Posts Tagged john galt

3:6 The Concerto of Deliverance, “Bureaucrazy”

PREVIOUSLY: Poindexter the Regulator warned Hank that Wesley Mouch was quietly filling all the jobs in Hank’s mills with “goons.”

Hank learns from the newspapers that his workers asked for a raise — but they asked the Unification Board and not him. And the Board turned them down. The newspaper articles breeze right past that fact and paint Hank as a villainous robber baron. He thinks the “lamestream media” is

counting on the public to forget legal technicalities under a barrage of stories implying that the government was the natural cause of all miseries suffered by its citizens.

Wait, excuse me, that’s a transcription error. What Ayn wrote reads:

counting on the public to forget legal technicalities under a barrage of stories implying that an employer  was the natural cause of all miseries suffered by employees.

Sorry, wrong egregious generalization. Here I thought Ayn meant to satirize false media narratives from REAL life. My bad. Anyway, FOX, er, the “fictional press” is using heated populist rhetoric that Hank grimly thinks might incite the gullible to violence.

Meanwhile Hank gets a notice in the mail that all of his assets have been frozen to pay for back taxes that he doesn’t actually owe. He starts getting calls from IRS agents apologizing for the mistake, just a technicality, the hold will be lifted soon we promise etc. The highest-ranking guy Hank speaks to cajoles him into a friendly off-the-record meeting with the top power-brokers at State, just like the one Dagny had to attend last chapter. Hank takes all of these events in with keen diffidence, certain this is all some shell game to fuck with him but uncertain as to what for.

NEXT! Hank gets a call from his mom Lucille, pitifully asking him to meet with her and brother Buster. He relents and visits his house for the first time in months. Lillian is also there, which pisses him off, but he sits down and hears their case, the gist of which is that they’re terrified Hank will disappear like the others. They tell him they know they’ve been ungrateful and cruel and wrong, and please please will you forgive us?

But Hank is past caring. He rolls his eyes at them and tells them it’s too late. They didn’t respect him when it could’ve made a difference, and they’re only coming around now out of desperation. They haven’t earned forgiveness, they’re still just trying to dilute his awesomeness with their patheticness.

As he moves to leave, Buster tells him he can’t disappear without money and Hank realizes that’s the purpose of the tax freeze. Then, in a last desperate play, Lillian vindictively tell him that before they divorced she fucked Jim Taggart, who she doesn’t even like, so there.  Hank is nonplussed. “Oookay… what are you telling me for?” With that parting remark he sees her soul die inside and her face crumple in defeat. She has degraded only herself, and now she realizes it.  Hank exits.

NEXT! Hank is in New York for his meeting with Mouch, Taggart, Ferris, all the usual shitbags. They’re very unctuous, “Hank Hank, come in, we love your input, we should hang out more often!” He’s as bored with this schtick as I am. They run a Steel Unification Plan by him and he’s like “Makes no sense, everyone will go broke.” They do their best to ignore that and insist they must “equalize the sacrifice.” Hank is about done here, thank you.

Jim, like Lillian before him, makes a last ditch effort to keep Hank’s attention, but left with no rational argument defending the plan, he simply says he’s sure Hank will do something. This makes Hank realize (for like the sixth time) that their whole plan is to leave all the work to him and then consume all the value he creates. Jesus this chapter is nearly as repetitive as the last one.

Hank’s (and our) time thoroughly wasted, he storms off and drives back to the mills, only to see upon approach that while he was diverted the gang of goons Mouch had been slipping into his labor force has started a riot at the plant.

Before he reaches the mob at the gates Hank fishtails to a stop. Down a slope on the side of the road he sees a discarded body and rushes down to it. It’s Poindexter!

Poindexter explains he was shot for refusing to help the rioters. The riot itself has been staged so that Mouch has an excuse to pass the Plan he pitched to Hank even if Hank won’t sign off. And sure, he’s coughing blood and dying now, but he feels good about himself for the first time ever because he finally stood up for something. Hank makes him promise to use that newfound will power to keep breathing just a little bit longer, until Hank can find him a doctor. Nevertheless, as Hank picks him up and scales the hill back to his car, poor Poindexter expires in his arms.

Hank kisses his forehead and is suddenly overwhelmed with “a desire to kill.” Not the thugs who shot Poindexter, or the bureaucrats who hired the thugs. No, he wants to murder all of the nation’s college professors, just as a class of people, for teaching Poindexter the wrong values. He thinks Poindexter’s mother should have poisoned him as a child rather than send him off to higher education. Once again let me emphasize that I am not embellishing here. I just… there are no words.

PAUSE. Well, a few words. Seriously?? This is the sort of stuff you’d find in a serial killer’s notebooks after he was caught and be like, “Oh, I get it now.” Just, holy shit.

PLAY. Hank generously tempers his bloodlust for… teachers… by thinking how there were once good educators like Hugh Akston, the World’s Greatest Philosopher, who now lives in Galt’s Gulch and who, last time we saw him, was similarly extolling the satisfaction he’d feel if he murdered his peers. What a coincidence! A disturbing, disturbing coincidence…

Hank, in his blinding fury, strides right into the mob at the entrance to the mills. He sees that the workers loyal to him have somehow armed themselves and mostly quelled the rioting on the inside. Somebody on the roof is shooting down at the rabble around the gates with a semi-automatic in each hand. Hank admires his competent, efficient gunmanship. Yes, nothing more inspiring than a man on a rooftop firing indiscriminately into a crowd of people, am I right? Bashar Assad gets it.

Okay to be fair, in this particular case the mob is state-sponsored and here to do innocent people harm — and to prove that, a couple of the rioting thugs advance on Hank and beat him about the head, as thugs are wont to do. As he passes out he sees the gunman leap down from the roof, blow the thugs’ heads clean off, and carry him away.

Some time later Hank wakes up in his office. The staff doctor and superintendent are there taking care of him. They tell him the mills have been secured. The gunman was a newly-promoted foreman who smuggled in the arms so they could protect themselves, and no doubt he saved a lot of lives. He is waiting outside to see Hank.

