Sunday, December 25, 2005

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

venue...

This page shows the last few entries of my notes/commentaries on Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged. For the full bunch of entries, check the August 2005 Archives.

You may contact me at yosun[at]nusoy[dot]com.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Chapter 30: In the Name of the Best Within Us

This final chapter, like the preceding chapters following Galt's speech, presents to the reader more events which review the salient points of Galt's speech.

Dagny, the only one amongst the heroes who is still officially in the world, goes up to the sentinnel guarding the entrance to Project F. She gives him the ultimatum of "to think (thus live) or to obey (blindly)," when she demands entrance. Because the guard utters the insidious bromide, "who am I to think?"--which implies who am I to live--and because when faced with the danger of a gun, the gun terrorizes him less than the act of choosing to stand down instead of obeying the late (mentally) Ferris' orders--that he would choose to exist without consciousness--Dagny shoots him.

Dagny, Rearden, d'Anconia and Danneskjold are the first of many others in Galt's Gulch to reach Galt. They, the force guided by mind, effortlessly manage to bypass the armed guards--brute force without mind. When Dagny reaches him, Galt has obtained the one value he wanted to win from the outer world. The other Gulchers who risked their life to save him did not do so at a sacrifice, either. Galt is too big of an asset to leave in the hands of the looters, and, in full consciousness of his superlative value, they would risk their lives to save this asset.

Eddie Willers finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere when the diesel of the last Taggart Comet dies on him. A band of men traveling by means of horse-drawn wagons offers him and the passengers a ride, whilst telling him the news that the Taggart bridge had fallen. Eddie had previous found out that Headquarters isn't responding. He refuses to join the band of men who have resorted to the primitive, as if he were a sea captain who would rather drown in his ship, rather than be saved by savages rowing in their canoes.

In his fall to desperate mindlessness, Willers realizes the exact nature of the best within us--it is that in men which makes business and making a living possible. His desperate panic loses coherence, when he calls out--in the name of saving it, the best within us, he had to get the train going. He does not allow himself to accept that it cannot be saved in the outer world; and thus, because of this negation of mind, however slight, he is doomed to perish.

The final section of this book is supposed to convey the sense of an immense deliverence of freedom of release and tension of purpose, of space swept clean, leaving nothing but the joy of unobstructed effort. The heroes plan to repopulate and remake the world. This has to be because A is A, and the world they are to create will be the one for man qua man. (man by virtue of being man)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Chapter 29: The Generator

The generator is the source of... Stadler's physical demise (generator as Project X), Dagny's epiphany (revelation of true nature of villains), and Taggart's mental realization and demise. The latter two vie the generator as Project F.

Stadler realizes the fatal dead end of his submitting to the looter's game. That once the looters have exhausted their use of him, he would no longer be safe from them and whatever power he had would instantly disappear. He plans on seizing control of Project X. His means: somehow. His motive: his terror of Thompson, the fact that it now is either Galt joins them or Galt refuses to surrender, wherein Stadler would be tortured to attempt to goad John. Stadler's liquid brain of thoughts without connections feels that his plan is a practical necessity.

Stadler finds that the Friends of the People have taken over the project a few hours before him. Stadler's terror when he encounters Meig, the vigilante head of the project, is the realization that Cuffy Meigs is his final spiritual son--the imbecile whom Stadler had sold his soul to. Meigs' terror in his moment of triumph, of gaining control over a weapon capable of mass destruction, is finding the mystic intellectual present, here, and refusing to fear him and defying his power! Meig, as per the psychological defense mechanism evident in his bullyism, lived in chronic terror his whole life, and now, it is as if the sum of his triumph has become the sum of his fears.

Megis, in his drunken panic, louts about and accidentally presses the lever for the weapon to self-destruct. Stadler, et. al., perish. Justice is blind as to who dies--whether the worthless lout of a bulley symbolized by Cuffy or Stadler, the once inviolate mind who had confronted the syllogism that A is A enough to have created the theory making the weapon possible.

Dagny listens in on the looters' plans after Galt's outbreak. Morrison panics and runs away (presumably to his well-stocked country home), stating that he's tried everything he could, etc. The rest of the villains realize that no matter what private escapes they'd provided for themselves, the full fact is that all are trapped. That if they were to run away to their country fortress, their lives could very well be taken by bandits. "They had the relieved look of cheats who could believe that the game could end no other way and were making no effort to contest or regret it." Even at checkmate, they would blank-out the solution of giving up, and they would still want their own way (who are they to know that their way is right?).

