Atlas Shrugged LO9800

Grover Partee (
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 14:12:46 -0700

Linked arbitrarily to LO9708 by your host --

I read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" about 30 years ago. It seemed
fascinating to me at that more impressionable age.

Rand's John Galt is a mythic hero not too unlike Eastwood's Dirty Harry
and Schwarzeneggar's Conan. The character shows up repeatedly in Western
sagas including, of course, "High Noon" and "Shane." The loner hero is a
peculiar fixation of Americans, especially American men. We all want to
see the cavalry riding over the hill to rescue everyone. We fantasize
about personally leading the charge, but the bottom line is someone is the
victim and someone is the hero. The stories inspire some to greatness but
lull most into complacency. I don't have to worry about my business being
unscrupulous; the Board will figure things out soon and appoint a better
CEO. I don't have to try to change the way my country does business; I'll
just elect a better president. Why should I worry about the schools in my
community; let's get the school board to appoint a new superintendant and
he can fix everything.

Galt is a great model so long as we have the experience to recognize it as
a metaphor for our own internal struggle with ourselves. When we begin to
try to actualize it in the world, we may get Christ, Buddha or Mohammed,
but we are somewhat more likely to get David Koresh or the Rev. Jim Jones.
In the business sphere, such men as Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie are
often put forth as exemplifying the solitary hero. But so does Robert
Vesco, the "movers and shakers" behind the S&L debacle, and, in a slightly
different line of "business," Al Capone and John Dillinger. Hitler,
Stalin, Idi Amin and Noriega are also in the mythic hero mold.

Rand's philosophy (or, pehaps more correctly, Nathaniel Braden's philosphy
build on the natterings of Rand's characters) says quite clearly "Lead,
follow or get out of the way," "Unless you're the lead dog, the view
never changes," and "Winning isn't the main thing; it's the only thing."
It comes of viewing life (and business) as a zero-sum game. There's no
way *we* can win. I can win or you can win, but someone has to lose.
There's only so much wealth in the world. I can't create it. I can only
take it away from you.

In an only slightly different light, John Galt is a sociopath. He's on
the same journey as the slightly less successful Unibomber. Galt was
successful in the novel (and remember it IS a novel) just as the Unibomber
was successful in HIS fantasies. Success in the real world is a somewhat
more complex thing.

Man is a communal animal. We are descended from creatures who were able
to survive because they banded together in families, clans, and tribes.
Even our primate cousins recognize the value (as well as safety) in
numbers. We're talking about learning *organizations* here. Not
solitary, self-absorbed, antisocial and potentially dangerous whackos.

Grover Partee
Facilitation & Process Support
Seattle, WA


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