Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Chapter 23: Anti-Greed

Through portraying the contrast in self-denial between Dr. Stadler and Rearden placed in juxtaposition with Dagny's haggard and blatent self-admission and open truth, the ultimate meaning of this chapter is to show that the anti-greed is the anti-life.

Both Stadler and Rearden are flawed in that they believe (or believed) in a breech between mind and body. Stadler, however, lets this breech shackle his mind. Stadler's form of the breech is via the thought that the theoretical and pure is abjectly different and does not need to worry about the practical and politics--and one's source of funds. That he would believe that by praising the State Science Institute, he would set science free from the rule of the dollar, shows his abject naivity--from whence would the funds come from without the dollar? From himself, that he would be the one drained:

Stadler finds himself disturbed from his studies when two goons who are now considered physicists "escort" him to the field where Project X (The Thompson Harmonizer) is to be showcased. He does not accept the fact that he has now become a prisoner--that by being dependent on the "public good" for a source of funds, he has become dependent on the looting government that decrees who deserves the "public good."

The Thompson Harmonizer is a machine capable of massive destruction and works in the same way that the looters do; by striking the right key, one activates the machine, the act of which is similar to how one manipulates aptly the "right chords" to stifle and trap a man of ability.

Ferris thus strikes the right chord to deliver the final blow in activating Stadler's self-destruction sequence. Ferris claims that because the people would believe that an instrument of death and destruction is a tool of prosperity and peace, they would believe it if the government were to change their stance on the view of the State Science Institute and Dr. Stadler--that if the government were to denounce Stadler as an evil enemy of the state, people would believe this, that Stadler's greatness is dependent on what the state tells the people, that the meaning of his name is now no more significant than the common person's fault in believing it is still associated with greatness.

Because Stadler is a believer of the negating view of man's intelligence, having been disillusioned by too much ineptitude, he has succumbed to the helplessness summarized by the bromide, "what can you do when you deal with men?" This statement of helplessness embodies the paradigm the looters wish to throw as a funeral shroud against everyone's ability to see. That principles have no influence on public affairs (true if public affairs are actually machinated by a looting incumbent). That reason has no power over humans (true if everyone has been brainwashed to believe that the mind doesn't exist, that only the government does--and it has to because it determines who gets what, the bare necessities). That logic is impotent (true if reason is dead). That morality is superfluous, that questions of truth don't enter social issues.

In his most dire moment, Stadler does not allow himself to accept the truth. That through the betrayal of the fearless mind and the inviolate truth, he has delivered himself to the animal fear of physical destruction--in the midst of a civilized world! But, he does not allow himself the last glory which he can attempt to wring--the knowledge that the public would triumph in hearing the truth from him, that he had nothing to do with the weapon other than to invent to basic scientific theory. Perhaps he knows that because he has stooped to the stage where Ferris can checkmate him via manipulation of his mind, he has become worthless, that the name Dr. Robert Stadler has truly been deprecated.

He betrays the young newsboy, who rereprsents the man of intelligence and ability and devotion to the fearless truth, who cries out to him to tell the truth, that the people would believe him, and he makes the finalizing speech in acceptance of the Harmonizer--that he is proud that his years of hard work has placed in the hands of Thompson, a mere shyster, the tool of liberation (massive destruction), the device capable of forcing men to be civilized (by trapping them in a state where their life depends on the mercy of the shyster). Dr. Stadler is living out the hell that is the consequence of discounting ideals, of belittling the concept of material profit. There would be no profit left to be derived from whatever the Harmonizer destroys; the anti-greed is death.

Taggart attempts to pull the same trick as Ferris on Dagny. Taggart asserts the good of the Railroad Unification Board, as if naming what Dagny's opinion in advance, it would be set in stone. Then he asks that Dagny attend Scudder's radio show, to state that she is with the government, whilst implying that her presence has been advertised for so many times it would be a total embarassment to him if she weren't to attend. Dagny realizes that they needed her sanction to deceive themselves--as if their self-deception sought the extorted approval of the unwilling victim as the moral sanction they needed... they who deceive themselves, not just the world.

Dagny has not been reduced to the state of helplessness of Stadler's because she does not depend on the government for a source of funds, is not reduced to the possibility of death from hunger if the government were to withdraw its favor.

When Lillian threatens to reveal to the world Dagny's affair with Rearden as scandel, Dagny is finally forced to attend the show. Lillian triumphs in her mobilizing Dagny to attend, gloating that she is completely devoid of greed in her service to the government, but meanwhile acknowledging her power over Dagny, nay, even desperate to get Dagny to realize that Lillian is in power.

In the radio show, Dagny asserts that she stands by Rearden but then begins to divulge the very secret that should have checkmated her into submission to the government. She openly admits to her affair and she praises it, stating that it was good. After she has stated everything, she names the final piece--that it was used as blackmail against Rearden and now she.

Rearden, in the third section of this chapter, admits to Dagny that he loves her and always will and had--that the fact that he could not allow himself to say it had to be paid for by the gift certificate. When they extorted from him the rights to his metal, it made him realize how much he cares for Dagny, and this was his responsible payment of it, that he would rather her not suffer the stigma of public disgrace. But, his action had been shortsighted. He had not the wisdom to know that a lie--any lie--is self-abidication, that one surrenders one's reality to the person one lies to, that by allowing the affair to be kept secret, Rearden had made it public property (public in the perjorative way, i.e., the non-personified stooge the government claims to serve the good to whenever they grant a personal favor).

Rearden had initially kep the affair secret, had not directly divorced Lillian and married Dagny because of the "killer tenet" he had believed in--the breech of mind and body. He took pride in his ability to think and act and work for the satisfication of his own desires, the highest moral value, the one that makes life possible, but he surrendered his reason by denouncing ideas and thus crippled himself by cutting himself in two:

He who knew that wealth only means to end, took pride in ability to achieve satisfaction of desires let them prescribe his end and code of values.

AGAINST .... (but) LET THEM
  1. looter's attempt to set price/value of steel .... moral value of his life
  2. unearned wealth ... duty to wife whose love was unearned, unearned respect to mother who hates him, brother who plots for his death
  3. undeserved financial injury ... undeserved pain
  4. proudictive abilty is guilt ... his capacity for happiness is guilt
His acknowledging of his errors and how he has reacted to them, having not let them cripple him but teach him worthwhile lessons, has made him stronger--strong enough that he can accept Dagny's finding of a lover who is not he.

But, it is not sacrifice that guides his acceptance of Dagny's new lover. Both Rearden and Dagny know that they will always love each other by virtue of their capacity of happiness, ability to produce. Rearden accepts it because he knows that Dagny's happiness would be hers, as well as his--he loves her.

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