Mouch and Thompson give up their "liberal" stance and lets Ferris deal with Galt via force.

Dagny's epiphany comes about when she realizes that the nature and method of rebellion they had against existence--their undefined quest for some unnamed Nirvanna--was that they did not want to live, that they wanted to die.

As Galt lies trapped in the torture rack of the Ferris Persuader--Project F, Taggart screams out to them to increase the current, to deliver more pain to Galt, (to increase the current enough so as to kill him). When the generator breaks, Galt is the only one who can instruct the mechanic on how to fix it. The mechanic runs away, while Taggart attempts to fix it.

In the midst of his frenetic mindless action, Taggart realizes the truth about himself. That he wants Galt to die knowing that death would follow after wards, that given the choice of reality or die, he would forsake reality to die. That underneath the superficiality of "the public good," hidden from himself by his miasma of feelings and blank-outs, Taggart's core is:
  • Lust to destroy whatever was living for the sake of whatever was not.
  • To defy reality by the destruction of every living value, for the sake of proving to himself that he could exist in defiance of reality, never bound by facts.
Ferris and Mouch drag Taggart away, halting their torture of John for the time being, fearing that if they were to continue, they would reach a similarly self-stifling realization of self.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Chapter 28: The Egoist

John Galt is an egoist in the purest, most undiluted sense of the word: he lives for his own sake, his own life. Therefore, the looters' attempts to chain him via references to "moral responsibility" and such are useless. Moreover, he's not open to a deal without a mutual trade: value given and received on both sides; Thompson's attempts to negotiate with him are pointless because the world of the villains has no value to offer him.

After Galt's speech, the villains panic. Dagny is the first to speak of a solution: she tells the villains to quit, to give up. Stadler tells them to kill Galt. Thompson, in his attempt to denial his true thug-like nature, views both views as too extreme. He decides to strike a deal with John Galt. While he is correct that a man like Galt is always open to a deal, he doesn't allow himself to realize that he has nothing of value to offer as his part of the deal.

More people quit, and seemingly random acts of violence become more rampant. Barns are burnt, whole families destroy themselves. Factories and vital industries fall as everyone avoids the jobs of responsibility. People reacted apathetically to the wage-raises for making effort; it is as if people don't care to live or they don't care to live on present terms. The incumbents send out radio messages of distress on every available channel, in hopes that one of them would reach Galt. In desperation, Thompson asks Dagny for help, subtly leaking out the possibility that Galt might be in danger to goad her into action. Thompson tells Dagny that he can't help it if Ferris catches him first--Ferris believes in using force and harm as a means of discipline, while Thompson, claiming that he and Mouch are more liberal, would go for none of that.

Dagny, who is too guileless to believe the villains could be playing good-cop/bad-cop on the issue of a great man's life, stalks down Galt's river-side slum house. For twelve years, Galt had lived in the real world 11 months out of 12. His home is in the worst side of town, as befits the monetary-means of the lowest of track laborers. Yet, he has a secret locked inside his home: the world's most coveted lab, filled with discoveries that could move the world. A clipping of Dagny's joyful image taken on the launch of the John Galt Line symbolizes what Galt wants to achieve; what men expect of feel about their life once or twice in a while--that is what Galt chose as the constant and normal.

Galt tells Dagny that they've little time left together on earth. That the villains would crack down on them any moment now. Dagny is horrified, but Galt assures her that this meeting was worth it; in fact, he would have been disappointed had she not come. While Dagny has never expected to resort to prevarication, she sees that the only way that Galt would escape them is if she plays along: the mind and its own force against the mindless brute. When the villains break into Galt's apartment, they force their way into the locked room of his secret lab. When the door gives, they find that it is a room of black nothingness--the demise of the room is strikingly symbolic of the creed: "do not force a mind," lest you lose (access to) it.

With full consciousness, Dagny claims she hates Galt because he wants to destroy her railroad. She knows that if the villains believe there is any affinity between them, Dagny would be used as a torture hostage. Because the villains can only extort from the victim's own values, and that Galt doesn't care to exist without values, Galt would kill himself if Dagny is used to goad his obedience--it would only be a hopeless prolonged torture.

Three stories of the Wayne-Falkland Hotel is converted into an armed prison for this very special POW. Who is John Galt?