The doctor and superintendent leave, and in comes the new hire: it’s Francisco! He’s been slumming it on the bottom rung of Hank’s ladder since he disappeared, just like Galt has over at Dagny’s. Frankie and Hank don’t fuck in the mud like Galt and Dags did, but you can tell they’d both be down if someone suggested it. It’s okay guys, your insane authorial God is cool with the socially liberal stuff.

Anyway they stare deeply into each other’s eyes and it’s pretty obvious that Hank is finally ready to leave the world behind for Francisco’s warm embrace and the pastoral beauty of Galt’s Gulch. Without further hesitation, they do just that.

NEXT — 3:7 This is John Galt Speaking, “Hype Machine”

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3:5 Their Brothers’ Keepers, “Plot Point Monotony”

PREVIOUSLY: The same goddamn shit happened over and over, and will now happen again. This book is like an experiment in Nietzschean eternal recurrence.

Jim has been incredibly needy with Dagny ever since Cheryl died, but still seems to resent Dags for his dependency (Plot Point Monotony #1).  The night D’Anconia Copper is to be nationalized he holds her in his office waiting for the news report to come in. As Dagny checks her watch, he says a bunch of ridiculous barely coherent things. Like his emotionally abused wife before him, he seems to be on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.

And that doesn’t get any better when the news finally hits: Francisco has blown up all of his company’s holdings, literally, and drained all the D’Anconia bank accounts. There is nothing for the government to lay claim to. Francisco has disappeared for good.

PLOT POINT MONOTONY #2-5: This is the fourth time that Francisco has very publicly ruined his own business and the global economy to send a message. The San Sebastian mines, the stock collapse, the shipments Ragbeard sank for him, now this.

When Dagny and Hank meet for a friendly dinner the following night they bask in the afterglow of Francisco’s dubious victory, though things quickly turn back to the grim realities of maintaining life on the grid. Specifically, the country’s shipping priorities and transportation infrastructure have become such a wacky parody of an economy that America’s supply of grain is all stuck in Minnesota with no way of getting to the eastern seaboard. Mass starvation will ensue!

Oh well. The giant LCD screen in Times Square or wherever switches to a new image reading, “Brother, you had it coming. -Francisco” and Dagny and Hank laugh like assholes at this renegade message. Yeah, the millions of starving people who will suffer the consequences of Francisco’s terrorism totally had it coming. Because of all the terrible things that… Jim Taggart and Orren Boyle and Wesley Mouch did. Obviously! Sweet sweet… justice?

Back in Philly, Hank is at his mills congratulating himself for being a heartless bastard and the world’s greatest amateur philosopher (Francisco and Galt being credentialed, of course) when his whiny brother Buster slinks up to him and asks for a job. They have the same conversation that Hank already had about Buster with his mother, twice, and with Buster himself, also twice (PLOT POINT MONOTONY #6-9!) Hank’s take-away this time is that Buster and his ilk are “men who worship pain.” Hank can now “feel nothing” and considers people like Buster “inanimate objects” or “refuse.” If general sociopathy counts as a monotonous plot point, this is example #710.

NEXT! Hank goes to the Philly courthouse to finalize his divorce. He is so sickened by the lawyers and the judge that when he leaves he feels he has “divorced the whole of the human society that supported the [modern judiciary].” One more mark in the anarchist column.

NEXT! Hank returns to work. Again. (Plot Point Monotony #815)  His primary responsibility still seems to be self-righteous glowering, though. This time he’s approached by the Ivy League poindexter who’s supposed to make sure Hank follows government regulations. Poindexter has seen the light and wants a job, a real job. Even though he says his college degree in metallurgy is worthless (wow guy, you sure know how to ace an interview), he’ll put in the effort to make up for his lack of experience. Hank likes him but turns him down, because Poindexter’s Washington friends would never let them get away with it, and Poindexter understands. He warns Hank that the state has been replacing all his departing workers with “goons” and thugs.

NEXT! Dagny is handling the latest railroad crisis caused by various shortages (PLOT POINT MONOTONY x 1,000,000). There are more extraneous anecdotes about train schedules (x 2,000,000!). One passage mocks a Buddhist widow using government grants to grow soybeans, as if soybeans are a foolish investment even though they are the biggest crop in the U.S. behind corn today. Shut up, Ayn.

Doc Stadler is on the radio preaching that just as medicine is left to doctors and electronics to engineers, thinking should be left to elite thinkers, and everybody else should just shut up and take it without question. This is supposed to be a bitter satire of evil, but it sounds like Objectivism to me, vis a vis how the average person should accept moral inferiority as proper to their station and defer to the judgments of an inherently virtuous elite. Shut up, Ayn.

Where were we? Oh right, the bumper crop of wheat in Minnesota is rotting because there’s not enough trains to circulate it around the country. The soy crop fails because of farmer incompetence. Oh well! Suffice it to say millions of Americans are starving to death and there’s riots and stuff and you should blame Buddhism and the FDA and… beans, for some reason. God shut up Ayn shut up so much! 

So at Jim’s request, Dagny goes to an ‘off-the-record’ dinner meeting with all the big wigs at State, who mostly try to — pardon the expression — railroad her into silent compliance with whatever their latest bullshit scheme is. One of these guys says:

“It’s a great responsibility …to hold the decision of life or death over thousands of people and to sacrifice them when necessary, but we mast have the courage to do it.”

Which, again, is effectively synonymous with John Galt’s dictum that the meritorious need the intellectual courage to tell the masses to fuck off and die. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

The bureaucrats argue over where to ration resources and decide to let the east starve so they can keep enough trains available to send troops around the country to maintain order and authority, which is threatened mostly by food riots. Priorities! Dagny is disgusted and when a call comes about another pressing emergency at the railroad (Plot Point Monotony x 2,000,001…) she is happy to escape.

