Thursday, August 25, 2005

Chapter 25: Their Brother's Keeper

The term "brother's keeper" has biblical origins. According to The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd Ed... The line "Am I my brother's keeper?" was said by Cain in answer to God's questioning the whereabouts of the brother whom he killed. This has come to symbolize people's unwillingness to accept responsibility for the welfare of their fellows--their "brothers"--in an extended use of the term.

The four section of this chapter all involve the welfare of others, and as if following the precedene of the original murderous context in which "brother's keeper" was first used, each is tinged with an insidious air. The usual sequence of an overal happy/good- sad/bad- happy/good- sad/bad section series is used.

The first section begins with Taggart's nervous anticipation of the announcement of the nationalization of d'Anconia Copper, whilst the pitiful state the nation has succumbed to is expounded upon: how "pull peddlers" in every possible concern--transportation, steel, wage-raise, suspended sentence--have replaced competent men, dynamic like their predecessors, but also unseemly, like that which breeds, feeds, and moves upon the stillness of corpses--parasites. The news arrives that on the moment of the official nationalization of d'Anconia Copper, the company--each of its ports--had simultaneously committed suicide, the workers having long been evaluated and paid. Francisco would later leave a message asserting the exact conscious knowledge of what he had done, replacing the 1984-like calander on the towers of New York with the line "Brother, you asked for it!"

"In this enlightened age, we have come, at last, to realize that each one of us is his brother's keeper." Eugene Lawson would say as the "higher ideal" of seizing Nebraska's future via taking their graneries, their vital food sent to support Illinois. "Men had been pushed into a pit where, shouting that man is his brother's keeper, each was devouring his neighbor and was being devoured by his neighbor's brother, each was proclaiming the righteousness of the unearned and wondering who was stripping the skin off his back, each was devouring himself, while screaming in terror that some unknowable evil was destroying the earth."

In truth, they have reached the ideal of the centuries: where need as the highest ruler wrecks the first claim upon them, where need is the standard of value, the coin of realm, more sacred than right and life. Is the world that results irrational? The chaos and deaths and catastrophes are merely the consequences of a world where need comes before right and life.

The connection with the biblical reference of "brother's keeper" becomes obvious when Ramirez, who comes to power over the People's State of Chile, declares his moral slogan as "man is his brother's keeper"--implying that men are responsible for others first before, if ever, himself.

The Minnesota disaster is a tragedy that shed lights on the true intention behind the excuse of man being his brother's keeper, of serving the public welfare. Even though food is a bare necessity for the public welfare (with the prospect of starvation over the coming winter impending), the rail-cars necessary for the Minnesota harvest--the only source of grain--is sent to Ma Chalmer's soybean project. Chalmers obviously has more pull-power, and thus the reader sees that it is pull-power that determines who must be "kept" and what the public welfare needs. Rand's description of this single incident is all-encompassing in that it epitomizes the essence of the struggle of the myriad men who have committed suicide or quit the world. It shows the blatant injustice served to the good and competent by the impotent: this is Minnesota's best harvest, and yet it is left to rot next to frozen rail-lines, where the cars needed for its transportation have been sent to California for a premature harvest of inedible soybeans. Moreover, the farmers' reaction--the haggard farmer who drags a sack-full of grain on his back only to fall down dead into a ditch, the product of his harvest wasted, as if their work is but an aimless struggle with an end that a pull-peddler could easily push out of their reach. It is only when enough violence arises, much of the grain already rotten and the rest doomed, that the masses of farmers "bulley" Washington into sending the needed cars--but it is too late. The farmers who burn their own farms and kill themselves do so in acts of mercy-killing, like the industrialists who commited family-homicide. They know that if the culmulation of their work--the harvest as a magnum opus--comes to such a pitiful end, then there is something deadly evil about the world and they would rather die and destroy the goods they own than serve it. It is also the amelioration of the good man: if the world is about pointless suffering and aimless actions, then death be our final viaticum.

Dagny realizes the evil of the villains, and Cherry's haunting realization and subsequent suicide aptly prepares the reader for the beginning of Dagny's freeing from the thinning strings that still binds her to them.

At the meeting in the Wayne-Faulkland Hotel, where the head honcho pull-pedlers (Lawson, Taggart, Mouch, Ferris, Weatherby, Meigs) meet to decide the fate of the world, they mention her name in her presence not to delude her into believing they are consulting her but to attempt to delude themselves into believing she had agreed to the preposterous actions they merely "hinted" to each other at. They want her approval without knowing whether she approved or not. She had attended because this was the first they had included her in their meetings to decide the fate of the world, and she had thought this would be her chance to get them to turn it over to her.

But, instead, she comes to grips with their insidious nature. She had thought they had seized factories in acknowledgment of their values. But, as long as men exist, they will always be able to seize. The harder men work, and the less they gain, the more submissive the fiber of their spirit. They had seized factories in order to make the producers more pliable. She sees through the superficial facade of the humanitarian hiding Lawson's pleasure in the prospect of human starvation. She sees that Ferris, the scientists, dreams of the day when men return to the hand-plow. But, she reacts with incredulity--she doesn't see how a man could be reduced to such a base state--and indifference--because she no longer regards them as men.

In the fourth section, Dagny becomes Galt's keeper by consumating their relationship. Galt, in his desires to claim her before they are both safely and determinedly out of reach of the villains, has put his life in Dagny's hands; he knows that Dagny would not resist tracking him down, and in the process of such, Dagny would lead them straight to him. They make passionate love in the depths of the Taggart Tunnel--this is symbolic because the tunnels are the source of a fount of blood, ichor, and Dagny and John are the living power.

Dagny brings the enjoyment of life back to the rightful owners, her look of energy and reward intertwined, together, and Galt is the first man who stated in what manner these two are inseparable.

Dagny finds that Galt had been working as a mere track laborer down here for twelve years. This is symbolic of the relationship between a thinking man and Atlantis. Atlantis is hidden by nothing but an optical illusion, just as Galt's identity is hidden by nothing but the error of Dagny's sight. The thinking man does not see past the fetters of the looter's hold over them, and thus they cannot reach Atlantis.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3th ed., edited by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., et al. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. [Date of Printout].


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