Chapter 14: The Sanction of the Victim
In their Thanksgiving dinner, although an exorbitant amount of money has been spent on it, Philip, Lillian, and Rearden's mother do not thank him for the meal, but thank others--the cook, God, and even the poor who might starve tonight. Lillian recaps on the modern morality, while stressing the fact that Rearden should not believe he is better than anyone else--capable of upholding some absolute right, as if absolutes exist in a world of relatives--because she knows that he is as depraved as any other man (viz. his furtive relationship with Dagny). Philip recites the bromide of the newspaper, insulting Rearden, saying that businessmen are taking advantage of the national emergency, that Rearden had violated the public welfare by selling Dannager the metal, and that he deserved to be punished. This section serves to reiterate much of the brainwashed public's opinion that will be used against Rearden in his trial the day after Thanksgiving.
Rearden's trial is reminiscent of Howard Hughe's trial: the judge and jury have been replaced by three men appointed by the government. When asked for his defense, Rearden refuses on the basis that the "law" holds that there are no principles. One of the three judges point out that Rearden is denying the principle of the public good, but Rearden questions the solidity of the ideal, the ambiguity of its various terms--such as who is the public? Rearden remains stoic: plain and truthful. He gives the judges the right to impose the punishment, but the judges claim that, by legal requirement, he needs to give a defense. Rearden will not play in the charade of feigned justice--will not help preserve the appearance of rationality when force is used as the final arbiter. "'But the law compels you to volunteer a defense!'" Rearden claims his right to his own volition--which cannot be forced--that if they were to impose punishment, they will have to drag him to jail, that if they were to seize his property, they will have to hire looters to physically steal it. The eldest judge attempts to belittle Rearden's stance. The judge recognizes Rearden's standing up for a sort of principle, but he is derisive, pointing out that Rearden is only fighting for his property, freedom to make money, nothing but his own profit. This introduces Rearden's stance:
He tells those present--the triumvirate judges, the crowd of gathered public in the court room--that he is in full agreement with the facts in the newspapers, but not with the evaluation. He works for mutual consent to mutual advantage. He has earned every penny on his own, and he is proud of every single penny. He would not pay more than what something is worth and he would not want to sell his product for a loss; he is earning his living as every honest man must. "I refuse to accept as guilt the fact of my own existence, and the fact that I must work to support it."
He states that he refuses to accept as guilt the fact that he's good at it, that he can do it better than most people, that his work is of greater values than of others--he refuses to apologize for his success. He has done more good for the public than the public can ever do, but he would refuse to state this because he does not seek the good of others as a sanction for his right to exist; he does not recognize the good of others to justify their right to seize his capital or to destroy his life--that the purpose of his work is for his own good, and he despises a man who would sacrifice his own good.
Rearden goes on to attacking the ambiguous credo of the public good:
The public does not serve the public good--"nobody's good can be achieved at the price of human sacrifices," and that when one man's right is violated, everyone else's right is, too--"a public of rightless creatures is doomed to destruction (445)." He does not challenge the policy but the moral premise, the morality of sacrifice--that if he were asked to sacrifice himself for the interests of society apart from his own, he would refuse, "reject it as the most contemptible evil... with full confidence of the justice of his battle and of a living being's right to exist."
If it is now the belief that the public requires victims, then: "The public good be damned, I will have no part of it!"
When the crowd bursts into applause, Rearden is surprised, but he soon realizes a heavier guilt. "If we who were the movers, the providers, the benefactors of mankind, were willing to let the brand of evil be stamped upon us and silently to bear punishment for our virtues--what sort of "good" did we expect to triumph in the world? (447)" He realizes that while these people are cheering him on, tomorrow they would clamor for a new directive from Mouch. "What made them believe that this earth was a realm of evil where despair was their natural fate? (447)" The judges had imposed on him the paltry fine of $5000, but Rearden realizes that the real sentencec imposed on him is to discover the answer to that question.