Power has gone out at Transcon Terminal. All the trains are halted. Dags corrals her switch operator to lay out a plan for manually guiding the trains to their tracks. She assembles all of the laborers before her and announces the strategy.

But she is distracted when she sees John Galt himself is one of the grimy tunnel workers. Gasp! This is where he hides out when he’s on the grid, how he keeps an eye on Dags! She gets weak in the knees, which I still think is an odd reaction to being stalked by a guy who is basically L. Ron Hubbard.

Nonetheless she wraps up her speech and then sneaks off into the ancient abandoned tunnels of the railroad. Sure enough, as she intended, Galt follows her. Hidden away with the rats and decrepit debris, they make violent and passionate love in the dirt. She bites him, he elbows her, they think about metaphysics. It’s the usual mash-up of 50 Shades of Grey and a pretentious college dissertation. 

This time, the sex is so good that when Galt cups her boob she has a transcendent vision of the meaning of life, and all of her accomplishments flash before her eyes. I know it can be hard to tell sometimes if I’m exaggerating, so let me be clear: that’s literally what happens.

After she cums, “she gasp[s] and lay[s] still, knowing that nothing more could be desired, ever.” The End!

If only. No, they lie down on a pile of sand and burlap sacks (ROMANCE) and confess their love for each other. Galt says he was the shadowy figure who approached Dagny’s door in the alley that one time, as if anyone actually still cares about that shit. He tells her he will pay the price for breaking cover so he could ravish her. Word will get back to Jim, the statists will finally catch him and expose the shadow faction. She doesn’t buy it.

Whatever, Galt shrugs. When she wants to jump the sinking ship and elope to Galt’s Gulch, she should graffiti the statue of her great-grandfather Nat Taggart witha $, and he will come for her within 24 hours. Unless it’s too late… Then he leaves to go back to his menial labor job. Dagny wanders back upstairs, exhausted by his brilliant penis mind! Mind.

NEXT — 3:6 The Concerto of Deliverance, “Bureaucrazy”

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3:2 Utopia of Greed cont’d, “The Second Rule of Right Club”

PREVIOUSLY: Dagny loves the idyllic Galt’s Gulch. The residents constantly talk about how the outside world deserves righteous annihilation, but after a while even that starts to seem eminently reasonable.

The end of the 10th annual Galt’s Gulch Summer Vacation Month is rapidly approaching.

Dagny and Galt take one morning to visit Francisco’s small copper mine in the hills near town, and Dagny gets all caught up in the creative energy that she immediately begins designing a railroad to connect the mine to the town in her mind.

Then she remembers her national railroad system that was meant to connect hundreds, thousands of towns, linking them to energy sources and food supplies. A wave of guilt washes over her and she despairs that she can’t bring herself to say “Fuck you world” like everybody else in the Gulch. But Galt assures her that that’s fair. Until she is able to face all the humanitarian horrors that await the world and shrug in response, then she’s right to feel like she doesn’t belong.

On their way back from the mine, Francisco asks Dagny that in case this last week of vacation is the last week they ever spend together, would she like to come stay with him at his remote love shack? But Dagny’s crushing on Galt now. She’s like “Oh well I’ve got this job. What do you think, Master?” And Galt is clearly giving her this look like, “Seriously, you’re making me do this? Weak.” But he says, “Sorry Frankie, but she stays with me,” because despite their nihilistic foreign policy the residents of this eden do not bullshit each other about their feelings.

Francisco takes that pretty well, all things considered, and Dagny feels utterly relieved that she can now pour hot candle wax all over Galt’s naked body without ruining her oldest friendship.  She starts to understand all theiresentment of the outside world, where the resolution of a love triangle like this one would never be so free of drama.

PAUSE. I’d like to point out here that Francisco D’Anconia is basically Ayn Rand’s loyal cuckold husband, Frank O’Connor, and John Galt is her polyamorous lover Nat Branden. All of the ‘shipper plotlines in this book are thus revealed to be Rand’s fan-fiction about her own life and her personal pornographic fantasies. Ridiculous.

PLAY. As Dagny leaves the farmer’s market with the fresh groceries for dinner, she happens to see another small plane circling in the skies above the town’s reflector cloak. She runs up to a high point to try and get a closer look and of course it is Hank Rearden, desperately hunting for signs of Dagny’s presumably dead body. This gives her another pang of regret at ignoring the tribulations of the outside world.

So when the Objectivist brain trust meets with her on the day before the end of summer vacation, and when they ask her if she has decided to stay or to go… she says she won’t be sure until the morning. They (Galt, Francisco, Mulligan, whoever) all consent to this, and then turn to their internal matters of business.

Specifically, everybody is moving to the Gulch permanently, no more dallying in the outside world. Francisco estimates he’ll be able to disappear completely from society in four months’ time. But Galt declares that he’s considering going back to his undercover life on the grid for a while.

Everybody is like, “Dear God, man, why?” and Galt is like “It’s my call,” and they’re like, “Yeah sure, but let’s remember a few salient facts here.”

And then they shoot off a list of all the terrible fucked up things that’re going on back in society proper. Mass starvation, no fuel, collapsing infrastructure, police crackdowns on civil unrest. It’s a fucking war zone. Everybody’s moving to the Gulch because it’s the only safe place left.

In the middle of this cavalcade of atrocities Dagny leaps up and shouts, “Fuck that!” and the assembled Objectivists turn to her  like, “You mean, ‘fuck the world’?” And Dagny scoffs. “No, fuck you guys! Somewhere out there, there are people who deserve to live in Galt’s Gulch too, people who you and I have never met. And as long as they’re out there, I’m not going to abandon the world to the senseless destruction you have wrought! Fuck!”

They would quibble with their culpability, of course, but mostly they just tell Dagny they’re sorry for what she’s about to put herself through. She’s like, “It’s okay. You have a beautiful thing going here. But ‘so long as men desire to live, I cannot lose my battle.'”

