View Full Version : Strike For Freedom: "Atlas Shrugged", by Ayn Rand

Monday, March 14th, 2005, 09:41 PM
A strike is a powerful weapon. However, unlike weapons of war or aggression, a strike is a weapon of passive resistance. Most people's impression of a strike is that of industrial action where left-leaning, militant unions battle it out against their capitalist overlords. And, of course, everyone has the right to withdraw their labour. But the concept of a strike can be taken a lot further than just walking off your "job". It can be a principled assertion of the right to your own life. In fact, if a majority of people were to strike against any particular political injustice, they would discover their true power as human beings. For when it comes down to the wire, all political systems exist by the will or, more properly, the implicit consent of the governed. If a majority were to withdraw its consent, then the existing political power structures would collapse.

However, it's not always necessary for a majority of people to get out into the streets. There IS such a thing as a strategic or "surgical" strike. One such strike is the theme of "Atlas Shrugged", by Ayn Rand. It's the story of a man who organises a strike. Not your ordinary strike, where workers down tools and move off the job, but a strike of the "movers and shakers" of society. A strike at the "top".

One man, a brilliant engineer named John Galt, sees through to the essence of things, and realises that if those of ability, in every field, would only withdraw their their permission and participation, and physically leave an increasingly corrupt society - then the world of "looters" would collapse. John Galt gradually persuades all the people of talent and ability to withdraw from the world - into a secret, high tech enclave called Galt's Gulch.

Complete with a technologically advanced sky "shield", Galt's Gulch becomes a private haven for all the strikers - a place where they can withdraw, recharge, and share in the type of life and relationships they truly value, and which they hope will once again return to the earth. What follows, in Atlas Shrugged, is a gripping thriller which pits the titans of industry, science and art against the politicians and various leaders of the looting class.

However, Atlas Shrugged is not for the faint-hearted, as it takes by the throat every religious and philosophical sacred cow - mercilessly shreds each of them to pieces, and introduces a new philosophy of enlightened, rational self interest. Then, as now, Atlas Shrugged continues to attract both high praise and vitriolic condemnation - as it draws into sharp relief the contrasting societal end products of two very different systems of morality.

The book's core idea is the constant struggle of the individual against the collective. Since time immemorial, the individual has been subservient to the group - whether it be the family, the village, the city, or the nation. And this collectivist philosophy is underpinned by a morality of self-sacrifice, or altruism, which is preached by all religions and societies. The power of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" lies in its ability to present important ideas in the context of a novel, where the ideas are made concrete in the lives of the various protagonists. And it is this power which never fails to reach each new generation that reads it. It's actually been rated as the second most influential book, after the Bible.

Of course, Ayn Rand lived before the advent of the personal computer and the internet - and couldn't have foreseen the potential impact such technological developments would have on the structure and very future of society. But even so, her novel is timeless, because it deals with issues that are as old as history. One of the fascinating scenarios in Atlas Shrugged is the existence of the anarchic "Galt's Gulch". Anarchic, because it is a private society - without the political class and without political rule.

The word "anarchy" comes from the root "archy" or "rule". Hence anarchy means "no rule". So, in Galt's Gulch, each striker is a self-ruler, perfectly capable of dealing morally and contract-ually with other members of that private society - with no need for any external authority. In that respect, the citizens of Galt's Gulch would today be known as sovereign individuals - self-contained and autonomous persons, who are fully responsible for their own lives and actions. In other words, self-rulers.

The idea of a strike is a very powerful one. Basically, it means to withdraw your labour, your effort, your moral and practical support. It is the peaceful person's way of protesting against the status quo. Instead of trying to smash a corrupt system - one can simply leave it by, as Ayn Rand says, withdrawing one's sanction. Today, more than ever, it is possible to do such a thing - to literally leave a corrupt system, and let it fend for itself. And, just as in Atlas Shrugged, it's possible to join the ranks of the self-owners, the sovereign individuals, and create a virtual Galt's Gulch for oneself and like-minded others.

It's not a road most people will go down - as it requires a substantial commitment to the idea of individual freedom, self-responsibility, and a firm belief in the folly of the political means of organisation. But it holds a mesmerising fascination for some - and perhaps even you.

Source: Sovereignlife.com