The third section starts with the verbal comments of those close to Rearden, and then diverges to the smear of words by his fellow businessmen. His fellow businessmen tell Rearden that they do not agree with his stance, that they're proud they are working for the public good, having a good higher than earning his meals, while Mowen (who is too simple-minded to grasp the full nature of Rearden's speech) builds playgrounds for charity in order to prove that not all businessmen are bad. Rearden responds with, "I am sorry that I will be obliged to save your goddamn necks along with mine."
Rearden finally lets himself visit Francisco d'Anconia, who is a few floors above him in the Wayne-Falkland Hotel. Rearden is happily surprised that Francisco heard his trial over the radio, but he comes up to talk to Francisco in attempt to change him from being a playboy by asking him "no matter what you've given up, so long as you choose to remain alive, how can you have any pleasure in spending a life as valuable as yours on running after cheap women and on an imbecile's idea of diversions?" Francisco's reply expounds upon Rand's theory of sex, simultaneously tying it with the meaning of the novel:
"Sex is not the cause, but an effect and an expression of man's sense of own value." The man who attempts to reverse the law of cause and effect by trying to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind is akin to the man who despies himself and tries to gain self-esteem from sexual adventures.
The men who think that wealth comes from material means with no intelligence are the same who think that sex is independent of one's mind, choice or code of values. That love and whim are akin.
"In fact, a man's sexual choice is the rsesult and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. (453)"
Sex is the most profoundly selfish act, the act that cannot be performed for any motive but for one's own enjoyment. It is an act that forces one to stand naked in spirit as well as in body. "He will always be attracted to the woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself, the woman whose surrender permits him to experience--or to fake--a sense of self-esteem." The man who is proudly certain of his own values will be attracted to a heroine, and not a brainless slut, because only she would give him a sense of achievement. He would seek not to gain it but to express his value.
A man who is convinced of his own worthlessness will be drawn to the woman who reflects his own secret self--"she will release him from that objective reality in which he is a fraud." Because love is one's response to one's highest values, when a man corrupts his sense of love by seeing it not as admiration but as charity, not in response to values, but to flaws, he would have torn himself in two. His body will not obey him, and it will always follow the ultimate logic of his deepest convictions. If flaws are values, then he has declared existence evil, and only the evil will attract him--he would feel that depravity is all he is worthy of enjoying. He would deny what his body does as sin, "that vice is the only realm of pleasure," and he will wonder why love brings him nothing but shame.
Francisco points out that Rearden has never accepted their creed. Even if Rearden has damned sex as evil, he would still find himself--against his will--actin on the proper moral premise. That he would know that just as an idea unexpressed in physical action is contemptible hypocrisy, so is platonic love. Just as physical action unguided by an idea is a fool's self fraud, so is sex when cut off from one's code of values. He would be incapable of loving a woman he despises.
The idealist man vs the practical man--both severed in mind and body. The idealist despies the material, but he cries with despair because he can feel nothing for the woman he respects, finds himself in bondage for a slut. The practical despises principles, philosophy and his own mind, regarding acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence. He does not consider the purpose of his material acquisition, expecting them to give him pleasure, and he wonders why the more objects he accumulates, the less he feels. He will not acknowledge his need of self-esteem because he does not believe in a concept of moral value, but he feels profound self-contempt from believing he is just a piece of meat; he will not acknowledge that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to personal values--but he knows this. He chases after mindless women, bedding them (the effect) to gain a sense of his own values (the cause). He seeks the feeling of achievement, but he will never find it.
As for the women "chasing after" Francisco: The same theory applies to them, except what they seek isn't a sense of one's value, but rather, the impression on and the envy of other women. (Recall how Lillian defended Rearden's celebacy in her tea party; on first analysis, it seems like she's helping him, but on second thought, she's actually defending herself--affixing herself as the only woman of Rearden's to the envy of other women.)