And Akston, World’s Greatest Philosopher, is like, “Oh silly little Dagny. Do they desire to live though? Do they really?” You know this ‘philosopher’ has a real yen to justify killing people, is anybody else picking up on that?

Anyway they’re all confident that Dagny will eventually realize the error of her ways and return to the fold. But for now she will have to be led out of the valley blindfolded and treated as an enemy.

Before she goes, Francisco and Galt take her back to Francisco’s place for one last drink. Galt announces that he has firmly decided to return to the world as well, and that’s the last clue Francisco needs.

He lets them know that he’s picked up on the sexual tension between them and doesn’t mind. He knew that when they inevitably met he would lose Dagny because obviously Sexy Capitalist Jesus is the alpha male in any room he’s in, so… what’reyagonnado, am I right?

Anyway poor Frankie has this pair of ancient goblets that belonged to his  ancestor Sebastian, who first came to the new world, and Sebastian’s wife, whom only joined him there years later. And Frankie kept these goblets here in the valley so that when Dagny arrived, the two of them could drink from them together.

But hey, if she’s into John now, then whatever. Dagny and Galt can drink from them. it’s not like this was a moment Frisco pictured for his whole goddamn adult life or anything. Totally fine. Cheers!

PAUSE. Fucking seriously? Look, you gotta do what you gotta do, but Dagny, you just met this guy a few weeks ago, and he’s a smirky douche who runs a cult and plots global destruction. Meanwhile, here’s Francisco, stoic badass of stoic badasses, who did all of the dirty work, who put himself in danger, who is currently witnessing his lifelong dreams turn to ashes in the most bitterly ironic way possible and taking it like a man, like a total boss… and you’re picking the smarmy asshole whose only claim to fame is refusing to do any work? This is some bullshit. Fucktarded. And I would say it’s all understandable under the maxim of “the heart wants what it wants,” but Ayn Rand herself would never accept that as justification, so… ridiculous.

PLAY. The three of them toast, perhaps bittersweetly, and go their separate ways. The following morning Galt tells Dagny he is returning to the world, undercover, to be there when she changes her mind. She’s into it.

The blindfold goes on, Galt flies them out of the valley, and, once she’s left alone on a remote airstrip, Dagny realizes that, basically, she’s fallen in love with Tyler Durden.

NEXT — 3:3 Anti-Greed, “Internet Metaphor Death Ray”

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3:2 Utopia of Greed, “The First Rule of Right Club”

PREVIOUSLY: Our heroine stumbled upon John Galt and his organic, locavore, good-vibes utopia in the Rockies. It’s a little weird.

Dagny wakes up to find John Galt staring at her. She’s into it. She offers to cook them breakfast. He’s into it. He goes off to run some errands, and Dagny is all like, “Wow, I’m a feminist prototype but I’m really enjoying this traditional domestic gender role right now,” until there’s a knock at the door.

Whaddya know, it’s the Dread Pirate Ragbeard. He’s here because all the secret meritocrats come every June for summer vacation. Francisco, apparently, is late. Galt gets back and they all have a drink together. Mimosas? Who knows. It is early.

Ragbeard goes on about his noble mission to rob from the poor and give back to the rich. He mentions that Dagny has an account waiting for her at the top-secret World’s Greatest Bank here in the valley. He does not mention to Dagny that he dedicated his life to this mission as a big fuck you to a folk tale. Idiot.

After he leaves, Dagny tells Galt she doesn’t want his money because that guy is a fucking moron. Preach it sister. She and Galt settle on an arrangement. She will stay in Galt’s Gulch for the summer vacation month, then decide whether to join or leave permanently. In the meantime she will pay her way by being Galt’s servant. Which is her idea, by the way, because this bitch is mad kinky.

So then Dagny’s old employee Owen Kellogg pops by with news from the outside world. Everybody thinks Dagny is dead, including and especially Hank Rearden. Kthanksbye! Owen leaves. Dagny gets to patching up Galt’s shirts, fretting about how to send Hank word that she’s safe, when Francisco shows up.

Our Man Frankie is all in a tizzy. He’s late for summer vacation because he was desperately searching for Dagny’s body in the mountains. Galt is like, “Yeah about that…” and calls Dagny out of her servant’s quarters or wherever to reunite with her childhood sweetheart.

Frankie is overwhelmed. He confesses his undying love to Dagny, ecstatic that she is finally here and can appreciate this utopian valley, this place that he became Batman to fight for. He reminds her of the night he had the nervous breakdown in her bed, explains that he made the decision to ally with Galt that night because of her, because of a vision of the three of them here, in this future, in this refuge of freedom, all liberated together.

Dagny is overwhelmed. Francisco soothes her fears that he expects her romantic devotion in return. He understands it’s been too long for that. He is just happy and grateful that all of the secrets are now out on the table. And Dagny’s thinking, “Yeah but this is still gonna get real awkward when I tell you I’m gonna fuck your best friend.”

She and Frisco visit his house, and they talk about Galt’s Gulch and their mission and the outside world, and as always when one of Galt’s acolytes considers the world beyond Galt’s borders, they get extremely resentful and bitter and threatening. But Dagny is so overwhelmed with the journey-to-Oz-like nature of her experience that even that is starting to seem natural. NOOO Dagny! Resist The Destroyer!

Anyway, summer vacation passes day by day, it’s all pretty uneventful. The community holds lectures and seminars on science and futurism but Dagny isn’t allowed to come. She can go to the concerts and plays though. We don’t get any details about them but I think we can be sure they are The World’s Greatest.

Meanwhile all the submissive roleplay at her new job is getting Dagny extremely worked up. Whenever Galt leaves the house she paces around thinking about all the dirty dirty things they could do together. Jesus, just rub one out Dags. You’re usually so ahead of the curve on this stuff.

This routine carries on. Galt comes home, flirts and taunts her, she digs at him right back. “I’ve been watching you.” “You want to hold me here, don’t you? Keep me to yourself?” “Yes.” Then, once the gears are wound, they go to their separate rooms and masturbate furiously Dagny listens to Galt lighting a sexually frustrated cigarette.

