The weight of the world
“Who is John Galt?”
Is it a cheap American slang?
Atlas Shrugged is the last Ayn Rand’s novel that I’m currently reading, shortly after The Fountainhead. My friend Geoffrey Cain asked me whether I had read Atlas Shrugged when I posted some notes about The Fountainhead. Bigger in scope than the previous book, Ayn the novelist and philosopher blasts the world for conspiracy of silence. The book was published more a decade after the World War II.
I’ve got a used book, a paperback edition, for US$ 3.5 from D’s bookstore in town early this month. Of 1088 pages, I still have more than 500 pages to go, but I can’t wait to post a note of it now.
Ayn Rand’s masterpiece. It integrates the basic elements of an entire philosophy into a highly complex, yet dramatically compelling plot—set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists. The theme is: “the role of the mind in man’s existence—and, as corollary, the demonstration of a new moral philosophy: the morality of rational self-interest.”
In her book, in a democratic country like the United States, its government, the media, the public, and many prominent people rumbles around two people; Dagny Taggart, railroad executive, and Hank Rearden, the inventor of Rearden Metal, who have to carry the weight of the world. The way that the majority are against them is not that they’re too poor in managing their business, but that they’re so incredibly amazing.
The main conflict of the book occurs as the “individuals of the mind” go on strike, refusing to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research, or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world. Society, they believe, hampers them by interfering with their work and underpays them by confiscating the profits and dignity they have rightfully earned. The peaceful cohesiveness of the world requires those individuals whose productive work comes from mental effort. But feeling they have no alternative, they eventually start disappearing from the communities of “looters” and “moochers” who bleed them dry. The strikers believe that they are crucial to a society that exploits them, and the near-total collapse of civilization triggered by their strike shows them to be correct.
According to the author’s Web site, this fiction is an integration of all her philosophy into a novel that is readable, enjoyable by the fact that inventors and innovators are seen as threat to the society. I feel that her literature work plays a fair role in revolutionizing the thinking of American people.
Like so many achievements, Atlas Shrugged received some negative review, too. This is the way thing exists on this planet.
Since a great many of us dislike much that Miss Rand dislikes, quite as heartily as she does, many incline to take her at her word. It is the more persuasive, in some quarters, because the author deals wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites.
In Rand’s conclusion, as far as I can guess after reading The Fountainhead, it’s the man like Howard Roark, Hank Rearden, and Dagny Taggart who move the world.