Atlas Shrugged, part 3, chapter 6

AtlasShruggedSection 3, Chapter 6: The Concerto of Deliverance

This chapter is a lot more palatable than the last one. The bad guys are just as irrationally hypocritical as the good guys, but they are acknowledged as bad guys, and someone finally addresses their logical flaws directly, verbally, and to their faces. Thank you! Reading this book and being inundated by irrational philosophy from all sides has really increased my argumentativeness (rarely in short supply to begin with.) This chapter, though, successfully refutes a lot of the proposed idiocy by itself without needing me to do so. For the first time in the whole book, there is a serious demonstration of someone promoting rationality and logic. I approve.

I think the first two-thirds of this chapter go up there with the scenes of the first train ride on the John Galt line and of Dagny’s aerial chase as being parts of this book that I actively enjoyed.

So, without further ado:

A summary of the events of the chapter, and then some brief discussion of a few specific points.

This chapter is the chapter of Hank Rearden being awesome.

The newspapers run articles attacking Rearden and his steal mill. Suspicious new employees are inserted into his steel mill to make trouble. An “administrative error” causes all of his finances to be frozen. And a “Washington man” with an obsequious voice calls to commiserate with him about his recent troubles and invite him to a gathering in Washington.

Rearden sits back and observes, allowing events to play out without any response from him.*

Rearden’s mother, brother, and ex-wife lure him back to his mansion (where they live and he hasn’t returned since he filed for divorce) and make an amazingly poorly thought out attempt to convince Rearden to continue supporting them all financially. It is really an appallingly bad attempt at manipulation. (I imagine the look on my face mirrored Rearden’s own: bemused disbelief that anyone thought that might work.**) Then, and this is crucial: Rearden directly, verbally, and to their faces points out the flaws in their approach. (Yay!)

The gathering at Washington happens, and there we see that the politicians and industrialists there are only moderately better at running a scam than Rearden’s mother, brother, and ex-wife, ie, they are also really bad at it. Watching Rearden calmly watch them make the attempt is pretty excellent. Then, again, (still crucial to my enjoyment): Rearden once more directly, verbally, and to their faces points out the flaws in their plan. (Yes! Thank you, Rearden!)

Rearden heads back to his steel mill where there is a riot taking place. He finds Wet Nurse, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest, crawling his way to the road to warn Rearden that the riot was planned, bought and paid for by the politicians. Rearden is finally impressed with Wet Nurse and even calls him by name, Tony.

Rearden takes Tony (AKA Wet Nurse) to the hospital, but Tony dies in his arms along the way.

One of the rioters manages to hit Rearden over the head, but he wakes up safe and cared for his office. His loyal workers, led by the furnace foreman Frank Adams, fought off the attack. Frank Adams then enters and reveals himself as Francisco d’Anconia. Francisco assures Rearden that Rearden owes Francisco no apologies for prior insults (or slaps to the face) and now it is time for them to leave this world and go on to a better place. (Not dying; leaving for Galt’s Gulch.)

Thus ends Chapter 6.

Some discussion of the events:

The bad guys in this book seem to have this idea that some people are fountains of wealth, from which money just comes. This is a particularly odd theory for them to have given that their rhetoric is about how the rich people are just robbing that wealth from the poor. But they still seem to think that the wealthy will always be wealthy and will always be productive, and that the bad guys’ own actions will not effect this, even as they argue that their actions are what will change the world. So, you know, super hypocritical and irrational, just like in the previous chapter, except that these are the acknowledged bad guys. Irrational hypocrisy is kind of a sign of being a bad guy, in my view.

Anyway, they really come across as spoiled children demanding sweets, and it’s nice to see Rearden standing up to them as a rational adult, explaining that sweets don’t just appear out of nowhere. Businesses are dependent upon a network of other businesses and building wealth requires access to resources.

Rearden’s own philosophy is pretty idiotic too, but the focus of this chapter is on seeing the flaws in the bad guys’ philosophy, and those flaws are pretty monstrous. I’m glad to see someone finally pointing the flaws out rather than allowing them to stand unopposed.

I am somewhat irritated at the way that Rearden mourns poor Wet Nurse (Tony!). Now that Wet Nurse is dead, Rearden suddenly knows that Tony’s mother was a devoted and caring woman, and that Tony’s teachers constantly berated him for ever thinking. Luckily, being shot in the chest and then crawling through the mud in order to warn him is sufficient to earn him enough respect to be called by name. Isn’t that nice?

Anyway, Rearden blames humanity as a whole for Tony’s loss, due to the way it teaches the children to not think.*** He thinks it is humanity’s responsibility to raise the next generation right, and yet somehow manages to exclude himself. Wasn’t it his responsibility to speak the truth, too? Not just to know the truth, but to speak it and to tell people, so that they had the option to pick it? If so, it doesn’t occur to him. He takes no personal responsibility for the lack of education or the suppression of intelligence.

Writing up this chapter really helped bring one of my opinions into sharp focus: we are all responsible for fostering intelligence, knowledge, and rationality in each other. If we want to live in a rational world, then we have to actively promote rationality. Hank Rearden hadn’t done so before and fails to acknowledge that lack in the past, but at least he finally spoke directly to the people he considered irrational and let them know where their logical flaws were. It was only a little and it was quite late, but I don’t even care: it may have been a baby step but it was a step. Yay for Rearden.

* This is exactly the advice given to bullied kids: don’t give bullies the reaction they’re seeking and they’ll leave you alone. One problem with that advice is that it’s really hard to fake not caring. Rearden, in this chapter, has been worn down sufficiently that he cares very little and is more curious than he is worried.

** There’s a reason “forgive and forget” is a phrase, and it’s not because they mean the same thing. Even if Rearden decided for some reason to forgive them, it hardly seems likely he’d forget what they had done, especially since they seem determined to rub his nose in their disgust of him even as they beg.

I’m also still not sure why Rearden ever married Lillian in the first place. Or, for that matter, where she came from. Where is her family? Under what circumstances did she even meet Rearden if she doesn’t have a birth family of her own? Sure Jim Taggart met Cheryl at a shop, but I’d assumed that Rearden met Lillian at an upscale social event.

*** I’m unsure what a Randian educational system would be like if it is purely rational but does not involve teachers telling students to listen to the teachers rather than assuming that they already know the answers. Maybe it’s to just throwing the kids out into the work force to sink or swim on their own?

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