One day late in the month, Dagny is enjoying a private performance by The World’s Greatest Composer, Richard Halley. After he wraps up, he explains to Dagny in excruciating and rhetorically tortured detail that he loathes the outside world because audiences felt feelings when they listened to his music, instead of appreciating it as an abstract but specific intellectual argument that should be appreciated solely in line with authorial intent.

What the fuck is wrong with this guy? Maybe, if you want your work to be interpreted so specifically and intellectually, MUSIC was the WRONG FIELD. ASSHOLE.

Dagny also spends time with The World’s Greatest Actress, who is also Ragbeard’s wife by the way, just because.  She said “Fuck you world” because she kept getting type-cast as sexpots and bitches. Guys isn’t their cause so righteous? It’s inspiring.

The piece de resistance of this demographic sampling is when Dagny meets The World’s Greatest Mother, who is the only person allowed to bring children into Galt’s Gulch because they don’t fit neatly into Ayn Rand’s philosophy she wants to home-school them. And also banish irrationality from their lives. Good luck with that.

And then, on a quiet starry evening some time around halfway through the summer vacation, Dagny finds herself sitting outside The World’s Greatest Philosopher’s house with Akston, Galt, Francisco, Ragbeard, and Ragbeard’s Wife. The men reminisce about their time at Patrick Henry University, and that one time Galt came up with this crazy idea of living peacefully in a remote valley and oh yeah also destroying civilization because “Fuck you world.”

This reminds Dagny of her meetings with Dr. Stadler, the boys’ other mentor from Patrick Henry, the disillusioned man whose life-force finally atrophied because he… took a job funded by grant money? Ayn, we’re like 700 pages in here, could you please stop ruining evocative characterizations already? Ugh. Anyway if y’all think Stadler sucks now wait til you read the next chapter.

So Akston is like “If I could murder anyone on earth — not that I condone murder — but if I did want to murder someone — not that I do, because I definitely do not condone murder — I would totally murder Dr. Stadler. Theoretically. If I condoned murder. Which I don’t.” And Dagny just nods, because as fucked up as this place is getting, let’s face it: when you’re drowning in kool-aid it’s impossible not to drink some.

NEXT — 3:2 The Utopia of Greed cont’d, “The Second Rule of Right Club”

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3:1 Atlantis, “Meet John Galt”

As we all know, the global economy is collapsing from overconsumption. In the book, I mean. Unemployment, famine, drought, all that. Meanwhile, America’s captains of industry have all dropped off the grid except for Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden. Dagny has finally managed to track down the disappearing elites to their secret hide-out. The full recap of Parts One & Two here.

Dagny wakes up on the grass near her destroyed Cessna and sees a charismatic bronze Adonis staring at her. Immediately her thoughts turn to going down on this fine masculine specimen, even though she was just in a plane crash like five minutes ago. Cool it Dags, I’m pretty sure it’s the concussion.

This Sexy Capitalist Jesus informs her that he is the infamous John Galt, and then they start flirting, like, her legs are probably broken dude, a little more urgency here? He does presently pick her up and carry her over the crest of the little hill where she crashed, revealing a small town in the valley below.

Arriving at the scene are The World’s Greatest Philosopher Hugh Akston, The World’s Greatest Banker Midas Mulligan, and The World’s Greatest Oil Magnate Ellis Wyatt. They’re all, “Dagny, long time no see! Are you one of us now?” But Galt informs them she is technically an intruder.

Everybody keeps speaking cryptically about their almost religious devotion to life in this valley, which goes by the name Galt’s Gulch. Galt is like, “Okay okay, one step at a time boys,” and takes Dagny to his house to recuperate.

Once they’re alone, he gently mocks her for her previous belief that he was the villain of the story, The Destroyer of the World. “How did you know about that?” she wonders, but it’s becoming pretty clear that he and his covert fellowship have been stalking Dagny for the entire book. She’s cool with it, even though that’s actually pretty weird.

Soon The World’s Greatest Doctor arrives with some futuristic portable x-ray device (commonly known as a Tricorder), and is like, “Don’t worry, that fiery plane crash you were in only left some bruises and a sprained ankle.” Jesus, Ayn, you’re barely even trying anymore.

Galt offers Dagny a delicious plate of locally grown organic food to restore her strength. She asks where he got it, and he explains that in Galt’s Gulch, the CEOs of car companies and coal companies and so on are all now small farmers with specialty crops that everybody sells to each other, farmer’s market style. Their currency is gold and silver only, minted by Midas Mulligan, and nobody is allowed to share or give gifts. In fact the word ‘give’ is forbidden.

Even though that last part sounds kind of bizarre and cult-like (and compulsory), Dagny is fascinated by the unexpected dynamic of ruthless capitalists acting out hippies’ ideals of sustainable community living. She demands that Galt show her around the valley right away.

Their first stop on the tour is Mulligan’s house. In addition to banking he is now a tobacco farmer. He makes the $tamped cigarettes. Next they visit Sanders, the founder and CEO of let’s-call-it Boeing Aircraft. For some reason when Sanders left, the vast fleet of engineers and their industrial means of production at his company all forgot how to build airplanes, while he, who probably hadn’t picked up a wrench in a decade or more before coming to the valley, is able to single-handedly build electric tractors and, more relevantly, repair Dagny’s Cessna. Ayn, you suck. So hard.

Galt takes Dagny through some woods. They meet The World’s Greatest Contractor (contracts for WHAT, Ayn?), now the valley’s utility maintenance man. They see a beautiful woman by the lake whom was The World’s Greatest Author, who now does the town’s fishing. Galt calls her a “fishwife.” What is this, Dickensian London?

Past the lake they come to Ellis Wyatt’s place, where he has perfected an environmentally-sound method of fracking. Wyatt praises the valley’s ethos of self-sufficiency, innovation, and sustainability, and then gets dark and bitter about the outside world, which he calls hell.

