Earlier this month, pricey yoga pant and cheesy sentiment pushers Lululemon started putting the phrase “Who is John Galt?” on their bags. Then they posted a blisteringly insipid entry on their blog to explain how a quote from Ayn Rand’s epic heap of political science excrement, Atlas Shrugged, had become the new “drink eight glasses of water each day.”
Lululemon founder, Chip Wilson, an intellect who usually spends his time contemplating the deep philosophies of the Landmark cult apparently first read Atlas Shrugged when he was 18 and was recently inspired to dig into the greater meaning of the book. (This Ayn Rand Appreciation Trajectory, I would like to point out, is the exact opposite of any rational person’s.) “Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is Lululemon’s company vision)” writes lulu blogger Alexis (emphasis hers, sadly enough).
Atlas Shrugged, Alexis goes on to explain, is a story about a horrible world where the bad government has too much control, and that leads to mediocrity. And that might sound far-fetched, but thing is, we all accept mediocrity in our daily lives! So, basically, “Who is John Galt?” is on their bags to remind their customers to strive for greatness and never accept mediocrity. (Unless, of course, we’re talking about accepting the massive dive in quality that I noticed when Lululemon stopped making their clothing in Canada.)
Because $100 yoga pants that are going to pill after one wash = greatness.
Now, I have been known to enjoy the occasional piece of Lululemon clothing. I work in the fitness industry, after all, so lulu-wearing is a bit of an inevitability. But I just can’t abide by this. As long as any words from that scourge on political theory and literature remain on Lululemon’s bags, I will stay the fuck out of their store.
You see, I’m particularly sensitive to all things of this nature because I went through an ill-advised Rand phase myself. I was 13, I was bullied and had very few friends, and I’d had some run-ins with a school system that didn’t really want to deal with the weird gifted kid. And then I found a bunch of books about misunderstood special people who weren’t respected by society and went and lived in the mountains with other special people and lived happily ever after, and I thought that sounded really good. But then I turned 14, gained a basic understanding of the world and realized how fucking juvenile and downright stupid Ayn Rand’s writing and her bullshit philosophy, Objectivism, really were.
You know how former smokers are the most virulent and in-your-face anti-smokers? Well, that’s me with Ayn Rand. I hate her so much that I can’t even bring myself to revisit any of her work and craft a more sophisticated argument against her than the one I developed while I was, well, developing. But I’m not going to let that stop me. If Lululemon can write a blog post that features an embarrassingly infantile grasp of an embarrassingly infantile philosophy, then so can I.
Here is a synopsis of Atlas Shrugged, as remembered by my 13-year-old self:
There’s this woman named Dagny Taggart and she runs her family business Taggart Steel or whatever the hell it’s called. She is a woman, but she doesn’t let her IQ-melting vagina of mediocrity get in the way of her being a super awesome business man, because, um… because Ayn Rand needed a way to reconcile her misogyny with her narcissism.
She has a trusty manservant who works his ass off for her and her company, but he’s working class, so fuck him.
Taggart Steel Or Industries Or Whatever make the best steel ever. I think it’s made with some secret magical ingredient or blend or something. I guess it’s basically the steel version of luon, the supposedly secret special spandex blend that Lululemon uses in most of their clothing.
Anyway, having the super best steel that makes the best railway supplies (I’m just going with “supplies” because I don’t remember if they made tracks or trains or both and I really don’t care) makes them major players, because the railway is pretty much the most important form of transportation in the world. So yeah. Ayn Rand was such a fucking visionary that she couldn’t imagine a future in which the railway would not be the world’s predominant form of transportation.
And the government is very mean and evil. They’re making everyone do socialism to each other, which is, obviously, encouraging mediocrity. And this is having a terrible impact on Taggart Stuff, but I don’t really remember why. Maybe they’re trying to outlaw the magic steel ingredient because it’s not fair that the other steel companies don’t have it. Or maybe they’re trying to make them pay their factory workers more than a dollar an hour. Whatever the case, socialism is destroying the world and making Dagny sad.
