Chapter V – Part II

August 10, 2016

D’Anconia will meet Dagny at any time she wishes. As she walks along a desolate, twilight city street where “skyscrapers looked like abandoned lighthouses sending feeble, dying signals out into an empty sea where no ships moved any longer” and unmotivated snowflakes melt into mud, she wonders why she feels the urge to run and meet him like in the old days…

As a child, Francisco D’Anconia would come for one month of summer, enriching Eddie and Dagny’s lives immeasurably. Every year, as soon as Eddie spotted him they would run down the hill, racing in vain to be the first to reach the birch tree that stood between them. Frisco always won. Everything.

As the only son of a great family, Francisco was being raised around the world that was to be his domain. Summer offered his one certain destination: Time with his fellow heirs, the Taggarts, and a strict tutor.

“We are the only aristocracy left in the world – the aristocracy of money,” he said to Dagny once, when he was fourteen, “It’s the only real aristocracy, if people understood what it means, which they don’t.”

It is unclear that Francisco really merely means money…it would make more sense that he is espousing something more deeply attuned to a real production of value. Jim – the only other heir apparent in this equation — does not factor into Frisco’s system. However, Eddie seems to. It is emphasized that Frisco believes his value does not rest in his inherited wealth, but in growing his empire to surpass the greatness he is come from, “The reason my family has lasted for such a long time is that none of us has ever been permitted to think he is born a d’Anconia. We are expected to become one.”

It is not clear if one who was exceptionally skilled in simply parting fools from their money would qualify. Clearly he did just that in a whopping fashion with the San Sebastian mines. However, those victims are folks that we assume he, like Dagny, finds worse than fools.

We learn the story of his great ancestor, Sebastian, who threw his wine into the face of the Lord of the Spanish Inquisition when it was suggested that he should change his manner of thinking. He then left all his riches, including the love of his life, and escaped to the New World. There, he tacked his coat of arms to his shack in Argentina and spent years with a pickaxe breaking rocks, assisted by a few stray derelicts: deserters from the armies of his countrymen, escaped convicts, starving Indians.

We are not sure how Sebastian d’Anconia managed this, precisely. Like the story of Nat Taggart, sheer will, hard work and raw genius hardly seem enough to achieve either the major capital undertaking or the engineering triumph of a mine, much less to establish the pathways of commerce needed to get it running, especially in the South America of the 1500’s with no political connections save the very powerful ones who believe that he should be righteously executed. These practicalities aside, Sebastian is inhabiting a marble palace and running great mines, looking younger than ever, when his faithful love comes to meet him fifteen years later.

Dagny appeals to Conway, a fifty year old self-made man who lives and breathes the railroad. She vows to fight with him to overturn the rule. Conway, to her great dismay refuses. He laments that the world is in a terrible state, but men need to get together. He will honor his oath and the majority rule. She understands honor, but have they the right to twist a promise of working for the common good into an oath to commit professional suicide?

“’If that’s the price of getting together, then I’ll be damned if I want to live on the same earth with any human beings! If the rest of them can survive only by destroying us, then why should we wish them to survive? Nothing can make self-immolation proper. Nothing can give them the right to turn men into sacrificial animals. Nothing can make it moral to destroy the best. One can’t be punished for being good. One can’t be penalized for ability. If that is right, then we’d better start slaughtering one another, because there isn’t any right in the world!’”

Dan, however, is defeated, tired, and bound to a promise of compliance. He can’t bring himself to think it’s right – he worked way too hard for this…but…“Who is John Galt?”

Might as well go back to his line in Arizona. Maybe take up fishing or read a book,

Dagny assures him this isn’t personal pity, or charity – both of which she reviles – but a sense of the right way to do things. She had looked forward to the fierce competition over Colorado. Now she doesn’t even want to look at the Rio Norte – “Oh God, Dan, I don’t want to be a looter!”

He says that she should have been born a century ago and implores her not to abandon Ellis Wyatt; that it will be harder to serve him without the spark of competition. Don’t feel guilty. The work is well cut out for her.

She wonders what destroyed this man…it couldn’t have just been her brother…

“Motive power  — thought Dagny, looking up at the Taggart Building in the twilight. – was its first need;  motive power, to keep that building standing; movement to keep it immovable. It did not rest on piles driven into granite; it rested on the engines that rolled across a continent.”

Dagny has returned from a personal visit to those who should have provided those locomotives some year or so ago. The man spoke for two hours, seemed to find direct questions a sign of ill breeding, and in return had no clear answers to offer. Dagny shudders at the sight of precision machinery left to rot…the type of thing capable of magnificent works that it seems no one is any longer capable of taking care of, let alone producing.

