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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Real Galt's Gulch

Regular readers of Amor Mundi know that I cannot resist poking fun occasionally at Galt's Gulch, the incomparably silly "utopian" enclave of entrepreneurial supermen at the shriveled Grinch heart of Ayn Rand's sprawling awful offal of a novel, Atlas Shrugged.

No doubt many of you have given Rand's phonebook-scaled tome a shrug at last rather than a read when you noticed at the bookstore, among other details, that the thing may as well have been scrawled with a stubby orange crayon for all the emotional depth and stylistic nuance on exhibit therein. Or maybe you've noticed the grim set of the mouth each one of the book's legion of earnest white undergraduate fans tends to assume when they are about to quote one of its earthshattering profundities, only to be told, thereupon, that "A is A." Uh-huh.

Whatever the reason you decided to give it a pass, the gist of Atlas Shrugged is this: Once upon a time, a few dozen promethean industrialists of the haves and have-mores variety graced a planet (presumably, Earth, but one has to wonder) while alongside them its otherwise teeming billions of mooching mediocrities (many of them slated to purchase bestselling books like Atlas Shrugged, ironically enough) just kept taking taking taking from these Rushmore scaled innovative giants, buying their products and doing their bidding all the livelong day, sure, but also siccing jackbooted regulators on them incessantly for treating their employees like "slaves" just for wanting them to work a decent fourteen hour day to survive, letting mercury get into the drinking water of the unwary (caveat emptor, losers!), getting their kids addicted to the safe cigarettes their liberty craves, selling bombs to tyrant-fighting would-be tyrants who will have to be bombed later with new bombs, and all the other life-affirming activities that preoccupy their attention.

Rand's chisel-faced investor-class exemplars decide that having all the money and clout and trophy wives and sycophants in the world isn't, come to think of it, an adequate register of gratitude when all is said and done considering their indispensability and general awesomeness. And so, the whole troop adjourns to the secret hideout of the world's biggest brained soopergenius, a mad scientist named John Galt, who, like, has invented a heat ray and a perpetual motion machine and all sorts of other things capitalism would provide us instead of the Big Gulps and crappy teevee shows it gives us now on account of Big Brother and stuff.

The heroes wallow joyfully around in one another's superior company while the world outside is, they can only assume, going to hell in a handbasket for want of their helpful handholding and once in a lifetime offers of investment opportunities and so forth. I think at one point a slightly older guy named Hank seems to get it on with a hunky younger Latin guy named Francisco, but unfortunately this isn't a line Rand saw fit to develop beyond the sketchiest suggestion.

At the end, the hero John Galt makes the sign of the dollar in the air, presumably for the benefit of the studio audience that is always there for him in his own mind. This is his way of announcing that the industrialists are going to return at last to restore order to the world, since clearly jungle vines will have encroached and obliterated all the malls and putt-putt golf courses and everything without them around to keep things tidy (because, of course, if there's one thing billionaire industrialists can be expected to do above all others it's to keep the grounds trimmed and the fields tilled).

That's the end of the book, inasmuch as Rand saw fit to neglect the inevitable next episode of the narrative in which these absurd megalomaniacs stumble out of their hidden valley into a fully functioning world that didn't notice they had even left. Then as each self-suffused stuffed Suit tries to resume his life in the real world everybody treats them like a clueless asshole, and so at the very end they reconvene to decide whether or not they should "go on strike" for a while longer until the world finally must recognize their genius and, you know, finally kiss their asses to their satisfaction.

Anyway, I like to say things like post-Katrina New Orleans is Galt's Gulch, or Iraq under Occupation is Galt's Gulch, because these catastrophic human-made hells on earth represent real-world implementations of the neoliberal policies that are in fact as close to the realization of the market fundamentalist pieties of the Randroids and the Mont Pelerinists as one can ever actually get on planet earth.

Imagine, then, my surprise at discovering that Ayn Rand was inspired to write her Galt's Gulch fantasia by a real-world place, Ouray, Colorado. Although I daresay it is surely a lovely place filled with perfectly lovely people, it is difficult not to wonder at the fact that the utopian inspiration for Rand's retrofuturist magnum opus is a town with about 800 people in it -- 97.54% of whom are white -- filled with buildings from the 1800s, looking for all the world like the high kitsch Americana of Disneyland's "Mainstreet, U.S.A."

Could there be a more perfect vision of the neoliberal reality beneath the libertopian handwaving of the Randroid Right? The world as a septic sewer dotted with gated enclaves in which moneyed whites pretend to live in the McKinley era. You people do realize that A Boy and His Dog is, like, dystopian don't you?

3 comments:

jfehlinger said...

> Could there be a more perfect vision of the neoliberal
> reality beneath the libertopian handwaving of the
> Randroid Right? The world as a septic sewer dotted with
> gated enclaves in which moneyed whites pretend to live
> in the McKinley era. You people do realize that
> A Boy and His Dog is, like, dystopian don't you?

The Farm! Immediately!

jfehlinger said...

> I think at one point a slightly older guy named Hank
> seems to get it on with a hunky younger Latin guy named
> Francisco, but unfortunately this isn't a line Rand saw
> fit to develop beyond the sketchiest suggestion.

-------------------------------
Dr. [Chris Matthew] Sciabarra [in "Objectivism and Homosexuality"]
is impressed by how many GLBTs are influenced by Ayn Rand. . .
". . .[M]any GLBTs who embrace Rand point to the implicit "homosocial"
themes in her novels. ... [are those] who closely identified
with the male bonding in Rand's fiction ... particularly ...
the relationship between Howard Roark and Gail Wynand
in _The Fountainhead_ and the relationship between Hank Rearden
and Francisco d'Anconia in _Atlas Shrugged_."

There is in all that follows, never stated but clearly
implied, the suggestion that Ayn Rand secretly or
subconsciously recognized the physical attraction between
men, was probably confused about her own sexuality,
(possibly lesbian?), and that her outward protestations
were evidence of an inward conflict.

In the hands (and minds) of these tortured souls, Ayn Rand's
sublime descriptions of that highest form of love between
men, the recognition of true value in another, to which
eroticism is both irrelevant and inimical, is perverted
into a kind of hidden homosexuality, debauching true love
and degrading sex. These would get it all wrong, just as
Rand is reported to have foreseen. In an early draft of
one such description of love between Wynand and Roark,
Roark says, "I love you — in every sense except the one
a fool would think of first." Apparently it is the first
one thought of first by Dr. Sciabarra and the GLBTs.
-------------------------------

-- Reginald Firehammer
_The Hijacking of a Philosophy: Homosexuals vs. Ayn Rand's Objectivism_
http://usabig.com/autonomist/hijack/index.html

"Who Is This For?

It is primarily for Objectivists. Particularly, it is for
those Objectivists who are wondering when Objectivism became
allied with homosexuality and the promotion of that behavior
as both normal and moral. That Objectivism could actually
embrace the confusion which is homosexuality and all that
those practices mean, socially and in the lives of individuals,
is bewildering to many Objectivists.

For those Objectivists, the purpose of this book is to
assure them, Objectivism had nothing to do with this, it
is Objectivism hijacked, not Objectivism as Ayn Rand wrote it."

Oh dear, oh dear.

gf said...

Well, you saved me the last 400 pages. My summer is now free from that ever nagging question: Who is John Galt?