On Rand's John Galt
By Will Baker
Perhaps we are dead: Not God, nor morality nor virtue but that thing which we have collectively created and is inside us all. This realization strikes me like the mighty oak, which has stood for three hundred years as a testament to lasting strength; that which can be depended upon to provide perspective in the shifting sands of our determinations, but which has rotted from the inside out and has toppled in grotesque ruin. I peer into the hulk and where I thought there was strength I note decay and emptiness. When I look inside this corpse I see us all. We are dead.
But what of hopes and dreams for ordered society and individual fulfillment? I say this is an illusion, no it is a cruel joke. If I sound bitter it is because at the moment I am; that it has taken so much of my time on earth to reach the understanding that life, as we would be led to believe it is, is a sham. There is no truth, nor right or wrong. There is only free will and a desire to be happy.
Look in the mirror, do you see confusion and fear? I say we should all be afraid and confused, for that which we have helped to construct is tottering high above us. We see this monstrosity of our own making and it makes us feel sick inside. Watch it sway. Watch it crumble. We know that it must fall but the exact hour escapes our reason.
Where has the competence gone, as if there ever was any? We are a mediocre people becoming more so, as if mediocrity was our desired outcome-- the fruit of our labors to be savored. And how do our actions square with what we teach our children? Apply yourself. Be honest and brave; grow up to be strong so that one day you might take your place as a functioning, productive member of society. But then we hide from our children our own private turning away, our corruption of those ideals; our hollowing out. We hold ourselves out to our children, as if we are that mighty oak tree but we are rotten inside. We are hollow. We are dead.
It seems to me that we should teach our children that it is okay to be happy, that it is their right. And once achieved they should not willingly surrender their happiness for the sake of another. We should teach them not to feel guilty at this desire, for in the end it is all there is. But we can not teach them these things, for we are dead. When was the last time that you were happy? Do we even know what happiness is anymore, if we ever knew?
But what of the selfless sacrifices made by prior generations, do my words belittle their accomplishments? To this I would reply, look at that towering monstrosity of mediocrity. Feel the ache in your hearts. That dream is dead and we have died along with it.
The good news is that even though in a given moment we might be dead to ourselves, it seems to me that by virtue of free will we can choose otherwise. For in the end our lives are ours to make of them what we will-- a tapestry of continuous change and possibility. And as regards the death of this "thing" referenced above- that, which we have collectively created, I remain optimistic. For even if this current model is dead, by virtue of free will we can create anew. But I fear that this shift will not occur without a price, perhaps a terrible one.
As I have previously noted, it is my belief that we are social creatures with a need to belong. And history has demonstrated that we seem to be compelled to organize ourselves into greater and greater-sized units. In addition, we have and will continue to experiment with various political philosophies and some will work better for some of us than others. And therein lies the rub: we are existential beings, in some respects utterly alone, yet as social animals we are intimately connected to one another, players in a strange paradox.
Based on the accomplishments of the past I look down the long road ahead of us and see the potential for great promise. I see an actualized race, where the needs of the many are reconciled against the needs of the few. Where the individual is free to reap the rewards of her effort but where no one has been truly left behind. I see a place and time where the great issues of our day have been resolved, and new challenges unimagined are being met. I also sense a bittersweet undercurrent, an expression of pride of accomplishment but also of regret for the cost that had to be paid during the tribulations of our time.