So they keep visiting The World’s Greatest Rich People, who are all now happy manual laborers in this libertarian commune. Yes, it’s a commune. Fuck you if you say otherwise. They meet The World’s Greatest Actress, who earned that title by being the most prettiest and glamorous actress of them all. Seriously, Ayn? Weak sauce for a proto-feminist. Weak sauce.

Eventually Galt brings Dagny to Francisco’s house (he isn’t there), which is extremely remote from the rest of the town in a Zen monastery kind of way. She is reminded how much Frisco has sacrificed, including his relationship with her, in order to stop the consumption of earth.

But that doesn’t keep her and Galt from making eyes at each other as he takes her to the power plant where his revolutionary electric motor powers the entire operation. He won’t let her inside, because technically she isn’t a member of their secret society. Then they stare at each other some more and simmer in their sexual tension before heading back to town so Dagny can rest up.

That night, after Dagny’s nap, Galt takes her to dinner at Midas Mulligan’s. The other guests are World’s Greatest Doctor, Judge, Philosopher, Oil Man, Physicist, Coal Magnate, and Classical Musician (Richard Halley, Dagny’s favorite composer). They all flatter Dagny and talk up Galt’s Gulch as a wonderful utopia, not like the rest of the world which is an evil shitpile and everyone there should go die in a ditch.

Despite the return of the disturbing cult elements, Dagny is overwhelmed by how happy and satisfied all her peers are living this way, and how serene and peaceful the valley is. Still unsure of what to think, she asks them all if they regret abandoning their fields of study. But none of them have:

Dagny already heard Richard Halley’s latest composition in Chapter 1. The Judge is writing a treatise on legal philosophy that he proudly proclaims nobody will ever be allowed to read (retarded). The Doctor has developed medicine that prevents strokes, but all the stroke victims can fuck off as far as he’s concerned because, I don’t know, Medicare reimbursement rates weren’t high enough for his liking or something (asshole).

In fact, they all sound like colossal assholes. Dagny accuses them of giving up on humanity. The Philosopher argues that it is humanity that has given up on itself. Society no longer invents, produces, or grows. It now consumes itself and encourages individuals to behave like sheep. Everybody here has moved to Galt’s Gulch to save themselves from the spiritual atrophy of postmodern civilization.

Galt, who they all fawn over like a messiah, explains that they are on strike. He says nobody who’s ever gone on strike before deserved to, except these people here right now who agree with him. Asshole. Also he’s the de facto leader because he was “born without original sin” — he never felt guilty for being the smartest man in the world. Yeah I’m sure Newton and Einstein and Hawking all regretted their careers, dude. What a prick.

Even though the nature of this place as a cult of personality is pretty clear now, Galt goes on. He waxes rhapsodic about how the intellect has always been regarded as evil in the past, and how the Great Man theory of history has been neglected, etc.  Too bad nobody thought to invite The World’s Greatest Historian to this party, although I guess that would puncture the reality-averse ideological bubble all these people live in.

Dagny still struggles to reconcile the beauty of this place with the repellent beliefs Galt seems to have brainwashed everyone with. Ain’t that always the way with cults? Not that they don’t have a point about overconsumption. But even Dagny thinks their epic hatred of the outside world is, shall we say, irrational?

By way of rebuttal they all offer up their stories of quitting and coming to the valley. The best is Richard Halley’s, which is that he quit because when he finally became a successful musician he felt like a sell-out and hated his fans. Yeah you’re a real martyr, Dick.

Anyway Galt concludes the sales pitch by noting that consumer society is collapsing way faster than they expected — probably thanks to Francisco’s sabotage that YOU CONDONED, you bullshitter — and she can join them just as soon as she can dispassionately tell the other 7 billion people of earth to go fuck themselves.

But Dagny can’t bring herself to do it. She can’t forsake society as long as their is human potential in it to be cultivated. Galt is like, “That’s cool, take your time. We will eventually leave the Gulch, just as soon as society completely collapses,” which he assumes will somehow kill everybody who doesn’t abide by their specific moral code. What?

Her mind reeling from how completely fucked up this whole situation is, Dagny returns to Galt’s house after dinner ready to pass out for a long while. As he carries her to her bed, they both kind of glance over at his bedroom. She probably feels his hard-on against her tailbone, and Jesus Christ you were in a plane crash this morning, give yourself a minute. Also, he’s been STALKING you. And he preaches non-compulsory living even as he seeks to RUIN the lives of everyone outside his CULT. Goddamnit.

As she passes out in the guest room she sees that all of the other citizens of the valley have spent the night here once, as an initiation. They have all etched words of encouragement into the wooden walls, celebrating their conversion to Galt’s vengeful version of inner peace. This is, I assume, meant to be comforting, even though it is all CREEPY AS SHIT. Dagny falls asleep. Galt watches her from the doorway. At least he’s consistent.

NEXT — 3:2 The Utopia of Greed, “The First Rule of Right Club”

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2:10 The Sign of the Dollar, “End with a Whimper”

PREVIOUSLY: A conceptually interesting book got unbearably shitty because the author sucked at writing plot and character and dialogue and prose. A blogger took the scenic route through the narrative doldrums while biding his time for the return of thought-provoking material in Part Three.

Dagny is on the Transcon train heading west, staring out the window at a barren, abandoned landscape that used to be the American heartland. This is depressing as shit so she decides to leave her private car and get some fresh air to help her snap out of it.

But as soon as she steps out she finds the conductor trying to throw a hobo off the moving train in the middle of nowhere. The hobo clutches his hobo-bag of hobo-stuff like a comfort blanket, so Dagny knows he believes in private property and thus deserves to live. I wish I were making this up. She invites him to dine with her in her car.

The hobo has table manners and acts generally respectable. He’s headed west to find work, if there is any, since in the east the Unification Board has a complete stranglehold on employment decisions and you need to know somebody to get anywhere. As he recounts his tragic backstory, Hobo Code here mentions that once upon a time he held the same job for twenty years, and it was glorious. Then the founder died, the heirs took over, and the place went to shit. That’s right, Hobo Code was the foreman at GM! The very same GM where Dagny found the abandoned protoype of the ion drive!

