I wrote this coming on four years ago, one of my last posts to PresenceOfMind.net, my philosophical/political/literary home on the web. The planned strike of our undocumented friends has come and gone, but the underlying idea — a strike against the looters on June 1st — still resonates with me. What say you? Is this something worth pursuing? –GSS
Francisco looked silently out at the darkness. The fire of the mills was dying down. There was only a faint tinge of red left on the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the tortured battle of the storm in the sky. Dim shapes kept sweeping through space and vanishing, shapes which were branches, but looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible.
“It’s a terrible night for any animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco D’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.” –Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
The photo above is the Sonoran Desert, a vast unpopulated wasteland in the midst of which is Metropolitan Phoenix, home to three million children of Cain.
Contrary to popular opinion, the desert was not designed by Walt Disney, and it will kill you with a blithe indifference if you make even one small mistake. If you have never been to the desert, you do not have a referent for solitude. Far more than the serenity that comes from a fundamental awareness of your own aloneness, true solitude must carry with it at least a tinge of fear. When you experience a silence so total that you can hear the footfalls of a tiny lizard fifty yards away, you also come to realize that no one, no one, no one will hear you if you shout for help. Twist an ankle and you die. Lose the path and you die. Misjudge the weather and you die. Set you hand where you should not — and you die.
And yet I can go to the desert on a lark, armed as a child of Cain with nothing but two bottles of water, a tank full of three dollar gas and my cell phone.
This is the same sort of desert Los Indocumentados cross to escape a hell even more barren: Socialist Mexico. Those two proud citizens in the middle-foreground are high-tension pylons, moving power to Phoenix from the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Station.
The children of Abel, in white socks and Birkenstocks, will insist that the meaning of that desert is the desert, that an ambulating organism is nothing more than tumbleweed, a fleeting ephemera racing through an eternal permanence. I think the meaning of the desert is me — or you — or Cain. I think the meaning is perfectly expressed by those pylons, so man-like in their form. The desert is nothing without humanity, but humanity is everything. This — this blistering deathtrap — “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.”
“There is only one kind of men who have never been on strike in human history. Every other kind and class have stopped, when they wished, and have presented demands to the world, claiming to be indispensable — except the men who have carried the world on their shoulders, have kept it alive, have endured torture as sole payment, but have never walked out on the human race. Well, their turn has come. Let the world discover who they are, what they do and what happens when they refuse to function. This is the strike of the men of the mind, Miss Taggart. This is the mind on strike.” –Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Los Indocumentados are about to stage a little strike of their own, and I expect they will be the parties most dismayed by it. I have tremendous respect for the people who cross the Sonoran Desert — many of them on foot! — in pursuit of a better life. Anyone who wants a job that badly is all-American in my book. But it remains that our undocumented friends represent the weakest tenth of the economy, at best. We say, “They do the jobs Americans won’t do,” but it would probably be more accurate to say that they do jobs that otherwise would not be done at all. No cheap landscapers? Hello, xeriscaping. No hotel maids? Oh, well, we’re only staying for three days. No cheap restaurants? That’s why Cain put a microwave oven in the break room. The planned strike by Los Indocumentados is likely to be underwhelming to most — where it doesn’t go entirely unnoticed.
But the news of this strike put me in mind of Ayn Rand and the strike of the men of the mind in Atlas Shrugged. I have thought for years that I should take June 1st off as John Galt Day. This is the day in the book that John Galt, Francisco D’Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjold set aside every year to celebrate the world they hope someday to be able to live in. I don’t even take days off, but when I read the book for the first time 25 years ago, I thought that I should make it a practice to take that one day off.
Los Indocumentados hope to make a point by hurting people. I don’t think anyone is going to be hurt much, but that’s really beside the point. If I make a holiday of John Galt Day, my goal is not to hurt anyone. But I do want to withhold my values, if only for that one day, from my despoilers. I love to work so much that I don’t often think about — and care quite a bit less — how much of my effort is going to people I despise — and who despise my work ethic. But if I create any wealth on John Galt Day, I will craft it only for myself and for those few others I know who share my values. I will not share myself with people who would claim my mind, my time or my effort as a matter of right.
“I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number, or how great their need. I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.” –Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
I am not campaigning. I have never been able to live comfortably in what Richard Mitchell called “The World of We” — and I don’t ever want to be comfortable in that world. But if you feel as I do, you might consider making a holiday of John Galt Day as well.
No looters, no moochers, no parasites, no crybabies — for one day, at least. My life, my way — and I never really feel any other way. But for that one day, my life all my way. No one will dare oppose me, of course, but, if someone should, I know just what to say:
“Get the hell out of my way!” –Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged