Posts Tagged ‘Animal Farm’

Recently, some have wondered whether the current economic climate means that it is time for those “who believe in productivity, personal responsibility, and keeping government interference to a minimum” to “go John Galt.”*

In Atlas Shrugged, John Galt leads the striking captains of industry to a private utopia until the “looters,” who want to ruin everything with regulation and the exploitation of their ideas, self destruct and clear the way for their triumphant return.  Part of this self destruction involves a train accident.  Rand’s description of the first person who died:

The man in Bedroom A, Car No. 1, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence, that individual effort is futile, that an individual conscience is a useless luxury, that there is no individual mind or character or achievement, that everything is achieved collectively, and that it’s masses that count, not men (560).

While a sociologist is the first to go (one who appears to rely a bit more on structure than agency), he is not the only academic to face Rand’s wrath.  Professors of economics and philosophy also meet their demise, along with a journalist, a school teacher, a newspaper publisher, a financier, a worker, a lecturer, a mother and her two children, a playwright, a housewife, a lawyer, an heir, and unnamed others.  While the deaths of innocent individuals might cause other authors some anguish, Rand dismisses their deaths with the statement that “there was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas” (562).  In Rand’s world, only the industrial leaders are worthy of life.

Rand’s background makes the extreme position she takes a bit more understandable.  She was born in Russia in 1905 (the brief biography in the back of Atlas Shrugged states that she taught herself to read at age six!) and witnessed the Karensky Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution.  Her father’s pharmacy was confiscated by Communists and in college at the University of Petrograd (to study history and philosophy – her professors must have been so proud when she killed one of them off!) she “experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by commmunist thugs.”  In 1925 she left the USSR for a visit to relatives in the US and never returned.

Despite understanding Rand’s point of view, I still prefer critiques of the USSR in the form of Animal Farm to those in the form of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.  Besides, Animal Farm is only 139 pages long, while Atlas Shrugged is 1,074!  These issues are also explored in the video game BioShock, which features an art style similar to that of Atlas Shrugged‘s excellent cover by Nick Gaetano.  Finally, there is the refusal of a nine-year-old genius to go Galt in Rodent Mutation.

*Of course, there is reason to question how many of these people actually understand the situation.

-Rand, Ayn.  1992 (1957).  Atlas Shrugged.  Signet.

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