If you have spent time in certain circles, you have heard the term "Going Galt" so many times in some many circumstances you are heartily sick of hearing the term. If you have never read Atlas Shrugged or never frequented those websites, you might find yourself in need of a definition.
For years I had one that I thought I understood. The thought was the idea of Galt's Gulch, of totally separating one's self from society and creating a society of like minded people based on the principles of independence, mutual respect, and rewarded labor. Many people have worked with this definition in hand, and I applaud them for it (you will find some of them who have done so in the blog roll to the right).
It is a fine definition, but I always found that it lacked one thing: an application for me. I am not in a position to become independent and doubt I will be for some time (the story is long and involves responsibilities I took on and failed decisions that I consciously made). It became a sort of pipe dream, the sort of thing that one alludes to as "someday" but in the heart one knows that it will never really come true.
I will be honest - I think this is many people's definition as well.
But as I have thought through this week and the tail end of an election and the myriad of potential futures - none of them great - I have come to understand a second meaning, one that anyone can begin to apply at any time. The definition of not engaging in or supporting the system.
Not in the way most people think, by not paying one's taxes or blatantly ignoring laws. Those are ultimately engaging in the system because the system has been created to address those sorts of things (and, for the Christian anyway, those are not really options). No, it seems to be instead the separation of one mentally from the system.
I support the system and the society when I accept its entertainment, when I embrace its version of reality (news), when I buy into its morals and its thought patterns. When I spend as others spend and make myself dependent on the social acceptance of others, I support the society.
The trick is simply to mentally - and physically where required - walk away.
Think about it: even if I argue against something, a position that I disagree with or a thing that I find offensive, I am consciously giving that thing a legitimacy in keeping it alive and discussing it. If I do not engage, I do not even give it the ability to be something of import - first to me, hopefully then to others.
My mental picture, if it works, is that of a wave hitting a beach: if it hits a sand wall it directs its full force on it to tear it down but if it merely hits flat shores, it eventually extends itself to the point that disappears into the sand underneath with only perhaps a wave mark or line of debris. The sand remains; the ocean has disappeared from it.
In a bit of an ironic twist (for Rand the atheist, anyway), I think her thinking in this matter reflects the New Testament as well. We are told to be in the world but not of the world, to set the cares of the world aside and focus solely on God and His approval. The world and its things are to be something we use, not necessarily something we engage in.
This expands the definition so much. Suddenly this is something that I - or anyone else - can do. Go about your life but do the minimum you need to engage in the society. Save the effort, save the energy, for your own projects. But deny that effort and energy to the world at large.
What would a nation look like if millions of people became the gray, faceless mask that lives quiet private lives of intensity and effort and mastery but lives public lives of doing only that which is needed and not supporting the society at large one iota more than is necessary? I can only guess, but I suspect you find an underground economy and society humming with life and productivity while placidly quiet and minimalist on the surface.
Perhaps Going Galt is in the cards for many more of us than we first thought.