“I demand lower taxes for the wealthy!”

Not only that, but Hobo reveals that it was he and the other employees at GM who coined the term “Who is John Galt?” Dagny’s ears perk up, but not mine, because I stopped giving a shit about this ‘mystery’ about four hundred pages ago.

Despite my disinterest, Hobo recaps the whole story of how GM got converted to a socialist pay system where the most able were exploited and the neediest were over-privileged. The specifics descend even further into ridiculousness this time around, like how the company forbid some dude from sending his kids to college, or how one guy was denied money for his record collection so that the company could pay some chick to get a gold-plated grill. I don’t even know where to start.

The Hobo’s main gripe with this system was that it established a moral code by which “the honest ones paid, the dishonest ones collected,” which of course has never and could never occur under the profit-motivated morality of capitalism. Never!

Anyway, this recap of stuff we’ve already been told goes on for pages and pages and pages, and Hobo Code makes sure to lash out at ‘professors and leaders and thinkers’ for trying to dupe the world with a bullshit morality based on human compassion, which has so clearly and inevitably led to the destruction of everything good. I think Ayn’s brush is so broad that it’s basically a broom now, but…

Finally Hobo trails off at the point where GM went bankrupt and he was out of work, and Dagny is like, “Uh, weren’t you going to explain who John Galt is?” And he’s like “Oh, right. He was this genius kid who had just started at the factory when the communists took over, and he quit as soon as they announced the plan, and he said he would make it his personal mission to ‘stop the motor of the world.'”

“Shit, sounds ominous,” nobody says, and Hobo’s like “Yeah when everything started going to shit, we all remembered what he said and got pretty freaked out. And that’s how we came up with the saying ‘Who is John Galt?’

Dagny does not respond “Well fuck, I pretty much knew all of that already! Get out of my car,” because Dagny has literally fallen asleep. Even the characters have checked out, and here I am still reading like a sucker. Goddammit.

When she wakes up she remembers Hobo Code’s story and how she gave him a sleeping car on the train afterwards for all his troubles. But all of that drops out of her consciousness when she realizes the train is stopped! And it seems nobody is in board! What in tarnation is going on??

As desolate and barren as Ayn Rand’s soul.

Running through the cars for signs of life, she bumps into none other than Owen Kellogg, the very first undercover charismatic anarchist we encountered in the book. Dagny does not ask where he went after he dropped off the grid, but he confirms that the crew has abandoned the train — an increasingly common form of political protest against the economic dictatorship.

After calming the scattered passengers who remain, all of whom are whiny and unappreciative of course, Dagny and Kellogg leave Hobo Code in charge of the train and set off for the nearest emergency phone station along the track. As they walk, Dagny bemoans how everything was better in Nat Taggart’s Gilded Age, and Owen Kellogg responds:

…[Nat Taggart] represented a code of existence which—for a brief span in all human history—drove slavery out of the civilized world.

Which is so historically wrong and factually meaningless as to be offensive, but no time to dwell because it just now occurs to Dagny to ask where this dude has been for the past… what, three years of story time?

When Kellogg shrugs and answers vaguely, she quickly realizes that he’s on the same shadow team as Francisco and The Destroyer. They arrive at the phone box but it’s broken, and they have to walk another five miles. Kellogg sighs and takes out a pack of cigarettes — $tamped cigarettes!

Dagny demands more information, and Kellogg goes on some rant about American exceptionalism and how calling money evil is itself evil. I punch myself in the nuts to stay awake. Special K wraps up the monologue and gives Dagny the rest of his cigarette$ as a token of good will. Let’s pick up the pace here:

“I’m just borrowing it to chase a mad scientist across an inhospitable wasteland. It’ll be back in mint condition, I promise.”

At the next phone box, Dagny calls the local Peter Principle and expends a lot of effort getting him to send a crew to help them restart the train. Some building is glowing a couple miles in the distance and she asks what it is. Peter Principle says it’s an airstrip. This gets Dags’ attention, seeing as she’s now running out of time to reach Q and save their research on the ion drive. Kellogg knowingly encourages her to do what she needs to do; he’ll make sure the train gets running again.

So Dagny commandeers one of the planes at the airstrip and flies all through the night across the Rocky Mountains. She thinks redundantly about Thematic Issues some more until she lands at Q’s airstrip in Utah just as another plane is taking off. She jumps out of her plane all “I’m looking for Q!” and some guy is like “You just missed him, he’s in that plane that just took off! Him and a mysterious, charismatic gentleman!”

Dagny knows immediately that The Destroyer has stolen Q and her last hope of saving society along with him. In a fury she takes right back off and follows The Destroyer’s plane into the treacherous heights of the Rockies once more. Right in the most uninhabitable dangerous patch of peaks, the nefarious plane descends out of sight. Turning the corner, Dagny is flabbergasted: there’s nothing but a jagged valley of rocks. Where did they go? Did they crash?

She descends too, to get a closer look, but something’s weird. The craggy expanse below her is almost like a mirage… Suddenly there’s a flash of light and her motor cuts out. She is now below the craggy rockface — it was a CLOAKING DEVICE! OH SNAP!

But with no motor, her plane drops like a stone to the grassy valley floor below, and as she braces herself to die in a giant fireball, Dagny cries out “Fuck you John Galt, Fuck Yoooooouuuuuu!!!”

The end.

REFLECTIONS ON PART TWO: Ayn Rand as an Unreliable Narrator

NEXT — 3:1 Utopia, “Meet John Galt”

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1:7 The Exploiters and the Exploited cont’d, “Adventure Capital”

PREVIOUSLY: State Science released a politically motivated report that cast doubt on R-Metal, endangering Dagny’s vision of energy-efficient high-speed railroads. She appealed directly to the head of State Science, but the once-great man has soured into a timid and complacent figure, serving only as a cautionary tale.

