Thursday, January 19, 2012

Who Is John Galt? - The Secret Ayn Rand Files

This is the third in a series of papers Ayn Rand instructed her lawyer to release after her death. They comprise an account, in her own words, of her remarkable career. The first document can be found here. The second is here.

"They always want more," I thought. "You write the first thing, and if you want to be successful you have to write something else. And that's always a bastard. What if it's not as good? What if they say it was a fluke? So you do what you can, whatever you can, to make it good." I had the manuscript for the next novel in my bag, and Ronnie Hubbard and I were flying by helicopter over some mountain range out west. The countryside was beautiful, stark. But Ronnie was ruining it. He just wouldn't shut up about this new club or group or something he was creating.

"...and everybody wants to move up through the stages," he said. "Because with each stage you get greater power and control over your life. You don't know what kinds of power. It's all secret. But everyone around you promises you it's worth it. And each stage costs much, much more money than the one before." He was snorting. "I mean you pay out the kazoo. So you have to work it off.

"People on the bottom admire the people at the top so much -- because they're so much more successful -- that they don't notice that they're only successful because of that army of suckers admiring them... and also working like bastards, hoping they'll move up. It'll be the first truly American religion."

"I think that's Mormonism," I said.

"No, you're wrong," he countered. He had this habit of just declaring something to be right or wrong, without thinking. It was getting worse. "But you'll learn."

"Isn't that Donner Pass?" I asked, trying to change the subject.

"Galt Pass," he said. "You really do have a lot to learn. But you will. You're the key to this whole project." I didn't have time to ask him what he meant, because the helicopter touched down beside a lake. There was a massive complex of buildings there -- like a small university or research installation. Hundreds of people were rushing around purposefully, and all of them wore the strange nautical uniforms Ronnie had invented. We got out, ducking, and scrambled away from the rotors where we met a beautiful, slim brunette woman dressed as some kind of naval officer. She had wide, expressive eyes and a wonderfully charming, crooked smile that became annoying within moments.

"Welcome to the Refuge," she said. She guided us across the complex, past a dining hall, offices, and other buildings while she explained where Ronnie and I would be staying for the next several days. Then we reached a wide, one-story building on the other end of the facility. There was a single entrance here. And no windows at all.

"One second," she said, interrupting herself. And then she whispered "Door!" loud enough for several nearby people to hear. All at once they were repeating the word to others all around -- Door! Door! Opening the door! It was like some kind of human megaphone, and it allowed the message to travel over the entire area. Within moments this crowd of workers had vanished inside their offices and living complexes. The entire place was spooky and silent, seemingly abandoned.

"I can't go in here with you," she told us. "But before I leave, you must know the two most important rules about staying with John Galt.

"The first is you have to understand Mr. Galt refuses to accept anything less than absolute, unvarnished and objective reality. There is no equivocating with him. You'll find him to be completely and bracingly -- maybe even harshly -- honest. I think you'll find it refreshing," she said with that smile of hers.

"The second is that John Galt is alone here."


"John Galt is alone here," she repeated. "He created the buildings, and he maintains them. He cleans the place and washes the clothes, and when you walk into the dining room to find a hot meal just sitting there, that is something he did. With his will."

"So... So I have to pretend--"

"We don't pretend," she said sharply. "We don't use that word here. John Galt accepts nothing less than complete honesty. And he is alone here, making everything happen."

"Don't worry," Ronnie said breezily. "She'll get the hang of it." The woman gave me a worried look, but Ronnie smiled and she left, scrambling away across the wide space and disappearing from sight like the rest. Then Ronnie and I walked inside. We went down a long, dark corridor -- a single light from a room at the end to guide us. There we found John Galt. He was extremely handsome, with short, neatly cut brown-black hair, piercing eyes, and the whitest teeth I'd ever seen on a human. He was sitting in a chair wearing some kind of dark turtleneck and talking into a tape recorder. Ronnie nodded at him, but he didn't seem to acknowledge us. He had an almost scary focus, like at any moment he might leap out of that chair and do something terrible.

"I think it's a privilege to call yourself a capitalist, and it's something you have to earn," he said. "Because a capitalist does. He or she has to ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions. Being a capitalist you look at someone and you know absolutely that you can help them... Not that you have to."

He was shorter than I expected.
(Note: If you enjoyed this, you should know that I began my career as a desperate magazine writer and low-level scrub at the now-defunct Mademoiselle. My novella, The Big Money, is a funny, fictionalized account of my experiences, and it's available for your Kindle or your Nook for 99 cents.

It features sexual fantasy sequences, World War II trivia, drunkenness, betrayal, murderous rages, the Spider Demon at the end of
Doom, and a weird love story involving cat-sitting. It is loosely based on the truth. And when I say "loosely" I mean that it is true in the emotional, but not legally actionable sense.)

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