Chapter 28: The Egoist
After Galt's speech, the villains panic. Dagny is the first to speak of a solution: she tells the villains to quit, to give up. Stadler tells them to kill Galt. Thompson, in his attempt to denial his true thug-like nature, views both views as too extreme. He decides to strike a deal with John Galt. While he is correct that a man like Galt is always open to a deal, he doesn't allow himself to realize that he has nothing of value to offer as his part of the deal.
More people quit, and seemingly random acts of violence become more rampant. Barns are burnt, whole families destroy themselves. Factories and vital industries fall as everyone avoids the jobs of responsibility. People reacted apathetically to the wage-raises for making effort; it is as if people don't care to live or they don't care to live on present terms. The incumbents send out radio messages of distress on every available channel, in hopes that one of them would reach Galt. In desperation, Thompson asks Dagny for help, subtly leaking out the possibility that Galt might be in danger to goad her into action. Thompson tells Dagny that he can't help it if Ferris catches him first--Ferris believes in using force and harm as a means of discipline, while Thompson, claiming that he and Mouch are more liberal, would go for none of that.
Dagny, who is too guileless to believe the villains could be playing good-cop/bad-cop on the issue of a great man's life, stalks down Galt's river-side slum house. For twelve years, Galt had lived in the real world 11 months out of 12. His home is in the worst side of town, as befits the monetary-means of the lowest of track laborers. Yet, he has a secret locked inside his home: the world's most coveted lab, filled with discoveries that could move the world. A clipping of Dagny's joyful image taken on the launch of the John Galt Line symbolizes what Galt wants to achieve; what men expect of feel about their life once or twice in a while--that is what Galt chose as the constant and normal.
Galt tells Dagny that they've little time left together on earth. That the villains would crack down on them any moment now. Dagny is horrified, but Galt assures her that this meeting was worth it; in fact, he would have been disappointed had she not come. While Dagny has never expected to resort to prevarication, she sees that the only way that Galt would escape them is if she plays along: the mind and its own force against the mindless brute. When the villains break into Galt's apartment, they force their way into the locked room of his secret lab. When the door gives, they find that it is a room of black nothingness--the demise of the room is strikingly symbolic of the creed: "do not force a mind," lest you lose (access to) it.
With full consciousness, Dagny claims she hates Galt because he wants to destroy her railroad. She knows that if the villains believe there is any affinity between them, Dagny would be used as a torture hostage. Because the villains can only extort from the victim's own values, and that Galt doesn't care to exist without values, Galt would kill himself if Dagny is used to goad his obedience--it would only be a hopeless prolonged torture.
Three stories of the Wayne-Falkland Hotel is converted into an armed prison for this very special POW. Who is John Galt?
Thompson attempts to negotiate with Galt. He offers Galt the ludicrous position of Economic Dictator. To Thompson, this position is one of the most coveted offices a villain would desire. Reason is the enemy Thompson dreads, as he clearly did not let his wits process Galt's speech: "every dictator is a mystic... a mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement... he feels that men possess a power more potent than reason--and only their causeless belief and forced obedience can give him a sense of security." Indeed, Thompson not only disbelieves in reason and staid reality--that Galt had already denounced all dictators--he also fails to understand the meaning of words, telling John that "if you want a free economy--order people to be free!"
John replies aptly, "If you're able to pretend you haven't heard a word I said on the radio, what makes you think I haven't said it?" (Blank-out.)
Thompson's negotiation with Galt is unproductive aside from his realization that he would have no chance to speak to Galt except at gunpoint, that because he has Galt trapped, Galt's life is at his mercy. But, Galt states that because Thompson does not have any values of his, Galt's life is not his to sell. Thompson is unsettled by this conversation, and he would rather blank-out the growing revelation that he is nothing but a thug, a gun-man who threatens with the symbolic logic statement: your life or your mind.
Some other guys attempt to talk to Galt. While seemingly post-climatic reveberations of Galt's speech, each villain's to suade him does further reveal his character.
Taggart vs Galt: Taggart attempts to convince Galt that he's not right, that no one can be sure of his own knowledge, that it's a selfish luxury to hold out when people need you. Galt, the egoist, flicks off each one of Taggart's impotent lines: he knows that he is wanted because he is sure of his knowledge and that it is right, on an absolute scale, and that it is his ideas that people need. Yet, the core of Taggart's arguments can be summed by this line, "People are suffering and perishing--and you who could save them join us even if you think we're wrong... sacrifce your mind to save them." If Taggart wants Galt to sacrifice his only means to save them, then that would be death to all. The insidious nature behind Taggart's facade of the public good is revealed in the next chapter.