Now that Rearden’s alloy has become a political hot potato, the large orders of it on Taggart Transcontinental’s books are causing the railroad’s stock to plummet. The construction of the Colorado line is suspended. Jim’s gone off the grid in a panic, but Dagny tracks him down at the old family estate, where he’s hiding among the mothballs.

Kubrick screencap, if you keep score.

There she informs him that she has a plan. She’s going to resign and form an independent company, which will buy the Colorado track from Taggart. Once the unfinished R-Metal project is off Taggart’s ledger the stock will rebound. Meanwhile Dagny will be free to pursue her vision unencumbered. Once her track proves successful, she’ll fold the company back into Taggart and triumphantly resume her post.

Jim loves the idea but makes sure to extract guarantees that he will be completely shielded from responsibility or risk. And who will run things while she’s gone? Well, Eddie Willers of course. He knows the biz inside and out. Yay, dignity for Eddie! And the name of Dagny’s indie venture? Dagny smiles. “The John Galt Line.”

That spooks Jim. The phrase connotes despair! Isn’t that some no-good hoodoo? Dagny scoffs. “Who is he, Voldemort? I’ll throw the name in everyone’s face. Fuck despair. Fuck John Galt. And fuck everything he stands for.” Gauntlet, thrown.

Next! Dagny is pitching Francisco on the role of angel investor. He’s never been in her office before and she guilts him about how seeing it would’ve meant a lot to him once upon a time. He knows what she’s going to ask, and asks her not to. But she has no choice. She knows that R-Metal infrastructure is the best investment opportunity in over a century. And yet it seems as if that’s the very reason nobody will buy into it. “Isn’t that fucking crazy?” she demands to know.

Sign the damn check Francisco.

Frankie seems unusually stressed out and again insists Dagny not ask for his help. She patiently explains that even if he does live a ‘depraved’ life, they still speak the same language, and he apparently doesn’t care about money anymore, so… if there’s even a little of the old Frisco in him, she’ll beg for it if she has to. The loan, I mean. Always with the kinky subtext this one.

Francisco is overcome. He takes her hand and kisses it. He calls her ‘my love.’ Then he says he won’t do it, and won’t explain himself. Dagny is getting real tired of Frankie’s contradictory attitudes, but he suggests that there’s no such thing as a contradiction, only faulty logic.

Thus he leaves, wishing her luck on the Rio Norte line, but she responds to his back that it’s called the John Galt Line now and he pulls a double-take at the door. “Whaaaat the fuck? Why?”

She repeats her speech about how she’s tired of everyone wallowing in humanity’s impending doom, so she’s going to turn the name John Galt into a symbol of a bright future instead. ‘I’m going to build a railroad for him. … Let him come claim it!’

Francisco smiles ruefully. ‘He will.’

Next scene! Dagny is in Rearden’s office renewing her contracts under the new John Galt title. Despite Francisco’s obstinacy, she’s scraped the venture capital together from Ellis Wyatt and the other Colorado new money. Rearden buys in for a million bucks on the spot. Look at all these cold-hearted business types pooling their resources to improve the community! That’s heartwarming shit right there. The dynamic duo huddles over the blueprints for their R-Metal bridge, but neither of them can stop thinking about how badly they want to fuck each other. Oh well.

Noooope.

Last scene. Rearden’s office again, but some days later. His mother barges in demanding a meeting. Brother Buster is in a bad way, she says, because relying on Hank’s charity has left him feeling insecure and worthless. So obviously Hank should give Buster a job. Yet Hank tells her off because that would be an even shittier form of charity and a drain on his business to boot. If Buster wants to improve himself, he can go right ahead and do it. No more hand-outs. Mumsy accuses Hank of being callous and selfish. ‘Virtue,’ she claims, ‘is the giving of the undeserved.’ He recoils in horror at that sentiment and kicks her right out. Aware that his family relations are curdling, but with no clue what to do, Rearden just represses the shit out of it.

To that end his next meeting wanders in, a humble factory owner from Minnesota. This guy’s steel supplier was bought out by Orren Boyle and now he can’t get his orders filled in time to keep his business afloat. He wants to cut a deal with Hank even though Hank’s mills are working full time on R-Metal. Hank respects the guy’s no-nonsense approach but is on the fence about the sale.

That’s when Hank’s secretary comes in and announces that Congress just passed the dreaded Equal Opportunity Bill. All of Rearden’s mineral stockpiles will be frozen and redistributed. Wesley Mouch’s lobbying firm cannot be reached. They are fucked.

The factory owner cries “Oh God, no!”  and seriously, the bystanders in this book need to chill out on the histrionics. Rearden defiantly tells the guy he’s going to get his emergency steel order after all, because Rearden intends to grind out as much as he can before the feds come down on him.

“I picked the wrong day to quit amphetamines.”

But at the end of the night, when Hank is all alone at his desk, he is paralyzed by a crushing hopelessness. His success is practically the only thing keeping the country from economic collapse and now his hands are being tied by the very people his work could sustain. “Isn’t that fucking crazy?” he demands to know. But as furious as the injustice makes him,

‘There are things one must not contemplate, he thought. There is an obscenity of evil which contaminates the observer.’

Spooky. So he focuses on the positive: how he’ll lead his employees and clients through this like a Boss. He only wishes he had a confidante of his own, an equal, somebody to lean on. And for whatever reason, Francisco is the first name that pops into his head. But Hank hates Frankie on principle, doesn’t he? Damn, he thinks, I must really need some sleep.

Then, just as he begins dozing off to dreams of his time as an up-and-comer, inspiration strikes. Like a man possessed he hastily draws a new schematic that will allow Dagny to finish the John Galt bridge faster and cheaper and with less material. There’s no time to lose! He calls her in a creative fit and they spend all night on the phone brainstorming plans to save the world from itself. But, you know, selfishly.

NEXT: Chapter 8 The John Galt Line, “Consummate Professionals”

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