Also, everyone is running around and saying “Who is John Galt?” which, if I recall correctly, is some sort of combination of “whatever,” “What can you do?” and “Who gives a shit?” Because this is obviously a catchphrase that would catch on. People would totally use “Who is John Galt?” as an expression of futility, apathy and socialism-encouraged mediocrity. Among other things, Ayn Rand is an expert on the development of catchphrases.
So the oppressive government makes things continually worse. Some trains crash or something. People commit socialist atrocities for hundreds of pages. Somewhere in all of this, we find out that John Galt is a real dude and not just a catchphrase. He was a totally awesome industrialist visionary moneymaker, but the horrible socialist government wouldn’t let him be great (like Kanye). So he abandoned the world. And apparently this was a big deal, even though his disappearance has lead to little more than a shitty catchphrase.
John Galt meets Dagny somehow. He does not rape her, because he’s kind of a pussy compared to Howard Roark, but, somehow, she manages to respect him, anyway. He takes her to the secret mountain compound that he established when he left the world behind, because this is an Ayn Rand book, and her solution to EVERYTHING is to run away and live in the mountains. Same shit goes down in Anthem. And I think it happens in some of her other stories as well.
In the mountain compound, Dagny meets a bunch of leaders of men. Then we reach one of the few moments in the book that I remember with any clarity: Dagny sees a woman and asks what she does. Galt tells her that the woman is a writer. Dagny wants to know if she’s ever heard of anything she’s written. And John Galt is all “She writes in her head.”
What. The. Fuck? She writes in her head? I think the logic in the book is that the stupid leeches and mediocre socialists of the world aren’t good enough for her writing, so she keeps it to herself. And everyone thinks that’s cool, because she’s a leader of men.
If some struggling artist protester did that, objectivists would lose their shit. But when Ayn Rand’s precious Mary Sue does it in Atlas Shrugged, it’s totally fucking awesome. So basically, fuck the working class who are toiling away in your factories, WORKING, to build things and carry out your super-important libertarian ideas while you pay them nothing. But yay people who write in their heads and do absolutely NOTHING.
Anyway, Dagny comes back for some reason or other (Rand needed to further the plot) and things get even more covered in socialist germs. Mediocrity is everywhere! Shit is falling apart! It gets so bad that John Galt is forced to take over the radio waves (again, Rand proves herself a visionary, completely nailing modern technology) to deliver a speech. It lasts for NINETY PAGES. And he basically spends the whole speech saying that he rules and socialism drools. I don’t remember any of the details. It’s really fucking obnoxious and self-aggrandizing and basically like reading an interview with an even more humourless Bono for NINETY PAGES.
Shit falls apart some more, and Dagny finally escapes to the mountains for good, leaving her trusty manservant to die. And he’s totally cool with that. This dude has followed her through most of the book, taken care of all of her shit, worked his ass off with no complaints and been the most loyal employee in the history of the world. But he wasn’t a rich visionary, so he wasn’t allowed to go the mountains. And, once again, he’s cool with this. He dedicates his whole life to Taggart Assholes, works harder than anyone else in the book — especially that incorrigible cunt who writes books in her head — but he has to die because he’s not a rich visionary. He’s the portrait of everything that rich people wish that those wretched poor would be and it’s still not fucking good enough! He has to die! AND HE’S COOL WITH IT.
Because nothing makes objectivists harder than the idea that the poors and the working class will wake up one day and realize that they don’t deserve to live and just off themselves. It would solve all of the world’s problems! A bee colony with no worker bees! What could go wrong?!
I don’t really remember what happens after that. I’m assuming that all of the poors and socialists are suffocated by mediocrity and then the awesome rich people descend from the mountains to rebuild the world. Or maybe they stay there and the awful poors continue to lurch around and they start saying “Who were all of those fucking assholes?” instead of just “Who is John Galt?” I’m sure the ending is stupid, whatever it is.
Wait, I just googled “Atlas Shrugged last line” and this is what I found:
He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.
That’s just amazing. And it just goes to prove how fucking right Ayn Rand was about how useless liberal pieces of shit like me really are. Because there is absolutely nothing I could possibly write to parody her that would even come close to that line.