of Stalking
J-Dawg keeps tabs on the woman he's obsesses over...er, loves. That's why he always has lunch with Taggart Transcontinental's token homosexual, Eddie Willers. Eddie - short for Oedipus - is actually monosexual towards Dagny, and regards her as a mommy figure. He loves to please mommy, even if mommy is a cruel mommy who strands him in the desert later though she could have invited him to Utopia (see below).
J-Dawg has lunch with the lonely Eddie each day, pumping Eddie for all manner of info about Dagny, including what she looks like while asleep. He keeps a picture of her as his only decoration in his little slum apartment. Then he sneaks down an alley to peep at Dagny while she is working late in the office. Hmm. When I do this kind of thing to women, I usually get a restraining order. But never mind...
While trying to steal away from Dagny a man who was her one last solace in an increasingly cold and cruel world (increasingly as J-Dawg made it so) he didn't realize that Dagny was close by. So when J-Dawg convinced Quentin Daniels to come to the woods with him to be his janitor (one wonders at how bright these "geniuses" were) Dagny followed. Dagny's tenacity allowed her to break through the super duper ray screen that hid J-Dawg's compound.
A is A
J-Dawg proves that "Utopia" really does mean "no where"
J-Dawg finds that Dagny is injured, and a' la Misery decides that she would best recuperate in his cabin, where he won't sleep with her, but lets her be his servant for $5 in gold for the month. Even though her lover and virtual husband Hank Rearden is endlessly looking for her, believing that she crashed, J-Dawg denies Dagny permission to let Hank know she is alive. In this we see the classic behavior of an over controlling obsessor, as it could obviously not hurt to let a good and decent man know that his loved one was okay.
Of course, this also set the stage for getting Hank used to not having Dagny, and helped get Dagny to go along with an initial betrayal of Hank that would make her subsequent one easier. Such cheap tricks come easily to a man with no "pain or guilt or fear".
Meanwhile, he all but told Cisco to f-off, though Cisco, being kind of stupid for all his alleged brilliance, totally missed the implications of Dagny staying with J-Dawg instead of himself. Later, he "gets it", and -- like only a guy who can go without sex for a decade or so can -- finds nothing wrong with being aced out. Fulfilling her youthful desire to be an operetta star, Dagny mentally composes an aria to the nobility of ditching one man for another, whenever you find a better life partner than the one you've already pledged yourself to.
The "sanctity of the contract" does NOT apply to romantic relations in Ayn's world, apparently. Just ask Frank "Cuckold" O'Conner. That aria, called "Trading Up", would later be set to music composed by Richard Halley, shortly after his wife dumped him for Ellis Wyatt.
During this craziness, Dagny gets a tour from J-Dawg, showing how great things are when loner geniuses are left to themselves in a wilderness. Boy, things sure are easy when you have no manual laborers to build things for you, no skilled craftsmen to make things for you, and no technicians or farmers to get in your way. About the only menial laborers one sees are a few former captains of industry who got wiped out in competition with smarter and better newcomers. They are happy to serve their natural betters, just like real businessmen and CEOs!
Adam Smith described the several thousand men and tasks necessary to the construction of a pin in 1776. But these geniuses needed less then fifty for an entire town. All these executives lived so much easier lives, slopping pigs and fixing planes and building electrified houses with full plumbing all by themselves. No, really, the pigs, plane and homebuilder guy was just one guy, Dwight Sanders. He was the slow one, the rest were even superer duperer.
But as I'm sure you've noticed at your company, the managers and executives are always the most competent and self-reliant, right? Uh huh. Show me a theoretical physicist or Chief Executive Officer, and I'll show you a guy who never has to pay for a roofer, tree trimmer, or auto mechanic. Why should they when they can do it themselves so much more easily?
His Royal Majesty, King J-Dawg, is a Mon-Anarchist
Though the writer of J-Dawg's biography was a fervent believer in minimal government, J-Dawg was clearly an anarchist - sometimes. His compound, or "Galt's Gulch" as his followers called it, was an anarchic society. His biographer attempted to cast Judge Narragansett as the "judge" and thus "government", but it seems hard to believe. After all, had another judge decided while in his seventies to leave all and move to the woods, would the first judge have forbade him from judging? If no, then you have a free market anarchy, in which the residents could choose which judge to hire. If yes, then he'd be a statist bastard for forbidding competition.
On the other hand, J-Dawg - as has been mentioned - is staggeringly inconsistent. Please note that on four separate occasions he told Dagny that there were "no rules" but then immediately told her yet another rule.
- "Our first rule here, Miss Taggart, is that one must always see for oneself." (A "first" implies a "second", last I checked.)
- "Miss Taggart, we have no laws in this valley, no rules, no formal organization of any kind. But we have certain customs which we all observe..." (The word "but" is used to negate what just preceded, especially with the word "all" instead of "most of us" used, and if there are "no rules", what happened to the "first rule" he already told her of?)
- "I'll warn you now that there is one word that is forbidden in this valley: the word, 'give'." ("warn"? "forbidden"? Wow, sounds pretty free, Kim Jong Galt!)
- "We have no rules of any kind, except one. When a man took our oath, it meant a single commitment: not to work in his own profession, not to give to the world the benefit of his mind." ("except" negates the concept of "no rules", and note that the "one" rule is different than other "one" rules!)