She returns to the office to find a shaken Eddie who has more bad news: McNamara, the man who was to lay the Rio Norte’s tracks, is gone. With contracts left unfulfilled, the best contractor in the country has disappeared. No explanation. He just up and quit. Dagny is desperate to scream, but retains her composure. She’ll figure something out.

Hours later, she leaves the office. Normally satisfied to be the architect of her own satisfaction, this day has left her starving to see something of merit that someone other than she has created. The streets of New York offer nothing…screeching noise called a symphony, a book called “The Vulture is Molting”  about the depravity of corporate greed (which we are to believe is pure slander out to trash noble ones like her), a mindless movie, and a young woman with her dress hanging too low…not in daring but in disarray, the young man holding her arm not to romance her but “out to write obscenities on fences”.

She retreats to her apartment and the Fourth Concerto of Richard Halley. Through this art, Rand speaks her anguish:

“The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion,. It was a ‘No’ flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: ‘There is no necessity for pain – why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity? – we, who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?….The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything “was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion – and of a desperate quest.”

…”The story of his life had been like a summary written to damn greatness by showing the price one pays for it. It had been a procession of years spent in garrets and basements, years that had taken the gray tinge of the walls imprisoning a man whose music overflowed with violent color. It had been the gray of a struggle against long flights of unlighted tenement stairs, against frozen plumbing, against the price of a sandwich in an ill-smelling delicatessen store, against the faces of men who listened to music, their eyes empty. It had been a struggle without the relief of violence, without the recognition of finding a conscious enemy, with only a deaf wall to batter, a wall of the most effective soundproofing: indifference, that swallowed blows, chords and screams – a battle of silence, for a man who could give to sounds a greater eloquence than they had ever carried – the silence of obscurity, of loneliness, of the nights when some rare orchestra played one of his works and he looked at the darkness, knowing that his soul went in trembling, widening circles from a radio tower through the air of the city, but there were no receivers tuned to hear it.

The critics, it seemed, thought his heroics and ecstasy passé.

His life had been a summary of the lives of all the men whose reward is a monument in a public park a hundred years after the time when a reward can matter.

However…Halley, it seems, lived to see a small taste glory. When he was 24, he wrote an opera. Phaethon. This was an adaptation of the myth where the reckless son of a permissive father did not crash and set the Earth afire, but succeeded. The booing and catcalls back then led to a depressing search for answers which he could not find.

At 43, however, a second opening night met a far different response. Dagny was there as the applause overtook the opera hall and spilled out into the streets. Halley stood there, with an odd and questioning look on his face. The next day critics credited his work “as the product and expression of the greatness of the people”. They say that it’s only right he should have suffered so long; that his suffering was proud and noble. Soon after, Halley quits, selling rights that could have ensured him a comfortable retirement for a modest sum and disappearing without a trace.

…Speaking of suffering, Dagny, lost in the brief ecstasy of this kindred composer, happens to glance at that paper she purchased. Francisco D’Anconia is coming to town. She tries to resist reading it, especially not to the music, but cannot. In it she reads that he says he’s coming for some hat check girl and a good liverwurst sandwich. He will grant an interview with the press, but has nothing to say about a divorce trial that he in the center of, having apparently been an attempted murderess’ lover and inspiration. The press is delighted. They thought he’d avoid this scandal. When asked about the allegations he says that he never denies anything, and adds one more reason for coming: “I want to witness the farce.”

Apparently, while neither the crumbling railroad nor her crippling solitude in competence can break our heroine, this guy can. Dagny collapses into silent, shaking tears.

Rand is either loved or hated. I haven’t seen a single objective bit of writing on her. Bloody ironic as hell, very good point you have!

There is no perfect world; nor will there ever be. Rationally speaking it is as impossible as “true” peace. Why, some may ask; because people are not perfect. Thus we find another SNAFU in Rand’s synapse; rationally objectivism (by her definition) CAN NOT WORK due to the fact that no human is infallible. Not one of us is omniscient, we can not be; thus any individual “truth” we come to is potentially fallible, liable to change and morph as we learn more (if one chooses to continue learning that is).

Rand refuses the concept of fallibility in objectivism because she is not only arrogant enough but, deluded enough to believe she really has some superior thought process to us mere humans.

It’s as if she believes some humans (most especially herself) are gods among men. While in an individual here and there that’s not dangerous to the world as a whole but with Rand it becomes dangerous because her “true belief” followers pretty much set up shop at the church of Galt.

