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A problem with politicians

The Gladestry Old Men’s Lunch takes place every month, and the attendees could hardly be said to be representative. All are white, and all are at least nearing seventy. Many are considerably older than that. Given that homogeneity, there is a perhaps surprising range of political opinions, from quite far to the right to quite far to the left, and from passionately anti-Brexit to convinced pro-Brexit. To maintain harmony, these things are not often mentioned. At the most recent lunch, however, politics were discussed, and there was not one dissenting voice. It was universally agreed that there was not one person in the upper levels of any of the three main political parties for whom one could feel a shred of respect.

Ayn Rand would, of course, have agreed, and went even further. There is not a single politician in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ who is not simultaneously venal, corrupt, greedy and stupid. And whereas at our lunch there was considerable discussion about how it was that what we had always thought of as a reasonably sensible country had got itself into this state, for her there was no problem. Politicians are like that.

For us, however, that was not enough of a reason. Most of us could remember at least one politician we had admired (seldom the same one) and, in typical old-man fashion, at my end of the table we knew who to blame. It was the media, and their preference for three-word soundbites rather than hard looks at the facts.

John Galt, the hero of ‘Atlas Shrugged’, was certainly no fan of three-word soundbites. When he decided to use his almost supernatural understanding of physics and electrical engineering to take over the media, it was to harangue the people of America in a monologue that stretches over almost sixty pages of my edition of the book. How long it would have taken to deliver is not specified, but when he was about three-quarters of the way through Galt spoke to his audience about

“… the fence that you have been straddling for two hours while hearing my words”

Which supposes that, of course, that anyone was still listening. Insofar as Galt had a soundbite to deliver it was this:

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine”.

He then put this mission statement into effect by asking every talented person he could find to live for him and his philosophy. It is at this point that the whole grand Ayn Rand edifice crumbles. Even the improbable genius that was John Galt could do nothing without the help and co-operation of other people.

In the grand finale Galt succeeded in his aim. The United States was in ruins and most of its inhabitants were dead, or were about to die as a result of war, famine and/or disease.

Much as one would like to see the back of the gruesome trio of Johnson, Corbyn and Swinson, this seems a rather drastic way of achieving it.