"Atlas," at last! And just in the nick of
time. Though Atlas may not be planning to shrug this year, I
wouldn't blame him if he did. Foolish politics may hurt his
ability to carry the world on his shoulders much longer, even if
he wants to.
Actually, in the ancient Greek myth, the
Titan Atlas carried the heavens — not, as commonly thought, the
Earth — on his shoulders, which explains where he was standing
during the chore. But the concept is the same. Our civilization
depends on someone holding it all up and together, so we should
be grateful and supportive in our own way.
I discovered Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" when
I was 18, after the first three boys I dated in college
recommended it. When not working my factory assembly-line job, I
spent much of the summer reading the 1,084-page paperback.
Waited 50 years for the movie. Heard a few
years ago that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt wanted to make it,
but couldn't get the rights from John Aglialoro (CEO of Cybex
International in Medway); he finally released his version with
relatively unknown actors last week.
This works fine for those of us who've been
waiting so long, but may not get a large audience of people
unfamiliar with the book, which would be unfortunate. Everyone
should learn why today's economic equivalent of Atlas might
shrug someday soon. The news-clip opening of the film shows what
this event would look like. Many clips are already familiar; we
can relate to crumbling infrastructure and rising oil prices,
and even the sight of an airplane coming apart at the seams.
The book, written in 1957, predicted economic
catastrophe in the near future: This may have begun during the
Carter presidency but was deflected by the election of Ronald
Reagan. The movie updates it to 2016 when the country is
starting to fall apart because of ongoing bad decisions by Big
Government, Big Unions and the very wrong kind of Big Business
(which is familiar to us from the corporate welfare issue).
The heroes of the story are another kind of
businessman, the entrepreneurs who "drive the engine of the
world" or, as President Obama would call them, "the rich who
make more than $250,000 a year."
This is the theme of the book/movie, that the
American system functions because of the producers who create
the economy with their ideas, ability to raise capital, hard
work and ingenuity. Some of them, like railroad executive Dagny
Taggert, have inherited wealth then improved the family brand
(think of Fidelity's Ned Johnson); others are self-made
billionaires and job creators (think of the Massachusetts High
Tech executives who helped finance the Proposition 2˝
ballot campaign in 1980).
Rand is rarely credited with her admiration
of other good citizens: people at lower levels in the economic
hierarchy who work for the job creators, own the small
businesses that provide goods and services for them, appreciate
their contributions to the national wealth. She honors newsstand
operators who distribute the morning paper, cooks who serve warm
meals in clean diners. All of these carry the system with their
honest hard work and often additional ideas for improvement and
Best example: Eddie Willers, Dagny's
childhood friend, helping her run the railroad her
entrepreneurial ancestor founded. Most thrilling part of the
first film occurs when union railroad workers defy their union
boss to volunteer for the first trip over a bridge created by a
new kind of steel.
I'm hoping others of my favorite characters
will show up in the next two parts of the trilogy: Cherryl, the
shopgirl who is disillusioned after marrying Dagny's "Bad CEO"
brother; reporters who wish they could cover real news instead
of pitching class warfare; students who question irrational
liberal professors; the young bureaucrat who struggles with his
admiration of the producers that his government loathes. There
is someone in Rand's books for everyone to relate to and like.
The movie sometimes repeats the exact
dialogue of the book. But it can't give the uninitiated viewer
the pages of background necessary to understand the philosophy
behind the plot; it has to get inside their minds enough that,
as they watch events unfold in real life, they he can relate
them to the Randian theme.
We who have always saluted her vision can
only hope that those who like the movie will read the book.
After the first three days of limited release
to 300 theaters nationwide, "Atlas" had earned $1.67 million,
third only to the latest animated children's film "Rio" and the
teenage hit "Scream 4," on which it's better not to dwell. Rand
writes also about art and culture, preferring beautiful and
inspirational to ugly and mediocre. I think Part 1 of the movie
version of "Atlas Shrugged," while low-budget and at places
somewhat campy, fulfills her vision; it certainly earned my
applause at the end.
Please do me a favor and
see it soon, so its success will make the producer begin
“Atlas Shrugged Part 2” right away.
Meanwhile, ask yourself as the real-life
political situation deteriorates: Who is John Galt?