If mass amounts of people were to begin using objectivism the whole world would break down to anarchy in the newer sense of the word: total chaos.

Hank was perfect because of his imperfectness and that he knew he wasn’t perfect. Dagny was beautifully done, in the beginning. Her and Hank together were the superheros in the story before it fell apart; fighting it all on both sides. What’s sad is in the book they could have won if Dagny hadn’t fell victim to Galt. What’s terrifying is thinking that maybe at our current speed and condition Rand’s ending may well be what we’re heading for unless the “superhero” types, as you so eloquently said; ” <…> make like the cartoon end of Animal Farm and KICK ASS!”

~C.K.

Indeed!

The idea that’s been running around my head is this:

These are not “perfect people” in a “perfect world”….And the only people close to perfect in the book are Dagny and Hank. Hank maybe moreso, but neither of them are perfect.

They are gifted doers of reasonably pure heart who are surrounded by awful people. Cronyism, paternalism (Dagny is not in charge simply because she is the sister, not the brother), hypocricy, dishonesty, ingratitude, on and on…

…And one of the most irritating things about all of it is that they are the only ones trying to make everything work. Everyone else — at least the trolls blocking their paths — are indeed mooching. They have very little experience of honestly altruistic people. Heck, it’s possible that they may have such big walls up from being constantly obstructed and maligned that they couldn’t see a “good man of the cloth” if he came up and took their confessions.

These are not “perfect people” in a “perfect world”. These are fully frustrated people in a highly imperfect world who are fully isolated long before they finally give up and abandon society.

This is the story of what happens when the movers and shakers finally give up and decide to be as selfish and petulant as all the worthless idiots they are constantly holding up the walls for.

Ayn Rand THINKS she’s the only one thinking. Really she’s a frustrated, lonely, frigid witch who might earn some compassion if she wasn’t so cold.

She very astutely identifies a LOT of real problems. She generalizes WAY too far, and, idealizes her characters WAY too much, but she’s very good at identifying a whole boatload of wastes that deeply frustrate, and often undermine and gaslight awesome people.

She effectively leads us to the argument as to WHY purer socialism can’t work (the jerks will take over, please don’t give them that kind of mechanism/machine with which to control people, it’s better to decentralize so we can deal with the assholes in smaller, less powerful concentrations) — which she’s well positioned to deliver, being someone who left Russia right as they entered into that grave error, where corruption of her kind certainly continues to hold sway…

HOWEVER, WE now live in a world where the opposite side of that story can be told — crumbling cities, lost faith, apathy, fuck it all, not because of socialist croniess, but because of industrialist barons who have effectively been allowed to more or less take over the world, buy the government, shirk regulation and create their own machine…

Ayn Rand is such a problem because her characters say SEE YA! and abandon the whole lot. What we need in this world — as you mentioned — are SUPERHEROS. People who don’t give in and give it all up to the fools, but who — if they are ALL THAT — should stand up, inspire the masses, and make like the cartoon version end of Animal Farm and KICK ASS. Not the book version. That doesn’t end well, either…

What Think Ye?

August 6, 2012

All right, lady, I can comment on that until the cows come home. Figure I’ll let you eat it all up and sink it on in first, though, especially as you have to scroll up so far from here to get to the beginning of it — by the way, the book is the 50th Anniversary edition, and the journal excerpts come from Leonard Peikoff’s September 1991 forward. This is the most relevant part — though she also reflects on what John Galt means to the other characters. The rest is her going on about why she wants to use her philosophy to create fiction rather than offer straight knowledge to the world, and her suspicion that she’s the only original, rigorous thinker out there…

…She of little, little faith…

On Eddie and Cheryl …

August 5, 2012

*Gasp* You have not finished the book? Tsk!

Cheryl is young, she’s decent, compassionate, has faith in the best in humanity; basically everything Rand seems to hold in contempt. She left home and hearth and moved to the big city to learn more of life. Jim shows up loves her innocence and hope, how she looks up to him, is impressed by him. Plus he’d like the whole, “Oh look at what a great guy I am, I took this poor naive girl from her lowly job and brought her to the top of the world aren’t I just awesome” feeling he’d get. Jim would be able to convince Cheryl, who tends to see the good in people, that he is all “that”. I’ve got no problem with a young woman, freshly planted in the big bad city with a happy, happy, joy, joy look at the world being taken in with a Jim Taggart; he’s rich, he must be brilliant he runs a successful railroad . It happens every day. Guys like him look for girls like her. And girls like her don’t always figure it out after the third cocktail party, but eventually … girls like her always figure it out in the end. And in the end they become Dagny-like (before Dagny de-evolved in to a psycho).