Thompson attempts to negotiate with Galt. He offers Galt the ludicrous position of Economic Dictator. To Thompson, this position is one of the most coveted offices a villain would desire. Reason is the enemy Thompson dreads, as he clearly did not let his wits process Galt's speech: "every dictator is a mystic... a mystic craves obedience from men, not their agreement... he feels that men possess a power more potent than reason--and only their causeless belief and forced obedience can give him a sense of security." Indeed, Thompson not only disbelieves in reason and staid reality--that Galt had already denounced all dictators--he also fails to understand the meaning of words, telling John that "if you want a free economy--order people to be free!"

John replies aptly, "If you're able to pretend you haven't heard a word I said on the radio, what makes you think I haven't said it?" (Blank-out.)

Thompson's negotiation with Galt is unproductive aside from his realization that he would have no chance to speak to Galt except at gunpoint, that because he has Galt trapped, Galt's life is at his mercy. But, Galt states that because Thompson does not have any values of his, Galt's life is not his to sell. Thompson is unsettled by this conversation, and he would rather blank-out the growing revelation that he is nothing but a thug, a gun-man who threatens with the symbolic logic statement: your life or your mind.

Some other guys attempt to talk to Galt. While seemingly post-climatic reveberations of Galt's speech, each villain's to suade him does further reveal his character.

Taggart vs Galt: Taggart attempts to convince Galt that he's not right, that no one can be sure of his own knowledge, that it's a selfish luxury to hold out when people need you. Galt, the egoist, flicks off each one of Taggart's impotent lines: he knows that he is wanted because he is sure of his knowledge and that it is right, on an absolute scale, and that it is his ideas that people need. Yet, the core of Taggart's arguments can be summed by this line, "People are suffering and perishing--and you who could save them join us even if you think we're wrong... sacrifce your mind to save them." If Taggart wants Galt to sacrifice his only means to save them, then that would be death to all. The insidious nature behind Taggart's facade of the public good is revealed in the next chapter.

Morrison vs Galt: Morrison attempts to wring pathos from Galt by bringing him the petition of a bunch of schoolteachers begging Galt to save them. Essentially, Morrison feigns begging Galt's pity for all those who suffer. Galt asks Morrison whether all those who suffer had pity for Rearden. "Those who suffer" has, traditionally, been used as the chain to wield the shackles binding the heroes; once the hero falls for the trap of pitying, he will realize that the ones to be pitied are actually the ones destroying him. Morrison, then, attempts to use the age-old weapon of wringing guilt and pity from Galt. He would quit, run screaming out of the room, in the next chapter, when he realizes that such traditional weapons are now impotent.

Ferris vs Galt: (In the current author's opinion, Ferris sounds nigh too much like your typical college "ethics coordinator." The current author is haunted by such memories as the mandatory "ethics seminar" she had to attend as part of her summer REU in physics--wherein the "ethics coordinator" of the large public university that hosted the event regurgitated the essence of Ferris' argument.) Ferris attempts to force Galt to believe that it is his "moral responsibility" to the people. Using the excuse of the food shortages, Ferris threatens to kill every third child under ten and everyone over sixth years of age. (Bye bye octogenarians, et al.) "To fail to save a life is as immoral as to murder." Galt does not respond at all to Ferris. Who is the government--and Ferris, for that matter--to decide who gets to live? That a family would work hard and have their children killed, while another family would slouch around in lassitudes and be dealt the same blow--that punishment be blind, the good suffer with the bad. From the current state of the world, it is evident that the few good who remain would stop wasting their energies, and Ferris' plan could only end in disaster. Therefore, his plan speaks volumes about his own character--that because killing would not make the final disaster inevitable, he would kill for the sake of killing.

Stadler vs Galt: Once, he was a man who truly believed in the virtuous saying, "to the fearless truth, the involate mind." Twenty two years ago, he had told Galt that "The only sacred value in the world is the inviolate human mind." It is a depressing degrading that he would violate his so-called inviolate human mind, that he would stifle his thinking a bit with each step until he suffocates and dies. He attempts to defend himself against John, when by virtue of his mind--his once inviolate mind, he shouldn't need to...
  • The mind is useless against force. (I can't help it!)
  • All I wanted to do was to force the mindless materialists (The gun was aimed at them, not us!)
  • I had no choice except to play their game with their rules and beat them at it.
  • Human knowledge set free of material bonds was the great ideal I wanted (Unlimited end unrestricted by means.)
  • There is no other way to live on earth (Stadler then thinks of the speech: It was only logic... one can't live by logic, rationality twenty-four hours a day with no rest, no escape... ... ...)
  • YOU ARE THE MAN WHO HAS TO BE DESTROYED!
One sees that as the points above get darker and darker, Stadler's mind declines and descends deeper and deeper into the realm of the mindless. The conclusion Stadler reaches is that Galt, the inviolate mind, has to be destroyed. To blank-out and melt is to be the anti-mind, therefore the anti-mind.

