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The real John Galts of the world


There was a crazy old lady who mesmerised the capitalist folks back in the era of cold war, with her emotional appeal to their selfish egos. She was successful because, she managed to turn cold selfishness into a virtue. She made usurpation morally palatable. She made individuality that destroys social fabric of communities, a morally superior choice.  While I understand her perspective coming as it was from a immigrant fleeing communist excesses, I don't understand today's people still seeking inspirations in the nonsensical steam-letting of an old woman whose grip on reality was heavily coloured and biased by narrow experiences and perspectives.
Her name was Ayn Rand and she legitimised her biases by giving it a name - objectivism.
One of Ayn Rand's most famous character is a certain 'John Galt' - a maverick engineer who  organises a strike among the world's smartest, most creative entrepreneur and artists and thereby - "stops the motor of the world". If you read it as a reaction to communism, one can be sympathetic to this fantasy. Sure, I loved the book the first time I read it in my early teenage. Isn't it great to feel that 'I too can stop the motor of the world, since I am special'. But then I grew up.

And I saw how this poisonous 'moral license' that Ayn Rand has let loose on the planet is harming the world. Apple, Google avoid taxes like a crook and yet they continue to be revered. Amazon, Uber brutally destroy economies and livelihoods, and yet they are celebrated. Oil/ coal companies are given a free pass over vast stretches of the globe to pollute as they please. The climate is being irreparable damaged for individual gain of a few, and yet there is no moral pressure on them to reverse their loot. Morality has been decoupled from pursuits of profits, and that is the new morality.
Our lives now center around the screens - tv, mobile, laptop - and that has turned us into observers even when things are happening right around us, affecting our air, our land. We are simply shells of some cloud-based sentient creatures now, unmoored from the land and water, detached from the morality that should be intertwined with all our actions, transactions, reactions.

If corporates and greedy politicians had their way, humanity would have been beaten to its knees by now. Large swathes of population would have been dead in famine, war or diseases. If it were not for the real John Galts of the world, the real motor of the planet. People like Dayamani Barla who is fighting for adivasi voice, Jimmy Carter trying to eradicate Guinea worm, Vandana Shiva preserving seeds and soils, Jadav Payeng who single-handedly grew a forest to save an island from washing away and millions of people like these who fight for the rights and resources of people and future generations.

These are the real motors of the world - not the entrepreneurs and artists, who are creating 'shareholder value' by destroying public value.


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