In reality the Cheryl’s of the world may throw a brick through a window once she discovered she was betrayed so-to-speak; she may blow up and light the bastards car on fire, or just cry and eat a freezer full of ice-cream and have the pity party of the century but she wouldn’t off herself.

And Eddie … you have to read the end so we can deal with Eddie.

I’ve been trying to figure how Rand saw Galt and his ilk as the best that man can be. Trying. And failing. Galt is a leader and the rest blindly follow because he says so, they act and react to him like he’s a damn god. He’s like that dude Jim Jones or any successful cult leader, pick your favorite … a wolf in shepherd clothing leading bleating sheep. Eddie … in reality it’s as you say they couldn’t survive without the guys like Eddie, the right hand guy. In my view Eddie and Cheryl are closer to the best man can be than Galt, Frisco and Ragnar.

Hank’s the only character I liked through the whole book because he seemed to be the only one who did what he did in the end for HIS reasons, not Galt’s.

Just a side rant; how are the music makers and dreamers of dreams prime examples of objectivism at work? Um … yeah that doesn’t make sense to me either. The woman worked in Hollywood before she became who she became, she’s primarily a fiction writer yet she creates and promotes this philosophy of Objectivism? To me it seems a contradiction.

How do we want to do this? I’ve been trying to figure that out … chapter by chapter?

~C.K.

August 1, 2012

I’ve been asking myself; Why? Why does Galt piss me off more than anything? Because he’s arrogant, self-serving? Because he’s an asshole who construed a scheme to cripple the world and through his objective reasoning chose who he deemed the best the world had to offer were and proceeded to remove them from said world? Objective reasoning, Rand’s baby. The yang to the yin of Altruism; Objectivism.

The whole of Atlas Shrugged is based on Rand’s idea that the world runs on religiously enforced altruism with no objective reasoning to this belief based in a viable logic; whereas she believes objectivism — selfish love, happiness, etc — is based in logical objective reasoning.

This is why the book annoyed the holy hell out of me and ultimately why, while Rand has a decent concept, it is a flawed concept. Altruism works as well as objectivism in practice because they do not work separately. They cause chaos apart; they cause mayhem when pitted against one another. They *are* yin and yang; they only work when merged.

So yes, Galt annoys me because he is Rand’s poster boy for objectivism. But why this deep seeded blast of anger when I see a “Who is John Galt” poster at a protest or just hear the phrase? Reading through news stories the other day I realized why. There was a comment made on an article about the new Batman movie and the commenter was speaking of the “birth” of superheroes, he said they were figures who brought light into the darkness; that they were strong reminders that fear only has power over us as long as we allow it to.

And that answers my, “why?” better than anything. Ayn Rand has no sense of community. I bet if someone wanted to borrow a cup of sugar she’d tell them to objectively screw off. That’s why objectivism as a whole could never, ever run the world — no sense of community; no need to lend a cup of sugar.

And Galt, he could have been Batman but instead he burns Gotham to the ground. And that offends my sense of what is morally right if you have the power and ability to right the wrongs. In Atlas John Galt did have that power and ability.

~C.K.

July 31, 2012

John Galt could potentially be someone like I could become if one allowed their arrogance to override common sense and belief in humanity as a whole. So for all his brains yes, he’s the biggest fool of all for having the ability to have done something so much more powerful in that book than to punish the world by depriving them of that which gives it its hope and heart — the music makers and the dreamers of dreams.

Of course on the other hand, he may just be a plain ol’ supercilious, diatribe spewing jacknut.

 

~C.K.

July 31, 2012

I’ve been thinking about Ayn Rand. Something about her and everything going on now has me jittery, like I’m waiting for all hell to break loose. Maybe it’s all I’m seeing and hearing around me coming out of normally intelligent people’s mouths. They sound like a Rand novel. The other day, as an example, one was saying the people who succeed do so because they work hard and they deserve what they have and it shouldn’t be taken from them and given to people who haven’t earned it. The other was saying, yeah but if you didn’t hold sole ownership of an idea and it was given to everyone, no one would be in this position now!

I guess I’m half waiting for Galt to show up. Which leads me to, who is this Anonymous running the 99% idea? This is a person, (or persons) I want to talk to, know about. I want to know where he comes from. I want to know what his intent is. All I know is I guarantee this person (or persons) has read Rand and is either like us or like Galt.

I want to know which one.
~ C.K.