Morrison vs Galt: Morrison attempts to wring pathos from Galt by bringing him the petition of a bunch of schoolteachers begging Galt to save them. Essentially, Morrison feigns begging Galt's pity for all those who suffer. Galt asks Morrison whether all those who suffer had pity for Rearden. "Those who suffer" has, traditionally, been used as the chain to wield the shackles binding the heroes; once the hero falls for the trap of pitying, he will realize that the ones to be pitied are actually the ones destroying him. Morrison, then, attempts to use the age-old weapon of wringing guilt and pity from Galt. He would quit, run screaming out of the room, in the next chapter, when he realizes that such traditional weapons are now impotent.
Ferris vs Galt: (In the current author's opinion, Ferris sounds nigh too much like your typical college "ethics coordinator." The current author is haunted by such memories as the mandatory "ethics seminar" she had to attend as part of her summer REU in physics--wherein the "ethics coordinator" of the large public university that hosted the event regurgitated the essence of Ferris' argument.) Ferris attempts to force Galt to believe that it is his "moral responsibility" to the people. Using the excuse of the food shortages, Ferris threatens to kill every third child under ten and everyone over sixth years of age. (Bye bye octogenarians, et al.) "To fail to save a life is as immoral as to murder." Galt does not respond at all to Ferris. Who is the government--and Ferris, for that matter--to decide who gets to live? That a family would work hard and have their children killed, while another family would slouch around in lassitudes and be dealt the same blow--that punishment be blind, the good suffer with the bad. From the current state of the world, it is evident that the few good who remain would stop wasting their energies, and Ferris' plan could only end in disaster. Therefore, his plan speaks volumes about his own character--that because killing would not make the final disaster inevitable, he would kill for the sake of killing.
Stadler vs Galt: Once, he was a man who truly believed in the virtuous saying, "to the fearless truth, the involate mind." Twenty two years ago, he had told Galt that "The only sacred value in the world is the inviolate human mind." It is a depressing degrading that he would violate his so-called inviolate human mind, that he would stifle his thinking a bit with each step until he suffocates and dies. He attempts to defend himself against John, when by virtue of his mind--his once inviolate mind, he shouldn't need to...
- The mind is useless against force. (I can't help it!)
- All I wanted to do was to force the mindless materialists (The gun was aimed at them, not us!)
- I had no choice except to play their game with their rules and beat them at it.
- Human knowledge set free of material bonds was the great ideal I wanted (Unlimited end unrestricted by means.)
- There is no other way to live on earth (Stadler then thinks of the speech: It was only logic... one can't live by logic, rationality twenty-four hours a day with no rest, no escape... ... ...)
- YOU ARE THE MAN WHO HAS TO BE DESTROYED!
Morrison attempts his final pull at Galt by forcing him to attend a celebration in honor of him--one to prove the merger of his ways and ours, that anything can be reconciled and united. The purpose of the celebration is valueless and immaterial, but that is no surprise because the villains' world has no objective values remaining. The blind irrationality of the event would fail to acknowledge that neither their God or their Guns would make the celebration mean what they were struggling to pretend it meant.
The luxuries offered in the event epitomized the best that the looters' view of existence could offer. Essentially, it is the sum of blank-out mindlessness--of the sacred value of the inviolate mind rescinded, perhaps never even found in the first place--the spread of mindless adulation, the unreality of enormous pretense:
- Approval w/o standards
- Tribute w/o content
- Honor w/o causes
- Admiration w/o reasons
- Love w/o a code of values.
Dagny wonders whether they even see Galt, whether they wanted him to be real. If Galt is what a man can be... would they be stopped by the looters, who have not chosen to achieve it, and regard the looters and mouchers as humans and Galt as the impossible?
The John Galt Plan is announced to be the abomination of ensuring the few faithful remaining that the impossible would be possible--that all conflicts would be reconciliated and everyone would be pleased. By placating the irrational, one rescinds the rational. When they finally let John have the mic, his valliant words go like:
"Get the hell out of my way!"