The "customs" that "all" observe seem rather vague and all encompassing. And to mean whatever J-Dawg wants them to mean at any given time. Apparently then Galt's Gulch is a monarchy with the concept of "benign neglect". In other words, if J-Dawg's not paying attention, it's benign, otherwise, words are forbidden, jobs regulated, communications prohibited, learning from bitter experience required, and the love of your life hit upon.
You know, I hear Cuba is quite lovely, nice people, soft breezes...!
J-Dawg's Last Mind Game
In J-Dawg's little fantasy mindset, Dagny is no good to him till she has nothing...and knows it. So he lets her go back to her life outside the valley, while telling her that he'll do all in his power to destroy her dreams and goals. Dagny, first initiated to sex in a quasi-rape, finds this maddeningly sexy, and vows to hold herself pure for him. Apparently she forgot about poor old Hank, who's still flying all over Colorado looking for her unfaithful ass.
When she actually notices him flying over the valley, she screams his name, not for love of him and what they had, but for realizing that he's still out there getting it done, and she misses running her railroad. One wonders why J-Dawg didn't fall for someone nicer, like Lillian.
J-Dawg gives in to obsession
Knowing that it will mean self-sacrifice and personal risk for others (things he's apparently all about) J-Dawg goes back to his track laborer's job, where apparently his boss never minds his long absences and yearly month long vacations. There - surprise, surprise - he meets Dagny again, and they sneak off to some abandoned and grungy side track deep underground, where in the dirt and trash, they consummate their great love. We are to find this okay, as Dagny had broke up with Hank, and did so in a sweet and gentle fashion, befitting her kind regard for the special love they had. She broke up with him over the radio, not even addressing him, just letting him find out with that select group of people we call "the American public".
If we live in a universe in which there are no contradictions, then one imagines that the J-Dawg has won just the type of woman he deserves. He may wish to check his premises, though.
This is the woman who not only treats Hank shabbily, but doesn't bother to tip off ol' Eddie about the secret Utopia. Even after J-Dawg hijacks the radios of America - without compensating the owners of those radio stations - and gives a sixty six page speech about how one should retreat to a wilderness camp if they can. One would have thought that telling Eddie would have been the kind thing to do. And a great way to have a loyal servant.
J-Dawg naturally turns down all the government's bribes of power and wealth. At least this is natural to a man who apparently finds celibacy and manual labor for twelve plus years to prove an obscure philosophical point to be "natural".
Then the government tortures him, but half way through electrocuting him (waterboarding having not been invented yet) the torture machine breaks down. Ignoring the sage wisdom of George Orwell, who in "1984" wrote, "the only thing one can wish about pain is that it stop", J-Dawg tells the technician how to fix the machine. Apparently his rule about not giving aid to the enemy is only for when doing so would help you. If it hurts you, go for it.
This illogicality - and boy howdy, to any Randites reading this, that IS illogical - frightens off the government torturers, who apparently weren't as ruthless as Dick Cheney or Nancy Pelosi, and gives his buddies the opportunity to rescue him in true Wild West style. One knows how easy it is to break into highly guarded secret facilities, huh?
Then they all fly back to Galt's Compound together, and live happily ever after. Of course, Cisco and jilted Hank live happily alone...but at least they got to watch everyone in New York City die in riots and terror. Now they can carve out their bachelor lives in a lonely wilderness in which men outnumber women at least 15 to 1. They'd have to be happy in that situation, after all...A is A.
Don't be. If Atlas Shrugged is taken as just a fictional representation of several philosophic themes that Ayn Rand is trying to get across, it generally works. At least in the sense that as boring as it might be at times for a novel, it's by far the most interesting philosophy text book you'll ever read! In that sense, it is a fantastic achievement for teaching people philosophical ideas without them needing to pour over often times dry and complex text books.
Why Galt and the others seem so silly, illogical and oft times mean is for them being taken as real by readers who should know better. You see, there is an enormous difference between made up characters acting in odd fashions so as to move the story or the point along, versus real people.
It makes sense for Galt not to sleep with anyone till he meets the "ideal woman", as he is portrayed here as an "archetype". In life, such celibacy would typically mean some deep psychological problems. Thus if this book is taken as a blueprint for life, it fails quite miserably.
You probably know this. If you are not a "college bred pansie", that is. Randites - or those who take Rand not as an author but as some kind of secular Messiah - do not. They have "Biblified" her books, most notably "Atlas Shrugged", and seek to claim that what is described is "what would really happen if the geniuses went on strike". They believe that all that the heroes in the book do is moral. I would suggest they... lol..."check their premises".
The "John Galt" article then, like the "Atlas Shrugged" article, makes fun of the people who take it literally. The article on John Galt speaks of his life as described in the book, but in realistic terms. Like the stalking of Dagny. In the book, as in so many Meg Ryan movies, this behavior is cute and indicates strong love. In life, it indicates eeriness and restraining orders.
Sadly, while this is an important subject, well worthy of lampooning, if you have NOT read the book Atlas Shrugged or for that matter, The Fountainhead, you are not going to laugh very hard. Any more then you'd laugh about clocks striking 13 at the Ministry of Love if you've not read 1984.