Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chapter 16: Miracle Metal

This chapter is about miracles--in the pejorative sense. A miracle is something extraordinary that happens by means of divine intervention--supernatural forces beyond a human's domain of influence. What the villains need in their enactment of Directive 10-289 on May 1st is a miracle, and it is symbolic that Rearden Metal is to be renamed Miracle Metal--after all, the hard work that went into inventing it doesn't exist because rationality and the mind don't; it's all muscle, the repetitive labor that the blue-collar workers put into it, and with no mind involved, only a miracle could create anything.

The League of Non-Extraordinary men meet to discuss the problems of the nation. There's James Taggart, Orren Boyle, Floyd Ferris, Clemen Weatherby, Eugene Lawson, Wesley Mouch, and two new guys: Fred Kinnen and Mr. Thompson. Apparently, Mr. Thompson is something of a world controller, but unlike the breed of perfectly-bred man--whose life had been pre-planned from his genetic map to be not prone to one bit of chance--the "sole secret of Thompson's life was the fact that he was a product of chance and knew it and aspired to nothing else."

At the roundtable discussion, complaints are brought up, but it is always money that is the bar to ameliorating the complaints. Observe the structure of speech (paraphrased):

FK: Men with starving families to feed need jobs. Thus, they'll need a 1/3 increase to pay.
JT: But, where does the $ come from?
FK: Well, need is above all.
JT: (establishes understanding of a mystic sort) Well, I do understand the plight of working men... if the frieght rates could be doubled...
OB: Can't even afford the current rates!
JT: Need requires that we make sacrifices. Need is above your profits.
OB: Whoever said anything about profit. I've never profitted, especially when considered to (implied) Rearden. But, if I could get a subsidy for the next year or two, until things get better.
CW: But, you haven't paid any of your loans! We've granted you myriad extensions, suspensions, moratoriums. Where do you expect us to get money from for a subsidty:
WM: I need wider powers! (his constant whining)
Mr T: Well, gentlemen, let's go ahead and declare it a state of total emergency. Enact 10-289

Need is always made to appear as if some sort of essential virtue. Understanding of need or claiming that one hasn't profited (thus has need) opens way to a new request. Money is the bar against the new request... until the gov resorts to what only they can do--make something worthless valuable by enacting directives, akin to hiding bankrupcy in the midst of a bunch of laws. The trouble with that is that it will, ultimately, clash with another bar of money... when the moratorium on brains wrecks its toll.

When Dagny finds that the Directive has been enacted, she resigns.

Rearden discovers the gratest mistake of his life, and he atones for it by selling his Metal. His realization sheds light on the source of pain in the world for the men of virtue.

Rearden realizes that the villains' punishment is one that requires the victim's own virtue. That his possession of Rearden Metal--the creation which resulted from his exercise of the highest moral purpose, to exercise the best of his effort and the fullest capacity of his mind--was used as a cause for expropriation. That Dagny's honor and their love would be used as blackmail (when Ferris threatens to publicize this as some base scandel if he refuses to sign away Rearden Metal). That the millions of people in the People's States were held by means of their desire to live, "by means of their energy drained in forced labor, by means of their ability to feed their masters, by means of a hostage system of their love for their children, wives, friends." Essentially, they are held by means of their joy tied to fear or threat; they are enslaved by whatever living power they possess. (Joy: motive power of every living being.) The only man with nothing to fear would be the man without v irtues--there are no chains shackling him. Virtues thus became agents of destruction, binding heroes to their torture racks. One's best became the tools of agony, and life on earth became impractical.

Rearden had broken the code of accepting joy as depravity, but he had fallen into the trap. He damned himself, his existence, by hiding the affair--by seeing it as base, his happiness as evil, letting Dagny bear the disgrace when he should have divorced Lillian and married Dagny. He had thought that he would be the only person who would suffer under injustice, but:

"When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer."

There is no escape from justice, just like how a payment cannot remain unpaid. If the guilty do not have to pay for it, then the innocent do. Rearden reaches the conclusion that he would become guiltless: by signing off Rearden Metal, he would "pay off" his guilt. He would accept his love for Dagny as the pure, and he would accept the solidity of his mistake--that of viewing it as a furtive evil--by relinquishing his Metal... because otherwise, it would be Dagny, the innocent, who has to pay, and he, the guilty.

He would remain faithful to the one commandment of his code he had never broken: "to be man who pays for his own way."

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