Morrison attempts his final pull at Galt by forcing him to attend a celebration in honor of him--one to prove the merger of his ways and ours, that anything can be reconciled and united. The purpose of the celebration is valueless and immaterial, but that is no surprise because the villains' world has no objective values remaining. The blind irrationality of the event would fail to acknowledge that neither their God or their Guns would make the celebration mean what they were struggling to pretend it meant.

The luxuries offered in the event epitomized the best that the looters' view of existence could offer. Essentially, it is the sum of blank-out mindlessness--of the sacred value of the inviolate mind rescinded, perhaps never even found in the first place--the spread of mindless adulation, the unreality of enormous pretense:
  • Approval w/o standards
  • Tribute w/o content
  • Honor w/o causes
  • Admiration w/o reasons
  • Love w/o a code of values.
They would try to tempt Galt with their view of "life's highest fulfillment," which are worthless according to Galt or any of the heroes because unpaid virtues are... valueless. The "prizes" of their game are utterly not worth winning.

Dagny wonders whether they even see Galt, whether they wanted him to be real. If Galt is what a man can be... would they be stopped by the looters, who have not chosen to achieve it, and regard the looters and mouchers as humans and Galt as the impossible?

The John Galt Plan is announced to be the abomination of ensuring the few faithful remaining that the impossible would be possible--that all conflicts would be reconciliated and everyone would be pleased. By placating the irrational, one rescinds the rational. When they finally let John have the mic, his valliant words go like:

"Get the hell out of my way!"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Galt's Speech

Detailed summary and commentary at http://galt.yosunism.com

Chapter 27: This Is John Galt Speaking

The bulk of the content of the chapter is in Jon Galt's 4+ hour radio speech, to be expounded upon in detail in the next post. The chapter begins with the media's muckracking of Rearden's desertion--going from outrage to denial. When Dagny finds out, she triumphs that Rearden is free, finally out of their reach; but, simultaneously, she becomes more determined to withstand her quest, that there's still a chane to win, "but let me be the only victim." Taggart then drags Dagny to Mr. Thompson's speech on the world crisis, and Galt uses the publicity Thompson created for the event and talks in his stead.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Chapter 26: The Concerto of Deliverance

Like Halley's Concertos, this chapter, The Concerto of Deliverance, involves struggle before reaching the light. Rearden makes the intellectual leap necessary to accept the state of the world, the true effects of his own actions: that the more he works, the more he kills--he is the guiltiest man because he supports the looters by working, and as long as the looters rule, the fate of men is in malicious hands. Dagny's realization of the secret of the looters, when they invite her to their meeting to decide the fate of the world--that the looters would set stricter directives to further stifle the men of ability, to subdue them, make them more pliant--along with Cherryl's aptly-put horror line that "people like you will always work, struggle to rise; we're safe, you have no choice" foreshadows Rearden's self-recognition of his superlative value and the self-powered, self-removable fetters the looter had over him.

The chapter begins with Rearden receiving an odd attachment order, a vague threat that he hasn't been straight with his personal income taxes. He doesn't react to it, and the day later, a Washington bureaucrat calls him, making the excuse that it was all a mistake, going through the same apologizing spiel twice to see his reaction. Even though the bureaucrat directly encourages him to file a claim against the file, Rearden still doesn't react, saying and doing nothing. Shortly later, Tinky Holloway calls him to attend a dinner conference, pleading for a hearing. Rearden agrees to go. The morning of the meeting, Rearden's mother calls him with a desperate insistence that he comes by, that whatever it is she needs to tell him can't be said over the phone. Rearden also agrees to her, setting her meeting before the dinner conferenec.

The above events that start the chapter are all meant to bind Rearden into staying; the looters have caught on with the latest rage and have finally figured out who would go next.

