Review from Shri. Varghese Pamplanil.
NOTE: I could highlight only a few ideas of the 60 page speech. The book explains how religious institutions instil the guilt complex in the minds of the faithful such as belittling humans calling them “goats and sheep”, sinners and unworthy, telling them to do impossible moral life, putting before them saints who did extraordinary deeds of virtues, forming useless outfits like Sodality, Mission League, Bible Societies etc., and programmes such as Summer Conventions for teenaged boys and girls, discouraging dancing, singing, music and other fine arts, Annual Retreats, Charismatic circuses, Bible conventions and what not?
(Ayan Rand’s (full name Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, born in St. Petersburg (1905), and emigrated to USA (1926). Her book “Atlas Shrugged” (1957) expounds her philosophy of “objectivism’. Given below is a brief and free synopsis of the speech of John Galt, the book’s hero and protagonist.)
One may not agree with the views of Ayan Rand. But she has put forth her ideas forcefully. A few of the prominent personalities influenced by her are: Gloria Alvarez (political commentator – Guatemala), Martin Anderson (former advisor to President Johnson), David Bergland ( Presidential nominee -1984), Alex Epstein (American author and energy theorist), Malcolm Frazer (22nd Prime Minister of Australia), Alan Greenspan (former Chairman of Federal Reserve), David Kelly ( American philosopher), Prof. Peter Kurrild Klitgaard ( University of Copenhagen), Ron Paul and Paul Ryan (both US senators), Prof. Tara Smith (University of Texas), Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court judge), Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia). There is a galaxy of other eminent persons subscribing to Rand’s thinking.
John Galt Speaking.
“For twelve years, you have been asking: ‘Who is John Galt?’ This is John Galt speaking.
I am the man who loves his life. I am the man who does not sacrifice his love or his values.
You have heard it said that this is the age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words have no meaning. YOU HAVE CRIED THAT MAN’S SINS ARE DESTROYING THE WORLD AND YOU HAVE CURSED THE HUMAN NATURE FOR ITS UNWILLINGNESS TO PRACTICE THE VIRTUES DEMANDED BY YOU.
Virtue to you, consists of sacrifice; so you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of returning to your morality, you have sacrificed your independence to mercy. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial . You have sacrificed happiness to duty.
You have destroyed all that which has been told to be evil and achieved all that which you have been told to be good. Why then, you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the final product and image of your virtues. It is the moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed it, and you have wished it. But now you turn your back at it.
Your ideal had an impeccable enemy: the code of morality designed by someone else to destroy it. Men do not live by the mind, they say?. The mind is in impotent they say? But there are no values higher than the mind, you must realise?
They are dragging you to sacrificial alters. Also the men of justice, of independence, of reason, of wealth.
We are on strike against self-immolation. We are on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties We are on strike against the dogma that the pursuit of one’s happiness is evil. WE ARE ON STRIKE AGAINST THE DOCTRINE THAT LIFE IS GUILT.
We have granted you everything you demanded of us, we are always been givers. You have nothing to offer to us. We do not need them.
For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that ONE’S LIFE BELONGS TO GOD and those who claimed that it belongs to YOUR NEIGHBOUR — between those who preached that the good is self sacrifice for the SAKE OF GHOSTS IN HEAVEN and those preached GOOD IS SELF SACRIFICE for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that it is good to live it.
Everyone have seem to hold the view that morality demands surrender of self interest and of one’s mind, and that the moral and practical are opposites, that morality is not in the province of reason, but in the province of faith and force. All the sides seem to agree that no rational morality is possible, that there is no right or wrong in reason —that reason is amoral. But there is right in reason and it is moral.
A mindless world of ruins shouldn’t be your goal? You are not a moral cannibal. Centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about your code of morality, so don’t lament and cry that your moral codes have been broken, that the scourges are punishment for breaking it, that men are too weak and selfish and there is need to spill all the blood it required. They damned men, they damned existence, they damned this earth. The victims took the blame and struggled on, with their curses as reward for the martyrdom of innocents —while they went on crying that their code was noble, but human nature was not good enough to practice it. But no one rose to question them. Their views are considered Good? — but by what standard?
In this age of moral crisis, they say, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is their moral code that’s through this time. Their moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you need is not to return to their morality —you have never known any —to discover it.
You have heard there is no concept of morality but only the mystical and the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behaviour imposed on you by the WHIM OF A SUPER- NATURAL POWER or the whim of the society, to SERVE GOD’S PURPOSE or your neighbour’s welfare, to please AN AUTHORITY BEYOND THE GRAVE or else next door — but not to serve your life or pleasure. Your pleasure, YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT, IS FOUND IN IMMORTALITY, your interests would best be served by evil, and the moral code must be designed not for you, but against you, not to further your life, but to drain it.
How can one go along with the premise that morality demands the surrender of your self interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the province of faith and force or agree that in reason there’s no reason to be moral.
Whatever else, it was against man’s mind that your moralists have stood united. It was man’s mind that all their schemes and systems were intended to despoil and destroy. Now choose to perish or to learn that the anti-mind is anti-life.
Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of the food and the way to obtain it.
But to think is an act of choice. The key to what you call recklessly ‘human nature’, the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of life, you are free to think or to evade the effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival —so that forced you, who are a human being, ‘to be or not to be’ is the question, also ‘to think or not to think’
Man has been called a rational being, but rationally is a matter of choice. A code of values accepted by choice a code of morality. All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good, all that destroys it is evil.
Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. A doctrine that gives you the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter in the alters of others, is giving you death as your standard is a metaphysical monstrosity. But neither life or happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims.
Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of humanity and preach that the highest virtue, man can practice is to hold his own life as of no value.
Existence exists —and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms; that something which one perceives and that one exits by possessing consciousness; consciousness being the faculty; I’d perceiving that which exists.
Man cannot survive except by gaining knowledge, and reason is his only means to gain knowledge it. Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses.
Reality is that which exists; the unreal does not exist; the unreal is merely that negation of existence. Truth is is the recognition of reality; reason man’s only means of knowledge, is the standard of truth.
What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call Original Sin. The myth declares that he ate the fruit of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became rational being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labour — he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire — he acquired capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils can for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness; joy —all cardinal values of his existence. Whatever he was — that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labour , without love —he was not man.
You can’t give away everything and starve yourself. You’ve forced yourselves to live with underserved and irrational guilt. Is it proper to help another man? No, if he demands it as his right or as a duty you owe him. Yes, if it’s your own free choice based on the judgment of the value of that person and his struggle.
The last of my words will be addressed to those heroes who might still be hidden in the world, those who are held prisoner, not by their evasions, but by their virtues and their desperate courage. My brothers of spirit, check on your virtues and on the nature of your enemies you’re serving. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love — the endurance that carries their burdens — the generosity that responds to their cries of despair—the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and given the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs —the live, your love of life, which makes you believe that they are men and they love it too. But the world today is the world they wanted; life is the object of their hatred. Leave them to the death they worship. In the name of your magnificent devotion to this earth, leave them, don’t exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the triumph of the evil of theirs.
In the name of the best in you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst enemy. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless who have achieved this title. Do not loose your knowledge that man’s estate is an upright posture, an intransigeant mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
THE WORLD WILL CHANGE WHEN YOU ARE READY TO PRONOUNCE THIS OATH: “I SWEAR BY MY LIFE AND MY LOVE OF IT THAT I WILL NEVER LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF ANOTHER MAN, NOR ASK ANOTHER MAN LIVE FOR THE SAKE OF MINE”.