Rearden's family attempts to wring pity, guilt, and forgiveness from him. However, their method, although yellow enough to incite pity, betrays their true intent. One one level, they are desperate to keep him because if Rearden leaves, they would be left with nothing--the looting government wouldn't help the family of deserters and Rearden Steel would be nationalized. They apologize profusely, attempting to blame their mistakes on their ignorance and inability to think; they urge that Rearden feels. They're his family. Yet, their idea of forgiveness is twisted: they regret that they've hurt Rearden and to atone, they would ask for total immolation from Rearden--begging him to stay, when the hopelessness of his industrial position and the futility of his struggle should have provoked a truly loving family to tell him to leave. Indeed, his family wishes "to make him let them devour the last of him in the name of mercy, forgiveness and brother-cannibal love. (891)"

When Philip accidentally blurts out that they had to see him before the dinner conference, he reveals that the purpose of the attachment order is to bind Rearden from escaping, but limiting the avail of funds at Rearden's disposal. "You can't run away... without money." The looters have machinated the practical back-up of keeping his money away from him in case the trio who occupied the bodies of his family members failed as hostages to get Rearden to stay.

Lillian attempts to deal her last blow at Rearden by revealing her infidelity to him--as his wife, as "Rearden Wife." It is as if unable to have his value, she could surpass it by destroying it, as if she would thus obtain a measure of his greatness. Lillian had chosen Rearden for his best virtues and placed him as the center of her life, as one's love should be, but if love to Rearden is the celebration of one's existence and of existence, then self-haters and life-haters would see love as the pursuit of destruction--Lillian's goal in life had been to destroy Rearden. She had tried myriad times to lower his self-esteem, attempting to get him drunk, to interest in an extramarital affair--her attempt to steal Rearden's self-esteem is based on her knowledge that if a man surrenders his value, he would be at the mercy of anyone's will. As if by destroying Rearden, his moral purity and confident rectitude, his resultant depravity would give her the right to hers. But, Rearden is not affected by Lillian's final confession of her breaking of the purity of Rearden Wife; Rearden had long ago discredited her with the title and, moreover, he does not hold the belief that one's moral stature is at the mercy of action of another.

Rearden walks away from his family's last attempt to leech him for alms unharmed, only the wiser. When he arrives at the Wayne-Falkland Hotel, he finds that the men are meeting in the room Francisco used to occupy. As he goes through more revelations, he is haunted glimpses of Francisco's wraith. The men attempt to sell him the Steel Unification Plan, and Rearden attempts to explain to them how it wouldn't work, how it's perfectly absurd, how if they want the alleviate this mess of national emergencies, they ought to just sit back and let him take hold. But, the looters are adament in stating that that wouldn't work. They give their stream of excuses--"it's only a matter of gaining time, all we need is a chance." What are they counting on? Rearden realizes that they are counting on him. That Rearden himself had allowed them to put over his head the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, Directive 10-289, "that he had accepted the law that those who could not equal his ability had the right to dispose of it, that those who had not earned were to profit, but he who had was to lose, that those who could not think were to command, but he who could was to obey them." He had given them cause to believe that reality was a thing to be cheated, he had made their irrational universe work: he had provided for it. He was always to do without asking why, and they were always to receive and demand without asking how. Their ultimate weapon that has prevented their world from collapsing as it should have was that no matter what "he'll do something!" Rearden leaves them, realizing the full significance of the sanction of the victim.

When he returns to his mill, he finds that it is under seige by a mob attack. His Wet Nurse had attempted to save it, by voiding Washington's demand for him to let the mob into the mill. (Apparently, the looters had another backup in their machinations in case Rearden doesn't agree. They want the Steel Unifiaction Plan, and they had planned the mob attack so that the media would muckrack it to appear as if Rearden's workers are underpaid and thus that a Steel Unification Plan was necessary.) Tragically, he is fatally wounded. The Wet Nurse represents an honest man's attempt to find the right path in the midst of the evil world of the looters; if he good man gets in the looters' way, they die. Moreover, the looters would plague their children with the belief of the non-absolute to keep them in line. The vicious cycle of their world...

When Francisco d'Anconia under the nom de guerre of Frank Adams comes to reap his greatest conquest, Rearden is ready. He reacts with indifference to the destruction of his mill because he knows that if he does anything to save it, he would only be helping the looters continue to avoid reality: he is ready to leave the world behind.